How to get to Fairy Meadows, Pakistan
The Fairy Meadows, Pakistan (locally known as Joot), is easily one of the most beautiful destinations in a country in which there is no shortage of spectacular spots!
Fairy Meadows, Pakistan is also known for the ‘Fairy meadows road’, at one point voted the second deadliest road in the world, and on which a ride is an adventure in itself!
Read on to learn about how to get to Fairy Meadows, Pakistan and my experience there!
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Best time to go to Fairy Meadows, Pakistan
I will start this off by saying that I was in the Fairy Meadows, Pakistan right at the end of October / beginning of November and this is most definitely NOT the best time to go the Fairy Meadows, Pakistan. In fact, this was the only part of the trip that I didn’t get to enjoy as much, due to the extreme cold at the Fairy Meadows which meant that we spent much of our time huddled around a fire, making sure that it didn’t go out.
The Fairy Meadows were pretty much frozen over and everything looked white, grey and icy, a sight which I may have a appreciated more, had I not been trying to prevent my fingers from falling off.
You can get to experience the gorgeous green landscapes of the Fairy Meadows, Pakistan during the summer from May to September during peak season. After that it’s going to be getting colder. When we were there, we stayed at the last open accommodation option at the Fairy Meadows, and it was their last day open too.
The trip to the Fairy Meadows, Pakistan
Getting to Raikot Bridge
Raikot Bridge, on the Karakoram Highway, is where every trip to the Fairy Meadows, Pakistan, starts.
If you’re going to Raikot Bridge via public transport, you can get a bus either from Chilas or from Gilgit – both rides will take around two hours. You can also get a taxi. There are a couple of direct one-hour flights per day from Islamabad to Gilgit on Pakistan International Airways (PIA), but do note that it is not uncommon for them to be cancelled. There are no flights from Islamabad to Chilas.
There are also buses that run from Islamabad to Gilgit via Chilas and even pass by the Raikot Bridge itself on the Karakoram Highway, but be aware that this would constitute an 18-hour overnight ride. If you’re planning on taking such a bus and want to be dropped off at Raikot bridge, confirm with the driver that this is possible.
Because I was on three-week trip around Pakistan, with two other girls, a driver and a guide, we were driven from our accommodation in Karimabad, Hunza Valley to Raikot Bridge, the start to the trip to the Fairy Meadows. We woke up early and got to experience the mountains and valleys bathed in a soft morning glow which was truly amazing.
From Raikot Bridge to Tattu (Tato) on the Fairy Meadows road
Once you arrive to Raikot Bridge, you need to hire a jeep and a local driver to take you up the Fairy Meadows road (to the village of Tattu), which was voted the second deadliest road in the world. The locals have monopoly over the route, and the area in general, so only a handful of drivers are allowed up. The cost of the jeep is around 8,500 pkr and can be shared between five people.
Additionally, you may or may not be assigned an armed escort (free of charge) to accompany you during your stay in the Fairy Meadows, Pakistan. Although our driver and guide were coming with us all the way up to the Fairy Meadows, a were told that we still needed to be escorted in case we encountered any trouble in the area.
We didn’t have a problem with this, and our personal escort was actually a really nice guy who helped us throughout the trip. To put things in perspective, trouble in the area is rare, but a group of tourists were killed by terrorists in the area in 2013, and ever since, armed escorts have been assigned to anyone going up to the Fairy Meadows.
So, what’s the Fairy Meadows road like? Honestly, if you’re scared of heights, you might want to skip this, although you’re in a jeep the whole time. One of my friends kept her eyes closed on most of the 2-hour ride up. Myself, I had a blast and thoroughly enjoyed the journey through the narrow roads and hair-raising beds with no guardrails, accompanied by blaring Pakistani music.
You are not allowed to walk the Fairy Meadows road from Raikot Bridge to Tattu due to security reasons and will likely be stopped by police if you attempt to do so.
The Fairy Meadows road is definitely not for the faint-hearted. There were times when I was sure that the outer wheels of the jeep were flying off the edge of the narrow mountain paths, especially when we encountered traffic coming the other way. We crossed rickety wooden bridges which impossibly supported the jeep’s weight, and at one point we even had a local ‘guest’ climb onto the jeep’s hood and ride with us.
The views on the Fairy Meadows road are absolutely spectacular though, and I felt completely in my element as I marvelled at the mountain scenery and took a million photos along the bumpy ride!
The hike from Tattu to the Fairy Meadows, Pakistan
After a couple of hours, we arrived in Tattu, where we used the toilet (a hole in a shed) before starting our upward trek to the Fairy Meadows. ‘Upwards’ is not joke. The trail is long and steep, but I never imagined that I would have a problem with it, since, pretty accustomed to trekking, although I do hate climbs.
We were asked whether we wanted to rent a horse to take up our backpacks, or to carry any one of us up, but we all declined. For some reason, 30 minutes into the trek, I was in some distress. And then I started to get panic attacks, fearing that I wouldn’t make it up. Luckily the guy with the horse, was still around, hoping that one of us would give in to using his services, and that was me… wisest decision ever!
Renting the horse cost 2000 pkr (about €10) and from then on, I thoroughly enjoyed the trek and stopped panicking. The path was icy at the end of October and I was quite worried that the horse would slip, but the guy leading the horse did a very good job of avoiding the frozen areas.
Although I had stripped to a t-shirt when I started walking, I needed three layers of clothing now to keep me warm as we ascended further and further. When we reached the Fairy meadows, we were at around 3,300 metres.
What to do in the Fairy Meadows, Pakistan
Because I was riding the horse, I reached the Fairy meadows long before my companions and proceeded to wear all the clothes I had in my backpack. When my friends arrived, we were assigned two wooden cabins in the only accommodation which was still operating in the Fairy Meadows. Everyone else had left for the winter and the we were the last guests of the season!
Of course, the cabins were very poorly heated and there were gaps between the wall planks which let the icy air in. Without a doubt, the cabins are great for the summer, but horrible in the wintertime! We were also told that there was no running water since the water pipes were frozen over, so we were given buckets of water to use for the toilet.
The Fairy Meadows are surely beautiful and offer amazing views of Nanga Parabat, the ninth-highest mountain in the world and the second-highest in Pakistan, but they should be enjoyed in the summer time. We got there in the afternoon, and it as just too cold to do anything but sit around the fire until dinner time which was served to us inside another cabin.
The next morning, we got out of our cabins once the sun made an appearance and proceeded to go on a short trek around the area. It was quite beautiful at this time and covered in snow and ice, but that was pretty much it. I’m sure that visiting the area in the summer is a lot more fulfilling and more pleasant, so a longer revisit in the summer in on the cards, perhaps with Nikki this time around!
Some people trek from the Fairy Meadows to Nanga Parabat base camp and back, which takes the best part of a day, but this was not in our plan at this time of year.
Leaving the Fairy Meadows, Pakistan
After breakfast, we proceeded to go down the same frozen path, this time without the horse. I actually really enjoyed the trek down and was much happier to walk this time around (note – if you plan on taking the horse down too, you need to tell the horse guide to come pick you up the next morning).
We got the jeep as soon as we finished the trek for another exhilarating ride back to the much warmer Raikot Bridge where we proceeded to drive off on the next leg of our Pakistan trip.
All in all, I’m glad to have gone to the Fairy meadows whilst I was in Pakistan, but I really look forward to going again in warmer weather and greener scenery!Read more about Pakistan!