How to get from Naran to Chilas and Fairy Meadows

Step-by-step instructions on how to get from Naran to Chilas and Fairy Meadows. Includes information on where to stay, security concerns, prices, times, and more.

 

The Fairy Meadows are one of the highlights of northern Pakistan, and for good reason. They’re definitively idyllic, and well worth the long trip to get there. They also make for a great next destination for those traveling north from Naran. In the summer, it’s possible to get to the Fairy Meadows from Naran via the scenic Babusar Top and Chilas. Here’s how!

Before you go to Fairy Meadows

Before heading out, make sure Babusar Pass is open. If the pass isn’t open, there won’t be any transport heading to Chilas. In 2016 the pass opened on the 21st of June. The Karakoram Club Facebook group is a great place to find information on openings and travel in northern Pakistan.

Naran to Chilas

If Babusar Pass is open, getting to Chilas is straightforward. A minibus to Chilas waits by a bridge at the end of Naran’s main street. The bus leaves when full–we advise you to head there early, around 8:30.

Bridge in Naran, Pakistan

Bridge at the end of Naran’s main street, where the minibus to Chilas can be found.

The minibus from Naran to Chilas, Pakistan

The minibus from Naran to Chilas

Prices for this trip seem to be negotiable. We were quoted 1,000 Rs per person, but got it down to 600 Rs per person. We still think this is more than the going rate, but when we asked a local passenger he also said it was 600 Rs. Regardless, we’re still dubious, and think 400 Rs per person is a more reasonable price.

The ride is very scenic, passing beautiful valleys and a lake. The view from Babusar Pass, which lies at 4,100 meters, is breathtaking. After Babusar Pass, you’ll travel downhill for an hour or so to Chilas, which will be considerably warmer than Naran. Make sure to drink enough water to prevent altitude sickness, and dress coolly!

Want to know how to get to Naran? Check our guide on how to get from Islamabad to Naran!

The view from Babusar Top/Babusar Pass in Pakistan.

The view from Babusar Top is pretty acceptable.

Sleeping and security in Chilas

There is a police checkpoint at Babusar Pass, where your passport will be checked and your info will be registered. A police officer will sit next to you from here to Chilas for “security reasons”.

There are only two hotels in Chilas that are allowed to host foreigners: Shangrila Hotel and Panorama Hotel. These hotels are more luxurious (for local standards), and are priced accordingly. If backpacking, try to explain you’re on a budget–they might give you a discount. We paid 1,500 Rs for a room at Shangrila, while the going rate is 2,500-3,000 Rs for a room.

Make sure to bring enough cash, as there are no ATMs nearby. You are not allowed to leave the hotel unless escorted, which likely will not happen unless you are leaving Chilas. You can, however, ask people to go out and buy things from the bazaar for you.

How to get from Chilas to the Fairy Meadows

Raikot bridge, Pakistan, where you can find Jeeps to Fairy Point.

Raikot bridge, where you can find Jeeps to Fairy Point.

Getting to Raikot bridge

Because Chilas is considered dangerous for tourists, police will escort you. Normally they should escort you from your hotel, but in our case, we were dropped off at the bus station. Our security guard was… relaxed about his duties!

After sitting there by ourselves for some time, several men in regular clothing came and asked some questions, then looked at our passports. It turned out they were the Gilgit Baltistan police, but we asked for their IDs just to make sure. The trip to Raikot with the police takes about 1.5 hours, and includes one car change.

If you manage to escape security, or security is willing to join you on the bus, minibusses that pass Raikot leave hourly starting at 7:00 from the bus station. Or so says the manager at Shangrila hotel.

Raikot bridge to Fairy Point

Once at Raikot, your passport information will be noted down for the five billionth time. From the bridge, you must take a Jeep to Fairy Point, then hike to Fairy Meadows.

A two-way Jeep is 6,500 Rs. The price is non-negotiable since the Jeep services are run by a cartel. You can try and wait to share the price with fellow travelers, though the Jeep drivers will try and persuade you not to. You must also let your driver know which day and at what time you’d like to be picked up from Fairy point. It’s advisable to note down his name and license plate number, so that if you decide to stay longer people at Fairy Meadows can contact him and tell the new pickup date and time. If you fail to communicate this, you might have to pay double.

Jeep track from Raikot bridge to Fairy Point, Pakistan

So… how about that Jeep track, eh?

The Jeep drive to Fairy Point is fucking scary and takes about 1.5 hours. You’ll most likely have police with you in the Jeep. You’ll have to tell your Jeep driver when and at what time you want him to pick you up at Fairy Point again.

Fairy Point to Fairy Meadows

At Fairy Point, you can hire a porter/ donkey (1,000 Rs one-way), or a horse (1,600 Rs one-way) to carry your stuff and/or you. You’ll also have to note down your passport information once again (for the five billion and first time), and a guard will come with you.

A donkey and porter on the way to Fairy Meadows, Pakistan

Dearest donkey, you don’t even know the struggles you saved us from.

Security guard for foreigners on the way to Fairy Meadows, Pakistan.

Security on the way to the Meadows.

Provided you’re not wildly out of shape, the hike up takes about three hours, including rest stops. Make sure to bring ample water and food, since the hike gets pretty steep, and you’ll be at high altitudes. A big bottle of water at Fairy Point is 150 Rs, so stock up before if you can. There are also no ATM’s so make sure to bring enough cash.

At Fairy Meadows, you’ll have several lodges to choose from. All are basic, and the food options range from barely passable to downright gross… and overpriced. Bargain hard in the offseason for reasonable deals on accommodation. Several lodges will allow you to pitch your tent or hammock on their grounds for free. Make sure to pack a warm sleeping bag–it gets cold at night!

Finally, as a foreigner, if you want to go on hikes at Fairy Meadows, make sure to inform the place you’re staying beforehand. You technically cannot leave the main lodge area without an armed guard.

Sebastiaan

Just another Dutchie. Extrovert with introverted tendencies. Some say I'm lazy, I say I'm masterfully inactive.

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9 thoughts on “How to get from Naran to Chilas and Fairy Meadows

    Faisal Ahmed says:

    Randomly read your article on Dawn, that lead me to read more on here. Had a lot of misconceptions about Pakistan myself before visiting last year ( despite my family being from there originally). Had the most fantastic time ever. Funny how different the reality is from what the media portrays and how as a country Pakistan gets so much negative attention. Loved reading some of your articles. Wishing you many more safe adventures. Hope you get to visit again soon. Am hoping to go again, towards the end of the year (IA).

    Talha says:

    There is no security issues.
    Chilas is not a dangerous place
    Every thing is under control
    People are too much friendly
    Now you can visit FM without NOC

    Sebastiaan says:

    The situation is different for foreigners. Believe us, we would know. We also never say you need a NOC for FM.

    Sarah says:

    Enjoyed reading your article! However, i must say that those poor locals work really hard to make a living in harsh conditions. For anyone to have a problem paying them the asking price for their services is unfair. Although there is always room for some negotiations but we need to be fair and should not try to take advantage of them. We have no problem paying unreasonably high prices when we go travelling to other parts of the world, even though most of them are rich countries. Just because there is no bargaining option we pay the asking price with no issues at all. I dont think its fair to these poor hard working Pakistani locals. They let you bargain because they have large families to feed. Plus they are not greedy. Its okay to bargain a little but we must be considerate and not abuse them at the same time.

    Kevin Ryder says:

    Thanks for the info. I have bicycled the KKH several times between 99 and 05.
    Am planning a return in autumn and had several questions. Is there any lodging between Naran, Babusar top, and Chilas? Also, I remember too well the jeep ride to the enchanting Fairy Meadows and swore I would ride (or crawl) it the next time! As I recall, the very beginning of the “road” is pretty sketchy with large boulders that eventually smooth out to an actual “road.” Possible to cycle the beginning part ? I know the local transport mafia doesn’t take kindly to it but I seem to remember that people had done it. Thanks and happy trails.

    uxair says:

    we can go without jeep

    Aamir Shabbir says:

    Hello Kevin,

    Yes there are lodging spaces available between Naran and Babusar. After that from Babusar to Chilas no space and then you can stay at Raikot Bridge.
    What are your plans for this autumn season?

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