Heritage Tourism in the Chitral Valley

by Mr. Hashid Sarfraz

HeritageForAll Heritage Intern (Call 2018) from Rahim Yar Khan, Pakistan

The entities related to culture and arts, whether it is tangible assets in a physical form for example architecture, buildings, crafts or be it some sort of intangible qualities or environment such as education, literature, culture, celebrations, festivity, rituals, traditions etc. All these elements brought under the roof of travel and experience will be studied under the term “heritage tourism” and its promotion and exhibition through various steps taken for the upkeep and management will contribute to enhance the accessibility of the said element thus falls under the category of heritage marketing.

This travel based is based on individual as well as collective activity. The fulfilment of the travel and its purpose can be found according to each individual’s interest in the said heritage entity or a set of entities combined together through a common or even diverse set of broadly defined patterns and stimuli’s.

These opportunities are often encapsulated, provided and channeled through museums, parks, galleries, urban centers, exhibition events and cultural centers. These places don’t only act as the presentation and deliverance of the heritage values but also acts as a hub for learners and promote public engagement and collective response. These institutions set the basis for distributing knowledge and establishing convergence of collected data and entities. Remember that the intangible characteristics of any physical structure or building would go hand in hand in the overall presentation and understanding of the said heritage value.

This experience can further be delivered through interpretation which combines the emotional intelligence and the intellectual connection of the subject matter and its implications involved. The agenda of using an interpreter is to exaggerate the effects of the said cultural asset in the forms of feelings and emotions of excitement, surprise, astonishment and curiosity. The interpreter provides a meaningful connection between audience and the subject matter through an easier medium of language that helps the members of the audience to dissect the properties of the heritage value and create an approachable and understandable version of the existing fabric of the entity being studied. This is one way to engage the tourist to develop the knowhow of the heritage value and in turn help the audience create a relation with it. This is how heritage tourism works. Other mediums and the use of technology is often employed to spread the awareness of the mentioned asset and promote and publicize it accordingly.

Understanding the customer experience is very important before you decide to set on display any sort of heritage value. This involves the research about the consumer that includes the services provided, the audio and visual aids present to deliver the idea or product let’s say, its appearance and presence in the structure or environment it is displayed, the use of technologies and feel and perception of the overall subject. Moreover, the advertisement of the subject with regards to special offers generated, guided trips and tours, special discounts available, the association of an event to seasons and change in the texture of the environment all around is all part of marketing strategies to attract as many tourists as possible and exhibit the cultural asset that the city or a region or a state possess not only on national level but across the borders and limits of demographical locations.

Such attractions carefully advertised will bring the people from around the world to gather at a certain time to enjoy the serenity of for example snowcapped mountains in the winters followed by trekking and hitchhiking options available, similarly, visiting a natural landscape like a valley or forest or a hill station at the time of spring will attract as many tourists than in the rest of the days. It is important to note that natural landscapes have the entitlement to display the change in nature of the environment and surroundings throughout the year and each season will have its own charm and beauty. So it is very important to carefully analyze and understand the potential of the subject matter that you ought to convey to the public and attract their interest. Tourism is now across the world a well-known, acclaimed business model which if carefully carried out can contribute to the development of not only the respective sites into consideration and attractions being staged but also to the economy of the country. While we pay heed to the interpretation of the subject, entertainment and communication also play a vital role in bringing about the change in the attitudes of the audience.

While so many factors contribute to the development of this industry, there are so many things involved that can slow down the process. As with the case of Pakistan, talking about demographical placement and natural occurrences of events such Earthquakes, Tsunami, floods and drought in various parts have slowed down the process of developing tourism as an industry and promoting culturally rich landscapes of the valleys and the mountains.

Chitral Valley:

The role of tourism activities exhibited in South Asia by Pakistan is not of considerable quality. Its neighbors such as India, Bhutan and Iran receive more share of tourists from across the world. Chitral is located in the Hindu Kush mountain range in a province named, ‘Khyber Pakhtunkhawa’. The west border is shared with Afghanistan. Geographically, it is one of the largest districts in the province covering an area of 14,800km2 and a population of 450,000 people. The region exhibits a dozen of cultures and speaks more than 14 languages. The geographical location of Chitral borrows traces of culture from Greek, Iranian, Mongolian, Tatar and Turk influences due to close historical links to these parts of Central Asia. It carries with itself the tales of these different and rich cultures and their foreign invasions through the exchange of power, rule and resistances. The historical sites exhibited by the area are of considerable importance but lack of management has led to the decline of its legacy. Among these sites are the forts at the mound of Muzhgole, Brep, Lot Koh and Ashrait.

Shahi Mosque, Chitral Valley <www.croozi.com/shahi-masjid-chitral-kpk-pakistan>

This valley was once ruled by Kalash people dating back to 10th century AD that are known to exhibit great traditions and culture. With the passage of time these sites of historical importance have been subjected to decay and deterioration due to climatic conditions and human activity.

The tribe had been under constant threat by the militants in the past that caused a lot of unrest in the region affecting its peace and stability which in turn has affected the tourism development in this region. These people are a major tourist attraction in the Chitral valley. The so called development in this area is a threat to these people and their culture. Deforestation due to development is casing displacement for these Kalash people. The people are not happy by these measures taken in their land, which limits their privacy and are subjected to manipulation of their rights as they are being objectified among the tourists. The social fabric of these people is also being disturbed by the interference of foreign people i.e. the visitors which is causing them to alter their social fabric, building small boundaries to mark their territories and spaces of private and even communal gathering inside the tribe itself.

The role of community in the development of the region in terms of cultural advance and tourism activities is very important and an integrated approach is therefore required to bring about the changes in the attitude of the authorities towards the local population. The people of Kalash have been living in these valleys since hundreds of years. Some researchers have also suggested that these tribes came to these valleys at the time of Alexander the Great via Afghanistan and could not leave due to harsh climatic conditions while some researchers suggest that they opted the land because of its serenity and greenery of landscapes.

Chitral Fort<www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1515554&page=28>

Tourist Attractions of Chitral includes:

Garam Chashma <www.croozi.com/garam-chashma-valley-chitral-kpk-pakistan>


Working teams and methods used by the ministry were not digitized until 2005 and the techniques being used did not come up with the modern age methods and ideology. Factors leading to the fallacy of the ministry are the following:

  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of skilled and professional employees
  • Lack of modern day technology
  • Mismanagement and mishandling due to inexperienced staff
  • Lack of facilities
  • Surveillance incapacities
  • Lack of tourism planning

The effect of season has been impacting the management of such landscapes and regions which creates sense of insecurity. Moreover, the local communities have been reported to be almost totally disengaged through the whole process thereby limiting the access of, the tourists in the surroundings or a healthy environment for their mobility and such touristic destinations sell the tourist products on overpriced terms. There is basically no education regarding the role of the valley under study and no formal steps have been take n to embark upon the journey to develop a connection among the community, the visitors and the planning authorities to create an integrated approach towards exhibiting the said site to the viewers and the tourists. The surrounding environment of the valley is reported to be handled inadequately in terms of safety measures and lack of services regarding commute and visitor experience have led to further flaws in the planning system.

Efforts to involve and promote the cultural aspects of the Chitral valley are still underway despite all the problems with the tribes and development issues. One such example is the opening of Laspur Valley museum supported by Aga Khan Rural Support Programme and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sustainable Tourism Foundation which was financially aided by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation. This museum is established in Harichan area and is accessible through the Shandur pass that connects Chitral and Gilgit-Baltistan. This heritage museum includes the following objects on display,

  • Household utensils
  • Polo gears
  • Traditional apparel and dresses
  • Woodwork
  • Ancient agricultural tools
  • Weapons used in wars
  • Domestic tools traditional Chitrali Poshak
  • Music instruments and other objects dating back to the 11th century.
Heritage Museum Laspur <https://issuu.com/zahrahussain/docs/heritage_museum_laspur&gt;

One other such example is the Kalash Culture and Traditional School which was established in 2007. The school seeks to preserve the heritage and culture of the Kalash where the students are being taught of their rich cultural heritage in the native language. The idea was developed simply by a group of enthusiast young men and women who observed that the new generation was losing the essence of the legacy that they withhold. The funds to support the school come mainly from the museum but is warmly appreciated by the local population and most of the teachers are working as volunteers.

Museums and other such activities as well as annual events in the valley have promoted the tourism in the region and has been creating a viable plan for heritage marketing, a little awareness and proper education regarding the plans to promote such activities is required in order to generate revenue as a permanent source in the respective region and advertise the valley and its cultural edifices across the globe.


Universities or college should provide summer camps and academic programs to facilitate learning and provide exchange opportunity for small periods of time to the students to learn and explore the culture of the valley by residing there and create short training programs. These initiative could be as small as teaching elementary kids the basic education, providing them knowledge of the other surroundings of the valley, in such a manner, students will not only engage with the respective community but at the same time learning will take place at both ends, this could also help elevate the level of literacy and awareness in such areas. Basic facilities like clean drinking water, economical transport and other civil facilities to be provided at the site in order to promote and ease accessibility in the area. Involvement of the community into any development project and the promotion of culture and arts is undoubtedly the key feature in successfully implementing the marketing and tourism plan.


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