Wanna travel to Pakistan with Against the Compass?
We have one scheduled expedition this summer to North Pakistan. 14 days driving the Karakoram Highway, and exploring offbeat valleys of Shimshal and Astore.
August 13th to 26th
It was the holy month of Ramadan, so Fairy Meadows, one of the most popular destinations in Pakistan, was practically empty, except for a few foreigners and their respective armed escorts, who had been assigned to protect them the previous day at Raikot Bridge.
The day before had been a pretty long and exhausting journey, as I had to hitchhike several times, by then ascending a very dusty and exhausting trail.
But finally, there I was, in a campsite located at 3,300 meters above sea level, having a cup of coffee with fresh milk, while observing in astonishment, a striking peak 8,125 meters high called Nanga Parbat.
For more things to do, read my 1-month itinerary to Pakistan
Introduction to Nanga Parbat
Fairy Meadows trek
Nanga Parbat Base Camp
Travel insurance for Pakistan
I recommend IATI Insurance because it covers many adventure activities such as high altitude trekking
Get a 5% exclusive discount when purchasing via this link.
Also don’t forget to read the best books about Pakistan!
Nanga Parbat, also called the Killer Mountain, is an 8,125-meter high mountain that figures as the second highest peak in Pakistan (after K2) and the eighth in the world. Its hair-raising name is due to the fact that, throughout the years, Nanga Parbat has taken the lives of many climbers who tried to climb it unsuccessfully. Nanga Parbat is also considered one of the hardest mountains to climb in the world.
However, despite having such a terrifying name, the Nanga Parbat Base Camp is surprisingly accessible for even inexperienced trekkers, as it is located only 4 hours away from Fairy Meadows, a campsite which is normally used as a base to organize treks to the base camp.
Fairy Meadows is in a green lush plain from where you get striking views of Nanga Parbat, starting from a vast glacier which, gradually, ascends to the foot of that huge ice block.
Nevertheless, due to its high accessibility, Fairy Meadows is also the most commercial spot in Pakistan, with prices higher than the Pakistani average, and it is inhabited by a group of locals who prioritize money before hospitality, something unheard of in Pakistan.
But this shouldn’t keep you back, as the Fairy Meadows trek and Nanga Parbat Base Camp are some of the most beautiful scenery I have ever seen.
Click on the image to see the interactive map
Located in Gilgit-Baltistan, north Pakistan, getting to Fairy Meadows doesn’t require any kind of mountain experience as, except for the last 6 or 7km, most of the way can be done by 4×4.
Everyone who goes to FM will have to pass Raikot Bridge, the place on the Karakoram Highway from where you access the mountains towards FM.
Raikot Bridge is located 80km from Gilgit and 400km from Islamabad. The bus that goes from Islamabad to Gilgit can leave you there, no problem.
In Gilgit, buses to Raikot Bridge leave from the main bus station (Location: 35.898824, 74.369927). Personally, I hitchhiked from Gilgit, as it is significantly faster than going by public transport.
Once you are at the bridge, you’ll have to register with the police, who will also assign you a personal armed escort.
In 2013, a group of terrorists killed 9 foreigners. It was the first and only attack that has ever happened in Gilgit-Baltistan.
To understand it better, you should read: is Pakistan safe?
The only legal way to go along Fairy Meadows road is by local Jeep. In summer 2021, they are charging 8,500PKR for a round trip, a cost that can be divided by up to 5 passengers. The journey takes 2 hours.
What if you are only 2 or 3 people? You can wait for someone to show up but, from what I’ve heard, some travelers have waited for hours, but no one else showed up.
Wait, do you have to buy a round-trip ticket? Some of the locals from FM are the scum of Pakistan, who force you to buy a round trip ticket, so on the way back, you can’t share it with anyone you might meet at the camp.
Can I go walking? No, the police will not allow you for security reasons. However, this law doesn’t make sense, as the road is extremely narrow and it’s built on a cliff 1,000 meters high, which also makes it one of the most dangerous roads I’ve ever been on. Walking would be definitely safer. Welcome to Pakistan 🙂
Can I skip the police checkpoint? I managed to skip it, started to walk from there and, after three hours, a Jeep picked me up. I was very lucky. If you also want to skip it, you should come hitchhiking and tell the driver not to stop at the police checkpoint. If you come by bus, the driver will definitely inform the police.
By the way, Fairy Meadows road is one of the most scenic roads in Pakistan.
Keep reading: Backpacking in Pakistan: Ultimate itinerary
The Jeep will drop you some kilometers before your final destination, from where you will need to start ascending (on foot) for 2 to 3 hours through an alpine forest until you get to the FM campsite.
Once you are at the top, leave your backpack, relax and enjoy the most wonderful and privileged views ever.
Going to Nanga Parbat Base camp is an 8-hour trek (round-trip).
A few kilometers after Fairy Meadows, there is a second campsite called Behal, where I recommend spending the second night, as it is much quieter and has even better views than the previous camp.
After Behal, the trail gets tougher, although more rewarding. From an alpine forest, the way becomes an arid but impressive landscape, surrounded by snow and ice blocks.
You are at the Nanga Parbat Base Camp, where the silence is only interrupted by the sound of the occasional avalanches, which can be heard from very far away.
Travel insurance for Pakistan
I recommend IATI Insurance because it covers many adventure activities such as high altitude trekking
Get a 5% exclusive discount when purchasing via this link.
All campsites offer meals but normally, they just serve a very basic dal withrice at a ridiculously expensive price for Pakistan: 350PKR ($3.30).
On the other hand, bottled water is sold at 150PKR, so you had better bring your own purifying pills.
Fairy Meadows has a wide range of different types of accommodation, from tents to luxury bungalows. A tent plus a sleeping bag typically costs 500PKR ($4.70) per night, whereas a basic bungalow (sleeping bag on the floor) costs 1000PKR ($9.50), which can be split by several people. Bear in mind that prices can change depending on the season and, as in all Pakistan, they are highly negotiable.
Don’t forget to check our travel guide to Pakistan.
As well as all our Pakistan articles:
Thanks, Alex. I actually checked with them and they told me that they cover Pakistan as long as it is not related to terrorism, war or hostility. Where did you get this information?
Goodness Joan. What a fabulous collection of images. I am thinking of the 3 bucks for a meal. Here in NYC I have to just about pay someone 3 USD just to walk down the stairs LOL. I have become more used to NYC-NJ prices spending more time home recently but I do miss the cost of stuff in countries like India, Nepal and SE Asia, etc.
Actually, 3 bucks is extremely expensive for Pakistan 😀 ! Fairy Meadows is the priciest place in Pakistan!
Wow! Trekking there seems like an awesome idea! I loved your suggestion and I would love to cross this off my bucket list soon!
You totally should! Cheers!
Excellent article and really informative at the same time. It’s great to read something fresh. You take remarkable pictures. Sadly, I have never get the opportunity to tour these lovely places, but willing to. Hope my time will come soon.
Nice Post! I am planning to go to that area in early April. Do you think it is a good season or it might be too cold and campsites still not open?
I think you can definitely go but yes, it will be cold at night plus it may be cloudy. I went to Pakistan in April as well but didn’t head north until May or so. For how long are you in Pakistan? I would first explore Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, etc and by the end of the trip, go to Gilgit-Baltistan
Nice post with good effort. Fairy Meadows is adventure place in Pakistan. You must visit to fairy meadows if you plan tour to northern areas of pakistan. You can plan your trip either yourself or by any tours providing company in pakistan.
Thanks Ali. However, I had to remove your link because self-promotion is not allowed 🙂
hi! wha do you think of fairy meadows in mid september? also, i’m terrified of that road to tatu, is it really that bad?
It should be OK, I was there in May and it was not so cold. As per the road, I don’t know what to say. It is really bad but they know how to drive!
I’ll be traveling to Pakistan in September, so obviously all your articles are incredibly helpful in order to prepare for the trip. So first of all, thanks for that and all your effort to provide so much info for your like-minded adventurous travelers!
Do you know if it is possible to stay at Behal without bringing a tent, do they have a guesthouse or any kind of accomodation there?
Thanks and looking forward to your next trip – always an inspiration 🙂
Hi Annika, thanks for your comment! There were some bungalows but I went there in May and I can’t remember whether they were opened or not. However, Behal is less than 2 hours walk from Fairy Meadows and the locals from Fairy Meadows will certainly know whether it is open or not. Enjoy!
I’m from karachi and am planning to go to FM, then beyal camp and then hopefully nanga parbat base camp. I’m a little confused, is there accomadation available in beyal camp and nanga parbat base camp? Or I would have to trek to nanga parbat base camp and come back within a day and then stay at beyal camp. And is the trek to FM and beyal camp tough for a 40 year old? My mother is also interested in going :).
There’s accommodation in Beyal, yes.
There are people in their 40s who are able to climb K2 and there are people in their 40s who can’t even climb the stairs of their 2nd floor apartment. It really depends on how fit you are but generally speaking, it’s a trek for beginners.
Fam, if you’re gonna be so ungrateful about the locals of Fairy Meadows, don’t go to Pakistan. White people like you take every ounce of privilege you have and benefit from the colonial hangover that Pakistanis suffer and STILL you have a disgusting attitude. Locals in Fairy Meadows need to transport food, water, accommodation for YOU by jeep which is very expensive, hence the reason why FM might be more costly. Please stop being so gross and privileged, and do us all a favor and don’t come to Pakistan again. Nasty white people.
Hey, Troll. Fortunately, all the beautiful Pakistani people I met welcome me in Pakistan over and over and, luckily, I didn’t bump into any racist like you 😉
I don’t think he is Pakistani. We don’t talk or behave to our guest like that.
Hello Joan. Your blog just became one of the websites I visited the most these days. My friends and i (four guys) will visit Gilgit Baltistan end of March (March 22nd until April 5th, by road from Lahore). I read for several times that it will be very cold and north Pakistan will be still covered by snow.
My itinerary will go like this Lahore-Islamabad-Fairy Meadows-Gilgit-Hunza-Karimabad-Skardu-Passu-Sost & Khunjerab-Astore (if possible)-Back to Lahore, and we will do it in 15 days. Can we explore this area in our time there?
Looking forward to your reply. Thanks. 🙂
Hi Akbar, it is hard to say, as the period you are going is really the transition between winter and spring, but I visited Astore in April and it was fine. It was cold indeed and there was some snow but nothing particularly bothering. If you aren’t going for trekking, you should be fine. The KKH is totally open and, in that season, you will be able to access some side valleys.
Thank you very much for the wonderful insights. These are amazing information, in fact, the best on the net. My travel concerns to FM and beyond all ironed out thanks to you. I am travelling end June, though the most busiest of times, but really looking forward to it.
God bless you.
P.S. you take wonderful photos.
thanks for your kind comment, have loads of fun!
I don’t believe in any God but I only do good karma, will it be good for the trip ? Will I still be blessed ?
My apologies for this reply. Unfortunately for some reason I missed your comment until today 🙂 Good Karma is probably what is most needed in our societies nowadays. Of course it will be good for the trip and I am sure you will meet many locals who will replicate your sentiments many folds. It is customary for us here in Pakistan to give “Dua” to people you meet or speak to hence my statement.
Didn’t mean to offend anyone. Apologies if it as well.
Amazing information I generally love the snowy areas so much I would visit this area soon
Thanks for such informative article. I am a 63 years old female who wish to visit Pakistan in October with a small group of young friends. I jog regularly and I am generally in good health. May I know is the high altitude at 3,300m safe for me to hike? Thanks.
Hey Ming, it’s hard to say, as it depends on the type of person, but 3.3k is not that high and the ascent is very gradual. Drink loads of water, and even if you feel some headache at the beginning, it may go away in a few hours when your body gets used to it!
Correction, ” (after K2) and the eighth in the world.” It’s the 9th highest mountain in the world and in addition to that, (who prioritize money before hospitality) I would say you became pretty much of judgmental as the fact is, I’m a mountaineer and I have attempted base camps including Everest as well, so, those folks would host you with no intention of earning bucks or making some dimes when you’re in need. I do remember when I was on my way back from camp 1 to FM, I was served extravagantly and I couldn’t pay them in return, tbh. I appreciate the lack of deceit, however, the irony. Do consider the primitive facts of their survival in those glacial regions.
Great info you provide here, thank you so much. I’m planning to go to Fairy Meadow from October 16 to 18th, 2020. Would it be good? (in term of weather).
It’s hard to say, as October is the actual transition from one season to another. I don’t think there will be any snow, but I guess you need to be lucky to get a sunny day, 50-50
I am hoping to visit Fairy Meadows hopefully in July 2019. I read a lot about the trek from Tatu to FM being about 3 hours, but realistically any idea of actual miles covered? Also same for miles between Fairy Meadows and the Beyal Camp and then FM Base Camp. I was trying to get a realistic idea of how much I can do in 1 day. Any idea if there are any accommodations available at Fairy Meadows Base Camp or Beyal? Even if it may be tents etc. Thanks. I really enjoyed reading your blog.
Hi Nosheen, for miles covered you can download maps.me and calculate the walking route very easily.
As per accommodation, in FM there should be. In Beyal depends on the season. I went there in April and there wasn’t, but high season there will be. enjoy.
July and August are as summer as you get. I was there in 89 and there was no except the couple I travelled with and the locals. We walked up from Rakiot Bridge and I slept in the sleet under a log the first night. Pretty amazing place.
I am hoping to visit Fairy Meadows soon thanks to providing complete travelling information
Thanks for sharing the information & promoting Pakistan especially Fairy Meadows
welcome again sir
iam also belong to fairy meadows
I will visit FM somewhere in April. Do I need to make reservations for accommodation in advance? Do you suggest a guide or agency, or just go ………..
Hi John, you don’t need to make reservations and in my opinion, a guide is not needed. Easy to go on your own
Hi Joan, I am planning to go to the surrounding of Nanga parbat like Ferry meadows in september 2020. I am a solo travellers, 67 years old and i love trekking. Fist after landing in islamabad i will directly go to Murre for a ouple of days, then up the Kagan valley to the babusar pass , and hope to find a shared transport accros this pass to Chillas (Indus valley). And then another shared transport to Fairy meadow (and try to skip the escorting guard…..what are your recommandations. ??? thanks
Hi Richard, not sure if you can skip the armed escort. I did because I can be Pakistani because of my skin color. Otherwise, the rest of your trip sounds very doable
I’m interested in photographing Northern areas of Pakistan. I know the autumn colors are fantastic but do you know if you can find wildflowers in these areas? I imagine beautiful foreground of wildflowers with Nanga Parbat in the background 🙂 Do they grow that high? I would imagine June or July to be the season but I cannot find any information online. If you knew anything I’d appreciate any information.
Thanks for the interesting guide . I have visited fairy meadows in 2017 and love this place since that visit . it is a combo of natural landscape , mountain and adventurous trek.
Hi Joan, I and my wife are in our late 60’s, and are avid hikers. We will be in Islamabad from July 5th thru the 25th (2021). Our plans are to fly into Gilgit and then go to FM and Beyal camp.
My questions are, how bad the roads are from Gilgit to Raikot Bridge, and then from Raikot Bridg to the trailhead to FM?
Watching a few YouTube videos, most of the people who have visited FM, found jeep ride on Fairy Meadows to the FM trailhead to be grueling and dangerous; you practically sharing a road (with the width of a jeep) for both direction. Was this your experience as well?
Will appreciate your feedback. Thanks
Hi Shujaul! The road to FM is definitely a crazy road, one of the craziest I have ever seen, but the locals are very experienced drivers who know it very well… That’s all I can tell you… I don’t want to scare you, and I don’t want to tell you it’s safe… It’s dangerous? Well, there’s definitely a risk… but that’s part of the experience and falling off the cliff is unlikely to happen. Have you been to Bolivia? There’s a road considered the most dangerous road in the world which is a tourist attraction by itself. Some travelers I shared the ride with told me it was pretty much the same…
Unfortunately, our onward flight from Istanbul to Islamabad got cancelled on 6th of July due to number of flights restrictions to Pakistan due to COVID. We ended up cancelling our whole trip. In hindsight, it was a good decision after all. The flights to Skardu from ISB, and from Gilgit to ISB were cancelled as well due to inclement weathers conditions, and traveling by road was also hampered by landslides. Now I understand, the provincial government of KPK have banned entrance to Gilgit area due to deteriorating COVID conditions. We will give it another try in 2022.
Anyone planning to visit Fairy meadows & Nanga parbat base camp in June-July.
If some one is, do let me know. I am looking for a company to share the cost of traveling and accommodation.
Yeah sure Now fairy meadows open 12 months.
Hello and thank you for all your informative posts! I just visited Fairy Meadows so here is some updated info from May 2021:
-foreigners are allowed to stay overnight in Chilas
-the Raikot bridge jeep cartel is charging PKR 8,500(!) roundtrip
-all foreigners are required to have a military escort for the entire stay. He wouldn’t even let me walk around FM without him
Thanks Colin! 8500 rupees, that’s insane!
Hi I’m planning to go to fairy meadows this this week august what do you think of condition overall ?
I think August is a great time to visit!
>How much the total cost u spent to do FM and Nanga Parbat basecamp trip?
>Need to pro-booked accomodations in FM and Behal camp? or just walk-in?
TQ , (Fauzi – Malaysia)