Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat Base Camp Trek Guide

15th June 2017

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Fairy Meadows and Nanga Parbat Base Camp Trek Guide
Fairy Meadows, Gilgit Baltistan, Pakistan

Pakistan has 5 of the world's 14 highest peaks which are above 8,000 m tall. One of these is the Nanga Parbat (8,126 m) located in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan. Many of the 8,000 m mountains are far from civilisation and difficult to be seen up close by anyone who is not a high altitude mountaineer.

Nanga Parbat, however, is an exception. This great mountain can be viewed fairly conveniently in its full glory by hiking to the scintillating Fairy Meadows, Pakistan.

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Overview of Hike to Fairy Meadows

Overview of Hike to Nanga Parbat Basecamp

Trip Overview & Itinerary

Day Time Journey Duration
Day 0 / Day 1 06:00am to 06:00pm
Islamabad to Chilas (via Babusar)
12 hours
10:00pm to 03:00pm (+1)
Islamabad to Chilas (via KKH)
17 hours
Day 2 08:00am to 09:30am
Chilas to Raikot Bridge
1.5 hours
10:00am to 01:00pm
Raikot Bridge to Tattu
3 hours
01:30pm to 04:30pm
Tattu to Fairy Meadows
3 hours
Day 3 08:00am to 10:00am
Fairy Meadows to Beyal Camp
2 hours
10:00am to 12:00pm
Beyal Camp to Base Camp
2 hours
01:00pm to 04:00pm
Base Camp to Fairy Meadows
3 hours
Day 4 08:00am to 10:30am
Fairy Meadows to Tattu
2.5 hours
11:00am to 01:30pm
Tattu to Raikot Bridge
2.5 hours
02:30pm to 04:00pm
Raikot Bridge to Chilas
1.5 hours
Day 5 08:00am to 07:00pm
Chilas to Islamabad (via Babusar)
11 hours
07:00am to 11:00pm
Chilas to Islamabad (via KKH)
16 hours

How to Reach Fairy Meadows?

By Car

Fairy Meadows is accessed through Raikot which is located on the Karakoram Highway some 100 km prior to Gilgit city. Fairy Meadows distance from Islamabad is 432 km on the Babusar route and 518 km on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) route

Set-off from Islamabad on the Peshawer Motorway (M-1). Turn onto Hazara Motorway (M-15) from the Hazara Interchange and head towards Mansehra. From Mansehra, there are possibly two options depending upon the situation at Babusar pass.

In the hike season (June to September) the Babusar pass, which is high altitude mountain pass connecting the Kaghan Valley with Gilgit-Baltistan, is open for traffic. For the rest of the year, the pass is buried in snow as high as 12 ft and is henceforth closed for traffic.

When the Babusar pass is open it offers a shorter route to Gilgit-Baltistan and is undoubtedly the preferred choice. In this case you should turn towards Naran from Mansehra. The pass is located 186 km from Mansehra and takes about 6 hours to reach. The entire route is surrounded by green mountians and temperature is cool. The pass itself offers beauitful views of the valleys beneath. On the other side of the pass the road will join the Karakoram Highway (KKH) near the town of Chilas.

If, however, the Babusar pass is closed then your only other option is to turn towards Besham from Mansehra and join the Karakoram Highway (KKH). This route has a very poor road condition and its considerably longer, about 5 hours more, but it is open throughout the year. The weather on the KKH is hot and the surrounding mountains are mostly barren.

Travelling alongside the Indus River on the KKH
Travelling alongside the Indus River on the KKH

The Raikot bridge transfers the traffic from the right side of the lndus river to the left. Just prior to this bridge you will see a queue of old jeeps parked on the side of the road and a few hotels in the vicinity. This is the starting point of the jeep track to Tattu village which is the trail head for Fairy Meadows trek.

Car Parking: You can park your car at one of the hotels at Raikot. Make sure you let the hotel administration know about your car and inquire about parking charges. Make sure your car is properly locked and the windows are up. Remember that you car will be parked here for several nights.

Fueling: On the Babusar Pass route, petrol stations are frequently available up till Balakot. After Balakot the next proper pump is at Chilas, which is 200 km away. It is stongly recommended that you fill up at Balakot. At Naran, if you have less than half a tank of fuel, it is recommended to purchase some fuel from one of the vendors selling from their roadside tents since there aren't any conventionals petrol stations here.

By Public Transport

Faizabad and Pir Wadhai Morr are the main bus stations in Islamabad / Rawalpindi. From here you should get a bus or shared car for Gilgit or Skardu. At Raikot Bridge you must disembark the transport. Just prior to this bridge you will see a queue of old jeeps parked on the side of the road and a few hotels in the vicinity. This is the starting point of the jeep track to Tattu village, the trail head for Fairy Meadows hike.

By Air

From Islamabad Airport, get a flight to Gilgit. From Gilgit airport take a taxi or a ride-hailing app such as Careem / Uber to the bus station. From there, inquire about how to get to Raikot bridge. Possible vehicle options would be bus, shared car or jeep.

Just after crossing Raikot bridge you will see a queue of old jeeps parked on the side of the road and a few hotels in the vicinity. This is the starting point of the jeep track to Tattoo village which is the trail head for Fairy Meadows hike.

Jeep Track to Fairy Meadows

The Fairy Meadows jeep track is notoriously dangerous. It is unpaved and unmetalled, with a drop of several hundred feet on one side. A single track serves both directions of traffic and the track truly lives upto its reputation when you have to cross an oncoming jeep for which your driver will utilise the entire width of the track. This is even more scary when your jeep is on the outside, inches away from the cliff.

This not-for-the-faint-hearted off-road jeep track serves to keep the tourist traffic at Fairy Meadows somewhat regulated. Otherwise, a paved Fairy Meadows road would increase tourist influx manyfold which usually has devastating effects on the natural elements of the region.

Fairy Meadows Jeep Track
Fairy Meadows Jeep Track

The jeep track starts near Raikot bridge and goes perpendicularly from the KKH in towards the mountains. The jeeps at nearly all such jeep tracks across Pakistan are from the 1960s and 1970s. Vehicles of this era had primitive suspention systems and hence they are unsurprisingly uncomfortable.

The jeep journey is about 2.5 to 3 hours long. You are constantly gaining altitude and the drop is constantly getting deeper. At the end of track is the trail head for Fairy Meadows at Tattu village.

Hike to Fairy Meadows

After disembarking from the jeeps, you will carry on forward on the same path. Just up ahead there is a water stream which you have to cross using the wooden plank. Almost immediately after there is a small restaurant, a masjid and a toilet. At the restaurant there is only one thing on the menu which is 'Daal Chawal' (Lentils on Rice).

From here starts the 2.5 to 3 hour hike to Fairy Meadows. The initial section of the hike is through tall pine trees. Water streams are available at a couple of places along the way.

Hike to Fairy Meadows
Start of Trail at Tattu Village

The trail eventually opens up as you emerge from the pine forest. Soon after, the enormity of Nanga Parbat starts to come into view. Its glacial run-off is raging deep down to your left as you climb up towards the meadow.

Trek to Fairy Meadows
Fairy Meadows Trail

After hiking for about 2.5 hours, you will start to see sign boards to the many huts (hotels) on Fairy Meadows. Keep moving towards the left of the first split in trail. After about 15 to 20 mins you will reach the meadows. The first thing you want to do at this point is to put down your rucksack (if you are carrying one), sit down on the meadow and absorb the amazing panoramic view of the gigantic Nanga Parbat.

Nanga Parbat from Fairy Meadows
Nanga Parbat from Fairy Meadows

Camping on the Meadows

There are many huts and camps available on the meadows. Ideally you would have prebooked your accommodation. If not, then you can visit the many huts and compare prices and the view they offer.

For food, there is a restuarant which serves a decent menu at prices according to the location (higher than usual). At night, you can sit around a bonfire but this is not recommended as it is one of the preventable causes of deforestation in the region.

Available Facilities at Campsite

Facilities Availability
Tents
Water
Food
Toilet
Phone Signals
Fairy Meadows Huts
Huts at Fairy Meadows

In the morning, you can have breakfast either inside the restaurant or outdoors on one of the benches. Having breakfast outdoors on the meadow on a sunny day will definitely be one of the best breakfast experiences you will ever have.

Hike to Beyal Camp and Base Camp

The trek from the campsite to Beyal Camp is the climax of the entire trip. Up till Beyal Camp the trail is generally flat with very little elevation gain. In this section of the trail you will be hiking through a valley surrounded by tall pine trees on one side, a gentle water stream on the other side. The brown and green of the trees, combined. with grey of the rocks and white of the mountain, all the while listening to the sound of the water is what elevates the experience of this place.

Trekking to Beyal Camp
Trekking to Beyal Camp

At Beyal Camp, there are a few huts from where you can buy food. You can even choose to camp here if you wish. A little ahead is the Nanga Parbat view point, not that the mountain is ever not present in the view.

Beyond the view point the terrain turns rocky. If you keep proceeding forward you will eventually reach the Base Camp of the mountain which is at about 4,000 m. As you approach the base camp you can hear the sound of glacial ice cracking from time to time which sets off an echo through the valley.

Path towards the Nanga Parbat Base Camp
Path towards the Nanga Parbat Base Camp

Equipment

Having the right equipment and gear is essential for an enjoyable hiking experience. Check out the list of recommended hiking gear.

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