Nanga Parbat’s Breathtaking Beauty And Danger – Pakistan Part 5

After spending a few good days in Passu, we had a long journey ahead to get to the mountain, Nanga Parbat, where we would spend the next three days. We left early in the morning and began our long drive all the way back down the same road that had previously taken us through the Hunza Valley and Gilgit.

A view along the way of the junction of the world’s three highest mountains ranges. From left to right: the Hindu Kush, the Karakoram, and the Himalayas.

Nanga Parbat is the ninth tallest mountain in the world, and it also has one of the world’s most prominent peaks. It is infamously known as “The Killer Mountain” because it is incredibly difficult to climb and a high number of climber fatalities have occurred there.

Getting closer to “The Killer Mountain” 😨

Read on to hear about our adventure through enchanting lands, dangerous roads, and killer mountains. Cross your fingers that we will all make it to the end of this trip alive. 🤞

A Perilous Road to a Magical Meadow

We followed the road past Gilgit, all the way to a little village near a base camp of Nanga Parbat called Fairy Meadows. We would go first with a four-wheel-drive, and then by foot on a long hike to access the meadows.

Our rickety “new” ride…

Anyone who wants to go to Fairy Meadows has to travel in very old, rusty Toyota Land Cruisers, which may look decrepit but are up for the task.

The road cutting straight through the cliff face

The road to Fairy Meadows is said to be one of the most dangerous in the world. From certain photographic angles, the extreme danger is apparent.

Coming up on one of many harrowing hairpin turns

We had to trust our driver completely, because if he made one wrong move, we could have fallen a thousand meters down the cliffs below. It might be understandable that some of the guys lacked that trust after our other driver had abandoned Michael hanging on a bridge in the middle of nowhere just a few days prior.

Speaking of hanging bridges… here’s a terrifying one we saw along the road.

We left the VW minibus behind, which would have never made it across the narrow road, and our group hopped into a couple Toyota Land Cruisers. The ride along the world’s most dangerous road to Fairy Meadows took about ninety minutes and was extremely bumpy, with what felt like hundreds of hairpin turns along the way.

A wild ride hugging the cliff on the extremely narrow road

I actually expected the road to be much worse than it was, but some of the other guys in the car were screaming as we drove along the very narrow road. 🤣

We arrived at the end of the road and rested for a bit, enjoying the amazing, clear view of Nanga Parbat. When we all felt ready, we began our long and strenuous hike uphill toward the Fairy Meadows settlement, following a river that flowed down from the mountain glacier.

Taking a moment to enjoy the scenery before beginning our hike

Freezing in Fairy Meadows

After about a three-hour hike, we finally made it to Fairy Meadows, a beautiful, green, grassy area right near the base of Nanga Parbat.

What a hike! Luckily we had some help with the luggage 😅

From Fairy Meadows, it would still be a five or six-hour hike to the base of the glacier. We would take on that challenge the next day. On this day, we were happy enough just to have survived a long day of driving, including on one of the world’s most dangerous roads, and an exhausting hike on top of it all.

Welcome to the magical Fairy Meadows

By the time we made it to our cabins, it was already almost dusk. Despite the remote location, the area appeared quite touristy, with little wooden houses and, shockingly, internet! I mostly worked that evening, and we all prepared for the very active day to come.

Part of the settlement in Fairy Meadows

It was freezing cold that night, as we were at an altitude of about 3,300 meters. The next day wouldn’t be so bad in the sunlight, but that night was painfully cold as the temperature dropped twenty degrees below. 🥶

In the morning, we’d wake up to this amazing view.

Hiking to the Glacier

The next day we hiked from Fairy Meadows to the glacier. We had first wanted to hike to the base camp, which is a bit farther, but by the time we made it to the glacier, we were already too exhausted from our hike to the viewpoint. That had taken another three hours hiking along the edge of the ravine, looking down on the glacier and the riverbed.

Tired from the long hike, but enjoying the amazing views

It was a very nice walk, albeit long. We saw some mountain huts along the way where the locals live.

Some local children playing ball near their house

Once there, we had the opportunity to take some amazing photos of Nanga Parbat, which stood out prominently and was quite impressive to see towering above the village below.

It may have a killer reputation, but no one can deny the beauty of Nanga Parbat.

It started to rain a little bit as we were there, a sure indicator that the weather was about to get worse.

Clouds rolling in

Rather than taking the risk of continuing on to the base camp of “The Killer Mountain” in bad weather, we decided to play it safe and return to the safety of Fairy Meadows for the night.

I was ready to climb the mountain, if it hadn’t been for the bad weather!

All Downhill From Here

After a good night’s sleep, we walked over to visit a famous lake nearby. We had actually stopped by there the evening before, but because of the bad weather, we weren’t able to get any decent photos. The next morning was sunny and clear again, so we got to take some gorgeous photos of Nanga Parbat rising above the lake with the beautiful village in the background.

An amazing view at the lake

After that, we hiked back down, away from the murderous mountain and back toward the world’s most dangerous road. The hike back was much easier than the hike there, as it was all downhill, so what had been a three-hour hike a couple of days before now only took ninety minutes.

Nanga Parbat mirrored in the enchanting lake of Fairy Meadows

We arrived back at the rickety old Toyota Land Cruiser and took another bumpy drive back down the mountain road. Due to the change in perspective, the road down looked much scarier than the road back up, but we eventually made it safely back to the bus, which drove us to the other side of Nanga Parbat.

The terrifying road back down. Now I understand why they call it “the world’s most dangerous road.”

The other side of the mountain is known as the Rupal Face, which they say is the highest mountain face in the world at 4600 meters. It’s supposed to be an extremely impressive sight, but unfortunately, due to the bad weather, we couldn’t see very much of it. We stayed in a guesthouse there after the long drive, with nothing much to do because it was raining outside. 🌧️

Gloomy weather, foggy views

The southern face of Nanga Parbat is famous for having a lot of natural minerals, which people come to collect. We got to take a look at some, and I ended up buying some nice minerals, which I actually still need to identify. There wasn’t much more we could do except chill in the guesthouse and enjoy occasional glimpses of the Rupal Face when the clouds shifted. Overall, we didn’t see much other than lots of fog and rain.

Grazing at the National Park

The next day we left the Karakoram Mountains behind and made our way into the Himalayas to visit Skardu, which is basically the capital city of the Himalayas. On the way to Skardu, we passed through Deosai National Park, which is the second-highest plateau on Earth at 4100 meters altitude. The meadows atop the plateau are surrounded by rolling hills and rivers, which was a beautiful sight to see.

The amazing plateau of Deosai National Park

The plateau is home to a variety of wildlife, including the rare Himalayan brown bear, which we hoped to catch a glimpse of. We weren’t lucky enough to see a brown bear, but we did get to see some animals grazing there in the meadow. Of course, seeing all that grazing made us hungry, so we stopped for a bite to eat at the national park while we were there.

It’s no brown bear, but at least we saw a marmot!

The road that crossed through Deosai National Park was the only open road that we could take to Skardu because the main road from Gilgit was closed due to a mudslide or something. So we took the long route to get to Skardu, but it was well worth it for the surrounding scenery.

A local enjoying the view

Sightseeing around Skardu

We stopped a few more times along the way to Skardu to see some lakes in the mountains that are famous for their natural beauty. It was a little touristy there, so we got to take a boat tour at one of the lakes, which took us to another viewpoint. It was a bit tiring to go about 200 meters down and back up again to see the viewpoint, but, like the detour to Deosai, it was worth the effort to see the views.

Enjoying a nice boat tour at Kachura Lake

After that, we went to another lake that has a big resort called Shangrila Resort Skardu. It’s one of the fanciest resorts in Pakistan, and there were a lot of people there. They have an old plane in their garden, and a big lake, and a nice cafe where we had some muffins and enjoyed the evening before going back to the main part of Skardu to sleep.

The beautiful Shangrila resort and its even more beautiful setting

The next day, we visited the nearby Shigar Valley, which is famous for its old fortress. Nowadays, the old fortress is also a hotel that’s part of the same chain as the hotel we’d sleep in later that night. We hadn’t planned to stay at a fancy hotel, but after sleeping for the last few nights in… well, let’s just say not-so-fancy properties… we arranged with our guide to let us pay for a nicer hotel, which we would visit later. 🤑

Anyway, in Shigar we enjoyed the awesome views we could see from the fortress, of the Himalayan Mountains, some river valleys, and even some hanging bridges in the distance.

A nice view of Shigar Valley

After leaving Shigar, we continued down the road to see Manthoka Waterfall. We had lunch there, enjoyed the scenery a bit, and even took a dip in the cold water.

The water was cold, but it was too beautiful to resist a dip!

After the waterfall, we went to see the other old fortress with the nice hotel, called Serena Khaplu Palace, where we would spend the night. We enjoyed the afternoon and had a nice dinner there. It felt amazing to take my first hot shower with decent water pressure in weeks, and to sleep in a nice, comfortable bed.

It was well worth the upgrade to enjoy a nice, steamy shower again.

Unlike the other places we had stayed, at this hotel we had no problems with the electricity, internet, or water. We learned a bit too late that there are more hotels like this in Pakistan, but at least we were able to enjoy one night of luxury.

The perfect palatial hotel for us to spend our last night in Skardu

Back to the Beginning

The next day we headed all the way back to the airport in Skardu to catch a domestic flight back to Islamabad, where we started our journey.

Saying goodbye to Skardu

I hadn’t gotten to really see Islamabad before because I had arrived in Pakistan later than planned due to some flight troubles, so I was looking forward to taking a city tour of Islamabad the following day, after saying goodbye to my travel group.

Our plane ready to fly to Islamabad from Skardu

That evening, we enjoyed a great goodbye dinner with our group (including the tour guides and office manager of their company) to celebrate our successful journey through Pakistan. We ate at a fancy restaurant in the hills above Islamabad, which had beautiful views of the bustling city below. We went back to the hotel for the night and had one last night of sleep all under the same roof, before everyone would head off the next day, and I would begin my own three-day tour of the rest of Pakistan.

One last view of Nanga Parbat as we flew over it

In the morning we all said goodbye, and now I was ready to begin my own solo adventure. Check in next time for the final installment of my Pakistan journey to hear how I fared on my own in the final few days.