Fairy Meadows. The name already makes this place sound magical.
This mountain meadow in Northern Pakistan is indeed one of the most magical places we visited in the country. The view of the snowy Nanga Parbat makes the effort of coming up here worth it.
If you’re considering travelling to Pakistan, you should add Fairy Meadows to your itinerary. And we’re going to tell you everything you need to know for your trip. From how to get there to where to stay and what to do, here’s a complete guide to Fairy Meadows:
Fairy Meadows Trip Guide
A brief history of Fairy Meadows
Before we get into the juicy travel details, let’s start with a brief history of Fairy Meadows.
German mountaineers found Fairy Meadows when they looked for a way up to the top of the Nanga Parbat. They were so mesmerised by the beauty of the meadow that they called it “Märchenwiesen”, which translates to Fairy Tale Meadows. Over time, this name got shortened to Fairy Meadows.
Locals know the area as Joot, though most will also understand when you talk about Fairy Meadows.
Eventually, people started building hotels on Fairy Meadows, and in 1995, the Pakistani government declared the area a national park.
The region soon gained popularity with national and international travellers, and rightfully so. It is one of the most scenic places in Pakistan. If you’re lucky and you visit on a clear day, you get an uninterrupted view of the Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest mountain in Pakistan.
You also have the chance to hike to the Nanga Parbat basecamp from here and see a glacier along the way!
First, though, you need to get to Fairy Meadows.
How to get to Fairy Meadows
Part 1: Get to Raikot Bridge
The path to Fairy Meadows starts on the Karakoram Highway at Raikot Bridge.
The easiest way to get here is to first make your way to Gilgit. You can do so by plane, but be warned that the landing conditions in the Karakorum Mountains are difficult. If the weather is unfavourable, your plane might return to Islamabad, or your whole flight might just be cancelled.
A more reliable but exhausting way is to take a bus from Islamabad to Gilgit. The drive along the Karakoram Highway takes 18 hours, so be prepared for a long bus drive.
If you go by bus, you can get off at Raikot Bridge, about an hour before you reach Gilgit. This is an excellent option if you have little luggage or are planning on spending a night at the Shangri-La Resort at Raikot Bridge.
We stayed there overnight and left most of our luggage at the hotel.
If you go to Gilgit first to spend the night and leave your suitcase behind, you still need to drive for an hour to get to Raikot Bridge. The fastest way to do so is by taxi (make sure to compare a few taxi drivers to find out what’s a fair price to pay) or by hitchhiking.
If none of those options sounds good to you, you can also head to the NATCO bus station and take a bus from there. The bus goes to Chilas, and you can get off at Raikot Bridge.
Part 2: Raikot Bridge to Tato Village
The road up to Fairy Meadows starts at Raikot bridge and is said to be one of the deadliest in the world. Rumour has it that the WHO published a report on road safety in 2013, which declared the road to Fairy Meadows the second most dangerous one in the world.
I’ve looked at the report and couldn’t find any mention of specific roads, but I can tell you that this road is one of the scariest ones I’ve ever taken.
Only locals are allowed to drive on the Fairy Meadows road. You need to hire a jeep and a driver to take you up to Tato Village.
We paid 12,000 rupees return, so 6,000 rupees one way. As a tip, our local guide recommended 500 rupees one way. If you want to save money, you can wait for other tourists to show up and share the jeep with them. Don’t do that if it’s getting late, as you still have a hike ahead of you!
Driving to Fairy Meadows takes around two and a half hours. The road takes you along a mountain face, and it’s so narrow that you’re always driving just next to the cliff.
Sometimes, you’ll encounter jeeps coming toward you. That usually ends in one of the vehicles having to reverse on this already very narrow path, so the vehicles can just squeeze past each other.
If you’re afraid of heights, don’t look out of the jeep! You’ll see the cliff just next to you, and sometimes, when looking down, you won’t see the road anymore, just a very steep drop.
After an agonising two to two and a half hours, you’ll finally reach Tato Village, where it’s time to get off the jeep.
Make sure to agree on a date and time of return with your driver. Also, try to remember their face, so you’ll know who to look for when you want to return to Raikot Bridge.
Part 3: Tato Village to Fairy Meadows
From Tato Village, which some people call Fairy Point, you need to hike up to Fairy Meadows. You’ll start at around 2,600 metres and go up to 3,300 metres.
Depending on your level of fitness and how used you are to such altitudes, this will take you two to three hours. You’ll walk through a forest for most of the trek, so if it’s a hot day, you can find some cover from the sun there.
Remember how we told you to leave most of your luggage either in Gilgit or the Shangri-La Resort at Raikot Bridge? This is where it pays off if you pack light.
You can also get on a horse if you don’t want to hike. This option might be a bit less exhausting, but it’s also scarier as, in some places, the path is relatively narrow for a horse with a rider on top.
Where to stay at Fairy Meadows
Even though the way to Fairy Meadows is long, you can find a good choice of hotels at the top.
We stayed at Raikot Sarai, which we enjoyed. We had a small cabin with a beautiful view of the Nanga Parbat. For eating, we went into the restaurant, a wooden lodge with large panoramic windows. In the evening, someone made a campfire at Raikot Sarai, and we enjoyed sitting around the fire with other travellers.
Fairy Meadows Greenland Resort, as well as Fairy Meadows Cottages, also receive excellent reviews.
Things to do at Fairy Meadows
#1 Reflection lake
It might be better to call this small lake “Reflection Pond”, but it’s one of the most beautiful places in Fairy Meadows. On clear days, you can see the reflection of the Nanga Parbat in the water. Here, you can take fantastic photos!
You can find Reflection Lake in the western part of the meadow, close to where the horses graze. Follow the tiny river, and you’ll come across it.
#2 Go trekking
One of the most popular activities at Fairy Meadows is hiking.
From here, you can hike towards the Nanga Parbat base camp. The first part of the trail is relatively even and takes you to Beyal Camp. Depending on your fitness, you’ll walk for maybe two hours before getting there.
Shortly after Beyal Camp, you can find a viewpoint of the Raikot Glacier and the Nanga Parbat. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time to come here, but the travellers who had made the trek loved it. One of them told us they had heard the glacier crack, which is incredibly cool.
If you want to, you can continue to the Nanga Parbat base camp. Be warned that the Nanga Parbat base camp trek is more challenging than the easy walk to Beyal Camp. The landscape turns from lush to rocky, so the path is more difficult to walk.
All in all, you can expect to take eight hours to get to the Nanga Parbat base camp and back again. Pay attention to the weather forecast and be mindful that the weather can change quickly in the mountains. You don’t want to get caught up here in a storm!
#3 Watch the stars
High up in the mountains, Fairy Meadows is far enough away from any major cities that you don’t have to worry about light pollution.
That means that, on a clear day, you can see the Milky Way.
Fairy Meadows is the perfect location for star gazing, and we highly recommend spending an hour or two in the evening looking up at the skies.Some phones have a setting for taking pictures of starry skies. Look it up (ideally before your trip) to find out if you can take a picture of the Milky Way.
#4 Sit around a campfire
If you like campfires, you’re going to love Fairy Meadows. We spent a good hour in the evening sitting around a campfire and talking to other travellers.
Our campfire was organised by the owners of Raikot Sarai, the hotel where we stayed. Ask your host if they can start one for you as well. Most guesthouses have a spot for campfires, which are great for keeping warm once the sun has settled behind the mountains.
Is Fairy Meadows safe?
Safety might be one of your key concerns if you’re planning a trip to Pakistan.
Pakistan doesn’t have a great reputation, and some governments have issued travel warnings for parts of the country.
Daniel and I always felt perfectly safe while visiting Pakistan. As for Fairy Meadows, this location feels even safer because you’re far away from any cities. The province of Gilgit-Baltistan experienced one single terrorist attack in 2013, and safety has increased since then.
Keep in mind that isolated terrorist attacks also happen in Europe, in cities where most people wouldn’t hesitate to travel either.
In my opinion, the most dangerous safety issue is twisting your ankle while hiking.
As we’ve already mentioned, the road to Fairy Meadows is very narrow. One false move and the jeep could fall off the cliff. However, despite the drive being terrifying, when I googled it, I found almost no reports of accidents on that road.
If we’re talking about safety, we need to mention mountain safety in general. If you decide to hike to the Nanga Parbat base camp, talk to the locals first! Don’t go in bad weather, take enough food and water and also take an extra layer of warm clothes.
The weather can change very quickly in the mountains. If in doubt, be reasonable and turn around.
When to visit Fairy Meadows
You can visit Fairy Meadows from spring to autumn.
The road closes in winter, and the region becomes difficult to access when it snows.
We went in July, which was perfect. We had great weather and a clear view of the Nanga Parbat, and we saw the Milky Way at night. Plus, it was still pretty warm, even at night.
On the downside, July and August are the months when everyone visits Fairy Meadows. It’s the peak of the tourist season, and you’ll come across many other travellers. Therefore, if you want to avoid crowds, you should go during the shoulder season.
May, June, September and October are perfect months for visiting Fairy Meadows. The weather is still decent, but it’s not as busy.
Other useful and fun facts about Fairy Meadows
Respect the locals
When walking around Fairy Meadows, you might come across a local village.
Be mindful of the villagers, and don’t take pictures of them or their houses. The locals at Fairy Meadows generally don’t like to mingle much with tourists. Our guide explained to us that they’re a very close-knit community, and despite having visited Fairy Meadows many times, he’s barely had any contact with them.
Respect their culture and wish to live their lives separated from all visitors.
On the other side, the local hotel owners and tourist guides are very outgoing and friendly. You can always ask them for advice if you need help while visiting Fairy Meadows.
Consider your fear of heights
If you plan to visit Fairy Meadows and are afraid of heights, you need to consider that the road up to Tato Village is terrifying.
Depending on how intense your fear of heights is, you might be able to ignore it while in the jeep. You could decide not to look outside (and especially not down) or distract yourself by talking to fellow travellers.
If you have a strong fear and you don’t have any coping strategies, you will run into trouble on the road. Keep this in mind when planning your trip.
Water turbines produce the electricity at Fairy Meadows
Here’s a fun fact: On your way up to Fairy Meadows, you might see a small hut in the middle of the river through which water flows.
That’s a water turbine that produces some of the electricity used at Fairy Meadows.
You won’t see any electricity lines running up to Fairy Meadows. Plus, the place is not accessible by car. That means every single item must be transported either by a donkey or on a man’s back, including canisters of diesel if you wanted to run a generator.
Renewable energy is the only logical source of electricity in this scenario, and hydropower works remarkably well.
Fairy Meadows is, by the way, not the only region in northern Pakistan that works with small hydropower plants. You can read up more on an initiative to bring electricity to remote villages in this fascinating article.
We hope you now have all the information you need for your Fairy Meadows trip. Our visit to Fairy Meadows was one of the highlights of our trip, and we can highly recommend going here.
If you are looking for more resources about travelling to Pakistan, check out the following blog posts:
- The best places to visit in Lahore
- Flying to Pakistan? Check out these long-haul flight essentials
- Download essential apps before you go
Until your next adventure!
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