In photos from Shandur: celebrating polo on highest field in the world

By Danish Yousafzai

Shandur Pass, seen here, is situated in northern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. It is located about 12,500 feet above sea level. [Danish Yousafzai]

A player from Gilgit-Baltistan Team C aims at the goal before striking the polo ball July 9. Shandur freestyle polo is played using a wooden ball. [Danish Yousafzai]

Female spectators enjoy the polo match July 9. Khalida Bibi, one of the spectators, appealed for proper seating arrangements for women. [Danish Yousafzai]

A player from Gilgit-Baltistan lies injured July 9 during a match. Injuries mainly due to the high altitude and low oxygen level are common in Shandur freestyle polo. [Danish Yousafzai]

Raja Tahir, 42, a player from Chitral Team C, told Pakistan Forward that he has been playing polo since he was 12. His father once played for the same team. [Danish Yousafzai]

Women from Kalash Valley perform a traditional folk dance during halftime July 9. [Danish Yousafzai]

More than 15,000 spectators attended the final match on July 9, according to the Tourism Corporation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. [Danish Yousafzai]

Every year, the Tourism Corporation of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa sets up thousands of tents to facilitate tourists during the Shandur Polo Festival. [Danish Yousafzai]

Special communication arrangements were made for the three days of the festival. Telecom services are typically spotty in Shandur Valley. [Danish Yousafzai]

Pakistani troops perform paragliding stunts during halftime July 9. Spectators appreciated the stunning free fall of the paratroopers. [Danish Yousafzai]

SHANDUR -- The Shandur Polo Festival is observed every year in July on the highest polo field in the world, situated 12,500 feet above sea level.

The festival this year was held July 7-9.

"Shandur Valley hosts thousands of tourists who travel from all over Pakistan and around the world to be a part of the spectacular polo match played between historical rivals Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan," Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Secretary of Tourism, Sports and Archaeology Muhammad Tariq told Pakistan Forward.

"With oxygen levels dropping drastically at this height, the match is played freestyle, i.e., without any rules, which makes the game even more challenging," he said. "During halftime, the locals entertain the spectators with traditional and cultural performances."


Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan face off in a freestyle polo match July 9. Players of both teams practice throughout the year for the annual Shandur Polo Festival. [Danish Yousafzai]

To determine who wins, Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan each send four teams -- A, B, C and D -- to play against those on the other side.

Each team has six members. Although any of the teams can reach the finals, team A on each side is considered to have the best players.

This year, team A of defending champion Chitral defeated team A of Gilgit-Baltistan by 10-5 in the final on July 9.

Frontier Corps Inspector General KP North Waseem Ashraf awarded the champions cash prizes and trophies.

The game is evidence of the cultural diversity, harmony and peace in Pakistan, he said.

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5 Comment(s)

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It always my pleasure to read Danish’s articles because he writes in detail and independently.


Very nice. For last five years Chitral is champion


Very weldone. Thank you Pakistan Forward for writing about us.


wooow. very interesting and informative piece. Polo is king of all games. Appreciated


Mind bliwing and intresting facts about the culture & game.