Ladakh is a trekkers delight, and here we combine the popular Markha village trek with some sublime wilderness trekking. Naturally we experience the famed gompas and the timeless Ladakhi - Tibetan - culture too, in this delightful corner of India.
Leh is a slice of central Asian history, being part of the Silk Road and still breathes its Buddhist culture, not suffering the Cultural Revolution that was so damaging in Tibet. We explore some active gompas and monasteries, soaking up the vibrant colours and dedication of the monks in the peaceful, calming atmosphere.
Heading out trekking, we warm up with the classic Markha
Valley trek then once in the scenic broad valley of Nyimaling we explore and appraciate this huge area, missed by most homestay trekkers. Then we head away over a less frequented pass for jaw-dropping views of the dramatic landscape, descending in to steep-walled canyons with sparkling streams. This is domain of wolves and snow leopard, and a very pretty wilderness area.
Why this trip? The Markha Valley home-stays are basic, offering a budget taste to trekking, but meals are often unappetizing and without a homestay at Tachutse, that means no exploring around Nyimaling as trekkers are not acclimatized and get out quickly after only one night and so miss perhaps the most beautiful and fun to explore high country. We explore and experience all of what the region has to offer, including incredible wilderness camping, and are trekking through blue sheep and wolf country, which we have seen, and it is snow leopard country too.
insurance, India visa, international flights, equipment rental, alcohol and soft drinks, laundry,
tipping and other items of a personal nature
Tips & extra cash
allow approx $100 for Leh meals
we suggest 5% of the trip cost per trekker for the crew tips pool
Day 1 - meet in Leh 3480m
We meet you at Leh airport (code IXL) in the morning and now you can relax.
2 - Leh 3480m
Gompa and monastery sightseeing.
3 - Leh 3480m
Gompa and monastery sightseeing.
4 - drive Chilling, trek Skiu 3300m
We drive for 2 hours, cross a river by small cable car and then trek to our camp near the village.
5 - trek Sara 3600m
We trek to the three house village and explore.
6 - trek Markha 3710m
This is the main village of the region, with a gompa above.
7 - trek Hangkar 3960m
(This is an optional day, but allows for more village and exploration while on the trail.)
8 - Tachutse 4350m
9 - trek Nyimaling 4840m
10 - rest-explore Nyimaling 4840m
11 - trek Shang Sumdo via Konmaru La ~5200m, drive Leh
12 - trip end
Our delightful Markha village camp - Jamie
Crossing the Zarlung Karpo La into a remote and wild valley, note the horses at the bottom - Jamie
To see the detailed itinerary and more photos use a laptop/desktop browser or tablet in landscape (and hit refresh).
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 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.
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
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.
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.
Stakna Gompa, with this view we know we are getting close to Leh - Jamie