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Srinagar, Dal lake

Markha Valley Trek

Ladakh remains one of the best places to experience the unique culture of the high Himalaya. This is probably the most iconic trek in Ladakh. We enter the Markha Valley via the spectacular gorge from Jinchen to Rumbak. Over the Ganda La pass awaits more dramatic scenery stretching down to the Markha River. As we follow this river through the villages of the Markha Valley we discover a landscape where lofty peaks of the Stok, Matho and Zanskar Ranges tower above the picturesque Ladakhi villages and verdant valleys below. From the highest pass, the Gongmaru La (5200m), we enjoy incredible views extending as far as Tibet, before descending to Hemis, Ladakh’s largest and most famous monastery.

11 Days
18+ Age
  • Destination

  • Departure

  • Departure Time

    Any time
  • Return Time

    Approximately 8:30 PM.
  • Dress Code

    Trekking Equipment
  • Included

    All taxes and official expenses
    Basic guesthouse accommodation
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    City tour
    Departure Taxes
    Local staff and porters
    Permits and TIMS permit
    Personal Guide
  • Not Included

    Alcohol and cold drinks
    Domestic flights
    Entry visa
    International flights
    Mandatory travel insurance
    Personal trekking equipment
    Tips for trekking staff and driver

Day 1: Arrive in Leh 3,500 m.

Arrival Leh by morning flight and transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatize to the altitude 3,500 m. In the morning we rest and catch up on some sleep and in the afternoon there will be a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars.

Day 2: Visit Shey and Tikse Monasteries

Today there is a sightseeing tour to two of the major gompas in the area. We first drive to Shey, a former Royal Palace of the Ladakh kings. Inside is a small temple containing a 350 year old copper and gold statue of the Buddha. From Shey we drive (or we can walk across the fields) to Tikse, where we visit the monastery perched on top of a hill. Its red and white buildings can be seen for miles. A recently built temple contains a magnificent image of the Future Buddha. We return to Leh and the rest of the afternoon is free to explore.

Day 3: Acclimatization walk

Today we will have an acclimatization walk round the Leh Valley. Set above Leh on the Namgyal Hill, are the ruins of the Old Royal Palace. From here a winding path takes us to Tsemo Monastery, from where we are rewarded for our efforts by magnificent views of the whole of Leh and its surrounding villages. Descending round the back of the palace we walk via Sankar to the recently built Japanese Peace Pagoda. This huge stupa overlooks Leh and we have stunning views of the town and the Stok range of mountains across the valley. (There is the chance today to make an optional jeep safari to the Khardung Pass; at 5,602 m, one of the highest motor able roads in the world. The journey to the top of the pass and back takes roughly 4/5 hours in total and can be booked and paid for locally. Your leader will have details. (If you do the jeep safari this will be in the morning and you can do a walk in the afternoon).

Day 4: Rumbak Sumdo 3,879 m.

By now we should be well acclimatized, and we take a short drive from Leh to Jinchen. We drive past Spituk, the site of the first Gelugpa monastery in Ladakh. There should be time to visit the monastery with its commanding views over the Indus Valley. From here a new road takes us across the Indus towards Jinchen. We will drive as far as the road conditions allow and to where our ponies will be waiting. After they are loaded up we start our trek into the Jinchen Gorge at the foot of the Stok Mountains. The trail is straightforward as we follow the Jinchen Nala upstream. The valley closes in around us and spectacular rock formations tower above us. An ever changing panorama of fantastic colored mountains surrounds us as we ascend the valley. We may have to cross the river as the stream forces the path closer to the side of the valley. Suddenly the valley widens and reveals the snow‐topped peaks of the Stok mountains. Prayer flags on a wide pasture mark the junction with the trail leading to Rumbak village. Tonight's camp is below Rumbak village with stunning views all around looking left towards Rumbak a fantastic multicolored toothy skyline ridge appears in the distance. We can visit the village this afternoon and maybe sample the local delicacy, salty yak buttered tea, in one of the many home stays. Rumbak Sumdo is the site of one of the UV lamps donated by Exodus and installed by Niyamdro Dro and there will be the chance to see the UV lamp used for purifying water.

Day 5: Base of the Ganda La 4,539 m.

A short day today for acclimatization. We head up the main valley to a watermill and a bridge, which we cross. The trail ascends the valley gradually and when the valley splits we take the right hand fork up past the one house village of Yurutse. Leaving the fields behind we ascend towards the Ganda La and camp tonight by a small stream below the pass. In the afternoon there will be an acclimatization walk on the hills around camp.
Approximate walk profile: Rumbak Sumdo to base of Ganda La Pass, 4hrs, 5.5 km. (3.4 miles).

Day 6: Cross the Ganda La 4,970 m. to Skiu 3,362 m.

A long day today as we cross our first pass. The trail is clear as it zig zags towards the pass. As we climb the views become more and more spectacular. Behind us Stok Kangri dominates the skyline. Finally we reach the top of the Ganda La (4,970m) decked with colorful prayer flags and the views are worth all the effort. Ahead is the Zanskar Range and behind are the Stok Mountains. Far below in the valley are the fields of Shingo. As we descend keep an eye open for marmots and blue sheep, both of which seem to thrive in these desolate, high altitude spots. The trail to Shingo is easy and in the main season there is usually a tea tent here, which may sell cold drinks. From Shingo the trail takes us through a spectacular gorge with beautifully colored and eroded rocks. We continue down the gorge all the way to the small hamlet of Skiu. We usually camp about 20 minutes beyond the village by the river.
Approximate walk profile: base of Ganda La Pass to Skiu, 8hrs, 17.3 km. (10.7 miles).

Day 7: Markha 3,753 m.

A fairly long, but easy walk today, as we trek along the valley to Markha. The terrain along the valley is not demanding so there is plenty of opportunity to admire the magnificent scenery. The colors of the barren mountains of Ladakh are truly spectacular, pastel pinks, blues and greens shine in the brilliant sunshine and change color dramatically as the sun rises and sets. We follow the river all day today and will have to cross the river a few times and although bridges have been built in some places there will be some river crossings today. We will have lunch in Sara, where there is usually some welcome shade in a tea tent. Beyond the settlement of Chalak there is an impressive line of chortens and a huge mound of goat horns, which are placed on the chortens to ward off any evil spirits trying to enter the valley.
Climbing up to a small col we descend again to the river and a mediaeval fort silhouetted on the hillside tells us that we have almost reached Markha. Just before Markha we will need to don our river crossing sandals for at least 2 river crossings. Markha is only a small village and there will be time to explore the small monastery in the afternoon. Our camp will be on grazing flats near the village.
Approximate walk profile: Skiu to Markha, 8hrs, 20.3 km. (12.6 miles).

Day 8: Thachungste 4,251 m.

Just beyond Markha the trail meets the Chacham Valley. We will have one or two river crossings this morning. Just after the river crossings is Tache gompa, set way above us on the cliff face. There is time to visit the monastery, which is the most important in the valley and is affiliated to Hemis. Continuing up the valley we walk through Umlung village to Hankar where there are more impressive fort ruins and a small gompa. We have lunch in Hankar at the Eco Cafe that we have helped set up and support as part of our Himalayan Community Support Projects. From Hankar the trail turns off from the main valley and now follows the Nimaling stream to Thachungtse where we camp. We may be lucky and see Blue Sheep (a type of wild goat) high up on the grazing areas above the campsite.
Approximate walk profile: Markha to Thachungste, 7hrs, 15.2 km. (9.4 miles).

Day 9: Nimaling 4,854 m.

A short but quite tough walk today to Nimaling. The trail climbs steeply to the plateau where the valley opens out. Ahead are spectacular views of Kang Yangtse, at 6400m, the highest peak in the valley. In this area there is no permanent habitation but during the summer months the shepherds bring their flocks of sheep, goats and dzos (cow‐yak cross breeds) to graze on the high altitude pasture. The shepherds stay in stone shelters close to the grazing area for the whole summer and we can often buy yoghurt or local cheese from them. In the evenings the animals are brought down from the hills and it is quite usual to have hundreds of them wandering through the campsite. Look after your edibles! We should get to Nimaling by lunchtime and in the afternoon there is an optional walk up behind camp towards Kang Yangtse. This is well worth doing and highly recommended for the impressive close up views of Kang Yangste, which at 6,400m is the highest peak in the Markha Valley.
Approximate walk profile: Thachungste to Nimaling, 4-5hrs, 7.2 km. (4.4 miles).

Day 10: Cross the Gongmaru La 5,286 m.

A long day as we cross our second, and highest, pass of the trek. Our trail begins today by climbing to the Gongmaru La. It is a fairly long, steep ascent zig zagging to the top of the pass at 5,286m, but the views from the top are worth the effort. Looking back we see Kang Yangtse, Dzo Jongo East and West and Regoni Malari. Ahead there are views across the Stok Range and down to the Indus valley. The descent is steep at first and we then enter a spectacular gorge and descend more gradually now with a few small river crossings. High up on the barren cliffs we may spot the elusive Blue Sheep which inhabit this area. Passing through Chuskurmo and Chokdo we continue our long descent to the village of Shang Sumdo. Today is a hard day due to the crossing of the high pass and the long descent.
Approximate walk profile: Nimaling to Shang Sumdo, 8-10hrs, 18 km. (11.2 miles).

Day 11: Visit Hemis Monastery, drive back to Leh.

Our transport should arrive this morning and we drive to Hemis Monastery. (Occasionally the road gets blocked in which case we walk down the jeep track to Hemis). Hemis was once the largest and richest of all the Ladakhi monasteries. A wander round the dimly lit temples containing grotesque yet beautiful masks and statues, will take us back hundreds of years in time. We then drive back to Leh and the comforts of a hot shower at our hotel. We should get to Leh for lunch and the rest of the day is free for last minute sightseeing or shopping in the bazaars.

Day 12: Departure day

Early morning transfer to the airport for taking the flight back home.

Tour Location

The Markha Valley

Visit remote villages on a classic Himalayan trek Explore colorful Buddhist monasteries in the Indus Valley Discover multi‐colored rock formations of the Ladakh Range Cross wild, barren mountain passes and trek through spectacular gorges Enjoy a sensational flight over the Himalaya. This is a reasonably strenuous trek involving seven days point to point walking at quite high altitudes; maximum altitude 5,286m, average 3,900m. As such is has been graded as 'challenging'. Most days involve 4-6 hours walking, although there are a few longer days, and there are two passes over 4,900m. Most of the trails are well made on sandy paths. There are a few river crossings. Daytime temperatures can be very hot, especially in the middle of the day as at these altitudes the sun is very strong. Nights will be cooler and cold at Nimaling. This trek is for those who are willing to put in the necessary fitness preparation and like a good walk for around 6 hours a day. This is a fully supported camping trek with full porter age (mules and ponies) throughout; you need only carry your day pack. The transfer journeys at the start and end of the trek are both very short (less than an hour's drive). As this trip spends considerable time at altitude, we ask you to refer to the altitude warning under the 'Practical Information' section below. We spend 3 days in Leh (3500m) before the trek to allow you to acclimatize before starting the trek.
Walking distances and hours stated within the itinerary are given as approximates only. Timings stated include lunch and photo stops and will vary depending on the pace of your group. All ascents, descents and distances listed below have been measured by our local partners or tour leaders. Please note that different GPS measuring devices can give differing results dependent on the barometric pressures at the time. Measurements stated throughout these trips notes are given to help you understand the types of terrain and distances you will encounter. The entries in bold at the end of each day indicate the type of accommodation normally used and any meals included. Please see the Accommodation section below for further information.

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