Starting from Lahore in the Punjb heartland, we venture through the bazaar town of Peshawar up to Chitral to celebrate the Kalash new year holiday of Chawmos. The Kalash people still practice an ancient religion and have maintained their traditions. We travel through the spectacular northern valleys, staying in homestays and exploring Pakistan’s giant Hindukush and Karakoram peaks.
Murad hails from village Ishkoman in Northern Pakistan. Murad has lead major international research and media teams, working as a translator, fixer and adventure and trekking guide, including the BBC Planet Earth team in their successful quest to document snow leopards in Northern Pakistan.
Matt is a co-founder of Inertia and experienced expedition leader. He's previously lead some of our wildest programs in Socotra, Pakistan, Siberia, Greenland, the Congo and beyond. He coordinated the recon for this expedition in Sumatra. He's an avid photographer, documentarian and geopolitics nerd.
Ayub was born and raised in a remote village in Gilgit-Baltistan in the far north of Pakistan, where the Hindu Kush, Karakoram, and Himalaya ranges meet. When not organizing treks, Ayub runs a charity to give vulnerable people the potential to take charge of their future and live a life of dignity through education.
Nicole is an Alaska native and hard core, no bullshit adventure traveller. She spends her days venturing to some of the most inaccessible corners of the planet, from Antarctica to Moldova, Pakistan to Yemen. When not travelling, Nicole is based at home in Anchorage working as a dental hygienist.
- Celebrate the Kalash New Year festival of Chawmos with dance, drink and good times in the remote Kalash Valleys of Chitral.
- Wander the ancient bazaars and sip Pashtun green tea in Peshawar.
- Soak in the architecture, music, culture and hype of the Pubjab cultural capital Lahore.
- Stay with local families nestled in the mountains in Pakistan's remote north.
- Marvel at some of the world's highest peaks as we traverse the Hindukush and Karakoram mountain ranges.
Day 1. Sunday, December 8, 2019. Arrive in Lahore
The group will meet in Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan in the heart of the Punjab. We will have a trip briefing at the hotel followed by a group dinner.
Day 2-3. Monday-Tuesday, December 9-10, 2019. Lahore
Today we’re going to meet up with a few local photojournalists and go exploring this incredibly diverse city. We’ll wander ancient bazaars, visit historic mosques, and take a deep dive into the culture and pulse of this city. From music, to architecture, to food, to off the beaten path destinations, we’ll hit them up with a great group of locals over the next two days.
Day 4. Wednesday, December 11, 2019. Lahore / Peshawar
We take the overnight train from Lahore to Peshawar (conditions allowing, with beds) to experience Pakistan as locals do. Upon our arrival in Peshawar, we meet up with a local guide to take us exploring the city for the day. Peshawar is the ethnic Pashtun cultural capital of Pakistan and it’s a true living caravan town. We sip local green tea with bushy bearded old men in local tea shops, meet locals, and explore the architecture and culture of this town that’s has a deeply troubled history.
Day 5. Thursday, December 12, 2019. Peshawar / Islamabad
We depart Peshawar in the morning for Pakistan’s planned capital city— Islamabad. Only a few hours drive away, Islamabad is the centre of politics in Pakistan. We’re mostly here for the food and ice cream though, as well as to experience a slice of the government in this highly populated and diverse country.
Day 6. Friday, December 13, 2019. Islamabad / Chitral
We will take the once-weekly flight from Islamabad to the mountain town of Chitral in the far northwest of Pakistan. If the flight is cancelled for any reason, we will have to make the trip overland (likely two days of travel) so just be prepared for the potential adventure that may lay ahead.
Day 7. Saturday, December 14, 2020. Chitral Gol National Park
Provided we have already arrived in Chitral, we will spend today exploring the Chitral Gol National Park in search of rare wildlife including snow leopards, ibex and Marco Polo sheep. If we have to drive to Chitral, today is a buffer day for transit.
Day 8-9. Sunday-Monday, December 15-16, 2019. Kalash Valleys Chawmos Festival
This festival involves much music, dancing, and the sacrifice of many goats. It is dedicated to the god Balimain who is believed to visit from the mythical homeland of the Kalash— Tsyam— for the duration of the feast. Food sacrifices are offered at the clans' Jeshtak shrines, dedicated to the ancestors.
At Chaumos, impure and uninitiated persons are not admitted; they must be purified by a waving a fire brand over women and children and by a special fire ritual for men, involving a shaman waving juniper brands over the men. The “old rules” of the gods are no longer in force, as is typical for year-end and carnival-like rituals. The main Chawmos ritual takes place at a Tok tree. Ancestors, impersonated by young boys are worshipped and offered bread; they hold on to each other and form a chain and snake through the village.
The men must be divided into two parties: the pure ones have to sing the traditional songs of the past, but the impure sing wild, passionate, and obscene songs. This is accompanied by a sort of drag show, where men dress as women, women as men, as their god Balumain also is partly seen as female and can change between both forms at will.
The people have a merry time by free wine drinking and they sacrifice goats. People show their thanks by dancing and singing together, enjoying every moment. During the festivals prayers, a procession is made to a high plateau outside the village in Balangkuru where the long night of dancing begins. The festivals continue for many more days moving on to different locations within the valleys. It is the most exciting among all the festivals. Girls dance in cold weather and snowfall and boys play various winter games in the festival. Tourists rarely visit the festival due to blockage of roads and heavy snowfall.
Day 10-13. Tuesday, December 17-20, 2019. Ghizar
Trekking, homestays, family visits, shamans, epic mountains? That’s exactly what we’re going to be doing over the next few days. A day by day itinerary is quite pointless here, as we’re really going to immerse ourselves in local communities across this stunning region and see what opportunities present themselves. Our whole local team is from Ghizar, and they have relatives all over these valleys, affording us an abundance of opportunities to explore and meet locals.
Day 14. Saturday, December 21, 2019. Gilgit / Islamabad
Conditions allowing, we’ll take the daily flight from Gilgit to Islamabad today. However, at the slightest hint of bad weather this flight may get cancelled. If that’s the case, we’ll have to make the trek to Islamabad overland dow the Karakoram Highway (anywhere from 12-16 hours). So we’ll hope for the best and prepare for the worst today.
Day 15. Sunday, December 22, 2019. Depart from Islamabad
Departures from Islamabad Airport; no scheduled activities.
Most nights are spent at clean local hotels and guesthouses. In the mountainous north of the country we stay in homestays. Vegetable-heavy home-cooked meals are prepared by our hosts, and we eat at local restaurants when in cities and towns.
A team of local guides and a driver accompany us throughout the trip. Everyone must carry their own daypacks; we have vehicle support for luggage. This is a cultural expedition-- opportunities for meaningful connection with others are plentiful.
Prepare for home stays and family visits, festival celebrations, mountain walks, bazaars, architecture, political discussions, overland travel and more. Temperatures range from pleasant in the southern cities, to cold and snowy in the mountains of the north.
All accommodations (single supplement).
Airport pick up in Lahore.
3 meals per day (exc arrival and departure days).
Private and secure transportation during the trip.
Pakistani visa support documentation.
Professional expedition leader and guiding team.
All entrance fees.
Round trip international airfare to Lahore and from Islamabad.
Pakistan visa fee.
Travel and medical insurance.
Any activities not mentioned in the itinerary.
Tips for local guides.