Chitral

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Eroded mountain of the Hindu Kush Chitral, Pakistan.
© WWF-Canon / Stéfane MAURIS

Isolation, mountains, spectacular beauty and.....a game of polo?

What and where?
Chitral is a valley located in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan, amidst the ranges of the Karakorams, the Hindu Kush and the mighty Himalayas. At an elevation of around 1,100 metres (3,700 ft), the total area of Chitral covers over 14,000 km2 with a population of 300,000. The capital of the Chitral district is Chitral town, situated on the western bank of the Chitral (Kunar) River at the foot of the Tirich Mir, the highest peak of Hindu Kush.

The people of Chitral are called the 'Kho' and their language is 'Khowar', one of the oldest Indo European languages. Khowar belongs to the Dardic group of Indo-Aryan language and is spoken not only in Chitral but also in some other northern areas of Pakistan; some parts of Yasin, Gilgit, and Swat.

Why?
The Chitral is one of the most isolated areas of the western end of the Himalayas, and is surrounded by high mountain passes. It is also one of extreme beauty. The remote human communities live in narrow valleys dominated by mountain rivers and prehistoric sites abound. Chitral's biodiversity is unique, and many of the passes are migration routes between central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. Approximately 1 million migratory birds pass through each year, of which several are globally important species.

Polo is a popular sport in Chitral and an annual polo festival takes place between Gilgit and Chitral at the highest polo ground in the world, at the Shandur Pass.

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