Hike alongside the Markha river and experience local Ladakhi and Tibetan life

4 March, 2021 | Reccy Guide

Trekking alongside the Markha river will take you through a magnificent Valley with incredible views over the surrounding mountain ranges, all the while meeting and sharing experiences with locals and fellow trekkers. The Markha valley trek is one of the most popular expeditions starting from Leh, so read on to see if this is the one you’re looking for.

Explore trip Itineraries, accommodation, transport, required gear, fitness plan, insurance and more

The first step of your adventure will be to get to the city of Leh, the adventure hotspot from which the trek will start. The easiest way to get there is by flying from Delhi as several flights leave daily; however, as you will most likely be completing the trek in the summer months, you also have the possibility to reach Leh by land. Be aware that buses and trains might take much longer than initially planned, but both are an adventure on their own. Once in Leh, you will want to spend a couple of days exploring the local market and monasteries in order to let your body acclimatize to the altitude. Don’t worry, the city is a destination on its own and we can promise that you won’t get bored! 

Once you are acclimatized and ready to hike, you can finally start trekking the Markha Valley. From Leh, two main routes are possible, and your choice will depend on how long you want to spend on the trail and your overall fitness condition.

View during the Markha valley trek

Route 1: starting from Spitok.

The Markha Valley trek starting from Spitok will take you between 6 and 9 days to complete and is the longer option. It is physically challenging as you will have to walk through rougher terrain and cross a 4970m pass. A day to day itinerary will look similar to this:

  • DAY 1. You will first drive to Spitok, a short one-hour drive from Leh. Once there, you will trek over bridges and across religious sites to the village of Zinchen, where you will spend the night camping.
  • DAY 2. The second day of your trek will take you from 3,200 m to 3,900 m in Yurutse. The ascent will make this day a bit more challenging, but walking alongside the rushing waters of the Rumbak Nala will keep your energy flowing.
  • DAY 3. On day three, you will cross one of the highest points during your trek – Ganda La pass. At 4,900 m above sea level, the pass will offer you views over the Zanskar and Himalayan ranges in the background. After having admired the scenery, you will descend towards Skiu village where you will spend the night.
  • DAY 4. After having crossed a pass the day before, your hike from Skiu to Markha will come as a pleasant break. This part of the trek crosses numerous streams and is quite light in intensity.
  • DAY 5. From Markha, you will head towards Thochuntse and witness the landscape change dramatically from wooded scenery to a higher mountain backdrop.
  • DAY 6. From Thochuntse to Nimaling, where you will spend the next night camping.
  • DAY 7. On day seven, you will cross Kongmaru La, the highest pass of the trek at 5,150 m of altitude. Here again, the scenery will be breathtaking, and you might even be lucky enough to see K2 in the distance. You will then descend to Sumdo and stay overnight. 
  • DAY 8. On this last day, you will trek to the village of Hemis for around 4 hours, then head back to Leh in the jeep provided by your tour agency.

Route 2: starting from Chilling.

The route starting from Chilling will take you further with the jeep and offers a much shorter trekking time of approximately 4 days. 

  • DAY 1. The first day is a long hiking day, so you can decide to reach Chilling from Leh the night before you start your trek. 

Rest assured, only the first 5km of this day’s trail are challenging as you will need to climb for a bit. Afterwards, the Valley is flat until the town of Sara – your stop for the night.

  • DAY 2. This will be a short hike to relax from your effort of the day before, as you will only walk 8km to the next village of Markha, the capital of the Valley
  • DAY 3. From Markha, you will head towards Thochuntse during a 12.5km hike. On this part of the trail, you will be amazed by the change in scenery and by the views of the Kang Yaze peak in the distance.
  • DAY 4. Continue your expedition and head to Nimaling, where you will camp overnight.
  • DAY 5. This is the last day of your trek, and arguably one of the most challenging as you will cross Gongmaru La pass, the highest point of the expedition at 5200m. You will then descend to Shang Sumdo, where you can take a car back to Leh.

The view of the trek route

What else can I expect?

You will be trekking in wild areas, so it is important to know that you will only have access to very basic necessities. Regarding sleeping, you can expect to be camping in breathtaking valleys or stay in a heartwarming homestay with a Tibetan family. To power you through your trek, you will be eating copious amounts of rice and dhal (lentils); and when it comes to water, you can either buy it from the locals (boiled river water) or purify it yourself with purifying water tablets. In addition to giving you drinking water, the river will also give you a place to clean yourself as there are no showers available on the trek.

If you are looking for breathtaking sceneries and a glimpse into the local life and don’t mind giving up on a few luxuries (such as showers) for the time of the expedition, the Markha Valley trek is for you. Strap on your hiking boots and head to Leh for an unforgettable experience.

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