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Markha Valley Trek: Complete Details

by Nathan Zachary

The Markha valley is the region in the Hemis National Park of Ladakh union territory of India. The Markha River flows through this charming valley. It is hands-down the best trek when in Ladakh as you will get the best of both mother earth and Markha’s hospitality through its quiet and humble residents. 

Do this trek for the love of the arid and cold deserts of Markha and its lovely villages and take along with you beautiful memories.

Trek Highlights:

Maximum Altitude: 5,245m or 17,100ft

No. of days: 6-7

Trek Distance: 65km or 40.3mi

Trek Difficulty: Medium to Difficult

One good thing about the Markha Valley trek is that in almost all villages you will get homestays with the villagers which is an even better way to get to know the area. You will very often be accompanied by villagers who will give you company and make your travel lasting.

Let us take a look at the details if you are undertaking a 7-day long trip to the most amazing valley in Ladakh.

Day 1: Arrival at Leh

The first day is when you arrive at Leh. You can reach Leh via flight or road. Leh does not have a train station. The day will be entirely spent acclimatizing. This means you will have to limit yourself from doing any rigorous activity in order to prepare your body for the colder climate in the higher altitudes ahead. Of course, going to nearby hikes is recommended for acclimatization. Ideally, people take 2 days for acclimatization.

You can take this opportunity to go around town and visit nearby places. There are many Buddhist heritage sites like the Shey Palace and Thikse Monastery which belong to the Tibetan culture. Leh bazaar and Shanti stupa are also must-visit.

Day 2: Leh-Chilling-Skiu

On your second day, after acclimatizing, you will be driving to Chilling which is about 50-60km from Leh. During your journey by road, you will see Gurudwara Pathar Sahib, Magnet or Magnetic Hill, military camps, and the Stok Range passing by. Once you reach the Hemis National Park, you will see the confluence, which is also known as Sangam, of rivers Indus and Zanskar. At an altitude of 3,120m, this will be a treat for your eyes. From here the road divides itself and you will be taking the one leading to Chilling. After a few minutes, you will reach there and start your trek on foot.

After you reach Chilling, you will be heading towards Skiu. First, you will have an encounter with the wild Zanskar river which you will be crossing over on a small trolley. You will have an adrenaline rush doing this. After this, the trail turns right and then slithers away from the road. Take the smaller path which is also steeper. You will feel get tired climbing up. After about half an hour this will join with a road again. Walk along and you will pass Kaya village after which you will reach your destination for the day which is Skiu. It has homestays and camps. You will be resting here overnight.

Day 3: Skiu to Markha

From Skiu it will take about 7 hours to reach the Markha village which is the largest village in this valley. It is a 20km trek and filled with many a bridge crossing and barren land. You will feel that you have come to Mars. Another highlight of this day is that you will have to cross the ice-cold waters of the Markha river, twice! You will see greenery only in a few places. Once you reach Markha, you can relax at the cozy homestays.

Day 4: Markha to Hankar

The fourth day’s trek will be 11km long which might take you 4 to 5 hours to trek. On this day you will start to witness the true beauty of the Markha trek. Once you leave the village, the valley opens up to a greener patch. Move upwards and walk alongside the Markha river to your right. 

You will have to cross the Markha river after about 2km and then reach the Umlung settlement. As soon as you reach Umlung, you will get the first glimpse of Mt. Kang Yatse. It is so mesmerizing. After some time you will reach Hankar- another beautiful village where you can rest for the night.

Day 5: Hankar to Nimaling

The 5th day will be a 10km trek which should take you 5 to 6 hours before you reach Nimaling. Today you will be gaining 2,300ft elevation in a short span of time. After about 1km of leaving Hankar (this will be a steep climb), you will see the trail splitting into two. Take the lower route. Continuing for about another 1km you will reach Thochuntse campsite where you can break for snacks. After that take a left. The trail will become steeper quickly and then a little gradually till you reach a spot where there is a pond with Kang Yatse juxtaposing it. After enjoying your lunch with this amazing view you will descend to Nimaling which is a plateau. You can rest here overnight.

Day 6: Nimaling-Kongmaru La-Chokdo

This is undoubtedly the most difficult day of the trek as you will gain a high elevation to the Kongmaru La pass and then face a steep descent after it.

You can clearly see Kongamaru La pass from Nimaling on your east. Head towards in the pass’s direction. After about a 2hour steep climb you will reach it where you can cherish and feel accomplishment. You will be greeted with prayer flags here and with views of the Ladakhi mountain ranges and Indus valley down.

Now comes the most difficult part- the decent. It is a steep and criss-cross trail filled with rocks and will take you about 2-3kms before you reach Sukarmo where you can have tea. Descend again for another few kilometers to reach Chokdo where you can stay overnight. It is advisable to book a taxi from Shang Sumdo to Leh right here. 

Day 7: Chokdo-Shang Sumdo-Leh

The rest at Chokdo should prepare you for an energetic 5km trek along the river bed before you reach Shand Sumdo. It will take you around 2 hours. From Shang Sumdo you can ride to Leh in the pre-booked taxi or wait for buses that are infrequent. On your way, you can also visit the Hemis Monastery.

The Markha valley experience is bound to stick with you even after you reach your abode. The scene of cold deserted mountains will never leave your mind and you will keep asking for more. It is a 7-day long surreal experience one must take.

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