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Pakistan: Under a Pagan Moon

Group Tour

12 Days From £2,375

Overview

This is quite simply the one of the most amazing, original and wild trips we do. Run for the first time in 2006, our small group of intrepid travellers was the first to experience the Kalash winter solstice festival of Chawmos and probably one of the first to see the rare snow leopard in the wild. This is the most important time of year for the Kalash, when life, the gods and ancestors are celebrated in a weeklong party and joining them for their celebrations is a privilege to which very few ...

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HIGHLIGHTS

At a glance

MEALS

11 x Breakfasts
11 x Lunches
11 x Dinners

TRANSPORT

On this tour we will use 1970’s re-conditioned Willis jeeps. When the weather allows, we will have the roof down to maximise the stunning views and stunning scenery. We will also use coaster buses or minibuses on the longer journeys to and from Islamabad.

GROUP SIZE

Maximum: 12

CARBON CONTRIBUTIONS

A carbon-offsetting contribution to Eco Act for all bookings

EXPERT TEAM

The full services of a Wild Frontiers Tour Leader with local guides where appropriate

ACCOMMODATION

All accommodation as outlined in the itinerary

ACCOMMODATION

As an overall ethos, wherever possible we aim to use characterful accommodation that enhances the overall travel experience, not just offers a bed for the night. This can obviously vary dramatically from country to country and from trip to trip. On this trip the accommodation varies hugely from nice 2/3* small hotels, and the local guesthouses in the Kalash valley.

ENTRANCE FEES

All entrance fees for sights mentioned in the itinerary

FITNESS RATING

Low / Moderate

FITNESS RATING

LOW: You should be comfortable walking around towns and cultural sites. May include some optional walks (typically 1-2hrs).

LOW/MODERATE: May be of a long duration and/or involve numerous border-crossings. May include easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-3hrs/day). You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle.

MODERATE: May include several easy/moderate day walks (up to 2-5hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You should be relatively fit and lead a generally active lifestyle. Previous experience of similar trips helpful.

MODERATE/HIGH: May involve several days of moderate hiking (up to 3-6 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

HIGH: May involve several days of moderate/strenuous trekking (up to 4-7 hrs/day) possibly at altitude. You must be a very fit and active traveller with appropriate trekking experience.

Map & Itinerary

Individual departures may vary so please refer to the information in the tour specific links in the Dates and Prices section below

Pakistan: Under a Pagan Moon
EXPAND ALL ITINERARY DAYS
COLLAPSE ALL ITINERARY DAYS

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN ISLAMABAD

DAY 1: TOUR STARTS IN ISLAMABAD

After an early arrival we will have a relaxed morning. In the afternoon will head out into Islamabad to see some of the Pakistani capital and take a visit to the Heritage Museum and the Faisal Mosque. We will have dinner in the Saidpur, a traditional local village area just outside the centre of Islamabad.

Hotel
Lunch, Dinner

DAY 2: ISLAMABAD -  SWAT VALLEY

DAY 2: ISLAMABAD -  SWAT VALLEY

Today we will start our journey north by driving through the Northwest Frontier and into the beautiful Swat Valley. Until quite recently this region was out of bounds to foreign tourists, but now it has opened up again offering us a great chance to explore the regions ancient Buddhist past. Once we have checked into our hotel we’ll visit the local museum, packed with many fine Gandharan artefacts, and other Buddhist sites.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 3: SWAT VALLEY - CHITRAL

DAY 3: SWAT VALLEY - CHITRAL

After breakfast we will have a spectacular drive, passed Chakdarra – where a young Winston Churchill saw action back in the 1890s – before continuing through the Lowari Tunnel into the ancient kingdom of Chitral. Lather this afternoon we will have time for some local sightseeing. The Chitral Fort was the location for the besieged British Garrison in 1895 and now houses the cannons dragged over the high passes of the Hindu Kush used to break the siege. Next to the Fort is the intricate Grand Mosque. However, our main focus will be wandering around the bazaar with its mixture of traditional and modern goods being sold by the predominantly Pashtun population. Dinner will be at our hotel.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 4: CHITRAL - CHITRAL GOL - CHITRAL

DAY 4: CHITRAL - CHITRAL GOL - CHITRAL

Today our wildlife adventure begins as we move up to the area around the old hunting lodge in Chitral Gol, the region’s National Park. Roaming in the wild will give us great opportunity to observe the rutting season for the famous Markhor wild goat and we will see hundreds of them fighting and playing – indeed it is the young of the Markhor that interest the elusive snow leopard. If we are really lucky we may catch a glimpse of one of these exquisite animals. We will return to Chitral in the evening to the comfort of our hotel.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 5: CHITRAL - BALANGURU

DAY 5: CHITRAL - BALANGURU

Today after completing some registration formalities we head into the Kalash Valley of Rumbor and the village of Balanguru. Here we stay with our friend Saifullah Jan, the chief spokesperson for the Kalash. After checking into our guesthouse, we will go with our friends to visit their extended families and their houses in the valleys of Grum or Kalashagrum.

Local Guesthouse
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAYS 6 - 8: BALANGURU

DAYS 6 - 8: BALANGURU

For the next three days we will enjoy this extraordinary festival that precious few Westerners have ever seen. As well as dancing, singing and feasting we will also witness the religious priests (or Qazis, as they are known) summon up the spirits and ask for their blessing. On one of the days the women of the valley – including those travelling with us – must cleanse their souls by performing certain purification rituals, but don’t worry, it is nothing too drastic, just a bucket wash followed by offering up some pure chapattis at the Temple of Jastak Khan. On another day it is the turn of the men to cleanse themselves, this time with goats’ blood at the temple of Sagi Gor. More than 40 goats will be sacrificed as an offering to the gods, wine will be drunk and preparations for the dancing will start. From here on men could wear the shalwar kameez. In the evening we will join the Kalash for a spectacular night of dancing in the village.

Local Guesthouse
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 9: KALASH FESTIVAL - AYUN

DAY 9: KALASH FESTIVAL - AYUN

Having observed the festivities we may take one last walk around the Kalash Valley and then head on to Ayun where we’ll check into the wonderful home of Maqsood Ul Mulk, one of the princes of Chitral in the afternoon. Depending on the weather we may have time for a short walk around one of the local villages nearby.

Local Guesthouse
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 10: AYUN - ISLAMABAD

DAY 10: AYUN - ISLAMABAD

This morning we’ll start out early for our return journey towards Islamabad. Dependant on traffic this may take a good twelve hours. We will stop en route at Dir for lunch and then continue on this full day’s scenic drive to the capital, now possible due to the Lowari tunnel. (NB Flight schedules to Islamabad are erratic and unreliable at best at this time of year, hence the reason we drive)

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 11: ISLAMABAD - TAXILA – ISLAMABAD

DAY 11: ISLAMABAD - TAXILA – ISLAMABAD

We will spend our last full day exploring Taxila, a fascinating Buddhist university town, dating back to the Gandaharan era of Alexander the Great. We’ll then return to Islamabad in the late afternoon where there may be time for some last minute shopping before our farewell dinner.

Hotel
Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

DAY 12: TOUR END ISLAMABAD

DAY 12: TOUR END ISLAMABAD

Tour finishes today in Islamabad.

Breakfast

PRIVATE HOLIDAYS: DATES DON’T FIT?

All group tours can be taken on a private basis.

REVIEWS OF THIS TRIP

Additional Details

Events

The Chawmos Festival

This Kalash Festival is celebrated over the winter solstice period. To attend all locals and visitors must go through a purification of washing and a fire ritual. There are offerings of food and sacrifices to the Gods, followed by feasting celebrated with dancing and music. There are also inter-village ball games and competitons. It is considered to be the most important of the Kalash Festivals

Responsible Travel

Responsible travel and sustainable tourism are fundamental ideas that Wild Frontiers has been committed to since our birth. It is our strong belief that these words should not be simply ‘tagged on’ to itineraries and websites but should be at the very core of each trip, and our adventures are therefore designed with the local people, culture and eco-system in mind. We believe that a successful trip not only delivers a unique and unsurpassable journey for our clients, but that it also benefits the peoples whose lands we are privileged to visit. For more information, please see our responsible travel page.

Kalash Valley Visit

On this tour you will have the privilege of staying with the people of the Kalash, a minority pagan tribe who live high in the mountains of the North West Frontier. The Kalash is a community that have been at the heart of Wild Frontiers from the very beginning, welcoming us and our travellers into their community and homes and inviting us to join in their festival celebrations. Staying in a locally owned guesthouse, usually in Balanguru Village, for a number of days we are supporting the local economy, while enjoying invaluable cultural interaction.

Through the Wild Frontiers Foundation we have supported the people of the Kalash on a number of community projects, including the purchase of land, in a safer area, to rebuild the Balanguru Village primary school after devastating floods washed the small school building down the valley in 2013. With further floodwaters destroying an already fragile infrastructure including homes, communal buildings, water channels and crops, in 2017 our foundation raised the funds to build a 100ft flood defence wall to help protect the village and community from future loss.

 

 

Getting There

If you would like us to send you a quote for the suggested tour flights or on any alternative flight that may suit you better, please let us know, noting that for our US clients, we will most likely refer you to one of our preferred partners. For this trip our suggested flights from the UK (subject to change) are shown below.

If you wish to arrange your own flights you are completely free to do so and in this case we can arrange any transfers or supplementary accommodation that you may require. However please note that if you are planning on making your own flight arrangements, we recommend that you first check with us to see if the trip is guaranteed. We then suggest that you purchase flights that are flexible and ideally refundable as due to the nature of adventure travel, itineraries and destination accessibility can change at any time. For more information, please refer to our booking conditions.
 

Flight Code Departing Arriving
EK 002 London Heathrow (LHR) 13:40 Dubai Airport (DXB) 00:40
EK 612 Dubai Airport (DXB) 03:10 Islamabad Airport (ISB) 07:15
EK 003 Dubai Airport (DXB) 14:30 London Heathrow (LHR) 18:20
EK 613 Islamabad Airport (ISB) 09:00 Dubai Airport (DXB) 11:35

Visas

Visas are necessary for many of the destinations we travel to and while we aim to provide you with the most up-to-date information, requirements frequently change and as such for the latest advice we advise that you check with the relevant embassies or contact our recommended visa agency, Travcour www.travcour.com 

For this tour UK passport holders currently require a visa for Pakistan.

Non-UK passport holders or non-UK residents should contact the relevant embassies for individual requirements.

Further details will be sent out to you on booking, however ensuring that correct and valid visas are obtained remains the sole responsibility of the client.

Extensions

If you have more time available, why not arrive early to adjust to a new time zone or just to get a feel for the country before your tour starts? Or alternatively you might choose to allow a few extra days after the tour to relax or to undertake some further exploration.

The choice is completely yours and we can usually arrange anything from simply additional accommodation and transfers to full tailor-made itineraries.

Below is just a small sample of what you could do. Please contact the office for more details and to discuss your individual requirements.

Lahore & Wagah Border

Extend your time in Pakistan and visit Lahore, to see this famous old Moghul city and the ‘Closing of the Gate’ ceremony. Allow 3-5 days.

Governmental Travel Advice

Many governments issue advice which highlights potential hazards their citizens might experience when travelling abroad. We strongly suggest you refer to your country’s particular advisory site before booking and contact us if you have any queries or concerns. Click to follow links to the advice of the British Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) or the US State Department.

Non-UK citizens should consult the travel advice of their respective governments.

Warning

The FCDO sometimes advises against certain parts of this itinerary.

Wild Frontiers has many years’ experience of running trips which contravene FCDO advice but these decisions that are never taken lightly and are always taken in conjunction with our local partners after extensive consultation. As part of the booking process, you will need to sign a disclaimer to confirm you have read the advice, that you are still happy to travel and that you will obtain travel insurance which is not invalidated by the FCDO advice.

For more information, please see the Insurance section or contact us. Non-UK clients should be sure to check the travel advice of their own governments as well as the small print of their insurance policies. Should you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Key Information

CLIMATE

Cold, Cold Cold! Well at least it will be while we are in the Kalash Valleys. You are likely to experience snow on the ground with a daily temperature rarely climbing into double figures. That said, with the days bright and sunny, if active, you can keep quite warm. In Chitral standing around watching the Markhor and elusive snow leopard can be very cold as we are in a gorge where the sun doesn’t reach. In Islamabad at this time of year it is generally much more temperate with a daytime average temperature of 18C.

IS THIS TRIP FOR ME?

It may sound obvious but Wild Frontiers tours are not always for everyone and it is important to us that the tour you choose is the most suitable. All our tours have a fitness rating as a guideline but you should check the day-by-day itinerary carefully. In certain instances we may ask you to complete a travel questionnaire before confirming your booking in order to ensure your suitability. Should you have any concerns about your ability to partake in any aspect of the tour then please contact the office.

KEY ASPECTS TO CONSIDER

Anyone in a reasonable state of health who enjoys walking should enjoy this tour, but it should be made clear that adventure travel in this part of the world is not for the faint-hearted and fastidious, particularly at winter! Walks in the Kalash Valley can be steep and the festival area is up on a platform reached by many steps! Temperatures can be bitterly cold and the accommodation basic, but the experience will be unparalleled.

 

THE NATURE OF ADVENTURE TRAVEL

We feel that it’s worth pointing out that while we will always strive to stick as close to the stated itinerary as possible, it may be necessary from time to time to make changes to our itineraries or services (due to weather, political and religious influences etc.) and this can happen with little or no notice. This unpredictability can be one of the most exciting aspects of adventure travel and for many of our clients often leads to unexpected highlights as the tour-leader necessarily adapts the tour to the changing conditions. However we are aware that this lack of assuredness may not suit everyone. As such, with the greatest respect, if you are someone who needs to know that everything will happen exactly as planned, we would kindly suggest that perhaps our tours are not for you. Adventure travel can be infectious and once you’ve caught the bug, it is likely to never leave you, but especially if this is your first such tour we would strongly urge you to give us a call if you have any concerns whatsoever about your suitability for this trip.

TRAVELLING SOLO AND SINGLE SUPPLEMENTS

As a company approximately 70% of our clients are solo travellers, so it’s very unlikely you’ll be alone!

Our prices are typically based on twin-share accommodation but single supplements are not compulsory for any Wild Frontiers tour. If you prefer not to pay a single supplement we’ll pair you with someone else of the same sex for you to share with throughout the trip.
On this trip, if you do opt to pay for a single supplement then please note that it will cover you for all nights of the tour.

Please note that paying a single supplement entitles you to lone occupancy of a single room. In many cases these rooms will be of the same size as a double/twin room, but in some cases they may be smaller.
 

INSURANCE

Insurance that provides cover for emergency repatriation in case of a medical emergency is compulsory for all tours. You should be aware that due to some of the geographical areas visited and some of the activities included on certain of our trips some standard insurance policies may not always provide adequate cover. As such we strongly recommend that you purchase a policy that adequately covers your trip. Please see the Insurance section for more details.

General Information

TOUR PRICE

All our tours are priced on a land-only basis, giving you maximum flexibility when deciding how to get to and from your tour.

DEPOSIT

A £200 (or equivalent) deposit is required to confirm your booking.

PROTECTION FOR YOUR MONEY

For further details please see our travelling with peace of mind page

WILD MILES

This tour will earn you 7514 Wild Miles

WHAT'S NOT INCLUDED

We believe in a completely transparent approach to pricing with no hidden extras. As such, please note that the following are not included in the cost of the tour.

Visas & Travel Insurance: Visas will always be tour/nationality dependent but travel insurance is mandatory
Tips: Always optional but some guidance will be given in the pre-departure information documents
International Flights: Please ask us for an obligation-free quote for flights which originate in the UK
Airport Transfers: We include complimentary transfers if arriving/departing on the suggested group flights
Beverages & any costs of a personal nature: This will include items such as laundry and souvenirs

WILD FRONTIERS COMMUNITY

If you’re still not sure if this trip is right or just want to see get some different perspectives, then why not have a look at the wide variety of resources we have on our website? Browse our community section to read our blogs, watch videos and find out about our events. 

WHY WILD FRONTIERS?

We are frequently asked what makes Wild Frontiers different from other tour operators. Visit our Why Wild Frontiers page to find out.

INSPIRATION