Markha Valley Trek
Perched high in the mountains on the remote northern edge of India, Ladakh is a truly inspirational destination for a trekking holiday. This classic trek not only takes us through a spectacular high-altitude world with breathtaking vistas and entrancing scenery, but also provides a chance to see those elusive snow leopards, mountain goats, marmots and vultures, not seen anywhere else other than in this vast undeclared wildlife sanctuary that remains un-trodden and unexplored by humans during most part of the year. We also experience Buddhist culture in remote monasteries and on high passes marked by colorful prayer flags that always keep fluttering in strong wind.
Day 01 – Delhi
We arrive at the international airport of Delhi at night. We get professional assistance in boarding our early morning flight to Leh after the traditional welcome by company’s representative at Delhi airport. No Hotel.
Day 02 – Delhi – Leh (3500m)
In the early morning flight from Delhi the plane flies over the Himalayan Range providing amazing overhead view of the whole mountain range with gigantic glaciers and glaring peaks before it brings us to a Leh, a fertile valley just to the north of the mighty Indus River (this flight is subject to appropriate weather and perfect flying conditions). Upon arrival we transfer to the hotel. The rest of the day is free to relax and acclimatize to the altitude (3,500m). Late afternoon there is a gentle orientation walk of Leh and its bazaars. In the olden days Leh was an important trading center along the old Silk Road from China. The town is dominated by the nine- story Namgyal Palace whose faded grandeur has been likened to a mini version of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 03 – Leh – Thiksey – Hemis – Matho – Leh
Today, in the sightseeing tour to three of the major gompas (monasteries) around Leh we first drive to Thiksey monastery that belongs to Gelukpa order (Yellow hat). Perched on top of a hill its red and white buildings can be seen from miles. A recently built temple within this complex contains a magnificent image of the Future Buddha. Next we drive to Hemis Gompa that belongs to Drukpa order (Red hat). It holds the distinction not only of being the biggest and the wealthiest monastery of Ladakh but also for very rich collection of ancient relics, the rare 17th century murals and the painted stone reliefs adorning the courtyard gallery, making it a true UNESCO World Heritage Site. We continue our excursion and visit Matho monastery situated right across Thiksey on the other side of Indus River. This monastery was founded in 16th century and it is the only monastery that belongs to Sakya order of Tibetan Monastery. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 04 – Shankar Gompa – Shanti Stupa – Leh Palace
Today we start our day with a visit of Sankar Gompa, an affiliate of the Spituk Gompa. From Sankar Gompa we drive to a recently built Shanti Stupa. It was constructed by a Japanese Buddhist organization and inaugurated by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. The magnificent white domed structure, the Shanti Stupa, offers spectacular views over Leh bazaar and Stok Kangri Range. We finish today's excursion with a visit of Leh Palace situated above Leh on the Namgyal Hill. The palace was built by King Sengge Namgyal in 17th century but was later abandoned when Dogra forces took control of Ladakh in the mid-19th century. The majestic palace overlooks the Namgyal Hill. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 05 – Leh – Zingchen via Spituk – Rumbak (3870m)
We take a short drive from Leh to Spituk, the first Gelugpa Monastery in Ladakh. After visiting the monastery we drive along a new road that takes us across the Indus towards Zingchen, the starting point of our trek. While our ponies are being loaded up we start our walk into the Zingchen Gorge at the foot of the Stok Mountains. The trail is straightforward as we follow the Zingchen Nala upstream. An ever-changing panorama of fantastic colored mountains surrounds us as we ascend the valley. We may have to cross the stream as it forces its path closer to the side of the valley. Suddenly the valley widens and reveals the snow-topped peaks of the Stok Mountains. Prayer flags on a wide pasture mark the junction where the trail leads to Rumbak Village, our campsite that provides stunning views all around. (3-4 hrs walk). Overnight at Camp.
Day 06 – Rumbak – Yurutse (3900m) – Ganda La Base (3900m ;3-4 hrs)
Today is a short day for further acclimatization. We head up the main valley to a watermill and a bridge that we cross. The trail ascends the valley gradually and where the valley splits we take the right hand fork up past the queer one-house village of Yurutse. Leaving the fields behind we ascend towards the Ganda La base and camp overnight by a small stream below the pass. (3-4 hrs). Overnight at Camp.
Day 07 – Ganda La Base-Cross Ganda La (4970m)-Skiu (3400m ;6-7 hrs)
We follow the path up the mountain side to the top of Ganda la (4970m). The trail is clear and serpentine towards the pass. As we climb the views become more and more spectacular. We reach the top of Ganda la decked with colorful prayer flags and the views are worth all the effort. Ahead is the Zanskar Range and behind are the Stok Mountains. A long but easy descent takes us to Shingo. Beyond the hamlet of Shingo the trail passes through a wonderful gorge with quite luxuriant strands of willow on the stream- bed before we reach Markha River at the village of Skiu. (6-7 hrs). Overnight at Camp.
Day 08 – Skiu – Markha (3850m;5-6 hrs)
A fairly long but easy walk today as we trek along the valley to Markha. The terrain along the valley is not so demanding, thereby providing us plenty of opportunity to admire the magnificent scenery around. The colors of the barren mountains of Ladakh are truly spectacular. Pastel pink, brazen blue and turquoise green mountains shine in the brilliant sun and change color dramatically as the sun rises and sets. We not only follow the river all day today but cross the same a few times. We have lunch in Sara where there is usually some welcome shade in a tea tent. Beyond the settlement of Chalak there is an impressive line of chortens and a huge mound of goat horns which are placed on these chortens to ward off any evil spirits trying to enter the valley. After climbing up to a small pass we descend again to the river. A mediaeval fort, silhouetted on the hillside, gives us an indication of having almost reached Markha. Markha is a small village and here is the time to explore the small monastery in the afternoon. Our camp is on the grazing flats near the village. (5-6 hrs). Overnight at Camp.
Day 09 – Markha – Hankar – Thachungtse (4300m;6-7 hrs)
Just beyond Markha the trail meets the Chacham Valley where we see the Umlung Gompa set way above us on the cliff face. We visit the monastery which is the most important in the valley and is affiliated to Hemis. Continuing up the valley we walk through Umlung Village to Hankar where there are more impressive fort ruins and a small gompa. From Hankar the trail turns off from the main valley and follows the Nimaling stream to Thachungtse, our overnight camping spot. We may be lucky and see wild sheep high up on the grazing areas. (6-7 hrs). Overnight at Camp.
Day 10 – Thachungtse – Nimaling (4800m;3-4 hrs)
Today is a short walk to Nimaling. The trail climbs steeply to the plateau where the valley opens out. Ahead are the spectacular views of Kang Yangtse at 6,400m - the highest peak in the valley. In this area there is no permanent habitation but during the summer months the shepherds bring their flocks of sheep, goats and dzos (a hybrid between yak and cow) to graze on the high altitude pasture. The shepherds stay in stone shelters close to the grazing area for the whole summer. We can buy yoghurt or local cheese from them. In the evening after the animals are brought down from the hills it is quite usual to have hundreds of them wandering through the campsite. We are at Nimaling by around lunch time. In the afternoon an optional walk behind the camp towards Kang Yangtse is preferred by most of the trekkers to enjoy and capture impressive close-up views of Kang Yangste, the highest peak in the Markha Valley at 6,400m. (3-4 hrs). Overnight at Camp.
Day 11 – Nimaling-Kongmaru La (5265m)-Shang Sumdo (3810m,8 Hrs)
Our walk today begins by climbing to Kongmaru La. It is a fairly long and steep ascent through a zigzag trail winding across to the top of the pass at 5,265m, but the views from the top are worth the effort. Looking back we see Kang Yangtse, Dzo Jongo and Regoni Malari. Ahead, there are views across the Stok Range and down to the Indus valley. The descent is steep all the way upto the point where we enter a spectacular gorge and descend more gradually. High up on the barren cliffs we might spot the elusive Blue Sheep which inhabit this area. Passing through Chuskurmo and Chokdo we continue our long descent to the village of Shang Sumdo. Crossing the high pass followed by a long descent to the camp today makes this day a bit harder than the previous days. (7-8 hrs). Overnight at Camp.
Day 12 – Shang – Martselang – Hemis – Leh
We meet our transport to take us to Hemis Monastery. (Occasionally the road gets blocked, in which case we walk down the jeep track to Hemis). Hemis is the largest and richest of all the Ladakhi Monasteries. A walk around the dimly lit temples containing grotesque yet beautiful masks and statues takes us back hundreds of years in time. From here we drive back to Leh and check-in to our hotel. We are normally in Leh before lunch after which we are free for last minute sightseeing or shopping in the bazaars. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 13 – Game drives in Ranthambore National Park
Early morning transfer to Leh airport to board the flight to Delhi. Upon arrival in Delhi we drive straight to Agra, where after check-in, we have a free evening to explore some beautiful bazaars. Overnight at Hotel.
Day 14 – Agra – Delhi & Departure Transfer
Today we start very early to see an incredible sunrise over the Taj Mahal, a 17th century marvel in poetic description. One of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Taj is a dream in white marble with exquisite pietra dura (stone inlay) work. Shah Jahan, the fifth Moghul King, built this beautiful mausoleum in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal, who died at the birth of her fourteenth child. Within striking distance is the imposing Red Fort located alongside river Yamuna. Its foundation was laid by the Mughal Emperor Akbar and was completed by his grandson Shah Jahan. Its huge and mighty sandstone walls enclose the beautiful white marble Pearl Mosque and the palaces, halls, courtyards and fountains added by his sons and successors, Jehangir and Shah Jahan. Later we leave by surface to Delhi. In Delhi our evening is free to do some more shopping. After dinner late in the evening we are transferred to the international airport to catch our flights to our respective destinations. No Hotel.
Itinerary may change according to travelling seasons
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