Fairy Meadows is one of the most popular and beautiful places to hike in Pakistan and for good reasons. With the unobstructed view of the 8,125 m high beast that is Nanga Parbat, one of the highest mountains in Pakistan, only second to K2, it is considered to be one of the most accessible hikes that will allow you to witness an 8,000 m high mountain without doing a multi-day trek. If you are traveling in Pakistan, a visit to Fairy Meadows is a must but like all things related to backpacking in Pakistan, updated information is not easy to come by and so I am here today with a complete guide on how to hike the Fairy Meadows and get to the Nanga Parbat base camp. Let's begin, shall we?
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Fairy Meadows Hiking Map
When to Go
The best time to hike Fairy Meadows is either April - May or September - October, preferably on weekdays, as these are considered to be the shoulder seasons and even though the weather might be a bit colder than during the midsummer months, you are more likely to have the place to yourself. Fairy Meadows is a very popular tourist attraction among the locals and it can get very very crowded so avoid peak times like the midsummer months or during public holidays.
Things to Prepare
When it comes to hiking, a great preparation goes a long way. Here are some things to prepare before you make the trip:
- Good Sturdy Shoes: The trails are pretty simple and well-leveled with a few steep spots so a regular shoe with good grip should be fine. Depending on when you are traveling to Fairy Meadows, you might have to walk on a snow covered trail so prepare accordingly. You are fine with normal shoes in early October.
- Weather-proof Jackets: Better safe than sorry. Like most mountains in this region, it can rain/snow or extremely windy at any time so it is always smart to be prepared for the worst weather.
- Get Maps.Me: Maps.me is the best app you can have on your phone, especially when hiking. The app is available on both Android and iOS and with their offline capabilities and their comprehensive list of available hiking trails, you will never get lost here.
- Prepare Snacks: Food at Fairy Meadows can be quite expensive (150 - 500 PKR) so if you want to save money, buy some snacks beforehand. Snacks are also great for the trail especially if you plan to hike all the way to Nanga Parbat in one day because you will have to take lunch with you. Water can be refilled for free at the Greenland resort if you decided to stay there, otherwise, all the accommodations sell water or you can always refill it from the water stream.
With anything related to hiking, it is always important to have a good travel insurance to cover accidents that may happen. If you are looking for a travel insurance, I would recommend WorldNomads.com, which is what I use to look for a travel insurance that fits my kind of adventure.
How to Get to Fairy Meadows
There are several stages that you will have to go through before getting to Fairy Meadows.
First, you will have to get to Gilgit, the capital city of Gilgit-Baltistan province in the north of Pakistan. From there, get to the Raikot Bridge and then you will have to rent a jeep to get to the trailhead and then you will have to hike up to Fairy Meadows.
Getting to Gilgit
There are several ways you can get to Gilgit from Islamabad. You can fly to Gilgit via Pakistan International Airways. They run twice a day from Islamabad for around 113 USD. You might be able to find it cheaper through Momondo or Skyscanner as they may have some third party discount for you.
You can also take an overnight bus to Gilgit from Islamabad which will cost you around 2,500 PKR and it will take you 18 hours. The good thing about taking a bus is that you have the option to drop off directly at the Raikot Bridge before the bus arrives in Gilgit, given you don't have a lot of stuff to carry.
If you would like to shed some weight off your backpack and leave some stuff before the hike, I would suggest you go directly to Gilgit, stay one night there and leave your stuff at your guest house. I had no problem leaving half of my stuff at the Madina Hotel 2.
Getting to Raikot Bridge (1 hr by car)
Raikot Bridge is located 80km south of Gilgit and it will take you around an hour to get there. You can either get a taxi to drop you off at the bridge or take a bus heading toward Chilas from the NATCO bus terminal shown below:
Personally, it is faster to either take a taxi yourself or hitchhike your way to the bridge. For the taxi, do not pay more than 1,000 PKR for the trip.
Getting to the Trail Head (1.5 hrs by jeep)
This is where it will get expensive especially for independent travelers like us. You see, from the Raikot Bridge, you will need to take a local jeep up the mountains and it will cost you 7,600 PKR per jeep for a round trip. The jeep can be shared with the locals or other travelers of up to 5 passengers. You can wait for some other travelers to show up at the bridge if you have the time but if you arrive late, and you don't want to be hiking in the dark, you will have to bite the bullet and pay for the entire jeep yourself.
Once paid, the jeep will take you through one of the bumpiest roads you will ever experience in Pakistan. The roads zigzag its way up the rocky mountain for about 1.5 hours and you will arrive at a village, where the trailhead begins.
Just before you leave, your driver will ask you on the date of your return and the exact time you will arrive back. Make sure you give your driver the correct detail and be sure to stick to it. This is essential for the driver as they will have to come back and pick you up. Also, remember your driver's face!
Getting to Fairy Meadows (2 hrs by walk)
From the village, the trail gradually climbs for about 2 hour, and then it goes up steep for about 30 minutes until you arrive in Fairy Meadows.
Where to Stay in Fairy Meadows
Greenland Resort - 11 USD/Night (Double Room)
Greenland Resort by far offers the best view of Nanga Parbat with a clear view over the glacier towards the mountain. The room is clean and well-built. The food costs around 150 - 500 PKR. The owner is also very friendly helping me with all the booking, transportation and food while letting my friends camp for free. If you want a place with the best view in Fairy Meadows, this is the one.
Keep in mind that the price of the accommodation changes depending on the season.
The Hiking Trails
Fairy Meadows to Beyal Camp (2 hours one way)
Length: 2 hrs one way
Our first trail begins with a well-leveled path through a thick forest out of Fairy Meadows and along the ridge with the view of Nanga Parbat and Raikot glacier on your left.
The trail continues on a flat landscape for about an hour through the forest, passing several streams, until you reach an opening where you will see a village being overshadowed by Nanga Parbat from a distance.
Congratulations, you have reached the Beyal camp. You can grab a cup of coffee or continue on for about 30 minutes further along the trail and you will arrive at a viewpoint at 3,667m where you will be able to see the Raikot Glacier and Nanga Parbat up close.
This part of the trail is just a simple stroll and so it is perfect for those who are not looking to hike a lot, but if you want to hike further, you can continue the trail to Nanga Parbat Base Camp.
Beyal Camp to Nanga Parbat Base Camp (3 hrs one way)
Length: 3 hrs one way
From the viewpoint 30 minutes pass Beyal camp, you will have to climb up a ridge for another 30 minutes and walk across the rocky glacier in order to get to the base camp. Be very careful at this point as the trail becomes steeper and rockier, but more and more scenic too. Following the glacier, you will have to climb up again into glass plain where you will find the Nanga Parbat base camp standing at over 3,900m.
You will no longer feel like walking through a fairy-tale forest, you will be surrounded by ice blocks and rocks instead.
Disclaimer: I tried to get to the base camp with a couple of people but it was snowing heavily and we had to turn back just after the viewpoint. Maybe you will have more luck then I did.
And there you have it, a complete guide on how to hike the Fairy Meadows in Pakistan. Are you planning to travel to Pakistan soon? If you have any question about Fairy Meadows, do not hesitate to let me know in the comments below.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by BucketListly where we will follow our founder, Pete Rojwongsuriya around the world as he singlehandedly travel alone and experience different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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