One of the most beautiful and mesmerizing treks you can go for in Ladakh could be the MARKHA VALLEY TREK. Located between Zanskar and Ladakh, this trek takes you through pristine mountains, cloud kissed cliffs, and sleepy villages tucked deep in. If you are someone looking for an adventure right out of the pages of a novel, then Markha Valley Trek is the one for you. As you trek along its wilderness, untouched by human civilization, you may even catch the elusive snow leopard, the marmots and the Pika (a type of mountain hare). The many ruins of castles and forts build into the mountainside will transpose you into the era of knights and kings.
The trek starts from Leh, dotted with Buddhist monuments, taking you up the Zanskar river before reaching the village of Chilling. After having tea, coffee, and snacks from here to ward off the cold, the trek further takes you across the river into Markha valley, where all fun begins. For those of you who are spiritual, the monasteries and temples will help achieve nirvana before you climb down, taking with you memories that would last a lifetime.
Day 01- Starts with Arrival in Leh
Day 02- Acclimatisation starts at Leh
Day 3:- Drive starts from Leh to Chilling and thereafter trek to Skiu
Day 4:- Trek from Skui to Sara
Day 5:- Trek from Sara to Markha
Day 06 – Markha to Hankar
Day 07 – Hankar to Nimaling
Day 08 – Nimaling to Chokdo via Kongmaru La drive to Leh
DAY 01- ARRIVAL INTO LEH
Once you arrive into Leh either by flight or train, your trek begins. The trek will take you to a maximum altitude of 11,000 ft, where the fall in oxygen concentrations will affect your performance and lead to AMS. This is the reason why we don’t start the actual trek right away, rather giving you time to acclimatize your body to reduced concentrations of oxygen in the air. Give your body proper rest and stay at the hotel for the first day, roaming around nearby to soak in the beautiful town and its temples and monasteries.
There are many local cafes to hang out, and the nearby shops can help finish up your carry list if you have forgotten anything. However, make sure not to indulge yourself in alcohol and smoking as this reduces your body capacity to absorb oxygen, delaying the acclimatization process.
DAY 02- ACCLIMATIZATION CONTINUES
This extra day of acclimatization is necessary for you to enjoy the trek and complete it without any untoward incidents. Use this day to visit nearby places of interest like the Thiksey Monastery and Gompa, Shey Palace, etc., which will give you more insight into the Buddhist culture. However, do not start the trek to nearby places to avoid stressing your body before the actual trek where all the magic is.
Do not forget to collect souvenirs from nearby shops as once you are done with the trek, these serve to remind you of those beautiful experiences. If you want to learn more about the history of the region, interact with the locals. Make sure you make it back to your hotel before nightfall to get a proper night’s sleep after watching the sunset at Shanti Stupa. Let your weary eyes dream of the adventure that begins the next day.
DAY 03- ONWARDS TO CHILLING AND SKIU
Let the Journey Begin. As the saying goes, a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step; our trek starts through the snaking pathways where you will encounter military camps on either side. These camps are demarcated with colorful rocks and give a contract to the landscape. As you trek along, you will see the GurudwaraPathar Sahib on your right and the famous Magnet hills on your left. This path takes you to the Hemis National Park and from there to Sangam. Sangam is the point where the rivers Indus and Zanskar meet, which is famous as the rafting point. However, ignoring the call of the river, we continue our trek towards Chilling, where the open landscape gives way to the valley dotted with Juniper and Alpine trees.
From Chilling, we trek on foot gaining altitude as we ascent into the Zingchen Gorge to reach our first campsite in SKIU. Sleeping in tents for the first time since the trek began, will help us settle into nature.
DAY 04- FROM SKUI TO SARA
Day four is when the hard part of the trek begins. The Markha valley is home to many indigenous bird species and animals, and as such, make sure to keep a sharp lookout. The Markha River, to our right, guides us as we trek along for the next hour or so till we reach the Women Café to take a short break before we continue onto the wooden bridge at Zanpa Yoakma. The bridge marks the midpoint in our trek to SARA.
On the way, we can expect to see the black sheep, deers, and mountain goats gazing as without a care in this world. Forty minutes of walking will take us to Nagding Village, where we can see the beautiful meditating caves. An hour from here, we reach our destination for the day, SARA. Here you can spend the rest of the day roaming around, having lunch and dinner at the homestay in Sara.
DAY 05- OFF WE GO TO MARKHA
We start early on from Sara on this day trekking along towards Chalak Village, where we stop for our days first tea. As we sip our Namkin Tea enjoy the beautiful villages and the Mani Stones laid around white stupas. However, these are religious symbols that need to be respected and make sure you do not touch these.
Continuing onwards towards Markha, enjoy the palaces in ruins, which signals the reigns of kings long forgotten. Crossing the shallow Markha river will take you into the village and to the homestay for a comfortable night’s sleep.
DAY 06- MARKHA TO HANKAR
This day of the trek will slowly take you into the wilderness filled with rivers and streams. One of the last tea-house this day would be at Umlung Village. Leaving Umlung Village, you will get the first views of Mt. Kang Yatse at the height of 6400m. Continue along till you reach the last hamlet in our trek, the village of Hankar.
DAY 07- HANKAR TO NIMALING
The trek for the day would take you through Rupshu and Zanskar. Compared to yesterday’s trek, this day would be easier. The next two hours would take you through the pastures of Thochuntse and the twin lakes followed by grasslands, which is the highest altitude you will attain. We will camp here for the night, enjoying the occasional snowfall if we are lucky enough and the calm, clear nights.
DAY 08- TO CHOKDO VIA KONGMARU LA AND FINALLY BACK TO LEH
Today be ready for a strenuous climb lasting two hours till we reach the Kongmaru La pass, which is the gateway to the great Karakoram Mountain Ranges. Enjoy the beautiful K2 mountain, which is the largest in the Karakoram range.
From here, we begin our slow climb down to the Chikirmo village. As we pass through, we can enjoy the beautiful sceneries of the Ladakh and Indus ranges. Be careful in climbing down the rocky terrain to reach Chokdo. This is the last stop in our trek as from here we will take a tempo back to Leh, carrying with us memories that would last forever.
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