In plain view of the icy peaks of the mighty Nanga Parbat lies a seemingly remote group of forests, small villages, and lakes – all collectively known as the enchanting Fairy Meadows. This remote mountain peak in Pakistan’s famous Gilgit Baltistan was aptly named by a German mountaineer in the 20th century, for underneath its calm exterior one can unlock a treasure trove of mysteries, legends, adventures, and beauty.
Despite its almost incomparable beauty, Fairy Meadows remains rather underrated in contrast to the popular tourist destinations of Hunza or Skardu. A major reason for this is possibly the fact that to get there, one must navigate the world’s second-most dangerous road – also sometimes referred to as the “Death Road”. The only way to access these picturesque meadows is by riding in rickety jeeps along the winding, narrow, unstable pathway for almost two hours. Then begins an equally nerve-wracking - yet breathtaking - four-hour trek to the top of the mountain as the path becomes too narrow for even a jeep. In all this time, the barren mountains slowly part to reveal the snowy peaks of Nanga Parbat in the distance until one is right up close. One can almost feel themselves entering a different world, a world that is quite untouched. Until recently, it was only braved by the most experienced mountaineers from around the world, and the armed forces.
The forests surrounding the area are full of mysteries of their own. Anyone who happens to traverse across them during nightfall reports strange occurrences. All of them recount similar supernatural experiences – an element accepted as a matter of fact by local villagers and one which leaves any traveler disheveled if they fail to return to the safety of their camps before dark. The groups of camping resorts, or caravan serais, built atop the mountain have their own fair share of haunted cabins, being located at the edge of these forests. If asked to share local stories of paranormal activities in the area, some locals refrain from doing so, lest they attract the attention of such spirits.
It’s true that the architecture of structures and lifestyles of local villagers in the area reminds one of bygone eras, such as a world without cellphones, cars, or appliances like electric heaters. Yet, the local population isn’t far behind. Political Science majors also operate as part-time horse conductors to lead you up a mountain, and a young man flipping rotis above a seemingly medieval stove will discuss the effects of colonization with you. The level of inclusion of differently abled people in their local communities put our seemingly ‘progressive’ urban cities to shame. Deaf and mute people seemed to go about their jobs as per usual and showed equal levels of involvement with their neighbors and co-workers; clearly their differences were not held against them as liabilities.
It is the non-commercialized, unfiltered, natural landscape which captures the true magic of fairy meadows.