If you’re in the Indian region of Ladakh, you’ll probably hear about the Markha Valley. While there are loads of valleys that you can explore by taxi, van, or motorbike, the Markha Valley is currently only accessible by foot. This makes it one of the most popular trekking destinations in Ladakh. Here’s my Guide to an Independent Markha Valley Trek in 4 days!
How to Get There & Away
Because the Markha Valley is only accessible by foot, you’ll have to get dropped off at the closest town, which is Chilling. You can take a bus here, though you’ll have a late start. Some trekkers we met didn’t start walking until 1pm! The great thing about the bus is that its only about 100 rupees.
I recommend taking a taxi. There is a fixed rate sheet and a taxi to Chilling will set you back 2600 rupees. The plus to taking a taxi is that you’ll be able to start early when the sun isn’t so strong. An early start is good because the first day is very long!
You can also take a taxi to Chilling Allam, which is the start of the trek. It’s about 500 rupees more to get here, but you’ll get dropped off as close to the start of the trek as possible, which is nice because the first day is a long one.
It’s a 2 hour taxi ride.
The trek ends at either Shang Sumdo or Chokdo. Chokdo is the first town you can get picked up at; I recommend getting picked up here- if you walk 5km more to Shang Sumdo, you’ll be walking along the road anyway. You can either prebook your taxi in Leh before the trek or just turn up (there’s a couple of taxis waiting there)- the taxi is 2800 rupees back to Leh and the drive is about an hour and a half.
There’s also a daily bus that leaves Shang Sumdo at 6pm.
Booking a Taxi:
You can either go to the taxi stand or any tour agency in Leh to book a taxi. Because it’s a fixed rate, the agencies will be the same price as going to the taxi stand and booking yourself.
Day 1: Taxi from Leh to Chilling/Chilling Allam (2 hours), trek to Sara | 19 km | +400 m
Day 2: Sara to Hankar | 20 km | +490 m
Day 3: Hankar to Nymaling | 11 km | +820m
Day 4: Nymaling to Kangmaru La (+430m) to Chokdo | 15 km | -1.3 km
Detailed Day by Day Itinerary
We were dropped off at Chilling Allam, which is right next to the river and the start of the trek. They’re currently building a bridge across the river, but it’s not finished yet, so to cross the river and get to the start of the trek, you’ll have to have a little micro-adventure!
There’s a wooden crate that hangs above the river and there’s a pulley system so you can get across. This was one of the highlights of the trek for me! Be careful and mindful of your hands, however, as your fingers can get caught in the pulley. Keep them to your sides to be safe!
The valley is MUCH hotter than you will expect and there is nowhere to buy water, so make sure you bring a water bottle to fill up and a filter, as you’ll be walking long days and it’s nice to be able to drink the cool river water.
The walk is very flat and the small ascent you do is very gradual. The heat is the real killer, so make sure you’re prepared! Take lots of breaks in the shady spots. There’s a tea tent in Skyu where you can get a tea and maggi noodles. It’s a good place to rest. There’s also a lovely campsite/tea tent about 3 km from Sara and it’s a great rest spot.
When you arrive in Sara, you can turn up to any homestay. They do a taking turns system of hosting guests, so they’ll point you to the guesthouse you’ll stay at. Guesthouses cost 1200 rupees per person and they include dinner, breakfast, and a packed lunch.
Another long, hot day! Many people take 5 days to do this trek, and they stop in Markha. If you have the time, it might be more enjoyable to take another day, but going all the way to Hankar and completing the trek in 4 days is totally possible.
Again, the ascent you do is pretty gradual, and the walk isn’t challenging. The hard part is definitely the heat! I recommend stopping at every teahouse and taking a little break. It makes the heat so much more bearable.
Try to arrive in Hankar early, as most people stop in this town regardless of how many days they’re taking to do the trek, so it crowds up! As soon as you see signs for Hankar homestays, start trying to find a spot!
Everyone says this is the hard day, but you escape the heat, so I think this is one of the most enjoyable days! You ascent 800 meters, but the walk isn’t challenging. Right before the 800 m climb, there are two tea tents that you can’t miss. You should definitely stop at them and take a rest!
Nymaling is a campsite and is a little more expensive than the other homestays at 1400 rupees per person. It’s quite chilly up here, so bring layers. I had my down jacket AND fleece on and was still a tad cold at night. I saw some people totally unprepared for the cold, wearing shorts and only having a light scarf for a jacket- they must have been miserable!
This was my favourite day of the trek- the pass day! Getting to the pass is only 400 m up over 2.8 km. It’s pretty steep but it’s a very easy trail. You go up the hill from Nymaling, then there’s a nice flat plain to cross before the final push up to the pass.
The wind makes the top of the pass FREEZING, but the view is gorgeous!
The way down is sooo lovely! There’s a beautiful view and though it’s sandy, it’s not that slippery on the way down. From the pass, it’s about 3.5 hours to Chokdo. You go down into the valley and follow the river. These were some of my favourite views and it was so fun to scramble over the river and rocks. There’s a fair bit of up and down, but they’re very short sections so it doesn’t really take a toll on you!
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