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Imagine this. You’re in the heart of the Indian Himalayas, in a place called Ladakh. All around you are towering mountains, their peaks lost in the clouds. You’re about to start on an adventure known as the Markha Valley Trek. It’s no ordinary walk in the park, but then again, you’re not looking for ordinary, are you?
The Markha Valley Trek is also called the ‘Tea House Trek of Ladakh’. Why? Because you get to stay in or near the local homes in remote villages along the way. It’s a unique opportunity to experience the local culture up close, something you won’t find on many other treks in India.
The starting point is near Leh, at either Chilling or Zingchen. From here, you’ll journey through the stunning Markha Valley. Streams to cross, barren landscapes to traverse, and high passes to conquer await you. The highest point, Kongmaru La, stands proud at 5,260 meters above sea level. The view from here? Simply breathtaking!
And there’s more. You’ll pass through the Hemis National Park, a haven for wildlife including the elusive snow leopard. You’ll visit ancient Buddhist monasteries and witness the simple life of the Ladakhi people.
But what sets the Markha Valley Trek apart is its ever-changing scenery. One moment, you’re navigating rugged mountain terrain. The next, you’re gazing out over lush green fields. There are tiny villages and imposing monasteries. It’s a visual feast that keeps surprising you.
The Markha Valley Trek is more than just a trek. It’s an experience. It’s an adventure. It’s a chance to immerse yourself in a different culture, to challenge yourself, and to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Welcome to Leh, the capital of Ladakh! As you step out of the plane, the first thing you’ll notice is the fresh mountain air and the stunning landscape that surrounds you. Snow-clad mountains, clear blue skies, and the peace that comes with being in such a remote location – it’s truly a sight to behold!
Your journey begins at Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport, one of the highest airports in the world. After collecting your luggage, you’ll be transferred to your hotel. The journey gives you a first glimpse of the town with its winding roads, old monasteries, and rustic houses.
Upon reaching the hotel, check in and take some time to rest. It’s crucial to let your body acclimate to the high altitude, so avoid any strenuous activities. Drink plenty of water and eat light meals to prevent altitude sickness.
The rest of the day is free for you to explore at your leisure. Take a stroll through the local market, where you can find Ladakhi handicrafts, Tibetan silver jewelry, and Pashmina shawls. Don’t forget to try some local delicacies like Thukpa (noodle soup) or Momos (dumplings) at one of the small eateries.
Return to your hotel for a good night’s sleep as the day winds down. It would help if you were well-rested for the adventure that awaits over the next few days.
After a restful night’s sleep, wake up to a hearty breakfast at your hotel. Today is dedicated to acclimatizing to Leh’s high altitude, which stands at 3,500 meters above sea level. It’s crucial to take this day slow to prepare your body for the upcoming trek.
The day begins with a comprehensive briefing about the trek by your experienced guides. They’ll provide valuable insights into the trek route, daily schedule, weather conditions, and essential items to carry. This is also an excellent time to clarify any doubts you may have. Remember, there are no silly questions when it comes to your safety and well-being.
Post briefing, your day is free to explore more of Leh at a leisurely pace. Visit the Leh Palace, a nine-storey structure that offers stunning views of the town and the Stok Kangri peaks. The Shanti Stupa is another must-visit spot, known for its beautiful architecture and serene atmosphere.
Take a walk through the local markets, where you can pick up last-minute essentials for the trek. You’ll find shops selling trekking gear, energy bars, and other supplies. Also, make sure to try some more local cuisine. A bowl of warm Thukpa or a plate of Momos can be quite comforting in the cold weather.
Throughout the day, remember to stay hydrated and avoid exerting yourself. The key to successful acclimatization is rest, hydration, and nutrition.
As the sun sets, return to your hotel and pack your bags for the trek. Ensure you have all the necessary items and that your backpack isn’t too heavy. Enjoy a good night’s sleep as you gear up to start the trek next day.
Distance: 60 km (Drive) & 11 km (Trek)
Time Taken: 1.5 hours (Drive) & 5 hours (Trek)
Chilling Altitude: 3,190 m (10,465 ft)
Skiu Altitude: 3,350 m (10,990 ft)
Rise and shine, it’s time to start on your adventure! After a nutritious breakfast at the hotel, you’ll depart for Chilling – the starting point of your trek. The drive to Chilling is an experience in itself as you pass through the scenic landscapes of Ladakh, along the banks of the Indus River.
Upon reaching Chilling, you’ll meet the rest of your trekking team. After a quick briefing about the day’s trek, you’ll start your journey towards Skiu. The trek from Chilling to Skiu is relatively long but quite easy and serves as a good warm-up for the days to come. You’ll walk along the Zanskar River, cross a suspension bridge, and pass through narrow gorges.
Skiu, situated at the confluence of Shingo Nala and Markha River, is a charming village surrounded by towering mountains and dotted with barley fields. As you approach the village, you’ll be greeted with friendly smiles from the locals.
Once you reach Skiu, check into your camps or homestays and freshen up. Spend the evening exploring the village. Visit the local monastery, interact with the villagers, and learn about their way of life. This is a great opportunity to immerse yourself in Ladakhi culture.
As evening descends, come together for a group dinner. Indulge in local cuisine, exchange stories, and admire the starlit sky. It’s a perfect way to end an exciting day. Head to your tents for a restful sleep – another big day awaits tomorrow!
Distance: 12 km
Time Taken: 5 Hours
Sara Altitude: 3,570 m (11,712 ft)
Wake up to a beautiful sunrise in Skiu. After a hearty breakfast, it’s time to lace up your boots and embark on the next leg of your journey – the trek from Skiu to Sara. Today’s trail is relatively easy, with minor ascents and descents, making it a perfect day for nature lovers.
The first part of the trek takes you through well-paved pathways made by the villagers. As you navigate through puddles of frozen water, keep an eye out for some exotic Himalayan birds like the Eurasian magpie and white cap red star. This region is also home to the nimble blue sheep, known for their expertise in climbing steep surfaces.
After about 2 hours of trekking, a wide horizon emerges as you cross an age-old wooden bridge. This marks the halfway point of today’s journey. The trails now expand into a boundless area as you walk on the dried-up grey sand and colorful pebbles of the Markha River bed.
As you approach Sara village, the landscape changes again. You’ll notice the unique architecture of the local houses, built with handmade wooden structures. Walking past these houses, you’ll reach an open area that offers a breathtaking view of the Markha range. This is your campsite for the night.
Set up your tents and take some time to soak in the beauty surrounding you. The rest of the day is free for you to explore the nearby areas or simply relax at the campsite. As the sun sets, gather around a bonfire for dinner. Share stories from the day, gaze at the stars and revel in the tranquility that the mountains offer.
Retire to your tents for a good night’s sleep, as tomorrow brings another day of adventure and exploration.
Distance: 9 km
Time Taken: 6 Hours
Markha Altitude: 3,760 m (12,335 ft)
Pack your bags and fuel up with a hearty breakfast, as today’s journey takes you from Sara to Markha. Leaving the campsite around 8-9 AM, you’ll start on a trail covered by boulders, adding an element of adventure to your trek.
About 2 km into the trail, you’ll come across Mani walls – small spiritual structures built by stacking holy stones, each inscribed with prayers. Tibetan Buddhists believe that circumambulating these walls on the right-hand side brings good luck, a tradition you can partake in as you continue on your trek.
Your next stop is the quaint village of Chalak, located another 2 km ahead. A barely populated settlement, Chalak charms with its small houses and half-built structures. Take some time to soak in the tranquility before you make your descent.
The trail then takes a fun turn as you walk on a huge section of the frozen Markha River. This ice stretch spans over a distance of 4 km and directly leads you to the Markha Bridge. Crossing the bridge, you enter a flat trail that leads to Markha village.
Markha village is one of the iconic spots of the valley, rich in cultural significance and spiritual tales. If time permits, interact with the villagers to learn more about their culture and way of life. Your campsite for the day is situated about into the village. Settle down, and as night falls, enjoy the peaceful ambiance of Markha under the starlit sky.
Distance: 15 km
Time Taken: 7 Hours
Thachungtse Altitude: 4,247 m (13,934 ft)
Rise and shine for another day of trekking in the beautiful Markha Valley. Today’s journey takes you from Markha to Thachungtse, passing through a landscape rich in history and natural beauty.
As the trail continues, you’ll pass old stone mills, a testament to the region’s traditional ways of life. Look out for the ruins of an old castle, adding a touch of mystery to your trek.
One of the highlights of today’s journey is the Techa Monastery, perched majestically on a cliff overlooking Markha. Take some time to appreciate its architectural beauty and the peaceful atmosphere that surrounds it.
Leaving Markha, the path intersects the river several times, offering plenty of opportunities to take a break and enjoy the serene beauty of the surroundings. As you cut through the last hamlets in the valley, you’ll reach the village of Umlung, where you’ll get your first view of the mighty Mt. Kang Yatse (6400m). This impressive peak will stay in sight until you cross Kongmaru La.
After a lunch break in the village of Hankar – the last one in the valley, continue your journey towards Thachungtse. The final leg of today’s trek takes you to a lovely green pasture at an altitude of 4200 m, where you’ll set up camp for the night.
As you settle down for the day, look back at the diverse landscapes you’ve traversed, from historical sites to stunning natural vistas. Enjoy a well-earned rest under the stars, ready for another day of adventure tomorrow.
Distance: 7 km
Time Taken: 5 Hours
Nimaling Altitude: 4,840 m (15,879 ft)
Prepare for a day of stunning vistas and unique cultural experiences as you trek from Thachungtse to Nimaling. Covering a distance of 7 km, the trek is expected to take around 5 hours.
The trail will lead you up to the beautiful plateau of Nimaling, perched at an altitude of 4,840 m (15,879 ft). Despite its high altitude, Nimaling is surprisingly green and serves as a summer pasture where the people of the Markha Valley bring their herds to graze.
Nimaling is the highest camp on your trek, situated at about 4,800 m. This vantage point offers spectacular views of the huge peak of Kang Yatse and the Zanskar Range. The Zanskar mountains, along with several imposing peaks over 6,000m, make this region a paradise for mountaineers.
As you settle into your campsite, reflect on your journey so far and the diverse landscapes you’ve traversed. Enjoy a warm meal under the stars, with the stunning panorama of the Himalayas as your backdrop.
Soak in the tranquility of the mountains and rest well for another day of trekking ahead. Tomorrow, you will reach the highest point of the Markha Valley Trek i.e. Kongmoru La.
Distance: 12 km
Time Taken: 7 Hours
Kongmoru La Altitude: 5,260 m (17,257 ft)
Leh Altitude: 3,500 m (11,483 ft)
On this day, you can expect to be feeling nostalgic and excited as you trek up to the highest pass of the trek. Expect to see a lot of surprises in store for you, too. After a strenuous 2-hour climb to Kongmaru La pass, keep your eyes peeled for the Karakoram range Mountains and an incredible array of peaks.
Hold your breath when you see K2 Mountain – the second-highest peak in the world! There are prayer flags moving along the wind here, and there’s an excellent network connection from this high vantage point too.
The trail gradually descends as you pass by villages and say goodbye. The immediate trail from the pass is steep and narrow but it later opens up to the village of Chikirmo. Throughout the route, you can enjoy the scenery of the Indus Valley and the Ladakh Range.
After a gradual climb down and a rocky terrain, you will reach Chokdo. This is the last stop of the trek, and there are many homestays there.
The last stop on your journey will be Leh. The mountains loom in the distance, and you can see the monastery town of Hemis Gompa. Take a deep breath, let it fill your lungs, and then take one final look at everything before you move on to your next adventure!
As the sun rises on the ninth day, it’s time to bid farewell to the beautiful region of Leh. Your adventure through the Markha Valley has come to an end, but the memories of the stunning landscapes, towering peaks, and unique cultural experiences will stay with you forever.
Whether you’re heading back home or continuing your journey elsewhere, take a moment to reflect on the incredible trek you’ve completed. From the challenging trails to the breathtaking vistas, every step was worth it.
Safe travels as you depart from Leh, and may the spirit of adventure continue to guide you in all your future endeavors.
Remember, the mountains are always calling. Until next time!
The Markha Valley Trek is a popular and scenic trek located in the Ladakh region in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. Classified as a moderate to difficult trek, it is known for its stunning landscapes, remote villages, and high-altitude passes.
The trek typically starts from Chilling, situated at an altitude of 10,490 feet. From there, trekkers traverse a variety of terrains, including rocky canyons, lush valleys, and high mountain passes. The highest point on the trek is the Kongmaru La pass, standing at an impressive altitude of 5,260 meters.
The trek itself takes around seven days, but trekkers are advised to spend a few additional days acclimatizing in Leh before starting the trek due to the high altitude. The entire route covers a distance of approximately 78 km with an elevation gain of 2500 m.
Along the way, trekkers have the opportunity to experience the local culture by staying in traditional homestays in the villages of the Markha Valley. The trek also offers spectacular views of the Himalayas, and opportunities to spot wildlife such as snow leopards and blue sheep.
Despite its challenges, the Markha Valley Trek is a rewarding experience, offering a blend of natural beauty and cultural immersion. It’s a perfect choice for those seeking adventure and wanting to explore the untouched beauty of the Ladakh region.
Please note that due to the trek’s demanding nature, it’s essential to be physically fit and properly acclimatized to the high altitude. It’s also recommended to carry necessary gear and supplies and to be aware of the symptoms of altitude sickness.
Markha Valley is located in the Ladakh region, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It lies between the Zanskar and Leh region of Ladakh, running parallel to the Himalayan range.
The valley is home to the Markha River, a tributary of the Zanskar River, which starts at the junction of the Langtang Chu and Nimaling Chu. This makes it an important geographical feature in the region.
Markha Valley is also situated within Hemis National Park, which is the largest national park in India. The valley is considered one of the most scenic regions in Ladakh, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes and remote location.
The Markha Valley Trek is classified as moderate in terms of difficulty. This rating is due to several factors such as its high altitude, steep climbs, and long trekking days. While the trail itself is not technically challenging, the high altitude can make the trek physically demanding, especially for those who are not acclimatized. It’s recommended that trekkers have a good level of physical fitness and spend some time acclimatizing in Leh before starting the trek.
The best time to undertake the Markha Valley Trek is between June and mid-October, with the high season falling between June and September. During this period, the weather in Ladakh is generally pleasant, with clear skies and dry conditions making for optimal trekking conditions.
However, it’s important to note that even during the high season, temperatures can vary greatly between day and night, so appropriate clothing and gear are necessary.
The Markha Valley Trek typically takes around 7 days to complete. However, the duration can vary depending on your pace and the specific itinerary you choose. Regardless of the duration, it’s recommended to spend a few extra days in Leh for acclimatization before starting the trek.
The highest point on the Markha Valley Trek is Kongmaru La Pass, which stands at an altitude of approximately 5,260 meters (17,257 feet). This pass provides a panoramic view of the Himalayas and the Karakoram ranges. However, due to the high altitude, it’s essential to be well-acclimatized before attempting this part of the trek.
Yes, you need a permit to trek in the Markha Valley.
The Markha Valley Trek offers a variety of accommodations for trekkers. These include homestays, where most Tibetans offer a spare room with 3 to 4 mattresses on the floor. The trek is also known for being a ‘tea house trek’, where accommodation in parachute tents is provided at most of the villages en route. Additionally, some locations offer guesthouses and tented tea houses.
However, if you book the trek with us, you will be staying in tents throughout the trek. This offers an immersive experience in nature while having access to all the necessary amenities.
Please note that the availability of these options may vary depending on the season and specific location within the Markha Valley.
The Markha Valley Trek has several starting points. The most popular one is Chilling. Some people also start at Zingchen, which is a short drive south of Leh. Another option is to start from Martselang, or from the village of Skiu.
Please note that the starting point can vary based on the specific trek itinerary and logistics.
Packing for the Markha Valley Trek requires careful consideration, as the weather can vary greatly and you’ll be trekking in challenging conditions. Here’s a suggested packing list based on multiple sources:
Toiletries and First Aid:
Remember to pack light and only bring what you need. The weight of your pack can significantly affect your comfort and energy levels during the trek. It’s also important to have travel insurance for any accidents or emergencies.
The exact items you choose to bring may depend on the time of year you’re trekking and your personal needs.
Yes, the Markha Valley Trek is generally considered safe. However, as with any high-altitude trek, there are certain risks involved. The trek is classified as moderate to difficult, and at its highest point – Kongmaru La – you’ll be at a significant altitude. This means that altitude sickness can be a risk, so it’s important to properly acclimatize and monitor any symptoms of altitude sickness.
The trail is clear and there are often other trekkers, groups, and locals to follow. It’s best to tackle the Markha trek during the high season in Ladakh, between June and September, when the weather is at its best with clear skies and dry conditions.
There are also more than 20 river crossings, and descending can be dangerous. If possible, it’s recommended to avoid this part and return the way you came up.
If you’re planning to do the trek independently, it’s crucial to be well-prepared, carry a map, and have a basic understanding of navigation. If you’re inexperienced or unsure, consider hiring a local guide or joining a group.
Always remember to respect the environment, adhere to local customs and regulations, and ensure you have travel insurance that covers high-altitude trekking.
Yes, having trekking experience is recommended for the Markha Valley Trek. The trek is classified as moderate to difficult, and it involves crossing several rivers and a high pass – Kongmaru La, which is at an altitude of 5,260 m.
Experience of any high-altitude trek, preferably multiple ones, would be beneficial. At least one trek of 5,000m/16,400ft is suggested.
If you’re a beginner, you need to be in good physical condition. It’s comparable to the Everest Base Camp trek, so confidence in your physical condition is important.
While prior experience is beneficial, it’s also crucial to be well-prepared, understand the risks associated with high-altitude trekking, and take necessary precautions.
On the Markha Valley Trek, you have the opportunity to observe a variety of wildlife. Here are some of the animals that have been spotted by trekkers:
Please note that while these animals live in the region, many are shy or nocturnal, so sightings are not guaranteed. Always remember to observe wildlife from a distance and do not disturb them.
Yes, it is possible to do the Markha Valley Trek solo, without a guide.
However, it’s crucial to be well-prepared and have a good understanding of the route. The trail is clear, and following the path used by horses (and their droppings) can help keep you on track.
Accommodation is also available in the form of homestays in the villages you pass through, so there’s no need to carry a tent or cooking equipment.
While it’s feasible to do the trek solo, it’s still recommended to inform someone about your plans and expected return date for safety reasons. Although you can do the trek solo, joining a group or hiring a local guide can add a layer of security and enrich your experience by providing local knowledge and insights.
A successful Markha Valley Trek requires good physical fitness, proper acclimatization, and the right equipment. Here are some tips on how to prepare:
Remember, the key to a successful trek is preparation. So take your time to prepare properly and enjoy your trek!
Only postpaid Indian mobile sim cards (Jio, Airtel, and BSNL) work in Ladakh and Mobile connectivity is poor or non-existent on most parts of the trek. It’s advisable to inform family and friends about your itinerary beforehand.
Yes, you can hire a porter or a mule to carry your luggage during the Markha Valley Trek. This service will be charged over and above the trek cost and the charges for offloading vary with every trek.