The Markha Valley trek is one of the most popular treks in Ladakh. The arid terrain of Ladakh consists of remote gorges, craggy peaks, high altitude deserts, and dry plains. In the midst of this, the gushing Markha River creates an emerald-green oasis, with fruit orchards, small farms, and Tibetan settlements along its banks. The trek takes you through this contrasting backdrop, offering you a chance to experience the magic of the mountains and the lifestyle of those who live here.
The Markha Valley route goes through the beautiful Hemis National Park, where one can enjoy walking alongside patches of wild roses and through canyons decorated with multi-colored Tibetan prayer flags rising and falling in the breeze.
Markha village has only about 25-30 houses, where the hardy locals live year-round, grazing their herds and growing their own food. You’ll see deserted palaces, traditional stone mills, ancient monasteries perched on hilltops, and even an old castle.
As you trek, you’ll be able to see some of the highest peaks in the country, including the impressive Kang Yatze peak which stands at 21,000 feet altitude. You’ll also be able to admire the Zanskar and Markha rivers as you go deeper into the terrain.
If you’re planning a visit to Ladakh, you should check out Rafting in the Zanskar River. It’s a must-do for adventure seekers!
This trek can be completed in 5 days or could be extended as long as 11-12 days. The longer version lets you trek shorter distances each day, so you have time to explore small villages like Spituk, Rumbak, Hankar, and more.
The trek begins in Leh, where you’ll spend a day or two to acclimatize. After that, you’ll head towards Zingchen village, where you’ll start your trek. The first day of trekking is usually not too long – only about 4-5 hours – and you’ll end the evening at Yurutse, which lies just under the Ganda La Pass. The next day, you’ll go over the pass and descend to Skiu, and then onwards to Markha Valley. You’ll stop at Nimaling, one of the highest inhabited plateaus in the world. You’ll cross over Kongmaru La, and descend to Sumdo, from where you’ll be driven to Leh.
If you’re planning your Markha Valley trek, our blog post on How to Prepare for High Altitude Trekking will give you some valuable tips.
Day 1: Arrival at Leh – rest and gear up for the upcoming trek.
Day 2: Acclimatization day at Leh – explore local bazaars, last-minute shopping
Day 3: Leh to Yurutse – 4-5 hour hike, overnight stay at Yurutse.
Day 4: Yurutse to Skiu – pass through buckthorn berry farms to reach Skiu, overnight camping at alpine tents.
Day 5: Skiu to Markha – 7-hour trek to Markha village, mix and mingle with locals
Day 6: Markha to Thochuntse – walk through local communities, explore beautiful mountain ranges.
Day 7: Thochuntse to Nimaling – reach Nimaling after passing through Markha valley.
Day 8: Nimaling to Leh – 7-hour trek, descend to village of Sundo.
Day 9: Departure from Leh
Once you arrive in Leh, head to your assigned hotel and check-in. You will meet your fellow trekkers here. Today and tomorrow is reserved for acclimatisation, i.e. getting your body adapted to the high altitude environment.
You must keep yourself active and spend the day doing short walks around the place. Eat regularly, drink plenty of water and keep yourself well hydrated to avoid developing AMS - Acute Mountain Sickness. Rest well in the evening and get a good night’s sleep. You will spend the night in the hotel in Leh.
Wake up fresh and spend another day getting your body acclimated to the altitude. After a hearty breakfast, explore the Leh markets, visit the local monasteries and other interesting sites in Leh. Meet your trek leader and your fellow trekkers and get to know everyone a bit better. You will receive your trek orientation where you will be briefed about the trek and all the essential information regarding high altitude trekking. In case you have missed out on any essentials, you could do your last minute shopping at the Leh markets. Eat regularly, hydrate well and get another good night’s rest. Overnight at a hotel in Leh.
Today is the first day of your trek. Post a hearty breakfast, you will set off with your group towards Zingchen. You will be driven in private vehicles such as a Tempo Traveller or an SUV for about 41 km to reach Zingchen. Your trek begins from here.
Your first campsite is at Yurutse which is about a 4 hour hike from Zingchen. It is a small mountain village with just one house. Once you reach the campsite, you can spend the rest of the evening exploring the campsite. Overnight in a homestay or in tents.
Wake up early to begin your trek from Yurutse and head towards your next campsite at the beautiful village of Skiu. Your first milestone is a steep climb upwards to reach the Ganda La pass at 14,300 ft. Rest briefly after the arduous climb and enjoy the views. Soon, your trail gets easier you you head downhill passing through farms of buckthorn berry to reach the village of Skiu. Overnight in tents.
Bright and early begin your 7-hour long trek and head higher towards the village of Markha. Your trek gets gradually more difficult as you begin to pass multiple small streams and rocky trails. You will reach the Markha, a quaint village of about 30 houses and a monastery. The Markha Valley gets its name from this village. For city dwellers, this is a rare opportunity to sit back and spend some thoughtful time with the locals amidst the beautiful mountains. Overnight in alpine tents.
Today you will continue to climb higher from Markha Village and pass through the village of Hankar to reach Thochuntse. Hankar is the highest village in the Markha Valley and can be reached after several river crossings along the way. You will walk through local communities with impressive views of the Kang Yatze mountain peak in the background and reach Thochuntse by evening. Overnight in tents
Today’s destination is the Nimaling plateau which lies at an altitude of 16,000 ft, the highest trekking campsite in the Markha Valley. The trail begins with a few moderately steep inclines. In a few hours, you will reach Nimaling, where the locals bring their herds in large numbers to graze during the summer months. Overnight in tents.
With an early morning start, you will begin trekking from the campsite at Nimaling and climb higher to reach the Kongmaru La Pass. At an altitude of 16,800 feet, this Pass will be the highest point of your trek. This is easily the best part of the trek as you get to spend some time appreciating the photogenic views of snow-capped mountain
Your trail will become considerably easier after the Pass as you descend to the village of Sumdo. After an adventurous 7-hour trek, you will get into a SUV/Tempo Traveller and drive back to Leh. Overnight in Leh hotels.
After a good night's sleep at a hotel in Leh, you will wake up and check out. Trip ends here.
Transport as per itinerary in SUV/Tempo Traveller. Accommodation will be provided in standard twin-sharing rooms at a hotel in Leh and tents on twin-sharing basis during the trek, sleeping bag and mattresses will be provided by the operator. Kitchen tent, toilet tents will be provided. All meals from lunch on day 3 to lunch on day 8, mules/porters to carry common camping equipment will be included. Forest entry charges, permits (up to inr 500) and camping fees (if any) are inclusive. The services of an experienced trekking guide and camping crew and cook, first aid kit and all applicable taxes are included in the package costs.
Transportation cost from base city to Leh, airport transfers from Leh and airport to hotel are not included but can be arranged with additional costs. Meals in Leh are not included. Any additional costs due to weather/unforeseen situations or personal expenses such as tips, laundry, phone calls etc. will be additional.
Porter/mule to carry personal luggage are not included and can be hired for additional costs. Any entry to sightseeing spots in Leh will be additional. Any expenses not mentioned in inclusions will be additional.
Day 1: Arrival at Leh – fresh air, visit to the Leh Palace.
Day 2: Leh exploration – visit to Shey Palace, Thiksey and Hemis Monastery.
Day 3: Trek from Zingchen to Yurutse – visit Rumbak village.
Day 4: Trek from Yurutse to Ganda-La pass and Skyu
Day 5: Trek from Skyu to Markha Village
Day 6: Trek from Markha Village to Thachungtse
Day 7: Trek from Thachungtse to Nimaling
Day 8: Trek from Nimaling to Kongmaru-La pass and Shang Sumdo
Day 9: Trek to Hemis Monastery then drive to Leh
Day 10: Leaving Leh – share stories with friends.
Once you arrive in Leh, you will meet your operator and be taken to your hotel/guesthouse. Once you check in, you can freshen up and relax. You'll need today and tomorrow to acclimatize to the altitude, so make sure you stay hydrated and warm. You'll be served tea/coffee in the morning, and can rest till lunch time.
After lunch, the guide will take you to visit the majestic Leh Palace, modeled after the Dalai Lama’s residence in Tibet, and Shanti Stupa, which holds the relics of the Buddha at its base. Both these spots are in Leh, and will give you some gentle exercise. You'll return to the hotel for the night
The day begins with a hot breakfast in the hotel, and then you set off in a vehicle to visit some of the historic landmarks around Leh. You get a tour of the Shey Palace, Thiksey and Hemis monastery, and the Stok Palace museum.
While you'll feel more comfortable with the thin air pressure today, your body is still acclimatizing, so do avoid any heavy exertion. By evening you return to the hotel in time for a hot dinner. Turn in early tonight so you're prepared for tomorrow.
After an early breakfast in the hotel, you are driven to the start point of the Markha Valley trek at Zingchen village. The trek begins here in the beautiful Hemis National Park
You'll only be trekking for 4-5 hours today. You'll traverse a narrow trail which widens out to reveal a dramatic valley and the village of Rumbak. From Rumbak you trek to the nearby village of Yurutse where you’ll stay in a homestay, close to the foot of the Ganda-La pass.
Wake up early to a hearty breakfast and get ready to ascend to Ganda-La pass. You'll wind your way along steep mountains, cross a valley, and zigzag up to the pass, which stands high at 14,370 feet. From the top, you'll get spectacular views of the surrounding region of Ladakh and of Markha Valley.
You'll have some time to explore the pass and the views, and then will proceed onwards to the village of Skyu, in the Markha Valley. You'll stay in a homestay and enjoy a hot dinner with the locals.
Wake up to a cup of hot tea or coffee and a big breakfast. Today's going to be a long trek of about 7 hours. It'll be fun, because you'll be crossing the Markha river twice during your trek. During this time of the year, the river is shallow, but the current is strong and the riverbed is slippery, so watch your step.
You'll pass through Chaluk, where you rest and recover before continuing along the banks of the Markha river to the climb that takes you to Markha village. You'll be staying in a homestay here for the night.
You'll wake up and enjoy a big breakfast and a lazy morning, before it's time to set off on your next adventure. The trek continues through the valley, with barren mountains framing the blue skies and the occasional grassy plains.
You rest briefly at Hankar village, where you get a chance to rest your feet and refuel with some food and drink. After that, you'll trek onwards till you reach Thachungtse, where you'll be staying in a homestay.
Today you'll ascend from the plateau from Thachungtse to an altitude of 16,000 feet. The ascent is a steep one but the alpine grasslands in Nimaling are worth the effort. In these vibrant pastures, you’ll find shepherds with herds of grazing yak, goat, and sheep. Also, in the background is the majestic Kang Yatse peak with its two summits. You'll be staying at a homestay here for the night.
After breakfast at your homestay, you say goodbye and set off to conquer Kongmaru-La pass. The trek to the pass is a thrilling one, with deep gorges and narrow trails leading to dramatic hidden valleys. The Kongmaru-La pass is one of the higher mountain passes, situated at 16,700 feet offering sweeping views of the Indus valley, dotted with quaint villages and patches of grassland
After rejoicing at the summit you continue onward to Shang Sumdo, which is situated at a height of 12,000 feet. This will be your last night on the Markha Valley trek, so make sure you make the most of it.
Start your final day of trekking on the Markha Valley trek with a hearty breakfast. You will descend to Hemis Monastery, one of the oldest in the region. You’ll have time to explore the monastery before you board vehicles to be driven back to a hotel in Leh.
Along the way, you'll also stop at Thiksey Monastery, Stok Museum, and Shey Palace. Once in Leh, you can freshen up and can spend the rest of the day as you please. Overnight in hotel.
Today you bid farewell to the desert kingdom and the Markha Valley trek and reach Leh. Trip ends here.
Transport services in shared private vehicles as per itinerary, and accommodation in Leh at hotel/guesthouse and in homestays or tents during the trek will be provided. All veg meals on the trek will be provided. Horses/ponies for carrying common gear, sasic first aid kit, sleeping bag, oxygen cylinder will be provided by the operator. Protected inner line permit, Wildlife permit etc. will be included. All applicable taxes are inclusive.
Insurance is not included. Personal porters are not included bit can be arranged for an additional cost. Any personal expenses or any costs arising out of unforeseen circumstances like landslides, road blocks, bad weather, etc. will be additional. Anything not mentioned in the inclusions with be additional.
The best season for the Markha Valley trek is from May to September. This is the best time for most adventures in Ladakh. During these months, the skies are blue and sunny, and you’ll have clear views of the mountains extending all around you and into the horizon. The days are pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 20-25 degrees Celsius, and dropping to 8 degrees Celsius at night.
Leh is a small town in Ladakh from where people embark on the famous Chadar trek, also known as the frozen Zanskar trek. But during winter, Leh is inaccessible by road from both Manali and Srinagar due to thick snow at the high passes.
The only way to reach Leh, then, is by flight. There are several airlines which operator flights from the major cities of India, especially from Delhi where the frequency is high. The tickets too can be booked for cheap is they are booked well in advance.
Every trek brings with it, a fair share of difficulty and excitement at the same time. It’s important not to lose sight of the essentials so that you can enjoy your trek and remain safe at the same time. For all you travellers wanting to explore the Markha Valley Trek, here is what you should carry in your backpack
Trekking pants (insulated and waterproof), down jacket, thermals (top and bottom), inner fleece gloves, outer waterproof gloves, sturdy trekking shoes, woollen socks for camp (optional), thick socks for trekking, scarf, woollen hat. for any trek and especially this, here’s what you should avoid: expensive clothes or jewellery, suitcases or strolley bags.
Every trek brings forth a unique set of challenges and hence, you should be well-prepared to ensure you don’t have to look over your shoulder at every step. The Markha Valley trek is a fairly difficult and long trek which means you can’t compromise on the below items that you need to carry
Rucksack (75-80 litres minimum), day pack/small bag for daily essentials, small lightweight towel, insulated water bottle and hydration pack, flashlight with extra batteries, woollen socks for using at night only, lip balm, cold cream, sunscreen, sun hat or cap, sunglasses with UV protection and ability to cut out glare (important for snow), sturdy walking stick/trekking pole, personal toiletries, extra cash.
The Markha Valley trek takes you to an elevation of 17,000 feet. You’ll climb two very high passes, Ganda La (15,748 ft) and Kongmaru La, (17,060 ft) and negotiate some steep ascents. In addition, most days have long hours of trekking, almost 7-8 hours each day. It is not a technical trek, but it is best suited for those with prior trekking experience. Fit beginners may attempt this, but should be prepared for high altitude and extreme temperatures
The biggest risk in Ladakh is altitude-related illness, but there are ways to combat this. Leh stands at an altitude of just over 12,000 feet, so it is imperative that you acclimatize completely here, before proceeding onwards to higher altitudes.
Take it easy during your stay in Leh, and make sure you stay hydrated and eat well. Take short naps, and don’t exert yourself. This should help your body to adjust to the thin air and altitude. When you’re on the trek, make sure you follow the instructions of your guide.
Yes, you will need permits for camping and trekking here. Your operator will arrange all the required permits, but you will need to carry your documents – ID cards, photographs, photocopies of all documents, as well as medical certificates guaranteeing your fitness for the trek. The operator will send you a list of everything you need to carry.
The best season for the Markha Valley trek is June, July and August. During these months, the weather is at its best, with pleasant days and chilly nights.
You will be trekking in extreme weather – warm days and cold nights – so dress in layers. Carry thermal clothing, as well as a woollen hat, gloves, and scarves. Make sure your trekking boots are in good condition, and if they’re new, break them in before you leave for the trek. Your operator will send you a detailed packing list - do make sure you carry everything.
The Markha Valley trek requires long hours of trekking each day, sometimes as high as 7 or 8 hours. You’ll have some very steep climbs to get to the two passes of Ganda La and Kongmaru La. And all this will be done at high altitude of Ladakh. While it does not require any technical skills, it is best that experienced trekkers or very fit beginners attempt this trek.