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Markha Valley Trek: How To Do It Independently


Modified: January 3, 2024

by Adelheid Ramos



Embarking on an adventure trek is a thrilling experience that allows you to connect with nature and test your limits. One such incredible trek is the Markha Valley trek in the heart of the majestic Himalayas. Located in the Ladakh region of India, this trek takes you through stunning landscapes, high mountain passes, picturesque villages, and monasteries, offering you a glimpse into the pristine beauty of the region.


The Markha Valley trek is a favorite among adventure enthusiasts for several reasons. It offers a moderate level of difficulty, making it accessible to both seasoned trekkers and beginners looking to challenge themselves. The trek spans across a distance of around 75 kilometers, taking you through diverse terrains, including snow-capped peaks, deep gorges, and green meadows.


One of the highlights of the Markha Valley trek is the opportunity to interact closely with the local culture and communities. The trail passes through traditional villages where you can witness the simple lifestyle and rich heritage of the charming Ladakhi people. Along the way, you will also encounter several ancient Buddhist monasteries that add a spiritual touch to the journey.


Another factor that makes the Markha Valley trek stand out is the breathtaking views it offers. As you ascend to higher altitudes, you will be rewarded with panoramic vistas of rugged mountains, dramatic landscapes, and the surreal sight of the Milky Way stretching across the night sky. The trek also takes you across several high passes, including the Kongmaru La Pass at an elevation of 5,130 meters, providing unprecedented views of the Himalayan peaks.


In this guide, we will delve deeper into how to undertake the Markha Valley trek independently. We will explore the preparation required, how to get to the starting point, the recommended itinerary, accommodation options, food and water considerations, hiring guides or porters, permits and fees, and safety tips to ensure a successful and memorable trek.


Preparing for the Trek

Embarking on the Markha Valley trek requires careful planning and preparation to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Here are some key considerations to keep in mind before setting off on this adventure:


Physical Fitness: The Markha Valley trek involves walking long distances and ascending to high altitudes. It is crucial to be in good physical condition to tackle the challenges of the trail. Regular exercise, cardio workouts, and strength training will help build stamina and endurance.


Packing Essentials: Make sure to pack the necessary gear and clothing for the trek. Some essential items include a sturdy backpack, comfortable trekking shoes, warm layers of clothing, a waterproof jacket, hat, gloves, sunglasses, sunscreen, a sleeping bag, and a water bottle. Carry a basic first aid kit with essential medicines and any personal medication you may require.


Acclimatization: The Markha Valley trek reaches high altitudes, with some passes exceeding 5,000 meters. Altitude sickness can be a significant concern. It is essential to spend a few days acclimatizing in Leh, the starting point, to allow your body to adjust to the high altitudes. Stay hydrated, avoid excessive exertion, and be aware of symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.


Training and Conditioning: Prior to the trek, engage in physical activities and exercises that simulate the demands of the trail. Walking or hiking on uneven terrain, climbing stairs, and increasing endurance through regular cardio workouts will help prepare your body for the challenges of the trek.


Nutrition and Hydration: Maintain a balanced diet and stay well-hydrated before and during the trek. Consume nutritious foods that provide energy and avoid heavy and greasy meals. Carry high-energy snacks and drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration during the trek.


Navigation and Maps: Familiarize yourself with the trail and carry detailed maps or use GPS devices or mobile apps that can help you navigate the route. It is also advisable to carry a compass or GPS device as a backup navigation tool.


Staying Motivated: The Markha Valley trek can be physically and mentally challenging at times. It is essential to maintain a positive mindset and stay motivated throughout the journey. Set smaller goals along the way, take breaks when needed, and embrace the breathtaking beauty of the surroundings to keep your spirits high.


By following these preparations, you will ensure that you are well-equipped and mentally prepared for the adventures that await you on the Markha Valley trek. So, lace up your boots, pack your bags, and get ready for an unforgettable adventure amidst the stunning Himalayan landscapes!


Getting to the Starting Point

The starting point of the Markha Valley trek is Leh, the capital city of Ladakh in northern India. Leh is well-connected to major cities in India by air and road. Here are a few options for reaching Leh:


By Air: The easiest and most convenient way to reach Leh is by air. The Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh operates regular flights from Delhi, Mumbai, and other major cities in India. It is advisable to book your flights well in advance, especially during the peak trekking season from June to September.


By Road: Leh is accessible by road from several towns and cities in India. The most common route is the Srinagar-Leh Highway from Srinagar in Jammu and Kashmir, which offers breathtaking views of the Himalayan landscapes. Another popular route is the Manali-Leh Highway from Manali in Himachal Pradesh, which is known for its scenic beauty and challenging terrain.


Once you have reached Leh, it is essential to spend a few days acclimatizing to the high altitude before starting the trek. Leh offers various accommodations, ranging from guesthouses to luxury hotels, where you can rest and adjust to the altitude.


It is also recommended to explore Leh and its surrounding attractions before the trek. Visit the Leh Palace, Shanti Stupa, and the monasteries of Hemis, Thiksey, and Shey to immerse yourself in Ladakh’s rich cultural heritage.


Local Transportation: From Leh, you can hire a taxi or take a shared taxi to reach the starting point of the Markha Valley trek, which is usually the village of Chilling or Spituk. The journey takes around an hour and offers beautiful views of the Indus River and the surrounding mountains.


Alternatively, you can also arrange for a private transfer or hire a private vehicle to take you directly to the starting point. This option provides more flexibility and convenience.


By planning your travel to Leh in advance and considering these transportation options, you can ensure a smooth and hassle-free journey to the starting point of the Markha Valley trek. So, get ready to embark on this incredible adventure and immerse yourself in the breathtaking beauty of the Ladakhi landscape!


Trekking Itinerary

The Markha Valley trek spans over a distance of approximately 75 kilometers and usually takes around 8 to 10 days to complete. Here is a suggested itinerary for the trek:


Day 1: Leh to Chilling (3,350 meters) to Skiu (3,410 meters)


Begin your trek by driving from Leh to Chilling, which takes around an hour. From Chilling, start your hike to Skiu, a scenic village located along the Markha River. The trail passes through beautiful landscapes and small streams. Overnight stay in Skiu.


Day 2: Skiu to Markha (3,700 meters)


Continue your trek along the Markha River, crossing several wooden bridges. The trail offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and takes you through peaceful villages. Reach Markha village and spend the night in a guesthouse or camp under the starry sky.


Day 3: Markha to Hankar (3,770 meters)


Today’s trek takes you through picturesque landscapes and Buddhist stupas. The trail ascends gradually, and you will pass through Umlung village before reaching Hankar village. Enjoy the serene atmosphere and spend the night at a guesthouse or campsite.


Day 4: Hankar to Nimaling (4,730 meters)


Embark on a challenging trek that offers breathtaking views of the mountains. The trail takes you through lush meadows and rocky terrain, and you will cross the Kongmaru La Pass at an elevation of 5,130 meters. Descend to Nimaling, a beautiful grazing pasture, and camp for the night.


Day 5: Nimaling to Shang Sumdo (3,700 meters) via Kongmaru La Pass


Start your day with a steep ascent to the Kongmaru La Pass, from where you can enjoy panoramic views of the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges. Descend through narrow gorges and reach Shang Sumdo. From here, drive back to Leh, marking the end of the trek.


It is important to note that this itinerary is a general guideline, and the duration of each day’s trek can vary depending on individual preferences and fitness levels. It is always advisable to listen to your body and take rest days if needed.


Additionally, weather conditions should be taken into consideration as they can impact the duration and difficulty of the trek. It is recommended to consult with local guides or trekking agencies for the most up-to-date information on the trail and make necessary adjustments to the itinerary if needed.


By following this suggested itinerary, you will have the opportunity to immerse yourself in the stunning landscapes of the Markha Valley and experience the unique culture and hospitality of the Ladakhi people. So, get ready to embark on this unforgettable trek and create memories that will last a lifetime!


Accommodation Options

During the Markha Valley trek, you have several accommodation options to choose from, ranging from guesthouses and homestays to camping under the starry sky. Here are the main types of accommodation you will encounter along the trail:


Guesthouses and Homestays: Along the route, you will come across several villages that offer guesthouses and homestays. These accommodations provide basic facilities such as comfortable beds, clean toilets, and sometimes even hot showers. Staying in these villages not only provides a cozy and comfortable place to rest but also offers an opportunity to interact with the friendly locals and get a glimpse of their lifestyle and traditions.


Camping: Camping is a popular option for trekkers who prefer to be closer to nature. The Markha Valley trek offers several scenic locations where you can set up your tent and enjoy the beauty of the surroundings. Camping allows you to experience the tranquility of the mountains and offers flexibility in choosing your camping spot. However, it is essential to carry your camping gear and ensure that you adhere to Leave No Trace principles by leaving the camping area clean and undisturbed.


Trekking Agencies: If you prefer a more organized trekking experience, you can opt for guided treks offered by local trekking agencies. These agencies provide a complete package that includes accommodations, meals, guides, and porters. They usually arrange for stays in guesthouses or campsites and take care of all logistical aspects of the trek. This option is convenient for those who prefer a hassle-free experience and want experienced guides to lead the way.


It is important to note that accommodation options can be limited in certain areas along the trek. It is advisable to make advance bookings, especially during the peak trekking season, to ensure availability. However, if you prefer a more spontaneous experience, you can also find accommodations on the spot, depending on the availability.


Regardless of the accommodation option you choose, it is recommended to carry a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat for added comfort and warmth. Additionally, it is always a good practice to be respectful of the accommodations and follow any rules or guidelines provided by the hosts.


By considering these accommodation options and planning accordingly, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable stay during your Markha Valley trek. The welcoming hospitality of the locals and the serenity of the surroundings will make your trek even more memorable.


Food and Water Considerations

Proper nutrition and hydration are crucial for a successful and enjoyable trekking experience. When undertaking the Markha Valley trek, it is important to consider the following food and water recommendations:




– Packing Snacks: Carry high-energy snacks such as trail mix, granola bars, energy bars, and dried fruits to keep you fueled throughout the trek. These snacks provide a quick source of energy and can be easily carried in your backpack.


– Nutritious Meals: It is advisable to include a variety of nutritious meals in your trekking menu. Local guesthouses and homestays along the trail usually offer meals that are predominantly vegetarian. These meals often consist of rice, lentils, vegetables, and local bread. The food is simple but nourishing, providing the required energy for the trek.


– Water Supply: Water sources along the trail are limited, and it is essential to carry an adequate supply of water. It is recommended to carry at least 2 to 3 liters of water per day, depending on your personal hydration needs. You can refill your water bottles at guesthouses or streams along the trail, but it is crucial to treat the water before drinking it.




– Water Purification: To ensure safe drinking water during the trek, it is important to treat the water before consumption. The most effective methods of water purification include using water purification tablets or a portable water filter. These methods help eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses, making the water safe for consumption.


– Hydration: Maintaining proper hydration is essential while trekking at high altitudes. Drink water regularly, even if you do not feel thirsty. Dehydration can lead to fatigue, headache, and altitude sickness. It is also advisable to avoid consuming alcohol and caffeinated beverages as they can lead to further dehydration.


– Local Beverages: Along the trek, you may come across local beverages such as butter tea (known as “gur-gur cha”) and salted butter tea (“po cha”). These traditional Ladakhi drinks can provide warmth and comfort during the cold mountain days. However, it is important to be aware that these beverages are high in calories and should be consumed in moderation.


By keeping these food and water considerations in mind, you will be better prepared to fuel your body and stay hydrated during the Markha Valley trek. Remember to listen to your body’s needs and adjust your food and water intake accordingly. Enjoy the local cuisine, stay hydrated, and savor the incredible landscapes on this remarkable adventure!


Hiring a Guide or Porter

When planning for the Markha Valley trek, you might consider hiring a guide or porter to enhance your trekking experience. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to hire a guide or porter:




– Local Expertise: Hiring a guide provides you with the advantage of local knowledge and expertise. They are familiar with the trail, can navigate tricky sections, and provide valuable information about the surroundings, culture, and history.


– Safety and Support: A guide can ensure your safety throughout the trek. They are trained in first aid and can provide immediate assistance in case of any emergencies or altitude-related issues. Having a guide by your side also offers peace of mind and allows you to focus on enjoying the trek.


– Cultural Insights: A guide can offer insights into the local culture, traditions, and lifestyle of the Ladakhi people. They can translate conversations with locals, facilitate cultural exchanges, and provide a deeper understanding of the region.




– Load Sharing: If you prefer to trek without the burden of a heavy backpack, hiring a porter can be a great option. Porters can carry your camping equipment, food supplies, and other heavy items, allowing you to trek with a lighter pack and focus on enjoying the journey.


– Physical Assistance: Trekking at high altitudes can be physically demanding. Having a porter to share the load can relieve some of the physical strain, allowing you to trek at your own pace and enjoy the trek without feeling overwhelmed.


– Supporting Local Economy: Hiring a local porter contributes directly to the local economy, providing employment opportunities and supporting the livelihood of the local community.


Whether you choose to hire a guide, a porter, or both, it is crucial to ensure that they are experienced, licensed, and knowledgeable about the trail. You can hire guides and porters through local trekking agencies or through recommendations from fellow trekkers.


It is important to establish clear expectations and discuss the terms of the arrangement, including their responsibilities, remuneration, and any additional services they may provide (such as arranging accommodations and meals).


Ultimately, the decision to hire a guide or porter boils down to personal preference, fitness level, and trekking experience. If you are an experienced trekker with sufficient knowledge of the trail and the necessary equipment, you may feel confident trekking independently. However, having a guide or porter can greatly enhance your trekking experience, ease logistical concerns, and provide you with valuable insights into the local culture and environment.


By considering these factors and choosing the option that aligns with your needs, you can ensure a safe, enjoyable, and memorable Markha Valley trek.


Permits and Fees

When planning for the Markha Valley trek, it is important to be aware of the permits and fees required for trekking in the region. Here are the key details you need to know:


Inner Line Permit (ILP):


As Markha Valley is located in the restricted border area of Ladakh, obtaining an Inner Line Permit (ILP) is mandatory for Indian as well as foreign trekkers. The permit is issued by the District Commissioner’s Office in Leh and can be obtained either online or in person.


For Indian nationals, the ILP generally requires a copy of a valid photo ID, such as a passport or Aadhaar card, and a nominal fee. Foreign nationals are required to submit a copy of their passport, visa, and a passport-sized photograph, along with a higher permit fee.


Environmental Fee:


In addition to the ILP, there is an environmental fee imposed for trekking in the Ladakh region. The fee aims to support conservation efforts and maintain the ecological balance in the area. The environmental fee can be paid at the time of obtaining the ILP or at designated checkpoints during the trek. The amount may vary, so it is advisable to check with local authorities or trekking agencies for the current fee.


Restricted Areas and Special Permits:


Certain areas along the Markha Valley trek, such as the Hemis National Park and some remote villages, may require special permits or permissions. These permits are generally arranged by trekking agencies or local guides, and the cost may be included in the package or charged separately. Before embarking on the trek, ensure that you have the necessary permits and permissions for the areas you plan to visit.


Tourist and Conservation Fees:


Some monasteries and cultural sites along the trekking route may have an entrance fee or a voluntary donation for maintenance and conservation purposes. It is recommended to carry some cash for such fees and support the upkeep of these important cultural landmarks.


It is crucial to note that permit regulations and fees are subject to change. Therefore, it is advisable to check with local tourism authorities, trekking agencies, or the District Commissioner’s Office in Leh to get the most up-to-date information and ensure compliance with the necessary permits and fees.


By obtaining the required permits and paying the applicable fees, you can trek the Markha Valley trail in a legal and responsible manner, while also contributing to the preservation and development of the region.


Safety Tips

Ensuring your safety during the Markha Valley trek is of utmost importance. Here are some key safety tips to keep in mind before and during your trek:


Acclimatize Properly:


Take the time to acclimatize to the high altitudes before starting the trek. Spend a few days in Leh or other high-altitude locations to allow your body to adjust. Take it easy during the initial days of the trek and listen to your body if you experience any symptoms of altitude sickness such as headache, dizziness, nausea, or shortness of breath.


Stay Hydrated:


Dehydration can be a common issue while trekking in high altitudes. Drink plenty of water and fluids throughout the day, even if you do not feel thirsty. Avoid excessive consumption of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, as they can contribute to dehydration.


Protect Yourself from the Sun:


The sun’s intensity is stronger at higher altitudes. Protect yourself from the harmful effects of UV rays by wearing sunscreen with a high SPF, sunglasses, and a hat. Consider wearing lightweight, breathable clothing that covers your skin to avoid sunburn.


Pack for Changing Weather:


The weather in the mountains can be unpredictable. Pack clothing layers that can be easily added or removed to adapt to temperature changes. Always carry a waterproof jacket or poncho to protect yourself from rain or unexpected showers.


Familiarize Yourself with the Trail:


Before commencing the trek, familiarize yourself with the trail and carry a detailed map or navigation device. Follow established trekking routes and avoid taking unnecessary shortcuts or venturing off the designated trail. Inform someone about your trekking plans, including your itinerary and expected return date.


Be Prepared for Altitude-related Issues:


Learn about altitude sickness, its symptoms, and how to respond if you or any team member experiences them. Carry necessary medication, such as Diamox (consult a doctor for appropriate dosage), to help alleviate symptoms of altitude sickness. It is essential to understand that the only definitive treatment for altitude sickness is to descend to a lower altitude.


Stay Warm and Dry:


Even during the summer months, temperatures in the mountains can drop significantly, especially at night. Pack warm clothing, including thermal layers, a down jacket, and a sleeping bag suitable for cold temperatures. Keep your clothing and sleeping bag dry to prevent hypothermia.


Respect Local Culture and Environment:


Show respect for the local culture, traditions, and customs of the Ladakhi people. Seek permission before entering monasteries or sacred sites and adhere to any guidelines or restrictions. Practice responsible tourism by leaving no trace of your presence and disposing of waste properly.


Travel Insurance:


Purchase comprehensive travel insurance that covers trekking at high altitudes and includes emergency medical evacuation. Read the policy carefully and ensure it meets your specific requirements.


By keeping these safety tips in mind, you can minimize risks and ensure a safe and enjoyable trekking experience in the mesmerizing Markha Valley. Remember to prioritize your well-being and the well-being of your fellow trekkers at all times.



The Markha Valley trek offers a truly remarkable adventure amidst the breathtaking landscapes of the Ladakh region in India. Through diverse terrains, cultural encounters, and stunning views, this trek allows you to immerse yourself in the beauty and tranquility of the Himalayas.


By adequately preparing for the trek, including physical fitness training, packing the necessary gear, and acclimatizing to the altitude, you will be better equipped to face the challenges along the trail. Hiring a guide or porter can enhance your trekking experience by providing local knowledge, support, and load sharing.


Obtaining the required permits, such as the Inner Line Permit (ILP) and environmental fees, ensures compliance with local regulations and contributes to the preservation and development of the region.


Throughout the trek, prioritize safety by staying hydrated, protecting yourself from the sun, being prepared for changing weather conditions, and familiarizing yourself with the trail. These measures will help mitigate risks and ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.


Embrace the unique cultural experiences along the way, respect the local communities and environment, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


The Markha Valley trek is a captivating adventure that will not only challenge you physically but also provide you with a deeper connection to nature and the rich Ladakhi culture. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and embark on this extraordinary journey through the mesmerizing Himalayan landscapes.