Fairy Meadows in the Himalayan range of Pakistan is a highland, a hot tourist destination and launching pad for hikers and trekkers attempting nearby mountain peaks including the 8,126 m high Nanga Parbat, famous as the Killer Mountain, the 2nd tallest in Pakistan after K2, and the 9th highest in the world. The meadow is an utmost retreat for the heat resistant, noise stricken, stress-laden,… and of course, the adventure enthusiasts who dare to venture and aspire to gain momentum. It is indeed an ideal destination to energize mentally and physically.
The meadow is situated in the Himalayan range where Pakistan makes up the westernmost anchor of the great Himalayas running 2400 km (1500 mile) eastwards through 5 major countries – Bhutan, Nepal, India, China, and Pakistan – with breadth ranging from 150km (93 miles) to 400 km(250 miles). The Himalayan range in Pakistan comprised of the regions of Kashmir, Kaghan and Kohistan in KPK, and Deosai and Chilas in Gilgit-Baltistan. Fairy meadow is located in the territory of Chilas in Diamar district.
Local people call this striking highland Joot and later the Germans named it “Fairy Meadows” for the ultimate natural splendour this amazing tourist spot inherits. The meadow is poised at an altitude of 3300m above sea level, in a splendid natural setting, in Raikot valley of Diamar district in Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan. Locals have operated campsites in the area since 1992 and it has been declared as national park in 1995.
To reach Fairy meadow Raikot Bridge is the major stop at the Karakoram Highway. At an altitude of 4595 feet (1400 meters) above sea level, Raikot Bridge is about 540 kilometres (336 miles) from Islamabad (the capital of Pakistan), 60 km from Chilas, and 80 km from Gilgit town. For those who take the one hour flight to Gilgit from Islamabad can make it to Raikot Bridge in another an hour and a half. However, all flights to Gilgit and Skardu are subject to weather conditions.
Usually, Islamabad/Rawalpindi is the starting point while driving to the northern territories along the KKH and via Babusar Pass. Sometimes due to uncertain road conditions and convoy arrangements at Mansehra, while travelling along the KKH, it takes longer than the usual travel time. It roughly takes about 12 – 14 hrs in the current situation as the road is also being renovated. However, via Naran over the Babusar Pass, Raikot Bridge can be reached in 9-10 hrs roughly. There is enough space to park your car at the Raikot Bridge. Personal vehicles are not allowed to drive up to Tatto.
From Raikot Bridge you will hire a local jeep to drive up to Tatto village located at an altitude of 2900 meters. The journey to Tatto through a dry and barren land is quite adventurous 12 km (1.5 hr) jeep ride, usually demanding expert driving skills and high spirit and courage on part of tourists, along with an unpaved narrow jeep track followed by a 5 km (3 hrs) uphill walk along the ravine thereafter. Getting to Fairy meadow from the Karakoram Highway is a lifetime experience and a memorable activity. For the first time visitors, who are not well acclimatized to high altitudes, it is almost a full day activity.
Fairy Meadows is located in the Raikot valley, at the edge of the Raikot glacier which originates from the Nanga Parbat and feeds a creek that finally meets the Indus River near the Raikot Bridge. The grassland is surrounded by a thick alpine forest along with a good concentration of juniper, birch, willow dwarf shrubs, and scrubs. Major mammals found are brown bears and musk deer.
The six-month tourist season at Fairy Meadows starts from mid-April and lasts till mid-October. Some winter expeditions even operate during peak winters in December and January but it’s very rare and not a trend. Without technical expertise and assistance of a local guide, however, winter expeditions can be extremely challenging to carry out.
Where to Stay
Major campsites are located at the main Fairy Meadows site but there are also beautiful huts and spacious campsites at Beyal – a striking summer pasture at an hour’s walk upstream adjacent to shepherd houses with a magnificent view of Nanga Parbat in the background. All the campsites are owned and operated by local people. Each campsite at Fairy Meadow is adorned with uniquely designed huts, space for pitching tents and bonfire, and arrangements to organize outdoor group activities. You will experience the genuine hospitality of local people and campsite operators that will make you come back or even recommend Fairy Meadows to family and friends.
Camping sites at the meadow offer a number of accommodation options including huts and tents of various capacities. Most tourists prefer to spend the night in tents which are provided at a reasonable price. Overall, accommodation is affordable to all classes of tourists at the meadows. You have the choice of making a selection of accommodation that meets your budget. During peak summers all the hotels and campsites are almost overbooked. Prior booking must be made to avoid any unexpected experience.
The food you eat at Fairy Meadow is a slightly pricey but purely organic, worth of money paid. You get desi eggs and local makhan (butter) in breakfast. You have fresh veggies and desi chicken in lunch. Mutton, dal, local yoghurt, lassi (buttermilk) and what not – you get a perfect, rich, and purely organic diet at the meadow.
Things to do at Fairy Meadows
There are a number of fun activities one can think about carrying out at Fairy Meadows. You can watch locals playing freestyle polo and volleyball. You can organize a cricket match or play Frisbee if you wish to spend a day at the campsite at Fairy Meadows. You can take a half day walk to nearby Beyal camp and return to Fairy Meadows for lunch or you can even do that after lunch. On a clear day, you have one of the scenic views of Nanga Parbat.
However, if you wish to undertake a challenging activity, you might want to go further up to the viewpoint requiring you to climb a sheer uphill in the birch trees. You will have the best ever views of the mountains, glacier, Beyal, Fairy Meadows and even of Dobani peak and Haramosh peak. If you proceed even further along the Raikot Glacier, by crossing the two small lateral glaciers, the exciting full day hike takes you to the 4,200m high base camp. There is an alternate route to the base-camp along the side of the Raikot glacier by descending to the glacier instead of taking the uphill trail leading to the viewpoint. If you wish to undertake a comfy trip, you might want to hire a pony for the day excursion. The surrounding views from the basecamp are simply superb and striking.
Travel Tips for Visitors to Fairy Meadows
- Make a confirmed reservation before travelling to Fairy Meadows.
- Park your personal vehicle at Raikot Bridge parking lot as only local vehicles are allowed to drive up to Tatto.
- For long journeys, proper food intake and necessary medicine are Be advised to carry essential medicine, fruit/cookies/chocolates or whatever could be convenient.
- Do not forget to carry sunburn cream, glasses, an umbrella and a raincoat.
- It is also advisable to wear good trekking shoes and pack a reserve pair of socks.
- Clean water is a basic necessity, do not forget to carry bottled water or boiled water in case spring water does not suit your stomach. There are good chances of finding bottled water at Tatto.
- Those who find it difficult to hike up from Tatto have the option of hiring a paid pony.