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5 100 m ( 16 730 ft)
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This trek has the reputation of being one of the most popular treks in Ladakh and the travel agents tend to discourage it to their customers staying its too crowded and full of trekkers, yet both times I've done it (once in late June and once in late July) I saw hardly anyone on the trail and was almost always the only one in the homestays. Its a really beautiful trek and very diverse passing through beautiful valleys, picturesque villages, colorful canyons, and high alpine grasslands. If you have a short time in Ladakh and only have time for one trek I would recommend the Markha valley. As of 2014 people are reporting tha the price of homestays is 800 rupees per person in the villages and 1000 rupees at Nimaling.
Do It Yourself Information
Guidebook: This route is covered well in Trailblazer "Trekking in Ladakh" but lacks the current homestay information
Starting from Stok:
There is a Bus to Stok from Leh but not until 9:00 am it may be worth either taking a taxi or staying a night in Stok to get an earlier start as its a long day of walking over the Stok La to Rumbak where there are a number of homestays.
From Rumbak the trail joins the trail from Spituk. Its possible to make it to Skyu in a very long day or to Shingo in a shorter day. Both places have homestays.
Starting from Spituk:
Its worth taking a cab to Zhingchen (Jingchen) from to cut out the flat, hot, dusty, and boring walk along the dirt road from Spituk. Starting from Spituk there are many buses from Leh. The main village of Rumbak is off the main trail so the first night especially if you take cab to Zhingchen (Jingchen) can be spent at a homestay in the two house town of Yurutse. From Yurutse you can make it over the Kanda La to Skyu.
Starting from Chilling:
Transportation to Chilling is not regular so if you don't get lucky with a bus you will have to take a cab. The rope bridge that crosses the Zanskar River is about a 20-40 minute walk upriver along the road. Its only about a 2 and a half to 3 hour walk to Skyu but resist the temptation to go further unless you are carrying a tent as its a long way to the next homestay.
Along the Markha Valley:
Its a flat but long and often very hot walk from Skyu to Markha ( about 7 hours for fast walkers could be as long as 10). From Shingo its a couple hours longer. But Markha is beautiful village and a nice place to stay.
From Markha, its a short day to Hankar, perhaps the most beautifully set village on the hike. In between Markha and Hankar is Umlung a two house town where it is also possible to stay. Staying in Umlung is useful if you want cut out the short day between Markha and Hankar by hiking from Skyu to Umlung and from Umlung to Nimaling, but these are both long days. Markha and Hankar are both prettier than Umlung not to say Umlung's not pretty but the former are the two nicest villages on the trek.
From Hankar its a mostly up hill hike to Nimaling where there is a "tent" homestay. Ask at the tea tent for a homestay. Same deal as all the others in the Markah Valley (as of 2014 people report 1000 rupees for the Nimaling homestay) includes Dinner, Breakfast, packed lunch and in this case a bed in a tent.
Despite being a relatively high 5100 m pass the hike over the Gongmaru La is not difficult since you are starting from 4800 m at Nimaling. It is a long trek down to Shang Sumdo where the trail meets the road. There are a number of house in Shang Sumdo where it is possible to stay. There is a bus that leaves in the morning to Leh or you can hike on to Hemis, or take a bus to Kharu, and hitch/walk from there to Hemis, where there are also buses back to Leh.
A Possible Trekking Itinerary (Stok Start)
Day 1: Stok - Rumbak
Day 2: Rumbak - Shingo
Day 3: Shingo -Skiu
Day 4: Skiu - Markha
Day 5: Markha-Hankar
Day 6: Hankar -Nimaling
Day 7: Nimaling-Kongmaru La-Shjang (option to continue to Hemis very long day or go on the next day)
A Possible Trekking Itinerary (Chilling Start)
Day 1: Chilling to Skiu
Day 2: Skiu - Markha
Day 3: Markha-Hankar
Day 4: Hankar -Nimaling
Day 5: Nimaling-Kongmaru La-Shjang (option to continue to Hemis very long day or go on the next day)
Great info!We're planning to do Markha Valley Trek in September. Do we need to carry food and tents? Thanks!
Hi Jose,In late September the tent homestay at Nimaling may be closed for the season in which case you would need a tent and food for one night. In early September it should still be open but enquire locally before you go to make sure.have a great trek,Micah
Micah (Indie Trekking & Travel)
Firstly thanks heaps for the really useful info on this site. It definately helped us with everything. We started in Chilling and stayed in tea houses thoughout. Just wanted to add a few extra tips from our experience to help anybody who is looking at doing the trek. Some places share the business from tourists. There are plenty of tea houses so to make it fair they take turns with the business. In Skiu they wanted to split our group (we had 5 people) between two places at either end of the village, but we were able to stay in one place after talking with them for a while.Everybody walks at difference speeds, but for us day 2 from Skiu to Markha was closer to 10 hours. We did stop a couple of times, but it could be useful to budget more then 7 for this route. All the other times suggested here were pretty much spot on for our group.After about an hour of walking from Markha, we had to ford the stream (there used to be a up the river bank but its been washed out). It was only knee deep but freezing cold as the water has come straight off the glaciers. If you want to cross later on in the day however the river may be higher, as more snow melts later when its warmer.In Hankar, there are two areas where its possible to stay, West Hankar and East Hankar (about 15minuets further on, past the old fort ruins). West Hanker is bigger and apparently has blue sheep which come down to graze in the evening. East Hankar has a breathtaking view of the snow capped mountain behind wheat felds.Leaving Hankar, there are two bridges. DO NOT cross the first bridge. There was no sign, but this is NOT the Markha valley trail. You can see how the valley splits, stay on the left of the valley (facing upstream) and continue walking.All tea houses on the trek were 800Rs per person with the exception of Nimaling camp site which was 1000Rs per person.From Nimaling one can walk 6.5 hours to Chondho or 8.5 hours to Shang Sumdo, or onto Hemis (about 4 hours from Chongdho).The bus from Shang Sumdo back to Leh leaves at 8am.
Alan,Thanks for the updated information. I appriciate it, and I'm glad you had a good trek.thanks again,Micah
Micah (Indie Trekking & Travel)