Shandur Polo Festival (Urdu: شندور چوگان تہوار) is one of the big festivals in Pakistan. This festival is held from 7 to 9 July every year on Shandur Pass in the Chitral District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The polo match is played between the teams of Chitral District and districts of Gilgit-Baltistan, is a freestyle game.
The initiation of Polo in Shandur is credited to The balti raja of Skardu; Ali Sher Khan Anchan who built the polo ground of Shandur as well. Shandur invites visitors to experience a traditional polo tournament which since 1936 has been held annually In the first week of July between the local teams of Gilgit and Chitral. Organized and financed by the Tourism Corporation of NWFP, the tournament is held on Shandur Top, the highest polo ground in the world at 3,700 meters (the pass itself is at 3,800 meters). The festival also includes Folk music, dancing, and a camping village is set up. The polo tournament is featured in the first episode of Himalaya with Michael Palin.
Various teams of Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan have always played the game of polo closest to its original form. During the early 20th century, the British in neighboring India were the patrons of the game.
Free-styled mountain polo is arguably polo in its purest form. This version of the game played at Shandur-Top has attained legendary status and is of great interest to international and domestic adventure tourists alike. There are no umpires and there are no holds barred. The rules are: There are no rules! In “The Roof of the World” Amin/Willets/Tetley write: “by comparison, an American Wild West rodeo might pass for choir practice.” As one player once mentioned: “You can ride head-on into the opponent if you dare.”