Kalash Valleys are really unique not only in terms of culture but also food, language and religion. Surrounded by an overwhelmingly Muslim society, these people have maintained their culture. Going to see them is no east feat though. They live in stunning valleys which are hard to get to. I have never been so scared of a drive as I was when I was going to Kalash Valleys. I was at the set edge the whole time honestly. The roads are dangerous and land sliding is a constant thing. Life for Kalash people is not all fun living in these beautiful valleys. My Kalash valleys gay travel was full of adventure, fun and intrigue as well as appreciation for these hardworking people.
Check my Pakistan travel guide for more information before heading to the country.
Where Are Kalash Valleys Located?
Kalash valleys on the other hand are located next to Chitral but form their own communities and culture. There are four valleys with multiple villages for Kalash people. These are:
Bumburet – This is the largest valley and has 5-6 different villages. It is the most famous and gets the most number of tourists. It is called Mumoret in Kalash language.
Rumbur – Located on the opposite side of Bumborate, it is the second valley and smaller with 4-5 Kalash villages.
Birir – This is the smallest of three valleys with constant population. It isn’t well connected to Bumburet and you need to trek from Gambak pass through Bumburet valley or go further than Ayun and head directly to Birir from main road. It is the not well known and enjoys seclusion.
Ac’uagha – This is the least known valley of Kalash people and it is located on higher pastures. it is used only in summer months and Kalash people head there till October to make cheese for winter and let their cattle graze on the high pastures. It is considered sacred, hence not many outsiders are aware of it.
There is even a beautiful secluded lake that requires a 2 day trek from Bumburet called Fairy Lake or Bauk Chat. It is considered sacred by Kalash people because it changes colour every hour with light.
Ayun – While not part of Kalash Valleys, Ayun is called the gateway to Kalash valleys because it is the last big city before Kalash valleys and you will need to pass by here whether to change cars or take public transport to and from Kalash Valleys.
Kalash people are unique in their customs and traditions and follow an ancient form of polytheistic Hinduism. According to legend they are from the army of Alexander The Great and looking at the light skin and coloured eyes, it is hard to deny that. This however is a myth and Kalasha people do not believe in this lineage.
They used to inhabit the entire Chitral district area until the area was conquered by Muslims who viciously hunted and prosecuted Kalash people. They were shot on sight.
Kalash people died in huge numbers, the rest migrated to Afghanistan in huge numbers mainly around Asmar. They later returned and now live in a smaller number in Pakistan in these 4 valleys. They still face a lot f pressure from very conservative fellow countrymen especially in this part of Pakistan which is socially conservative and religiously strict to put it nicely.
Check my ultimate Chitral travel guide fore details of the main city to get to Kalash valleys.
Getting To Kalash Valleys
The best and easiest way to arrive in Kalash Valleys is by air. There are flights that run from Islamabad to Chitral on a few days of the week. These are done on small planes and are subject to weather. This is what I did on the way to Chitral. You have to check a day before if the flight is operating. You can find the flight details on PIA website. You will then need to take the jeep to Kalash Valleys from Airport which takes roughly 2 and a half hours. On the day of my return the weather was rough, the flight got cancelled and I had to book a car to take me to Islamabad.
The alternative is to take a bus to Ayun or Chitral from the outskirts of the capital from Pir Wadhai bus station. It takes around 10 hours and roads are rough. In cases of rain, it becomes even worse. You can get dropped at Ayun and then take the shared cars from there to Kalash Valleys (Bamburet and Rumbur) or you can hire the entire car for yourself. This is the cheapest but the longest and most tiring way. The drivers drive very fast and rough, be careful.
The best way after plane is by car. Normal cars are good till Chitral or Ayun and then you will need to switch to a jeep or fielder cars. We had to take the car back, the roads are rough as I said but if you can stop for a bit along twists and turns, the road is extremely beautiful. I would highly recommend getting a jeep Ayun onwards. If you are travelling by road you will cross the longest tunnel Pakistan has built at Lowari Pass. There is a project to improve roads but it will take a long time.
From Northern Areas By Road
If you are already in the northern areas like Hunza or Gilgit, you can also visit Chitral and Kalash Valleys from there. It is not an easy journey though and can only be done during peak summer month of June to August when the roads are open.
The route is long and it will take a full day, longer than drive from Islamabad. The roads are rough and public transport unreliable, you will have to agree with a local drive to take you. You will also need a jeep or 4×4 for this journey.
On the plus side, you will pass through some of the most beautiful scenery and unspoilt nature. The road also passes through Shandur national park which has the highest polo ground in the world (or any ground for that matter).
Best Time to Visit Kalash Valleys
The best time to visit Kalash Valleys in my opinions is late April or early May. This is the start of season and it is fairly quiet and you will get good weather as well. In winter everything is covered under feet of snow and roads aren’t always open. I visited at the end of March and by luck got amazing weather. If you want to see things in full swing, come during one of the festival for a great experience and see the colours on full display. You will need to come a bit early though and book everything in advance because it gets really busy.
The main festivals and their timings are:
Zoshi – The spring festival. It takes place from 13th-16th May every year to welcome spring.
Ucaw – The summer festival. It happens from 20th to 22nd of August.
Pu’n’ – The autumn festival. It happens at the end of September when people return from high pastures.
Cawmos – The winter festival. It takes place two weeks winter winter solstice (22nd December).
How Many Days for Kalash Valleys?
If you want to explore all 4 valleys and the hidden gems around, I would recommend an 8 day hiking trip. Check with the local guides who will arrange everything for you from accommodations, camping gear to transport. There is so much that is still unexplored here.
If you are on a tight timeline like me 2-3 days is good. I spent 2 actual days and the third day was to go to and from Chitral.
Check out my Chitral travel guide, you should definitely not miss a visit to this beautiful city.
Kalash Valleys Gay Travel
Oh boy, where do I even start? There is no concept of gay life here. There is no internet here so no Grindr or apps either. there are no gay operated tours or guides here but despite all this, the people are absolutely friendly. There is no judgement and no one bats and eye lid if 2 guys want to share a double bed. My guide was also very friendly and welcoming.
About the guys, a lot of them are extremely good looking. I sighed a few times for sure. To make things worse, they are very friendly and nice.
Check my Gay Pakistan guide as well to avoid any uncomfortable surprises.
Where To Stay In Kalash Valleys?
My stay was arranged by the guide but I wanted to support the locals and stayed in a nice clean guesthouse by the name of FKU Hotel. It was basic but very clean and came with amazing views of the valley.
Practical Tips for Kalash Valleys Visit
- There is no internet at the moment although there are plans to bring in 4G later. The only company with a service is Telenor here. There is also no WiFi here.
- Get a local guide! They know the poeple and will greatly help you. The locals are (rightfully) very mistrustful of outsiders and having a local really helps as well as the knowledge they have of locals customs and culture.
- It gets quite cold at night even in summers so make sure you bring warm clothes with you.
- The word for hello in Kalashi language is Ishpata, you will always get a nice big smile and an Ishpata back.
- Please bring your passport or ID with you, you will need it here. If you are a foreigner you will have to pay PKR 600 when you enter Kalash Valleys, it goes for their welfare.
- Important: You cannot and should not take photos if ladies without their consent, they really don’t like it. Always politely ask your guide who will then help you.
Guide For Kalash Valleys Visit
Before heading to Kalash, I was doing some research and found some tours from companies operating from bigger cities but I wanted someone local to support locals. I reached out to a fellow blogger and got in touch with a local guide Iqbal Shah. Iqbal was my guardian angel for the next 3 days. He picked me up from the airport, arranged the jeep, the accommodations, food and I had the best experience. He is extremely knowledgeable and knows the entire place like the palm of his hand.
Long before I arrived, when I was planning, I got comfortable I was dealing with someone knowledgeable. I would highly recommend him because he is local, knowledgeable and friendly.He is a dear friend now. You can contact him on WhatsApp, Instagram or Facebook. Please be patient as internet is bad in Kalash and it could take him some time to get back to you. The best way is to call him directly or leave a message on any of the apps a few days in advance at least. His number is +923120080070.
2 Days In Kalash Valleys
Getting to Kalash Valley
It was an early morning wake up to catch the flight from Islamabad to Chitral. The ATR planes were a bit unsettling but as soon as we got to the Hindukush range, nothing mattered. It was a clear day and the night peaks of Hindu Kush were on full display.
The flight took an hour and we landed in one of the most picturesque airports I have seen. Chitral is located within a valley and as soon as I landed I was greeted by Tirich Mir; the highest mountain in the Hindu Kush range. The airport was also tiny. Iqbal, my guide was waiting there. He’s a friendly local who has a big smile. We got to our jeep and soon we were on the way to Kalash Valley Bumburet.
Ayun; Gateway To Kalash
After half an hour we arrived at Ayun Valley viewpoint which is another spectacular panorama. If this is the start then I’m already in love with this place, I thought. The road got worse but we arrived at the bud station of Ayun which is also the trading centre and market. If you want to go without your own jeep you can hire a car from here.
From Ayun the dangerous part of the road starts. The houses gave way to rugged mountains and vast valleys with a tiny winding road. I clenched my hands every time we took a dangerous turn. Driving here is a death wish honestly if you aren’t a local.
We arrived at the Dobaz which is the point where the roads for Bumburet and Rumbur separate. It was still a bit of trek to cover but the stunning view around made me want to stop and take it in.
You will need to be registered here and if you’re a foreigner you will pay PKR 600 which goes towards Kalash welfare.
More twists and turns on this crazy roads later, we arrived at our first Kalash village in Bumburet; Anish.
Anish is the village of Iqbal and we were met by a local guide. She walked with us and explained how things worked. I was also shown around a house. I loved the dresses, the local lifestyle and obviously the mountains that surrounded us at all times.
The walk through the village was great. I learnt to greet in Kalashi, it is Ishpata. The ladies smiled and nodded with children looking at me with curiosity.
Most of them had very Caucasian features with light eyes, it wasn’t hard to believe they were descendants of Alexander the Great’s army. Now this is a common myth and the Kalash never owned this or claim to be the descendants of the warrior gay lord. The DNA matching points more to Russians. There are no songs, memories, folk lores or anything pointing to the Greek army.
Anish to Brun; The Channel Walk
We started walking on top if Anish to the next village Brun. The guide told me about the life they have, the customs and traditions. I found the death part most interesting.
Fun Fact: When a woman dies she is kept for a day and lots of goats and cows are slaughtered and then she’s buried with dignity. In case of men, it is the same but they best drums an entire day and night. The dance on this day and celebrate the life of deceased before burying them.
The hike was ever so amazing, there an entire educational complex. The houses are built so beautifully here to withstand earthquakes.
Fun Fact: Kalash people juniper and oak are sacred and they burn these two wood to purify and cleanse and always keep some oak branches at home. The altar is called Jes’t’ak.
We walked all the way to the next village over the tops of roofs with daily life happening underneath. It was a pleasant half an hour easy walk.
Brun is the next village and we walked around a bit and crossed the bridge to the other side of the river. The ladies were washing their clothes there but we didn’t stay too long because we had yet to check in and also see our last village for the day. We took the jeep for this stretch.
This is the epicentre of Kalashi religious life with a big temple, some old graveyards and it is also one of the oldest villages in the area. People from all four valleys come here for celebrations and festivals as well as weddings and deaths. Walking around here is quite fun and only took us 30 minutes to see the entire place including the old graveyard as well as the small wooden graves on top of the village. The views of mountains here are breathtaking. The last mountain you see is the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
We checked in to a local guesthouse which was quite comfortable and convenient. I was super tired by now after a full day so ate some food and headed to bed. It was going to be another long and exciting day tomorrow.
The day started super early and after some local cheese and bread made of corn maze I headed to the last village in Bumborate valley; Krakal. This is where most of the tourists go and in all fairness it is a pretty village with typical wooden houses, women doing chores around the streets and kids playing.
An old lady was happy to show me how they make yarn for warm clothes and caps with another one looking after a baby. They are just so warm and friendly if you’re with a local. It was time to head to the last point in the valley though.
You can trek all the way to Sheikhananda which is what I chose to do. It was about 2 km away. We passed through Gambak pass. This is the point where you can hike to Birir from. The mountains looked absolutely formidable.
We continued on foot until we arrived at the village of Sheikhananda. It isn’t a Kalash village but rather have their own language and have Afghan origins. The village is small and there is a small fish farm.
I was curious what was beyond this little village and went trekking even further after the village. The mountains got taller and whiter. Iqbal told me there were meadows and pastures for their goats all the way to border with Afghanistan. Kalash people head there in summers to make cheese and feed the goats on the lush mountains grass. I secretly wished I was a goat at that point.
The Local Lunch
It was almost midday and we had requested our host to prepare a local lunch for me. The food and scenery were both perfect. It was red beans with another dish made with potatoes and cheese. The bread was my absolute favourite. It was three kinds; walnut, simple and meat filled. Pure bliss!
It was time to head to our next destination; Rumbur Valley.
Drive to Rumbur
The drive to Rumbur is incredibly beautiful but the road is still that death defying crazy road with crazy turns. I was never sure what was coming next which was exciting and scary at the same time. We arrived at Dobaz and continued to Rumbur. It took an hour and a half to get there.
The first stop was Grum village. The flurry of activity with men looking at me curiously and women going about their business in those colourful dresses. They seemed a bit friendlier here and a lady came shook my hand and took me to her souvenir shop. I usually don’t buy souvenirs but I got necklace as a reminder fo this amazing visit. She thanked me with a big smile and I headed on to the top of the village. It is a typical Kalash village with wooden houses perched on cliffs. The kids were going up and down like the goats they were herding where I could barely go up the stairs to match the pace of my guide.
I did get to the top eventually and immediately forgot everything. The entire Rumbur valley sat at my feet. Incredibly breathtaking view. I just couldn’t stop staring at it in such disbelief. The spell broke when the ladies came who were happy to take a photo with me. I felt humble, I wasn’t sure if he able to take the famous photo with Kalash ladies. They didn’t disappoint.
It was time for the last stop for the day but that required crossing the river and walking along the water channels on the mountain across the river.
Kalasha Grum Village
Iqbal and I crossed the bridge and arrived at the base of the village and then started the hike up. It was very picturesque. There were so many beautiful views of the Grum village with the mountains at the back and towering behind it. We hiked up to the top, it got steeper. Eventually we arrived at Kalasha Grum and Iqbal took me to meet the disabled sculptor.
His workshop has the view I’d die for. He sat there working on a statue and when we arrived I saw the biggest, warmest smile on his face which is a signature of people here. I got some information but the best part of seeing how he is so well respected not only here but internationally with patrons across the world especially Europe. It was another good experience.
It was getting late and I was in no mood to go on that crazy road in the dark of night. We headed down and arrived the jeep to start the crazy journey all over again.
Drive to Chitral
We were all a bit tired except our driver who was in a chatty mood and talked about anything and everything all the way. We listened some of it, I was still on the seat edge with crazy twists and turns. I breathed a sigh of relief when we crossed Ayun and finally arrived in Chitral. The hotel and food were ready and a shower and food later I slept like a log.
These 3 days were absolutely amazing, I have had a total blast. Meeting these wonderful people with the hospitality of the guide made everything memorable. I am already planning to return for longer to explore further. If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask.