Jamie McGuinness, Project Himalaya owner-guide
Leader Jamie McGuinness
Lobsang Chomphel, star organizer
Organizer Lobsang Chomphel


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Our delightful Markha village camp - Jamie

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

Saving data; use your phone in landscape to see the detailed itinerary and more photos.

Detailed itinerary

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

(Day 0 - arrive Delhi / early Leh arrival)

We spend two nights in Leh, so reasonable acclimatization to the 3480m/11,415ft altitude but if you are new to altitude or to Leh, perhaps plan to arrive one day early and we will arrange transfers and hotel and show you around.

Included in all our Ladakh trips are showing you around the bazaar and a couple of half day sightseeing trips, with or without a cultural guide (your choice) and it is your choice of where to go; many people joining are previous trekkers so have seen some places previously.

If you are more ambitious we can also help arrange a day or overnight trips to Alchi (~3100m) and Basgo Gompas or further afield Lamayuru (~3500m), a day rafting trip on the Zanskar River or or hammer down the Khardung La on a mountain bike (best a few days into your Leh sojourn). If you have been working flat out you are welcome to just relax, kick back and de-stress too, and adjust a little more slowly to the time zone change.

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, Pasang or Lobsang himself 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, G Kitchen, Tibet Kitchen and Summer Harvest.

Sophie admires a Basgo Gompa mural

Demet pets a gompa snow lion - Jamie

Days 2-3 - Leh 3480m

This is a day for sightseeing and relaxing. For today perhaps the best plan is to 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 with its good restaurant) 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.

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 Skyu, trek Harmochen

We set off after breakfast for two hour drive. Although some treks plan Skyu 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 in the scrub with good grass for the horses.

Afternoon tea is ready! Our shady Skyu campsite - Jamie

Day 5 - 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, living platforms carved in rock. Look also at the chortens - 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 6 - trek Hankar 4000m 14km

Although a shorter walk, it is scenic and there are plenty of places to explore around the village that is split into two. The fort between them is well worth a wander and a ponder although optionally we can and usually do pass through tomorrow.

Dining on a warm evening under our sunshade - Jamie

Day 7 - trek Tachutse ~4350m

This is another day of ambling along the trails used by countless shepherds and traders over the centuries. Two hours beyond Markha we have the chance to climb to the spectacularly set 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.

The Hangkar fort is strikingly set - Jamie

Day 8 - 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 9 - 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 10 - trek Kang Yatse Base Camp ~4850m

It is only a few hours to camp as we are positioning ourselves for a pass crossing tomorrow. So you can easily explore from Nimaling further and then come to camp.

Pickaboo! A pika playing for the cameras - Jamie

Day 11 - trek Tikyu

We have a beautiful, satisfying day ahead. Leaving camp we cross a minor ridge to an open grassy valley and skirt around the side of this aiming for the pass above.

There is a surprise at the top, an initially steep descent on loose dirt but just over the small stream the way becomes a real path, and particularly scenic at that. We continue skirting around ridges, gently dropping to the valley base where we camp at the last grassy spot, the best camp for tomorrow.

Blue sheep horns - Jamie

And much better to see blue sheep alive, are these kids or lambs? - Jamie

Day 12 - trek Tsogra 4600m via the Zalung Karpo La ~5200m

We are straight into it, and the top of the high pass comes soon enough, with a bit of surprise, it is a three way pass with a route dropping into the very remote Rabrang area, an area where I have seen wolves and we have seen snow leopard scat too.

Descending into the gorges, we camp well down at the grazing area of Tsogra. There is an impressive ancient dzong (fort) on the hillside that once guarded the gorge against invaders.

The incredible view over the Zarlung Karpo La

Wow, the dramatic panorama from the Zalung Karpo La - Jamie

Day 13 - trek Dad 4350m

This another delightful day's trekking. Soon the valley tightens, turning into an impressive steep-sided gorge then later the base of the valley opens, even if the walls are still sheer in many places. Passing through one last vertical rock gorge, and gradually gaining height, suddenly the valley expands and we are at Dad, a winter nomad camp. The monks at the monastery usually come over for tea (and to collect the camping fees paid by our crew).

Esther wanders out of the gorge

The last of the gorges is behind Esther - Jamie

Day 14 - drive Leh

We are remote and climb over the Yar La then descend and drive along and expanding road. Once we meet the resurfaced Leh-Manali highway, we climb over the high Tanglang La. Driving back will take around 6 hours driving time (barring delays) where we deserve a cold beer or cocktail and a celebratory meal. Chopsticks or Bon Appetit?

Stakna Gompa in the Indus Valley

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

Day 15 - trip ends

You are free to take the morning flight to Delhi or bus to Manali for the long way back, or just enjoy more time in this central Asian town of yore.

Jullay - we hope to see you again soon!