Nestled in the Raikhot valley high in the Himalayas, it’s not hard to guess why this lush green mountain pasture at the foot of a majestic snowy peak was named Fairy Meadows.
Known as “Joot” among locals, the place was given the name Märchenwiese (literally “Fairy Tale Meadows”) by German mountaineers who were no doubt astounded when they first glimpsed this idyllic landscape. At 3,300 meters (10,826 feet) above sea level, the wide grassy meadow surrounded by dense alpine forest is fed by waters from a glacier formed by the Nanga Parbat, the ninth-highest mountain in the world (and second-highest in Pakistan, after K2) that towers over Fairy Meadows from the south. A magical setting indeed — made all the more wondrous by the dangerous road one must take to get here.
There is only one road to Fairy Meadows, and it isn’t your average tricky mountain road; in 2013, the World Health Organization ranked it as the second deadliest road on the planet. The windy narrow gravel mountain road is open to locals only (thanks to the high number of fatalities the way has claimed), who ferry visitors from Raikhot bridge to the village of Tato, one six-person Jeep-load at a time. If you make it through the ride without ending up a smoldering heap at the bottom of the ravine that stands in as the “shoulder” of the road, you still have a three- to four-hour hike from Tato before you can take in the hidden splendor of Fairy Meadows. But once you’re there, you’ll never want to leave! (Because you’ll be terrified to go back the way you came.)
Visitors to Fairy Meadows can find accommodation in small on-site cabins or designated camp sites (the Pakistani government declared the location a National Park in 1995). The site serves as a launching point for mountain climbers summiting the northern face of the Nanga Parbat.