Chitral valley is an area of outstanding natural beauty, boasting spectacular mountains which offer endless opportunities for trekking and climbing. It is also home to a fascinating variety of peoples, including the non-Muslims Kalash and semi nomadic Wakhi. In the upper Chitral the people of are Ismaili Muslims and much more open in their outlook. Compared with northern areas, Chitral receives many tourists in the season for climbing, jeep safari and many more on Kalash festivals every year
The rugged and heavily glaciated Hindukush range raises a formidable barrier along the western and northern border with Afghanistan. Averaging over 4500 meters and dominated by Tirich Mir (7787m) and Istoro Nal (7323m), these mountains mark the watershed between the valleys draining the Oxus and the Indus basins. To the south and east, the Shandur Mountains (Hindu Raj or Mashabar) separate Chitral from Gilgit, Swat and Dir.
The Chitral River, known by four different names at various stages along its course, rise in the area of the Chiantar glacier, a 40kms sheet of ice which is also the source of oxus and Gilgit rivers. Here, as the Yarkand, it flows down at altitude of over 5000 meters to be joined by the Laspur River which drains most of the northern slops of the Shandur range. It is known as the Mastuj until joined by the Lutok branch, draining the Tirich Mir region. Where it becomes Chitral River for much of its course until, close to Afghanistan, it becomes the Kunar. In total the river valley runs to over 300kms. Close to the Chitral town the river plain widens to over four kilometers in width and runs in a broken pattern of cultivated alluvial fans right down to Naghar, 10kms south of Drosh.
Historically, Chitral valley was one of the main arteries of the Sikh Road, across the Broghil Pass to Yarkand and Kashgar, but was later replace by the more southern route along the Indus and through Kashmir and Ladakh due to persistent banditry and feuding in the region.
Kalash Valley: The Kalash, numbering approximately 5000, are the smallest group amongst the religious minorities of Pakistan. Unlike the other minorities, they live exclusively in a particular geographical area; the three valleys of Birir, Bumburet and Rumbur situated in the Hindukush between the Afghanistan border and Chitral Valley. Until this kafiristan also included present-day Nuristan in Afghanistan, inhabited by the ‘Red Kafirs’, where the Kalash were the called Black Kafirs.
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