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.
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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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.