Pakistan is filled with superlative locations, known for undisturbed natural beauties. The most popular attraction in Northern Pakistan is the Nanga Parbat trek, known for its encapsulating landscapes and scenic hiking trails. With the best-unobstructed view of the colossal Nanga Parbat peaks at 8,125 meters high, Fairy Meadows resides in thick forests at the heart of the mountain. Nanga Parbat is the highest mountain in Pakistan, second only to K2. The trek to the base camp of Nanga Parbat earns its reputable status as the most sought-after tourist attraction in Northern Pakistan. It is considered one of the most accessible hikes for all experience levels and allows you to witness an immensely tall mountain by only trekking for a few hours. If traveling to Pakistan, a visit through the serene and lush alpine forests of the trek to Nanga Parbat is a must.
What is Nanga Parbat?
There are many names for the intimidatingly huge mountain and for good reason. The majestic Nanga Parbat is commonly known as the Killer Mountain and is one of five eight-thousanders in Pakistan. The sky-scraping mountain is also the 8th tallest peak in the world. Its chill-inducing name comes from the groundbreaking climbers. Throughout the years the Killer Mountain has claimed its victims by altitude sickness, freezing temperatures, and unpredictable storms. Climbing to the peak of Nanga Parbat is considered to be one of the most dangerous expeditions to attempt in mountaineering history. The locals say there is a one in four chance of death in attempting to reach the peak of Nanga Parbat. The altitude becomes especially dangerous past 6100m (20,000 feet) and is described by locals as the “Death Zone” due to critically low oxygen levels and exponentially great dangers.
Despite having such a terrifying name, the breathtaking views from Fairy Meadows at Greenland resort are nowhere near the altitude to summit the peak of Nanga Parbat mountain resulting in enjoyable and safe hikes. Fairy Meadows is below the tree line and home to green lush plains providing full view of the elegant snow-covered Nanga Parbat. The daring challenge and history of expeditions surrounding Fairy Meadow’s mountain ranges create a unique opportunity to see the skyscraping peaks for ourselves
What Is the Nanga Parbat Trek Like?
Starting the trip into the tranquil plains of Fairy Meadows begins with a local jeep tour at the base of Raikot bridge off of the Karakoram Highway. This 2-hour jeep adventure begins the expedition up to Fairy Meadows on one of the most surreal and dangerous roads in the world. The road bears witness to the most scenic views and vast mountain valleys in Pakistan. The rocky road has certainly earned its reputation, filled with sharp back turns, bumpy roads, and narrow lanes. Jeeps will frequently pass by each other coming within inches of contact. Our experienced tour guide and epic 4×4 Toyota jeep provide enough reassurance to enjoy the stunning vast landscapes. The distant views are littered with green alpines and a roaring river cutting through the depths of the deep valley. After soaking in the crazy beautiful views through the mountains, the jeep ride ends just a few kilometers from the Nanga Parbat Trek’s trailhead.
Before starting the 2 to 3-hour trek up to Fairy Meadows, be sure to refresh with mango juice and dried apricots sold by locals. After fueling up, thick alpine forests carve out the path up to Fairy Meadows resort where it is not unusual to have groups of horseback riders trotting next to you. The ascension up the mountain by foot progressively reveals a larger view of the expansive Nanga Parbat mountain range invoking unshakeable confidence to climb higher! There are scenic viewpoints and a restaurant along the trek up to Fairy Meadows so slow down and enjoy the serenity of being fully immersed in nature. Pakistanis love talking with foreigners and provide a stellar opportunity to discover stories and history from the locals. The famous Pakistani chai is served at every restaurant and is great for stimulating a social environment. Chai is commonly made up of black tea, milk, sugar, and honey refreshing the energy of any weary traveler.
What is Fairy Meadows Resort?
The first campground on the way up to Nanga Parbat mountain is the majestic Fairy Meadows. At the end of the first picturesque hike awaits Greenland Resort offering by far the best-unobstructed view of Raikot Glacier overlooked by the towering Nanga Parbat mountain. Upon arrival, there are many accommodating lodge styles from pitching a tent to luxury hotels and everything in between. My personal favorite is the luxury Raikot Sarai hotel restaurant offering mouth-watering authentic Balti cuisine and Chinese entrees. The rooms are clean and well-built with facilities to wash up and relax after a long day of hiking. The owner of Greenland Resort is extremely friendly and accommodating, providing the next adventure with campfires, musical evenings, and horseback riding. The tranquil Greenland Resort will leave you speechless from the sky-high views of Nanga Parbat to the accommodating food, lodging, and activities.
Fairy Meadows to Beyal Camp
Our first trail from Fairy Meadows begins through an alpine forest on a relatively flat path following a steep ridge encompassing a mesmerizing view of the Raikot glacier and Nanga Parbat on the left-hand side. The trail continues through the pinewood forest for about an hour, crossing over several descending streams before entering an open village overlooked by Nanga Parbat from a distance. The idyllic hike is complete, reaching the cozy Beyal camp filled with roomy lodges and a hotel at the back end of the area. You can grab a cup of chai or continue on the trail for about half an hour to arrive at a viewpoint residing at 3,700m with an incredible, up-close view of Nanga Parbat and Raikot Glacier.
On my 3 night journey to Nanga Parbat base camp, we stayed at the Summit Resort at Beyal camp with lodges facing directly towards the snow-white Nanga Parbat. Spending a night at Beyal camp is peaceful and quieter than Greenland resort resulting in a deeper appreciation of the unfiltered view of the mountains breaching over the horizon. The kitchen staff serves steamed hot chai upon request and local freshly made balti cuisine to help rest and relax into the evening. As the sun set into the evening, the trees faded to a black bordering horizon contrasted against the snow of Nanga Parbat. The blue sky transformed into an ocean of stars early into the night. The night sky surprisingly captured my undivided attention for hours, unable to look away. Devoid of almost any artificial light and a downhill valley opening in the sky, the result is a ridiculous view of the countless bright stars including a glimpse at the Milky Way Galaxy.
Beyal Camp to Nanga Parbat Base Camp
After a much-needed break eating local foods and enjoying the night stars, the finish line draws near for the final hike to Nanga Parbat base camp. Beginning the last leg of this race, the land subtly transforms from an alpine forest to an arid and impressive landscape narrowing in towards the vast Raikot Glacier and towering Nanga Parbat mountain. The last trail leading to base camp may be the most challenging and rewarding trek compared to any of the other trails. Past the German viewpoint (the first viewpoint after Beyal camp), a path carving out numerous back turns sits on a steep ridge that leads to a walk across the rocky glacier before officially arriving at the base camp. The most satisfying part of hiking up the first steep ridge is arriving at the top instantly immersed in a field of flowers and lush vegetation accompanied by an overlooking view of previous paths. Many people lounge around at the top unable to leave its charming beauty. The blooming flowers signal the halfway point to base camp right before climbing over a steeper and rockier area to higher elevations. The trail descends into an epic glass plain over the Raikot Glacier before climbing up to the Nanga Parbat base camp standing at over 3,900m. Reaching the end of the Nanga Parbat base camp trek produces a euphoric sense of accomplishment and fulfillment worth celebrating with a cup of chai!
What’s the Best Time to Visit?
The first question when traveling anywhere is how’s the weather? Fairy Meadows’ climate is mild compared to other parts of Pakistan due to the high elevations bringing cooler temperatures. Some of the most pleasant weather is during the warmer months of May – September. The beautiful weather in the summer season attracts the most people, a good time to avoid the crowds is visiting in the shoulder seasons in the months of April – May or September – October preferably on weekdays to truly have the place to yourself. All things to be considered, the shoulder months are a bit colder than the midsummer months but provide a quieter environment secluded from crowds.
In the winter, the average temperature drops to a chilling 4°C with heavy precipitation in January and February. The cold temperatures and abundant snowfall result in extremely difficult conditions to hike or trek to Nanga Parbat. Despite harsh conditions, many mountaineers attempt the challenge to summit this enormous mountain. In February of 2016, Nanga Parbat was successfully submitted for the first time in history, taking nearly 30 years of failed attempts before a successful climb to Nanga Parbat’s peak. The mountain peak was unreachable for so long because the climbers fought against the challenge of frostbite, altitude sickness, physical injuries, and many failed attempts that required a rescue team. Through the many hardships of peaking Nanga Parbat, many films and documentaries were developed about their expeditions including the 1997 film Seven Years in Tibet featuring Heinrich Harrer’s obsession to climb Nanga Parbat at the beginning of World War II. Summiting the peak of Nanga Parbat in the winter may be out of the question for the average visitor but the beautiful summer and shoulder seasons stand strong as the best times for tourists to visit Fairy Meadows.
Through an adventurous trek in the green alpines of Fairy Meadows, you’ll have the fortune of experiencing Northern Pakistan’s most popular destination. Hiking to the surreal Nanga Parbat mountain is a full experience with pristine lodging, Balti cuisine, and steaming hot chai! The breathtaking landscapes entice confidence to explore more of the endless valleys. The trip is not complete without experiencing the rich cultural activities from musical evenings to local campfires or even horseback riding to soak in the sights of the natural scenery. Adventure is calling to discover all the colossal Nanga Parbat trek has to offer. If you want to experience the Nanga Parbat base camp trek for yourself, Untraversed Travel offers handcrafted adventures for this trip of a lifetime!