Ladakh is known as ‘Tiny Tibet' because it receives little rainfall due to its location north of the main Himalayan chain. Unlike other parts of the Himalayas, this means that the best time to visit is during the summer months. Deep gorges, alluvial fans, contorted strata, vast Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, flat-topped mud-brick houses in verdant oasis-like villages, slow-capped mountains, and grand vistas characterize Ladakh's scenery.
The Markha Valley, probably Ladakh's most popular hike, epitomizes the best of this scenery. Giant rock pinnacles, majestic cliffs, narrow defiles, prayer-flagged passes, and evidence of a much older civilization whose origin has been lost in antiquity can all be found there. As you hike up the valley, you'll come across the ruins of various forts and castles, some constructed in the most unlikely of locations, while the many monasteries and gompas that are still central to the Ladakhi people's lives show the region's deep Buddhist heritage.
There is plenty of time to acclimate before the trek starts by discovering the sights and sounds of Leh, Ladakh's ancient and modern capital. After that, you'll spend another day touring the Indus Valley's major cultural sites, including Shey Gompa and Thikse Monastery. Both departures go to a Ladakhi Festival, which is a wonderful social and spiritual event with music, dance, and color.
Your trek begins with a drive up the Zanskar River gorge to Skiu, where you will begin trekking up the Markha Valley. This route provides the best acclimatization since it avoids the difficult crossing of the Ganda La.
You have three wonderful days ahead of you to walk up the valley, steadily gaining altitude, passing through villages, sometimes wading through shallow streams, and admiring the magnificent cliffs and canyons. Then you eventually ascend to Nimaling, where you'll see yak herders grazing their animals in the lush pastures. The towering summit of Kang Yatse and the other peaks of the Zanskar range can be seen from here. Finally, you'll reach the Kongmaru La, the trek's highest point at 5,216m/17,113ft, before returning to the Indus Valley and the Sumdo village near Hemis. You return to Leh for a well-deserved rest and to toast your accomplishment.
The Markha Valley Trek is a great value ‘classic' trek that offers a great way to experience a Himalayan trek during the summer.
Delhi - Leh (Complete Rest in Leh for acclimatisation)
Take the morning flight for Leh. On arrival at Leh airport you will be assisted and transferred to your Hotel/Guest house to check in. Remaining day is at leisure. This is necessary for getting acclimatized. Stay overnight at your hotel/guesthouse.
Leh - Shey - Thiksey – Hemis
On this day you will go a sightseeing trip to some ancient monasteries in this area.
Shey Gompa is about 15 kilometers from Leh. It was built in the early 17th century AD as the summer palace of the Ladakh kings. The 12 m Shakyamuni Buddha statue inside the Dresthang Gompa is Shey's main attraction. The Stupas and Gompas in the vicinity of the palace are also worth seeing.
Thiksey Gompa is about 17 kilometers from Leh. The Thiksey Monastery is one of Ladakh's most beautiful buildings.
Hemis is 45 kilometers south of Leh. The Hemis Monastery is Ladakh's most well-known and largest monastery.
Leh - Spitok (drive) - Trek to Zinchen (3200 M)
Morning drive to Spituk, it will take an hour to cover the distance. Visit the Spituk Gompa, which was founded about 500 years ago. Begin the trek by crossing a bridge and walking south-west along the Indus River. The gorge segment leads to the Indus and Zinchen Rivers' confluence. Stay at the Zinchen Camping near the settlement. Tents are available for overnight stay.
Zinchen - Yurutse (3900 M) via Rumbak
It's a gradual climb from Zinchen to Rumbak. The views of the snow-capped Stok Mountains are stunning from here. We continue along the Rumbak Nala towards Yurutse from here. Fields of barley and potatoes can be found in Yurutse village. Overnight stay in the Tent.
Yurutse - Skiu (3100 M)
Today you'll travel along the Indus River before turning up a valley to see the magnificent Phyang Monastery, which, like so many other Ladakh structures, is perched on a hill overlooking the valley. Phyang is one of the Indus Valley's most important monasteries, though it receives fewer tourists than those to the east of Leh. It is thought to be one of Ladakh's oldest monasteries, dating back to the 16th century. It is one of the few monasteries affiliated with the Kagyu-pa sect of Buddhism (Red Hat), and it houses some beautiful paintings and pictures, as well as a museum with Chinese, Tibetan, and Mongolian firearms and weapons.
Following your visit, return to the Indus River and follow it to its confluence with the Zanskar River. You reach the Hemis National Park by driving alongside the Zanskar River and crossing a bridge to the east side. After that, you drive up the valley to Skiu, the starting point for your trek. This is a beautiful, sprawling village with poplar, apricot, and willow trees lining the streets. This is where you'll set up your first camp and meet your ponies and pony-man.
Skiu - Markha(3800 M)
It's a very pleasant hike, up the Markha valley today with the trail crossing numerous streams. Markha is a quaint village with a deserted fort and a small village Overnight in Tents.
Markha – Thochuntse
The landscape changes as you leave Markha, and the humid, heavily wooded areas of the lower Markha are left behind. There are no bridges here, so crossing the river would be necessary many times. On the way, stop at Hankar, the highest village in the Markha valley. Tents would be used for the overnight stay.
Thochuntse - Nimaling (4700 M)
Trek starts on a good path with several small inclines and a series of grassy ridges. There are a series of mani walls (walls carved with Buddhist prayers) and chortens en route. This is one of the most beautiful high valleys in Ladakh and is dominated by the Kangyaze peak. Overnight in Tents.
Nimaling - Kongmaru La (5150 M) – Sumdo
Today, one can cross the Markha to the north, ascending to the top of the highest of the three passes, the 5,306 M Kongmaru La, for stunning views. Snow peaks can be seen in every direction, and on a clear day, the Karakoram giants, like K2, can be seen on the horizon to the north-west. Following the Martselang stream to the village of Sumdo, the path descends to the Martselang valley. Overnight stay inside the tent.
Sumdo - Leh
Today make an easy descent along the Martselang to where it broadens into the valley of the Indus at Martselang village. Board the awaiting jeeps. Overnight in a hotel.
Leh – Delhi
Transfer to the airport for the spectacular flight across the main chain of the Himalaya to Delhi. Tour ends.