Fairy Meadows is advertised as Pakistan’s most beautiful place. As the name suggests, it’s a meadow and is nestled in the Pakistani Himalayas. With spectacular views of the Karakoram range in one direction and of Nanga Parbat in the other, it’s easy to see why it’s been given this accolade. In this post I describe our epic adventure to this beautiful place and what you can expect when visiting Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat View Point.
Nanga Parbat – the mountain of the gods. Standing at 8126m it is advertised as the most easily accessible 8000m peak in the world. Admittedly, I haven’t tried to access any other 8000m mountains but I wouldn’t say access to be Nanga Parbat was easy as such!
The adventure to reach, first Fairy Meadows and then Nanga Parbat view point, begins on the banks of the mighty Indus River. At Raikot bridge, a line of modified Willys jeeps line the edge of Karakoram Highway. The jeeps wait in readiness to take unsuspecting tourists on what might be the craziest jeep ride of their lives.
This 13km narrow jeep track is incredulously carved into the cliffs that line the Tato Valley. The track itself is a rocky road that is barely wide enough for the jeep in parts, leaving the wheels rolling perilously along a 1000m cliff edge. Further ahead, a series of switchbacks force our driver into shunting around the corners. I can’t help but squeal as we casually freewheel backwards towards the cliff edge. I hope he’s serviced the brakes recently, I pray to myself.
Thankfully, after around 2 hours you reach Fairy Point, the end of the jeep track and it’s time to complete the journey on foot. Gaining 700m elevation over 5km, this trek follows a well established dirt track to Fairy Meadows. At the start of the trail there is a well placed restaurant and snack shop.
The trail is fairly gradual in its ascent as it follows the river up the valley. In the final kilometre you switch back on yourself as the trail starts to cut its way into the side of the valley. One more switchback brings you out on top of the cliff and onto Fairy Meadows itself.
As tends to happen with beautiful places, Fairy Meadows has developed a lot over recent years. Even without international tourists, Fairy Meadows has grown in popularity and now the meadow has lots of accommodation to choose from. We arrived just after it got dark so were unable to appreciate its full beauty. That delight was saved for the morning.
It was bitterly cold when the alarm went off and hauling ourselves out from under our four blankets was quite an effort. However, beautiful blue skies and the promise of a spectacular days hiking lay ahead of us. Filled with a hearty breakfast of porridge and eggs and copious amounts of chai, we were ready to set off.
First, our guide Islam takes us to the far end of the meadow where he reveals the photo I’ve seen in advertisements of this place. A pond providing a perfect mirror reflection of Nanga Parbat. Absolutely spectacular! Then we head off, destined for Nanga Parbat Base Camp. Perhaps.
Fairy Meadows is at 3300m and Nanga Parbat base camp is around 3700m we’re told. Rough altitude guides have been a theme of our trip in Pakistan, so we’ve come to accept this could mean a few hundred meters more. Not to worry, slowly slowly we will make our way.
This hike was, for me, the most picturesque hike of our trip. Autumn was now well under way in the valley and we were treated to varying shades of yellow as we hiked. The hike follows the river as it meanders it’s way down from the glacier, with views of the towering Nanga Parbat ever present.
After 4km the valley flattens and opens to another meadow. This is Behal camp, which was formerly base camp for Nanga Parbat expeditions. Islam says it didn’t really make sense for base camp to be here at such a distance from the mountain, but apparently porters were historically reluctant to hike any further. Can’t say I blame them too much.
After a short break we plod on. It’s barely more than a plod at this stage. After 10 days on tour and with a few stomach bugs flying around, we’re all feeling fairly lethargic. But after just another 2km we are rewarded with our first full view of Nanga Parbat glacier.
We had reached Nanga Parbat view point. From here one can see the mountain, it’s glacier and the Tato valley, which reveals the Karakoram range in the distance. A fabulous reward for our efforts and a great climax to our Pakistan adventure.
After soaking up the views and taking countless photos, Islam points out the trail to Nanga Parbat base camp. Locals have informed him that snow covers some parts of it so will possibly be slippery in parts. Nick and I quickly decide that we don’t need to proceed any further. Base camp is a another hour of hiking one way and we decide that would be time better spent enjoying a casual hike back down. Sally also agrees and Tom is happy to go with the group decision.
The trail on to base camp is quite straightforward in terms of navigation and can be seen from the viewpoint. It follows alongside the glacier before steeply ascending to the final point. Apparently July is the best time to visit base camp, when all the flowers there are in full bloom.
With the (not so tough) decision made to abort our attempt to base camp, we head back down to Behal camp for lunch. Dahl and chicken curry in the sun. Perfect! Then with our stomachs satisfied, we complete our hike back down to Fairy Meadows. Here we have ample to time to chat with our friendly balcony neighbours from Lahore and to enjoy the sunset we were too late to enjoy the previous day.
The next morning Nick and I rise early and wander over to the pond to enjoy sunrise. There are already two photographers there taking prime spot with their tripods. Instead, we wander beyond the meadow to enjoy first light on the Karakoram range.
After breakfast we hike down to find our jeep driver and once again take our chances on the crazy mountain road. My relief at reaching the bottom is hard to hide and I finally ask Islam the question I’ve been wanting to know, but didn’t dare ask until we got back down.
“So how many accidents have there been on this road?”
If you like this you might also be interested in hiking in the Karakoram range. Take a look at this post on hiking to Rakaposhi Base Camp.
To get to Fairy Point you have to take a jeep from Raikot Bridge. These jeep drivers are locals and are the only ones permitted to drive this road. The fee of 6500 rupees pays for your return journey. The jeep driver that takes you up will be the same one to bring you back down, so take his name and number before you begin the trek. He will wait for your return on the prearranged day and time. There is a police check point before you start driving on the road where you are required to show your passport.
During our visit to Fairy Meadows we stayed at Raikot Serai. It’s the first accommodation you get to once you arrive at Fairy Meadows. There is a restaurant that serves delicious hearty meals and the accommodation itself is a series of wooden cabins, with balcony views of Nanga Parbat.
Sturdy walking boots: The trail is well established and mostly a dirt path, however it is rocky in parts.
Warm layers: It gets cold at night so you’ll want some extra layers.
Water bottle with a filter: This will allow you to safely refill instead of buying plastic water bottles. I use a Water To Go bottle which you can buy here.
GPS or map: I use the maps.me app for offline maps.
All distances and elevations used in this post were recorded on my phone using the map.me app.
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