High altitude: unique festival at the world's highest polo ground in Pakistan

Polo is an equestrian sport first played in Central Asia and was the first team sport. At first its objective was to train the cavalry and simulate a real-life battle. To the warlike tribesmen who played polo with as many as 100 players to a side, it was a miniature battle. It became a Persian national game in the 6th century AD. From Persia, the game spread to Arabia, then to Tibet, China and Japan.

The world’s highest polo ground is in the small village of Shindoor in Pakistan. Located at an altitude of 12,000 feet (3,700 meters) above sea level, the ground sits in the shadow of the towering Hindukash mountain range. The unique location of the polo ground makes it a popular destination for adventure seekers and polo enthusiasts.

Shandur lake - The world’s highest polo ground
In the early 1930s, Major Evelyn Hey Cobb, who served as Britain's appointed political agent, issued an order to Niat Qabool Hayat Kakakhel, the Nambardar (local leader) of Ghizer, to establish a large polo ground in Shandur. This polo ground was subsequently named "Mas Junali," which translates to 'moonlit polo ground' in the Khowar language. Major Cobb had a strong affinity for playing polo under the moonlight.

Starting in 1936, annual polo tournaments began to be held at Shandur under the patronage of the British. Shandur Polo Festival is a unique sports and cultural event held annually from 7 to 9 July in the Shandur Top in Pakistan.

Shandur Polo Festival

Many people from all over the world come to watch polo matches between Chitral and Ghizer. The festival also includes folk music, dancing and a camping village is set up. Over the years, the three-day Shandur Polo Festival has evolved and grown into the grand celebration of mountain polo that it is today.

Polo festival in Pakistan

Shandur polo festival