The drive to the Fairy Meadows is a treacherous one. As we approached the clearing through the alpine trees, we got our first view of the 8125m high fortress of rock and snow-clad Nanga Parbat (9th highest peaks in the world), the pain of the bumpy ride and trekking through the burning sun vanished in an instant. The fresh mountain air and breath-taking views explain why this stretch of land is called The Fairy Meadows.
Exploring Fairy Meadows in Northern Pakistan
Driving towards Raikot
The actual expedition in the summer of 1990 was planned for exploring northernmost part of Gilgit Baltistan and reaching up to the Pak-China Border. On the way back along the Karakorum Highway-KKH, we decided to explore the land of the fairies aka Fairy Meadows in Diamer district.
At Raikot, we fuel-up on snacks as this marked the last bastion of civilization – as civilized as a remote area of GB can be. A jeep took us along a very bumpy path hollowed out along the mountain. The driver insisted on booking a round trip and haggling only brought us down to 45 USD despite our best efforts. The gutting ride to Tatto Village is spectacular with a bare steep rocky fall on the left side, reminding us that one misstep will leave us unrecognizable, while the 4 wheel drive balances on a thin unpaved road.
As a word of advice, you should inform the driver about the pickup time when you plan to return from the Fairy Meadows. Make sure to obtain the driver's credentials, phone number and other details in case you decide to stay longer or change of plans. At Tatto we embarked upon the trek on foot (2-3 hours) and hired a porter with a horse, to carry our luggage. A horse ride round trip costs around 18 USD. The trek changes scenery from a dry dirt path to a cool breezy alpine forest. Staying hydrated and proper attire for the trip including a hat and sunscreen is a must to enjoy this arduous hike.
The temperature in this part of the world can drop suddenly. Therefore, any protective gear for rain and cold is also essential for the hike to Fairy Meadows. The evenings can get very cold in the month of June (middle of summers in Pakistan)
We were welcomed at Fairy Meadows with a warm cup of Kehwa (locally brewed green tea). We were given a warm welcome by a number of other trekkers who were staying at the log cabins. A warm breakfast served with the majestic views of Nanga Parbat is an experience of a lifetime. Due to difficult access to this region, the food supplies and meals are quite expensive as compared to other places in GB. An average meal can cost up to 4 USD
We organized for BBQ at our log cabin. The food supplies and gas kit was made available from Karimabad. A cook accompanied the supplies and prepared the food for our group.
The night view was a spellbinding spectacle of the milky-way, surrounded by billions of stars with the imposing shadow of the majestic Nanga Parbat.
Hike for Nanga Parbat Base Camp
On the climb to the base camp of Nanga Parbat, you will pass a thick forest with a number of streams made out of glacial waters from the mountains. The environment is very peaceful with a handful of small huts along the hills and cow and horses grazing on the pasture.
The first leg of the trek ends at Beyal Camp which takes around 40 minutes. We grabbed a cup of hot steam tea and stayed here overnight to enjoy an even quieter place with even more spectacular views. About 30 minutes from here is the viewpoint (3667m) with the Raikot glacier below and the Killer Mountain ahead. The occasional sounds of an avalanche here are reminiscent of the beautiful but terrifying whale songs.
Trek up till here is easy and ideal for novice trekkers. From here onwards the trek gets steeper and difficult to climb which can take approximately 3 hours. You have to climb up a ridge for about 30 minutes and then walk across the glacier. As you follow the glacier, climb up again to reach a land of ice blocks and rocks. You have reached the basecamp at 3900m. The awe of this moment is unbelievable and the location looks more like a surreal cinematic experience.
Nanga Parbat literally means the naked mountain and gets its other chilling name because of its gory reputation of killing most of the mountaineers who try to reach the summit. This mist riddled giant is as arresting as it is frightening and the meadows at its feet- an idyllic green wonderland. If you are a connoisseur of once in a lifetime nature explorations, Fairy Meadows should be on your bucket list with its varied terrain, chance to traverse the moraine and reach the basecamp of one of the most notorious
yet spectacular mountains in the world.
How to reach Fairy Meadows from Islamabad?
Fairy Meadows/ Nanga Parbat is a 3-4 Day destination. Many travellers combine it with the Naran Valley route via Babusar Top to Chillas and Raikot bridge. Or you could take a NATCO bus from Islamabad to Gilgit and get off at Raikot for about 17USD (you will have to inform the driver).
The Babusar route is advised for mid-summer as the pass is closed most of the year. The Karakoram Club (Facebook page) is a good place to collect up to date information. Babusar Top is a breathtaking vista of scenic valleys and mountains. It is also very cold so keep those windbreakers, gloves and scarves handy.
Accommodation at Fairy Meadows?
At Chillas the security situation is a little tight, we stayed at Hotel Chilas Inn (starts from 22 USD). Foreigners are allowed by the authorities to stay at Shangrila Chilas or Panorama Hotel (starts from 32USD).
At Fairy Meadows, Greenland Resort has the best location, rooms start from 15 USD. However, if on a budget bring your own camp, sleeping bags and even camping stove and supplies as we did.
Greenland Resort can also arrange for visiting neighbouring peaks and basecamps from Fairy Meadows.
Best time to visit Fairy Meadows?
The best time to visit FM is from March to November, temperatures drop as low as -4 degrees at night while day time requires only a loose cotton top in mid-summer season.
-Electricity is a luxury that makes an appearance sometimes, bring power chargers.
-Clean bottled water is expensive, bring water purifying tablets and stock up from streams.
-Carry around 15 Photocopies of passport if you are a foreigner.
-At Raikot, an AK 47 bearing policeman accompanies foreign tourists.
-Evening travelling through Chilas is strictly prohibited. Foreigners are allowed on certain bus time slots – ensure that they know about your foreign status at the time of the booking and arrange the ticket accordingly.
-Despite the higher cost point, travelling to FM and Nanga Parbat Basecamp is an experience not to be missed.
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