Getting to Leh was only the beginning, now once you are here you will want to decide whether to do the trekking in Leh independently or with a guide. Read about that here.
When you think trekking in Leh, Markha Valley is the top on that list.
- 7 Days
- Homestays Available
- Beginner/Intermediate Level
- 2 Passes
- 5,300M highest point
First and foremost, I can say that this trek is amazing and I fully recommend it. Before I decided to do it, I was weighing up all the alternatives to do, but then decided on Markha. In all honesty, if you haven’t done lots and lots of treks in this region before, everything will be new and extraordinary so why not go for the Markha Valley which is a tried and tested route. It is my favourite trek of all time, so I hope this helps make up your mind.
Is the Markha Valley Trek Hard?
Most blogs and posts say that the Markha Valley Trek is an easy one for beginners. I would agree to the extent that, as far as trekking goes, there is little skill involved. You won’t need rope or have to traverse over anything. There will be no climbing or crawling either.
However, you need to be fit to complete this trek. You will be climbing some steep terrain and at high altitudes, this will take its toll on you. If you are unfit and haven’t seen much exercise in your life, I would not recommend it to you. This is because the lack of oxygen in the higher mountains can be quite testing. Add to that, the fact that whilst trekking in Leh, the terrain is desolate with few trees to provide oxygen, you may find the air thinner than other places with similar altitude. Do not underestimate the climbs, as they are extremely steep and challenging.
Choosing a Guide
If you decide to do the trek guided, then you will have the joy of wandering round searching for a guide. There are many agencies offering experiences trekking in Leh, so find out information on what’s on offer. Read my post on whether you need a guide here.
I can tell you they will all give you similar information, however I recommend still asking them questions about the 7 days. Some will respond with little information and not seem bothered whether they get your business or not. If that’s their attitude when selling, with little pride in their services, I can only imagine the type of people they hire as guides.
Go for someone who sells to you positively, who seems to know what they are talking about, without being too pushy. You can even ask to meet your guide before agreeing. But rest assured, most of them are Ladakhi, who have been trekking in Leh since they were young kids. We went with Ecological Footprint who I can recommend.
Price of the Trek
The price we paid each for a two person trek with guide and all accommodation and food was:
- 13,500 Rupees/person
We had quotes for trekking as high as 40,000 Rupees. Trekking in Leh can be expensive, so be ready to negotiate hard to get the price you are happy to pay.
My advice would be to ask questions to show your interest and then start low. I think that 13,500 is a fair price and you won’t get too much lower than this unless you have a large group.
Perhaps tell the agency that you have been offered 13,500 Rupees but you want to go with them instead. This gives them the opportunity to match or lose your custom.
Included in the price:
- Transport to and from the trek
- Meals 3 meals a day (breakfast and dinner at homestay, packed lunch)
- Accommodation in a homestay
- Visits to the monasteries returning to Leh
The homestays are basic houses which range from large size multi-bedroom to just one bedroom, where you are the only guests. The guide should sort this out for you. They are usually in picturesque locations and the local residents live in the villages. The homestay owner will cook your meals, which consist of Tibetan bread with a selection of spreads for breakfast. Lunch is a boiled egg, Tibetan bread again, chocolate bar, juice box. Or something along the lines of that selection. Dinner is served hot and maybe momos, or some type of Tibetan noodles. Dal is often on offer too. We were fortunate to have an Aloo Jeera on the first night, which is like a dry potato curry.
Some homestays had electricity but I wouldn’t expect it. Take a power bank to charge your phone and camera. Take a torch too.
The beds are similar to camping mattresses on the floor and you get some blankets. Our first night involved a serious leak in the roof which resulted in the room getting pretty damp. We rearranged the beds so that they didn’t get wet. But on the whole, the homestays are comfortable and after a long day trekking, you’ll be happy to have somewhere to relax.
Whilst trekking in Leh, regardless of where, toilets are a hole in the ground. Usually in a hut or make-shift building. You use the spade to throw mud over your business. This is then used as compost by the locals.They don’t waste anything!
What to Pack for the Markha Trek
Pack as little as possible. You will be carrying it around and in addition to this, lunch and at least 2 Litres of water each day. This gets heavy when you are walking for a long time.
- 1 change of top
- Few pairs of socks (get wet)
- Wet Wipes
- Travel Towel
- Hand sanitiser
- Couple of empty bottles
Markha Valley Itinerary
Day 1 – Zingchang to Yurutse (4,200M)
Grab some breakfast, it’s not included today, even though our agency owner bought us breakfast anyway! A car will take you from Leh to Zingchang, where the trek officially starts. Day 1 is unspectacular, but don’t be disheartened. It only gets better! The day is very short at less than 3 hours of walking to reach Yurutse.
There is only one homestay here, its massive and a great social place, where everyone trekking is pretty much staying here. As you arrive early, I would recommend going for a walk to higher ground to get you acclimatised for the big climb on day 2.
Day 2 – Yurutse to Skio (3,200M)
Get ready for a tough day. You will cross your first pass at around 4,900M. Zig-zagging up the mountains, you’ll begin to witness insane views, the higher you get, the better. The snow levels increase as you go on. I went in June, so was still lots of snow, but was told that after a few more weeks, the snow will be gone.
The climb to the top of the pass is relentless and I was concentrating on each step as the air became thinner and thinner. There were a few other climbers who were visibly struggling with the ascent. Once you have reached the top of the pass though, the view is incredible, where you can see views of red/purple mountains unobstructed on one side and on the other side, you can see the Zanskar range of mountains.
From here it is easy physically, but a long walk to Skio, which can take it’s toll on your legs. Especially since there were quite a lot of river crossings, where you needed to skip stones to get to the other side. Often there would be big gaps between stones, so if you’re not a good jumper, prepare to get wet.
Eventually you will enter what I describe as a huge chasm. High sheer cliffs tower either side of you. Proeed and you will reach the village of Skio. My first impressions were that it seemed like it was in the middle of nowhere.
It’s a long day which took us between 7-8 hours.
Day 3 – Skio to Markha Village (3,600M)
You now walk in the Markha valley. The landscape is beautiful, where you are surrounded by orangey, red cliffs with a river running through. You will see some stupas and monasteries on the way. You arrive at a breath-taking camp area, which you must explore. Climb to the monastery at the top and check out the old buildings on the mountains.
Day 4 – Markha Village to Hangkar (4,000M)
Similar scenery to the previous day. You will get views of Kang Yatse Peak on this day. This is a mountain of heights greater than 6,200M
Day 5 – Hangkar to Nyimaling (4,800M)
Get ready for another relentless day of trekking. As you go through the morning, you exit the valley into more open terrain. You can see snow-capped mountains and grassy lands at the same time as you slowly ascend. Past this you will come to an area where there is a testing climb. If the altitude was a little lower, I have no doubt it would be much easier, but being at such high ground, it proved to be really difficult.
When you finally get to the 4,500M summit, you can take a rest and be treated to spectacular views. The work is not over there though, however, the rest is much easier. Just a gradual ascent now, to reach another place with spectacular views of Kang-Yatse and the lake, which sits below it.
You will eventually reach Nyimaling, where semi-permanent tents have been set up for trekkers. There are no home stays here, so camping is your only choice.
Day 6 – Nyimaling to Chokdo (3,900M)
Day 6 is where you ascend to the highest point on the trek. You will scale to heights of 5,300M. The climb begins straight from the campsite. It is a steep ascent so no need to rush.
I promise that the views from the top will be some of the best. I definitely thought so! It took about 1hr 15mins to climb to the top. You will be greeted by Tibetan prayer flags and 360 degree views of the K2 ranges and Zanskar ranges too.
If the weather is clear, you can see miles. On descending, it is still a long way, and can be challenging on some rough edgy terrain. Be prepared for multiple river crossings, which were so rough on the day that we had to take shoes and socks off the power through.
There is some steep climbs proceeded by downhill again. The red/purple cloudy water is towered by sharp cliffs, casting a shadow over the whole area. Eventually you wil reach Chokdo, which is a scenic place for a homestay, enclosed by mountains.
Day 7 – Chokdo to Shangsumdo (3,650M)
By day 7, you have pretty much come to the end of your trekking in Leh. A short walk and you will come to a dirt track where cars have travelled on. It’s still really scenic and beautiful but a level down from what you’ve seen before this. It’s a very short walk, no more than 2 hours. We reached Shangsumdo, where we were then picked up, and taken to the monasteries on our return to Leh.
The Markha Valley Trek is amazing and not to be missed. Don’t worry that you will miss out on other treks by doing this one, rather than another. I can testify that the trek is amazing and you won’t regret it. It was challenging enough for a beginner trekker but maybe those who have done some more challenging ones may find it easier. None the less, what you will see is unforgettable, and as far a trekking in Leh goes, this comes top.