Update (August 24, 2020):
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Tourism Department and the administration of Upper Chitral District have announced the two-day Broghil Festival will kick off from September 5. It will be held at the beautiful Broghil National Park in Upper Chitral District and feature a wide range of traditional activities and sports.
Those attending the festival will be able to enjoy yak race, yak polo, cricket, football, marathon race, wrestling, tug-of-war, traditional music, traditional food and fireworks.
Tourism in Pakistan may have seen a spike in the past couple of years, but there are still quite a few magnificent valleys and enchanting lakes in the northern areas of the country that remain widely unexplored and undiscovered. The mystical Broghil Valley, a veritable piece of heaven on earth, is one of those hidden gems.
Located in the upper reaches of beautiful Chitral District in the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Broghil Valley is the ultimate travel destination for adventure seekers, trekkers and nature photographers. The narrow valley is surrounded by mighty snow-capped mountain peaks, majestic glaciers and deep gorges, which is one of the main reasons why its beauty has remained relatively untouched by the outside world. The sprawling green meadows, clear blue lakes, snow-covered passes, ever-changing weather, stunning Pamiri houses and extremely hospitable people make this valley one of the best places to visit in Pakistan.
Let’s find a bit more about the breath-taking Broghil valley in Pakistan.
Where is Broghil Valley?
The topography of Broghil Valley in Chitral makes it one of the hardest-to-reach tourist destinations in Pakistan. However, that doesn’t mean this area doesn’t get any visitors. Despite the location of Broghil Valley, it is quickly gaining popularity among domestic and foreign tourists alike.
Situated some 250 kilometres away from the Chitral City in a remote mountainous area, Broghil Valley in Pakistan borders the magnificent Gilgit-Baltistan and the historic Wakhan Corridor – a perilous strip of land that extends from Afghanistan to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan. The Pakistan-Afghanistan border is also located at a short distance from this valley.
Broghil Valley starts from Lashkargaz in Chitral, a small yet beautiful village famous for holding traditional polo festival each year, and ends at the Karomber Pass, which is located at an altitude of 14,250 ft. This pass, which is also home to the renowned Karomber Lake (also referred to as Karambar Lake), serves as the boundary between the Broghil and Ishkoman valleys.
It is also known as the Broghil Valley National Park.
How to Get There?
Reaching Broghil Valley is not an easy feat. Although the government is currently working on several development projects to build roads and tourist facilities in the region, as of right now, the dangerous terrain and harsh weather conditions can make it extremely difficult to access this area.
The easiest way to reach Broghil Valley in Chitral is by taking a flight to the small domestic airport in Chitral through Pakistan International Airlines – the only carrier that operates there. From Chitral, it will take you about 4 hours to reach Mastuj Valley by a 4×4 jeep. After resting up for a few hours, you should leave for Kashmanja early in the morning as it would take you about 10 hours, give or take. In ideal weather conditions, you’ll have to travel for about five more hours to get to Ishkarwaz.
Given the Ishkarwaz’s proximity to Afghanistan border, soldiers stationed at the check post will for your National Identity Card (NIC). Until a few months ago, foreign tourists were supposed to obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) to explore the area. However, the government recently withdrew its condition for NOC in a bid to promote tourism in the region.
Form Ishkarwaz, the terrain gets even more precarious. It will take you approximately 6 to 8 hours of trekking to reach the stunning village of Lashkargaz – the starting point of Broghil Valley. However, in case of land sliding, heavy rain or some other unforeseen circumstances, it might even take you two or more days to get there.
The Weather in Broghil Valley
Owing to its altitude, the weather in Broghil Valley could be quite harsh, especially during the winter months. On average, the valley receives about five to six feet of snowfall every year. Heavy rainfall and dust storms are also pretty common.
The best time to visit Broghil Valley is between June and August, that’s when you can witness the expansive green fields, flowing waterfalls, crystal clear lakes and colourful festivals that make it one of the must-visit tourist destinations in Pakistan.
Life in the Valley
Life in Broghil Valley isn’t easy, but you won’t see any of the locals complaining about it.
The valley is inhabited by the extremely hospitable Wakhi people – an ethnic Iranian group of people whose ancestors settled in Broghil after travelling here from Tajikistan, Afghanistan and China.
Since the area is quite remote and did not see many tourists until the past few years, it offers a clear picture of the Pamiri culture. Staying true to their roots, the locals in Broghil Valley still live in signature Pamiri houses made of mud and stone. Their main source of income is selling yaks in the northern areas of Pakistan, especially in Gilgit Baltistan, where its meat is considered a delicacy and is rather popular among the tourists flocking the region.
Before the arrival of winters, the locals of Broghil Valley stock up on food, wood and grass for their livestock. Once the weather gets cold and the snowfall starts, they spend their days inside their homes. In recent years, a few small shops have opened in the villages, providing the residents with basic necessities.
Places to See in Broghil Valley
Here are some of the most noteworthy places to see in the mesmerizing Broghil Valley.
The adventurous trek to Karambar Lake is the main reason why so many adventure seekers visit this incredible valley. Starting from Ishkarwaz, the trek to this awe-inspiring lake is about 15 to 20 kilometre.
Along with being the second-highest lake in Pakistan at an altitude of 14,120 feet, Karambar Lake also enjoys the status of being 31st highest lake in the world. Rush Lake in Nagar Valley, Gilgit Baltistan, is the highest lake in Pakistan and 27th in the world, located about 15,400 feet above the sea level.
Due to rapidly changing weather and difficult terrain, the trek to Karambar Lake can take up to two days. However, the enchanting destination is definitely worth all of it. The enchanting blue water reflects the majestic mountain peaks surrounding the Karambar Pass, making the mesmerizing landscape look like an extraordinary painting. Moreover, Karambar Lake is famous for its wide range of aquatic life, making it one of the most biologically active lakes in the region.
Broghil Pass, also known as Broghol Pass, is one of the four major mountain passes providing access to Chitral. The others include the famous Lowari Top, Shandur Top and Dorah Pass. Broghil Valley Pass is about 12,460 ft above sea level and crosses the mighty Hindukush mountain range across Durand Line, connecting Wakhan District in Afghanistan to Chitral District in Pakistan.
The pass remains closed during the winter and is open for cart traffic approximately 8 months a year. It is considered a historically important mountain pass, as according to the National Geographic Society’s Genographic Project, the western Europeans carrying the M45 genetic marker cross Broghil Pass as they made their way to Europe. This genetic marker has since mutated into M173 and then M343, which is carried by a sizable chunk of population in the continent.
Furthermore, Genghis Khan of the Mongol Empire is also said to have used this route.
Located at an altitude of 15,430 ft, the majestic Darkot Pass connects Broghil Valley in Chitral to Rawat Valley in Gilgit Baltistan.
To reach Darkot Pass, you will have to trek to the village of Chikar from Ishkarwaz and make it your base camp. From there, you can trek for about 10 hours, more or less, to reach the base camp for Darkot Pass in Yasin Valley. It’s recommended you spend the night here and cross the steep terrain of Darkot Pass the next morning. Once you reach the other side of the pass, you will be able to reach the village of Rawat in approximately 40 to 50 minutes.
From here, you can hire a jeep to Gilgit City, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the northern areas of Pakistan. Depending on how many days you have left on your trip, you can stay in one of the top hotels in Gilgit and further explore the area.
The Broghil Festival
The annual Broghil Festival is celebrated during July, however, not a lot of people know about it.
Paying tribute to their local culture, the residents of this mystical valley indulge in unique sports such as horse racing, free-style polo and donkey racing among many others during the festival. However, the yak race and yak polo are the actual highlights of the Broghil Valley Festival.
With the growing popularity of Shandur Polo Festival, which is held every year in Chitral, those living in Broghil Valley hope their local festival will soon attract more domestic and foreign tourists as well. After all, where else in the world would you be able to enjoy the historical sport of yak race or yak polo while listening to the traditional Wakhani music at an altitude of 13,000 feet?
However, in order for the festival to gain popularity, the government will have to make the route to Broghil Valley in Pakistan a lot easier than it currently is.
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for holiday destinations for the upcoming vacations, take a look at some of the top places to visit in Pakistan during winter. On the other hand, for those interested in exploring the beauty of Gilgit Baltistan, check out our in-depth guide on taking a road trip from Islamabad to Khunjerab Pass – the tallest paved international border crossing in the world.
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