The roof of the world: Shandur Pass

As a person who is smitten with extreme wanderlust, I can substantiate the famous quote of 14th Century explorer Ibn-i-Battuta as he once proclaimed that ‘Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” For, traveling gifts you with so many surprises and revelations that you will have so many yarns to spin both interesting and audacious or otherwise. Imagine, if you get a chance to visit the ‘roof of the world’ and spend some time there from your mundane and routine life, will it not leave you spellbound and awestruck? Shandur pass

shandur polo festival

Shandur pass that is also known as the ‘roof of the world’ is one such exquisite place that will enthrall you in its captivating beauty. Shandur Pass is a high mountain pass at an elevation of 3700m (12,200ft) above the sea level, located in Chitral, connecting the Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with Ghizer District of Gilgit-Baltistan.

The road to the shandur pass is extreme, a bumpy gravel road that will let you drive only in 1st and 2nd gear, but that only adds more adventure to the whole journey. Along the road, there are very steep climbs/descents with narrow U-turns in one of the most striking, but isolated and rocky landscapes on mother earth. The road to the top is a rocky and at times dangerous jeep track that leads high into the mountains.

The Shandur pass has a flat terrain and can be crossed between late April and early November. The Shandur Pass is the main route along which traffic travels from Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province to the Karakoram Highway.  Every day in the warm months, two NATCO buses, one in each direction, rattle along the track which links Gilgit to Mastuj and Chitral.

Among the mighty mountains of Shandur, the greatest and most famous 3 to 4 days Polo tournament in July or August, takes places annually, which is rightfully termed as the highest polo ground in the world. This Spectacular sport is played between teams from the districts of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan. The Polo festival attracts both domestic and international tours in great numbers. It’s a lifetime experience to watch the matches, sitting 12,200ft above the sea level. The strange yet amazing feeling it gives you becomes ‘a joy forever’.

But wait, Shandur pass is not just about a dreadful road journey or Polo festival, it offers you a lot more. Just a few kilometers from the polo ground, there is a striking lake, whose deep blue waters entice you to pay it a visit. Like all beautiful lakes, it gradually reveals its hue and color to the onlooker.

Moreover, it will divulge a different color on each side, as if its cold waters hold mysteries of the world and would disclose one secret at a time, only to the most worthy watcher. Let me assure you, once you are close to its shores, you will not feel like going back. To further enhance the aura of the whole scene, are the giant mountains spread on both sides of the Shandur pass and beautiful streams running down some of them during summers.

Also, a trip to Shandur pass will also offer you with fresh trout that tastes like heavens, and if you have your fishing equipment, Viola, you can catch trout yourself. Besides, the surrounding Hindukush mountains of the shandoor top, are home to rare Ibex (wild goat) and on your way to the pass, you can see numerous Yaks- with shaggy hair, humped shoulders, and large horns, grazing on the lush green meadows of shandoor. All in all, the mesmerizing landscape of the Shandoor pass has all the qualities to become one of your favorite places; a journey that you will remember forever.