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Introducing Chitral Town

The administrative centre of Chitral Valley and the old seat of the ruling mehtars, Chitral is a small, relaxed town. It’s possible to get stuck here for more than a few days taking in the scenery and the mountain air. It can feel like a long way from anywhere else in Pakistan, due in part to the effort involved in getting here over the high passes. Most people stop here to recharge their batteries before using it as a base to visit the Kalasha valleys, or to push on to the Shandur Pass or south to Peshawar.

Chitral’s attractions are modest yet still attractive. The main focus is on the old fort on the river that sheltered the besieged British garrison in 1895, and the intricate Grand Mosque nearby. But the local life is even more interesting. The bazaar is a lively mix of traditional and modern, although the conservative nature of society means that it’s possible to go from day to day without seeing a woman on the streets (Chitralis are welcoming of foreign women, however). In summer there are polo matches several times a week, building up to the classic match with Gilgit for the Shandur Cup in July.

Chitralis are mostly Kho-speaking, although there is a sizable Pashtun population. In addition, Afghans make up a significant minority and operate many businesses, from bakeries to transport. Given the proximity of the border, vehicle smuggling is common here.