The Kalasha people dwell in three valleys — Rumbur, Bumburet, and Birir — also known as the Kalasha Valleys in Chitral district in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province. Sharing a 380-kilometer porous border with Afghanistan in the north and west, the Kalasha Valleys are located in the southern gorges of the Hindu Kush Mountains.
The Kalasha are one of the oldest indigenous communities in Pakistan, and one of few surviving indigenous cultures in the world. But the Kalasha are struggling to save their rich and very ancient culture while caught between the security situation to the west, bordering Afghanistan, and other socioeconomic and religious forces from the east and south in Pakistan.
According to the locals and various researchers, almost 3,000 to 4,000 Kalasha live in these valleys. The Kalasha themselves and a few researchers believe that the Kalasha are the descendants of Alexander the Great, and thus of Macedonian origin and an ethnic minority. They speak the Dardic language and practice an ancient polytheistic-animistic belief system.
What to do in the Kalash Valleys
If you’re visiting the Kalash Valleys during one of the festivals, there will be plenty of feasts for the eyes. Dance, drink, and be amazed at the colorful rituals and clothes on display. The festival times in Kalash Valley are:
Chilam Joshi – May
Uchau – Autumn, usually September
Choimus – Two weeks around the winter solstice
However, if you visit outside of festival time, there’s not that much in the way of official things to do. The valleys are a place to sit and enjoy a bit of nature, and while away the hours chatting to and hanging out with the local Kalasha people. Aim to learn a bit about their culture, not check sights off of a bucket list.