The Kalash Valleys in the Chitral province of northern Pakistan are like another world.
The Kalasha people have lived their traditions for 1000’s of years that are culturally and religiously different from the rest of the region.
We travelled from the Hunza Valley across the Shandur Pass to Chitral (link to that article at the bottom of the post) to visit the Kalasha as we had heard so much about the place for years.
Note: All the photos of Kalasha people were with their permission.
The Kalash Valleys
The Bamborate valley is the main Kalasha valley that is where most people visit and stay.
It has the most guesthouses and places to eat and a lot of villages and history to explore. It also has the excellent Kalasha Dur Museum.
Part of Bamborate valley.
Beautiful scenery to walk around.
If a couple die without having any children they make wooden sculptures of them like in the photo below.
Unfortunately due to cultural theft they have to be protected now by cages.
The burial houses are where they leave a dead body overnight beofre burial the next day.
Outside a burial house.
The old graves in the Bamborate valley were washed up during a flood and some now lay strewn around in the open under a group of trees at the last Kalasha village in the valley.
Coffins from the graveyard.
There are a lot of guesthouse options to stay in Bamborate valley but for us the Kalash Guest House was the best place.
It’s a homestay where you stay with a local Kalasha family in a Kalash village.
The owner Bhutto is a very welcoming and friendly man and his family are so hospitable and will make you feel at home.
They have some of the best home-cooked traditional food and the owner gets some of the best Kalasha wine (see more about the wine later in the article).
The only thing with the Bamborate valley is that as it’s the busiest area some of the uniqueness of the Kalasha area is taken away.
Rumbor valley is on a smaller scale that Bamborate and feels a little more traditional in some ways but Bomborate valley I still believe is the best one to base yourself in as mentioned before.
We hitch-hiked up the Rumbur valley and got a lift by a guy called Engineer, a Kalashi. He owns a traditional Kalasha family homestay and we had breakfast there.
Engineers house is very nice and his family are friendly and if we did ever stay in Rumbur valley we would definitely stay at his.
He’s also a friend of Bhutto at the Kalash Guesthouse in Bomborate.
Part of Rumbur valley.
Kalasha village in Rumbur valley.
Old inscriptions on wood looking over the valley.
Part of a Kalasha temple.
Kalasha dance hall in Rumbur valley.
What to say…
The Kalasha wine is out of this world.
I don’t even like wine that much and actually don’t drink that much alcohol but the Kalasha wine just tastes so good and is smooth.
It’s made from the local grapes in the area and the Kalash people enjoy it year round but on certain festivals, mainly in December and May, they drink a lot of it.
As mentioned earlier the owner of Kalash Guest House in Bamborate valley gets some of the best around.
Can’t resist a glass (or 3) in the evening.
The Kalash People and Culture
The main reason to visit the Kalasha valleys is the Kalash people who are amongst the frienliest I have ever met, having explored cultures in over 90 countries.
The Kalash belief system is considered a form of ancient Hinduism and differs from all other ethnic groups in the region.
Note again: all photos of people were taken with their permission. It’s considered rude and imolite in Kalash to take photos of people candidly. They don’t like it so be respectful of their wishes.
Also it’s way better to get to know the people first, drink tea with them, share stories, chat, and then if you want ask for photos together and they will appreciate that much more.
Use your energies to engage with the kalsh people and don’t think just of: “They look cool I want pics”!
I’m a photographer and love to photograph everything but sometimes you have to step back from it and enjoy the moments. The few pics I did take of some of the people were once we had become friends over the course of 4 nights staying there.
Woman from Kalash Guest House.
Our guide who took it upon herself to show us around her Kalash village.
A Kalash woman harvesting the field.
A Kalash man laughs at a joke we said.
Kalash man organising corn after harvesting it.
The owner of Kalash Guest House on the right relaxes with local man taking a break from work.
Family member from Kalash Guest House gives Sidra (my wife) a traditional Kalash head dress to wear for the day.
Sidra dressed in traditional Kalasha clothes.
Sidra wearing a different dress.
I wore a local traditional hat.
Children from a Kalasha village related to the owner of where we stayed.
Getting to The Kalasha Valleys
The main way to the Kalasha Valleys is from Chitral and is around a 2 hour drive into either Bamborate or Rumbur Valleys.
Bamborate has more transport options and will be easier to get to.
You can take a shared taxi from Chitral for around 300 rupees per person for a full car of 6 people sharing.
Or if you want your own car pay around 2000 rupees for the trip.
If you have your own transport be aware that the road after Ayun gets rocky and dusty.
To get to Chitral itself depends where you are coming from.
If you have been travelling along the Karakoram Highway area then the Gilgit to Chitral journey is the best way to reach there and is a highly recommended trip in its own right.
If you are coming from Islamabad there is a nightly bus service on the HinduKush Express Bus that costs around 2000 rupees.
Visit The Kalasha Valleys
Visiting the Kalasha Valleys is one of the best experiences you can have in Pakistan.
It’s such a unique culture and combined with the friendly people and beautoufl scenery makes the perfect place to visit.
Take note though that the Kalash people live alongside Muslim villages in the valleys so don’t expect just to see Kalash people and their culture there.
As mentioned in the beginning we travelled from the Hunza Valley across the Shandur Pass to get to the Kalasha Valleys and that trip was an adventure in itself.
For a story about a somewhat disastrous journey in the Chitral region before we made it to the Kalasha valleys have a read of this hot springs nightmare in Garam Chasma.
For more reading on travel in Pakistan take a look at my Pakistan destinations page.
To learn more about the Kalash people Wikipedia has excellent information on the Kalash.