Jamie McGuinness - Project Himalaya owner-guide Lobsang, star organizer


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Our delightful Markha village camp - Jamie

Crossing the Zarlung Karpo La into a remote and wild valley, note the horses at the bottom - Jamie

Jamie's Flickr photo sets - explore them!

To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a laptop/desktop browser or tablet in landscape (and hit refresh).

Detailed itinerary

We plan to follow the itinerary however roads wash out, or are extended, occasionally people get sick, logistical challenges arise, or we hear of a better campsite, and so we will adapt it as needed.

This detailed itinerary is a work in progress!


Sophie admires a Basgo Gompa mural

Sophie admires the mural at Basgo - Jamie

Day 1 - meet in Leh 3480m

Phew, after a long series of flights, you are here! Look for a Project Himalaya sign or a simple sign with your name on it at the airport, and our wonderful drivers Ang Chuk or his brother Pasang will pick you up.

Jamie meets you at the hotel on your arrival and we discuss altitude health over tea/coffee or breakfast and introduce Leh and show you the better places to eat. Most people crash out for a few hours and spend the day relaxing; do drink plenty of fluids which helps the acclimatization process, perhaps pop some vitamins and let your body adjust to the new time zone.

We normally go out to dinner together, let's meet in the peaceful hotel garden at 6:30pm. We eat at some of our favourite clean (very important!) restaurants: Chopsticks, Bon Appetit, Tibet Kitchen and Summer Harvest.

Sophie admires a Basgo Gompa mural

Demet pets a gompa snow lion - Jamie

Day 2 and 3 - Leh 3480m

Over two days we visit some of the world's most revered gompas and monasteries a short distance from Leh. Usually we arrange as a morning trip with lunch at Leh (or Thikse) then you can relax in the afternoon although we can easily arrange a full day trip.

Choosing where to go is the biggest challenge, there are so many special places to visit. To the east is Shey, Thikse, Hemis, Chemde, Thagthok, Stakna, Matho and Stok, although don't plan on visiting all of them in one day. Thikse also has a good restaurant for lunch.

Heading west out of Leh are Spituk, Phyang, Nyemo where the Indus meets the Zanskar River, and further afield are Basgo, Likir and Alchi.

By chance on a sightseeing trip to Matho we watched this - Jamie

Day 4 - drive Chilling, trek Skiu 3300m

We set off after breakfast for a two hour drive then a surprise - a small cable car is the only way across the fast flowing Zanskar River. There was a brand new steel girder road bridge in 2014 that we ducked across as perhaps the first foreigners, using the painting planks, but sadly this was destroyed by the flood of 2015, and lies in a twisted wreak downstream. So the cable car is an adventure and it will take a while to get all our gear and us across, especially if there are other groups there at the same time.

It is only a couple of hours of sometimes hot and sunny walking to our camp where there is shade and a wonderful afternoon tea awaits. We introduce our crew and the camp, and your tent, your home for the following few weeks.

Afternoon tea is ready! Our shady Skiu campsite - Jamie

Day 5 - trek Harmochen / Sara

Although some treks plan Skiu to Markha village in one day, it is a long way, especially at the beginning of a trek, so we have an easier day to a simple camp with good grass for the horses nearby. This relatively gentle start allows for legs that perhaps didn't do enough training, and for any possible flight delays, and because the trekking here in the valley base is still hot. We lose that tomorrow...

We pass through a mix of small villages and cropping areas, amid this steep-sided valley.

Dinner is served under (our sun shade since it was a warm evening) - Jamie

Day 6 - trek Markha 3700m

Today we pass the remains of old hermitage caves high on the opposite cliffs. Inside are the remains of tiny caves where lamas once sat in meditation, platforms carved in rock. Look also at the chortens that lines of trekkers sweat past - inside are piles of tiny 'tsatsas', the remains of ashes of the departed formed into tiny clay figurines. As soon as the valley widens we spot the old fort on the hill above Markha village, and then, on the other side of the hill is our camp on the banks of the Markha river. Long ago invaders from what is now Pakistan coveted the high grazing and livestock of Nyimaling, thus the Markha valley was at one time heavily fortified.

After tea we ascend to explore the local gompa, the inside dark and chang smelling; and check out the ornate carved silver barley beer holders in front of the village lamas chair. Look, and look again, the more you look the more you will see.

Fields and villages in the Markha Valley - Jamie

Day 7- trek Hangkar 3960m

Description to come!

Day 8 - trek Tachutse ~4350m

This is another day of ambling along the trails used by countless shepherds and traders over the centuries. We cross several calf deep rivers then two hours beyond Markha we have the chance to climb to the old hilltop monastery of Umlung, and it is here that we leave the year-round villages behind. The snow mountain ahead is the real 6400m peak of Kang Yatse, which we are going to see much more of soon. And then we see the spire at valley end that marks the strategic junction with the routes to Zanskar and Nyimaling, and there is Hankar village, marked by a centuries old crumbling fort above. The legend is that the Dogra army that conquered Ladakh in the early 19th century was led this way to their prize, the Indus valley and Leh, by a renegade Zanskari.

Once the cliffs around us change to green hills we cross a bridge to the true left side of the valley and just beyond is the popular campsite and teashop of Tachutse. There are more but smaller campsites after a 20 minute climb to a shallow valley where a herders shelter sits on a moraine ridge above. Let's see which campsite suits us.

Esther crossing the steam above Markha - Jamie

Day 9 - trek Nyimaling ~4840m

Passing some lakes worth wandering around, we puff a little harder with the altitude. More ascent leads us to the huge Nyimaling plain where villagers from the Markha Valley graze their sheep in summer and make curd from the milk of their livestock. We camp in a convenient spot (hence the ~4750m/15,600ft altitude) and drink in the views - dinner outside?

What a backdrop, heading up to Nyimaling - Jamie

Day 10 - rest-explore Nyimaling ~4840m

We have ascended relatively quickly and here take a break to acclimatize, and wash clothes and explore this wonderful, panoramic valley.

There is a choice of day trips. The standard exit for a Markha trek is over the Konmaru La (Gongmaru La) and the view is well worth the effort, you can see towards Leh on a good day, as well as up and down the valley we are trekking in. There are more gentle ascents above our camp but they tend to keep going, and it is even possible to climb to over 5700m on the ridge leading to Reponi Mallai Ri.

Ram Lal, star horseman

Collecting fuel; the traditional lifestyle is still alive at Nyimaling - Jamie

Day 11 - trek Shang Sumdo, drive Leh

This is a big, satisfying day and we begin smartly, with a good breakfast and a fairwell to most of our crew. We trek over the stunning Kongmaru La and drop down the colourful canyon all the way to Shang Sumdo, where our jeeps met us and we drive to Leh, less than 2 hours away.

Statna Gompa in the Indus Valley

Stakna Gompa, with this view we know we are getting close to Leh - Jamie

Day 12 - trip ends

You are free to take the morning flight to Delhi.

Jullay - we hope to see you again soon!