The Markha Valley Trek is the most famous and accessible trek in the Indian Himalayas. And for good reason. It is a beautiful and challenging trek which isn’t too short or too long. So when I decided to visit Ladakh, my first question was whether I would need a guide for the Markha Valley Trek…
Now I have completed the trek, I can give my opinion that you do not. We did the trek with a guide and although we did not regret having a guide for the Markha Valley Trek, I would say that it isn’t essential. Read my post about my 7 day trek experience here.
Reasons to have guide for the Markha Valley Trek
- They speak the language so can communicate/translate with the locals and home stay owners
- You won’t get lost where there are multiple routes
- Learn about Ladkhi Culture
- Choose the best homestays for you
- Select the safest route
Reasons to go independent
- Save money
- Don’t have to follow the guide
The main reasons to go independent on this trek are financial. The trek is 7 days and amounts to around 13,500 Rupees per person, which is no small amount. This includes the homestay for 6 nights and 3 meals per day. Breakfast and dinner at the home and lunch box to take on the trek.
Cost Difference: Independent vs Guide
In comparison to paying 13,500 Rupees, going independent costs
- 1,000 Rupees per night in the homestay (1,200 at Nimaling)
- 1,500 Rupees Taxi to Zingchan from Leh, which is the start of the trek
- 2,000 Rupees Taxi to Leh from Shangsumdo, the end of the trek
TOTAL 10,700 Rupees
I recommend trying to hitch a ride to Zingchan. If you do this, try and be ready early ready for the guides to pick you up in their arranged taxis. I wouldn’t expect to get picked up in the city though, try and walk out towards the road to Zingchan.
If you total up the costs of going independent, it will come to around 9,700, if you’re lucky. As a result, there isn’t a massive difference.
GUIDE FOR THE MARKHA VALLEY TREK – 13,500 Rupees
GOING INDEPENDENT – 9,700 Rupees
DIFFERENCE – 3,800
In addition, to guiding on the trek, we also got the guide company to take us to all the monasteries on the way back to Leh, which includes admission prices. So, in the grand scheme of things, there isn’t a massive difference in price between going independent and going with a guide.
It all depends on negotiating a price that you are comfortable with. We were happy with 13,500 and it was as low as we could get it. You may be able to get an even lower price. We went with Ecological Footprint. The owner is Stanzin, a cool guy, who is genuine and knows what he’s talking about.
Is it hard to find your way?
Generally, the route is very easy. There are only a few times where you may have to think about which way to go, but the foot prints and ground is pretty trodden. Therefore you should be able to find your way. If you follow the animal poo, you should be safe, as the animals are heading from village to village along the Markha trail. Although there aren’t many people on the trek, you should see people, so if you really are stuck, just wait and see what others are doing. This is a good reason to set off early, so that you aren’t the last of the trekkers for the day.
Another great tip, download the maps.me phone app and download the Ladakh maps offline. The Markha Valley trek is on here and should be able to show you which way to go.
The only difficulty you might have, is if there is a snow storm where you can’t see the wood from the trees. Didn’t experience a snow storm of such proportions on my trek though.
In conclusion, I think it’s great to have a guide for the Markha Valley Trek, you can roam around without the worry of getting lost. But if it bothers you, and you feel like it is restricting your adventure, you should have no worries going independent.