Things to do in Chitral

Chitral is a great tourist destination offering lots of scenic beauty, hidden gems, and fun activities. In this short post we cover some of the must-see experiences Chitral offers.

It is recommended to stay in the main Chitral City as its a central location from where you can drive to all the attractions. In addition, its a full fledged city so there would be no issues in terms of food, cellphone connection, fuel, coffee, and any other thinkable necessities.

The city itself

Lets say it is a medium sized city with lots of different neighborhoods worth exploring. Some of the attractions listed here lie within the City boundary so you can possibly cover them all in a day. These include the orange fort, the bazar, the Fokker Friendship Restaurant, and maybe even a musical show.

Chitral city itself has a scenic setting, situated between several tall snow capped mountains with lots of streams running through it. No matter where you are, you will hear the gentle roar of running water.

The people are super nice and eager to make you their guest. They will offer you food, shelter, and some secret delicacies of the area.

The orange fort

This historic fort was the administrative center of Chitral some 200 years ago. Aside from its admirable architecture, the fort carries many tales of the rulers and battles it has seen. There are many curators of the fort who would be more than happy to give you a tour of the building and narrate its stories. Do try to catch a view of the open courthouse and the prisoner’s den.

Chitral Fort
Fort Qila in Chitral

Garam Chashma

About a two hour drive from the city is a small town known for its hot spring. The drive is extremely scenic and you pass by lots of small settlements and villages along the river banks, each one being more peculiar than the next. While a 4×4 Toyota Hilux type vehicle is recommended for this journey, a normal corolla would work just as well. The road is mostly paved with some dirt patches every now and then. Nothing a normal car cant handle.

The town is called Garam Chashma, which literally translates to “Hot Spring“. Upon arrival you can ask some of the locals about the source of the hot spring, and they will point you towards a slightly elevated point behind the town’s central mosque. There you will find the source of hot water, and it will be hot. Maybe not scalding hot, but hot enough for you to not touch it for more than two seconds. That’s hot enough to make a decent cup of chai.

The fun part is that this water remains hot throughout the year, and its a blessing for this town which is subject to subzero temperatures during the winter. Many homes have connected their water supply plumbing to the spring, causing a warm cozy indoor feeling due to the heat radiating from the pipes. This coziness can also be felt in the mosque which has installed a sort of central heating system throughout the building through which hot water is continuously flowing.

The drive back is just as scenic.

Markhor Spotting

On the way to Garam Chashma are some spots from where the Markhor can be spotted. If you dont already know, Markhors are a type of large mountain goat with long horns. A majestic beast it is, and is the national animal of Pakistan. Between 3-4 pm if you are at the right place, you can see them descend from the mountains to drink from the river. Timing is key for this activity, and you will have to ask around where exactly that spot is.

Chitral Bazar

Every city has a Bazaar. Chitral’s bazaar is a must see for any visitor as you can find great stuff for great prices. These make excellent souvenirs and gifts for when you go back to wherever you came from. Some key items to buy from the Chitral Bazaar are:

  • High quality shawls: These are actually made in Swat so don’t expect some kind of localized prices. They are however available in abundant variety.
  • Chitrali Topi / Cap / Pakol: This is probably the best selling product of Chitral. A woolen hat for keeping yourself warm in the winter. Its known as a Chitrali Cap because this is where its made. Like Shawls, these are available in an infinite variety in the Market. Some people like to wear the hats with a feather tucked into it, just like how the British royal family people did on their recent visit to Chitral and Kalash. Look it up.
  • Dry Fruit. Chitral’s agricultural produce includes dried fruit, berries, and nuts. Here in the Bazaar you will find Walnuts, Mulberries, almonds, peaches, and other goodies in abundance at great prices.

Upper Chitral

Chitral city is located in a district known as Lower Chitral. However, there is an Upper Chitral as well which is about a 3 hour drive away. Take the drive to Upper Chitral towards a small city called Buni. This City is scenic gem surrounded by some 3 mountain ranges including the Hindukush and the famous peak of Tirich Mir. If you are into Hiking and mountaineering, this is probably a great destination for you.

The River along this city is also quite wide and extremely photogenic. You are very likely to make multiple stops along the way for some quick photography.

Kalash Valley

Easily the highlight of your Chitral tour. By this point you have seen enough mountains and, rivers and valleys, so its important to know that this is NOT what Kalash is about.

Kalash is about the people. A unique minority of their own kind maintaining their beautiful customs and traditions as they have been for centuries. There are three main villages in the valley where you find the Kalashi in large amounts celebrating their culture. The first one is Bamburat. The other two are along the same road that goes towards the Afghan border. If you happen to go during festival season, which happens when the seasons are changing from Winter to spring, spring to summer, summer to autumn, and autumn to winter, do try to catch the colorful festivals.

Everyone who goes to Chitral goes to Kalash.

Other fun activities in Kalash are the Kalash museum, the open casket graveyard, and the local homemade wine tasting. And of course they have their own little bazaar from where you can buy souvenirs such as handmade traditional Kalashi clothing and head accessories.

Fokker Friendship Restaurant

Near the Chiral Airport is a gem of a restaurant serving all kinds of food for all kinds of people. But its not about the food.

Its actually about a grounded Fokker Plane parked in the restaurant’s backyard. Pakistan International Airlines donated this plane after Fokker Planes taking them off their aircraft fleet. You can go up close to this plane, touch it, peep inside its windows and view the cockpit. If you are an airplane enthusiast, this is a super attractive thing. Also if you look inside the fuselage, you will find a surprise: No passenger seats. Instead a long carpet and wooden floor with lots of cushions, obviously for a dining arrangement.

Fokker Plane Restaurant Chitral
Fokker Friendship Restaurant Chitral

To eat inside the plane, you would have to call up the restaurant and make a reservation.

You can experience this restaurant on your way back from your Garam Chashma or Markhor Spotting tour or on a random day in the city.

Music and Culture of Chitral

The Chitralis love their music and to sing and dance. There are a few local bands roaming around the City who would be more than happy to perform for you. One of these performers is the gifted Kazi Faizan who you can track down on youtube and call him and his band up for a show. Great people.

Chitral Music and Culture

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