On this page you will find a comprehensive and impartial guide to the Markha Valley Trek.
Please Note: We are not a tour operator, but we can put you in touch with our recommended partner, see the tour recommendation section below.
As this is a very long and detailed article on the Markha Valley Trek, we recommend using the quicklinks below to navigate to the sections that interest you most. Alternatively, you can bookmark this page for future reference.
The Markha Valley Trek is one of the most spectacular and famous treks in the Ladakh Region of India.
Located in the north western area of India, the Ladakh region is famed for its wildness and untouched beauty.
The trek follows a stunning high valley with superb views across the mountain region and is one of the best ways to still experience the unique culture of the High Himalaya region. The Markha Valley trek follows the Markha River downstream taking in several high passes including Ganda La (15748 ft) and Kongmaru La, (17,060 ft). From both passes you get epic views across the landscape with the tall peaks of Kang Yissay and the 20,086 ft Stok Kangri coming into sight.
Not only is the trek one of mountain beauty, but it also takes trekkers through a landscape of ancient farming with many green irrigated fields and local villages being passed along the way. You’ll also experience several monasteries and meet the brightly dressed monks as they go about their daily lives. You’ll will be exposed to several waist-deep river crossings, high rocky canyons and explore many buddhists villages en-route.
Please Note: The trek is moderately difficult due to the length and high altitude of both passes. There will be several steep trek ascents and you may have to walk over slippery scree on occasion. You will need to have a good level of stamina and fitness to have a really good time. Accommodation will generally be camping.
The Markha Valley Trek is located between the Zanskar and Ladakh in the Himalaya region of North-west India. Please see map below for details.
Below is a detailed Markha Valley Trek itinerary. Please note that this is a typical itinerary that we would expect many operators to adhere to. Some tour operators however, offer variations on this route. For example it is not uncommon to start from Spitok and follow the route that leads to Hemis. Click each day to read more...
From Delhi international airport you will need to take a domestic flight to the city of Leh. It is worth spending a day in Dehli if you have the time, as well in Leh, where you can visit Leh Market, Leh Palace and Shanti Stupa.
If you have more time it is worth getting a taxi to visit the Shey Palace, Likir, Basgo & Alchi Monastery, Sangam and Thickset. If you’re lucky you’ll witness the Grand Hemis Festival at Hemis monastery.
You will need to get a jeep from Leh to the starting point at Martselang (3600 m). As you drive you may be given the opportunity to visit the Palace of Ladakh. The trek begins as one enters the Hemis National Park, where, if you’re lucky, you may glimpse endangered wildlife such as the elusive snow leopard, Tibetan wolf and the great Golden eagle. You will trek for several hours to the small village of Chogdo (4000 m).
Today begins with a steep ascent that leads to your first mountain pass – Kongmaru La (5260 m). The climb is worth it though as you get outstanding views of the north face of Kangyatse (6400 m), Zanskar and the epic Karakoram range. After taking in the view you then descend down towards the greener pastures of Nimaling. It is here that you will meet villagers who spend the summer months tending their herds. You camp the night here.
From here you begin the descent to the village of Hankar. You begin by walking through lovely green pastures whilst also taking in the Himalayan wildlife such as the Marmot, Mountain Vole and Weasels. You then cross a cool mountain lake. This is the perfect place to take lunch and enjoy the stunning scenery. As you continue down you reach the irrigated farmlands of Thochungtse. At the campsite there is a lovely spring that is well known throughout the region for its medicinal properties!
Today you head for Skiu via Markha! Along the way you will make several river crossings. Once at Markha you will have time to explore the village before pushing on to Skiu. Once out of Markha you will descend through the small provinces of Nakdi , Sarah and Hamburjah and Pentre. Each province is only inhabited by 2 to 3 families roughly. After trekking through lush flatlands you reach your campsite at Skiu where you bed down for the night.
Today you follow the Zankar river upstream to the small village of Skiu. Here you will turn away from the main river and follow the stunning gorge up into Shingo. You camp overnight here.
From Shingo you climb gradually as you ascend over the Ganda La pass at 4850 meters. From there you pass Yurutse and continue down to your camp near Rumbak.
Today is a big day. You begin your steady ascent up to the base of Stok la (4900 m). From there your trail becomes steeper as you climb ever higher to cross the pass. However, you’ll be rewarded along the climb with stunning views of the Indus valley and the incredibly colourful rock formations of Stok la. After crossing and taking in the amazing vistas you then begin your decent. You take the trail along the mountainside until you reach the village of Stok. From here you will need to arrange transport back to Leh.
A beautiful video overview of the last several days of the Markha Valley Trek by Martin Kubini. The video is 2:50 long.
The cost of an Markha Valley Trek varies depending on how you choose to operate your trek. If you decide to the trek the route without a guide then your costs will be considerably cheaper. Here's a rough estimate: Tour Agency: ~$600 – 1,000 for a cheap local agency to ~$1,500 – $2,000 for a Western trekking agency. You could do an independent trek for $25 per day potentially once on the trekking route.
However, this option does pose problems. Firstly, there are a number of routes and finding your way can sometimes be tricky. Your guide will also know the best places to eat, sleep and take rests whilst also introducing you to many local people along the way.
Other costs include:
Visa, Vaccinations, Insurance etc:~$300-$500
Equipment (buying and hiring):~$500-$800
Flights to Leh: ~$1,000
Misc (additional food, unplanned travel / hotels ect): $200
The Markha Valley trek takes around 6-7 days to complete, starting in Leh. Depending on the exact start and end point the Markha Valley hike is approximately 50 miles (80 kilometres) in distance. Total elevation gain / loss is + 2500m / - 2020m, with a max elevation of 5260m.
No permits are required for the Markha Valley trek.
The best time to hike the Markha Valley trek is from June to October with the high season being in June and July. The monsoon season barely affects the region and you should experience little rain when trekking in this period. That being said, downpours do happen and you must wear appropriate gear. During winter the trek experiences heavy snowfall and makes the area very isolated.
Yes, the Markha Valley Trek is very much a high altitude trek. At its highest point – Kongmaru La – you’ll be standing at 17,060 ft.
Whilst there are several high passes, the itinerary offered by all operators gives trekkers time to acclimatise to the altitude. Nonetheless, it is important to have a detailed understanding of the risks associated with high altitude trekking and how the body acclimatises. We recommend you read our detailed article on Altitude Sickness and Acclimatisation.
The Markha Valley Trek is fairly challenging. You will be trekking for 4-7 hours a day for over a week, so you will need to be in good physical condition. There are several high altitude passes to cross and several steep climbs with the potential for slippery scree. The best way to prepare for this is to get as many miles under foot on hikes in your home country.
Trekking in the Ladakh region requires a number of essential pieces of trekking clothing (base layers, hiking pants, down jacket and rain jacket) and equipment (hiking poles, daypack and hydration bladder). The Markha Valley trek is both a fun and challenging trek that exposes you to a range of altitudes and fluctuating temperatures, especially between night and day.
Many pieces of equipment can be rented or bought in Leh, but we recommend bringing the most important pieces of gear with you.
To help you plan and prepare for your trek we have written a detailed multi day hike packing list.
Trekking insurance is a must on multi day hikes. This is particularly the case in the Ladakh Region, which is very remote. If an accident should occur that requires medical assistance and evacuation you will definitely want trekking insurance that can cover the costs of air ambulance and treatment.
Moreover, it is prudent to have insurance that covers you for any travel related risks, like lost, stolen, damaged or delayed baggage; flight delays and interruptions; and tour operators default.
Check out World Nomads for a quick calculation of the cost of travel insurance for your trip.