Fairy Meadows & Nanga Parbat
Fairy Meadows is such a magical, secluded place that only with a real desire can go see it up and close. It is located at the base of Nanga Parbat.
Nanga Parbat is also called the killer mountain due to the number of people who have lost their lives trying to climb it. It is part of the Himalayas range. It is also called The Sleeping Beauty because it looks like a sleeping woman from an angle.
Important: This is not an easy trip and if you’re scared of heights, this is not for you.
Tips & Information:
- You can do it as a day trip but I would highly recommend against it.
- Bring warm clothes, it gets really cold up there.
- Wear something that doesn’t gather dust, the first part of the trip is very dusty.
- Bring a face mask for the dust to avoid getting it in your lungs
- Bring some snacks and water bottles for your stay, food is very limited up there.
- Wear comfortable sturdy shoes for the hike that are also water proof.
- Take your trash back with you, the water from streams is really amazing and fresh and a reusable water bottle will do you wonders.
- If you’re a foreigner you will be accompanied by a policeman all the way to the top. It is not unusual and it is also free of charge.
- I wouldn’t recommend coming from Hunza directly as it will get really late in the day by the time you get to a Raikot bridge. The best way is to leave nice and early from Gilgit.
- There is no internet and barely any telecom companies have any reception. The hotel has a landline phone for emergencies though.
The ninth tallest mountain in the world, the second most prominent peak in Himalayas and not to forget an absolute stunner.
It is also called Diamer locally (Deo-Mir or Huge Mountain). Nanga Parbat literally means naked mountain. It is located 8150 m above sea level. It has a fearsome reputation and it is also called the Killer Mountain due to high number of climber fatalities. It has three main faces:
- Rupal Face towards the city of Astor
- Raikot Face/Rakhiot Face towards Fairy Meadows
- Diamer Face towards the city of Bunar
Fun Fact: The locals also called Nanga Parbat, the sleeping beauty because from an angle it also looks like a sleeping woman.
Where To Stay In Fairy Meadows?
During the peak season you will need a local guide to help you, ask at the Raikot bridge from the jeep guys and they can put you in touch with someone. Accommodation is very basic and so is good, don’t expect anything above hostel standards. I’d recommend bringing some tissues as well. I stayed at Fairy Meadows Viewpoint Hotel which had great views of Nanga Parbat right from my window. What a luxury at this basic place. (Don’t you love it when things like these happen!)
Best Time To Visit Fairy Meadows
The best time is anytime from May to September but if you want to see the glorious mountain with snow April is a great time. I did my trip in the beginning of April. There was still snow on the way and the weather went into negative overnight. If you come during the peak season, things are different and it is much milder but still nippy in the evening.
I really love it all clad in white snow.
2 Days in Fairy Meadows
It was a nice clear day when I left Gilgit early in the morning with my guide and headed to Fairy Meadows. I got some snacks, dried fruits and water and we were on the way. The first stop for us was an hour away at the Mountains Junction. The road is really beautiful with rugged mountains and valleys with Gilgit River wriggling along with road like a beautiful Opal blue serpent.
An hour after leaving from Gilgit Serena I arrived at the junction. I did not know this place existed until a local guy told me about it. This is the only point in the world where three might mountain ranges meet; The Himalayas, Karakoram and Hindu Kush. The two tallest mountains in the world are located within these ranges; Mount Everest and K2. It is a rugged place with Gilgit River at its base. There is a three pointed sculpture on the top pointing towards the three mountain ranges.
There is no entrance fee and luckily I was the only one there at the time. I had thought it to be a rather small point with mountains far off but this was something else. I spent an hour, way longer than planned, enjoying the mountains, river and valley views. If you don’t see anything else in Northern areas, don’t miss this spot.
The bridge is the gateway to Fairy Meadows. We parked the car and headed to the Jeeps at the end. The price is fixed at PKR 8500 for a return journey per jeep.
I was joined by some locals and food because this is literally the only way to bring stuff in and out of this valley.
The New Road
The name gives a sense of comfort, as if it’s a well made road, WRONG! It is slightly wider but still narrow and really high with twists and turns. Every time I looked down the hair on my arm rose, I could barely believe I was doing this to myself.
The driver was so nonchalant and was talking on the phone as well as driving.
We eventually got to the top where we had to change jeep after a small walk because the road was blocked in this section, it was being built. I couldn’t help admire the ferocity and tenacity if the mean who were not only working in these conditions but also building a road here.
The new driver was more calm and our journey continued.
The Old Road
The new road ended and the scariest part of the journey began. The road became even narrower and the twists and turns increased until we reached a certain elevation. I was on the edge of my seat and sweat poured out of my hands.
It was definitely thrilling, a certain sense of happiness only adrenaline provides.
The Two Mountains Viewpoint
We arrived at a viewpoint where I had Rakaposhi on one side above The Valley and Nanga Parbat on the other. Both were covered in snow and both looked calm and relaxed. It was hard to decide which one was more beautiful so I gave up.
End Of The Road
After an hour and a half we arrived at the end of the road, the jeeps could go no further. The stop is quite beautiful and I saw the first glimpse of a local village and some leftover snow for the first time. It also started getting cold.
It was also lunch o’ clock. It was still early in the season and only one restaurant was open offering some Roti with lentils.
The food was simple and quick and came with a view.
Hike to Fairy Meadows
Difficulty – Medium to Hard
Time: 2-4 hours
After food we set out to start the hike. You can also take a horse up for PKR 3500 but I decided against it.
It was really funny how the locals walked along me and a group of local tourists. They started walking but realised it was tough and opted for horses then. The locals were smart and it was quite funny.
The hike start with the ascent which became quite hard but the path was well defined. The stream roared under me and after a while there was nothing but the sound of water and birds. It was calming.
The first part of the hike was tough but once I reached the jungle point, almost mid way, the hike became a bit easier.
It took 2 hours to get to the top where the hotel was located, right in front of Nanga Parbat.
It was the golden hour and the light was just perfect and really beautiful. There wasn’t a cloud in sight. The mountain sat there observing these little creatures arriving tired but happy to see her. It was really cold in the evening and the hotel had just opened up for the season, they lit a fire and put a giant cauldron on it to and added snow to it to make water. The hotel is at 3300 metres above sea level and Nanga Parbat is a striking 8125 metres tall.
The rest of the evening passed by setting myself up and looking at the mountain in changing light. I got an amazing room with the perfect view of Nanga Parbat from my window. That night was also crystal clear with a starry sky, I felt like the luckiest man alive until I drifted to sleep in the warmth of local wood burner. I slept like a baby that night without a worry in the world.
Beyal Camp & Nanga Parbat Base Camp
I woke up next day to a freezing cold temperature but great views of Nanga Parbat. It was still early and no one else was up. It was utter quiet with Nanga Parbat and I staring at each other. I think she didn’t like that and a whipped up a few clouds which started to take over. The plan to head to Beyal Camp which is close to the base camp of Nanga Parbat. It was turning cloudier by the minute and my guide recommended not to go any further.
If you want to go all the way to the base camp, Beyal camp takes 3-4 hours and then from there the base camp is a further few kilometres which si the toughest part of the hike. I would highly recommend taking a local guide with you as well as water and food and arrange for camping if you want to stay the night there.
The Fairy Meadows
I instead opted to walk around and explore the meadows which were completely devoid of any human presence other than a local or 2 and a couple of horses. It was still way before the season started and all hotels were shut.
It was still snowy but nice with a few flowers raised their head out of the ground, they almost looked like someone threw them there. There is a big area with all the resorts around with a great view of Nanga Parbat.
The 2 hours I spent there were really calming but it was time to start the journey down and that well dreaded drive.
Return to Gilgit
I picked my bag and started the descent. It was getting colder and Nanga Parbat had completely disappeared. The descent was pleasant but slippery due to melting slow.
After a while I had to slow down because I started feeling the thump in my knees, a side effect of not bringing proper shoes.
I reached down to the jeep point in an hour where the driver was waiting. The drive was much more pleasant this time because I sat at the back. We reached the road block after an hour and another 30 minutes later I was standing at Raikot bridge thanking my driver who laughed. He was a little crazy but sweet guy. He was on the phone when we took a sharp turn and my heart sank, nothing special for him though.
I have never felt so scared, thrilled and alive at the same time in these 2 days. It was an absolute pleasure doing this trip and I will remember it not only because of the adventure but a big part due to the crazy lovely guys I met here.