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The best treks in Ladakh

Elderly woman of Ladakh.

The Best treks in Ladakh

The best treks to participate in Ladakh include an option for people of all fitness levels and experiences. There are many trekking companies, both local, regional, and international, that offer trekking vacations. These companies will organize the guide, and support crew, provide necessary trekking equipment, and pack animals and meals. Recently it has been possible to go trekking and stay in simple homestays with the villagers.

You will find that there is a considerable variation in cost between the trekking agencies. However, this gives you an idea of what you can expect in the quality of services, equipment, and food and will make a massive difference in your experience.

You will find the most popular Markha Valley Trek online and the ever-growing companies in Leh’s main bazaar. However, don’t be fooled into thinking everyone can do this trek; it isn’t an easy trek. It involves crossing at least one if not two high passes around 5000 meters in altitude. You will sleep at a high altitude for several nights on this trek.

The best treks in Ladakh

This famous trek brings you an outstanding combination of Ladakhi lifestyles and culture with stark landscapes, unusual rock formations, and canyons. The Markha Valley trek is between the Stok and Zanskar ranges, south of Leh. 

The starting point can vary with the number of days you have for this trek, as road construction has opened up the options. Zingchen is the entrance to Hemis National Park, where a fee is charged. It is one of the largest National parks in India and the only one North of the Himalayas. You can go on a camping trek or stay at village homestays. A camping trek is a private “luxurious” version (depending on the company you have booked), and the homestays can be overbooked as the phones might be out of order. If a homestay is fully booked, you might be able to spend the night in local teahouses or parachute cafes; make sure you have a perfect sleeping bag. The parachutes are used to airdrop food supplies to the troops by the army. 

  • Duration: 6-12 days. 
  • Level: Moderate to strenuous
  • Hours of Trekking Per Day: 4-6 hours most days, with some days 8-10 hours towards the end.
  • Highlights: Panoramic vistas from high-altitude passes. Ruined Forts at Markha and Hankar. A visit to Hemis monastery at the end of the trek.
  • When to Go: Mid-June to late September.

Stok Khangri

Sham Trek (Likir-Temisgam): For Beginners 

The Ladakhis call this the “baby trek,” but you have to remember that it goes over 4000 meters over more minor passes, and the daytime temperatures can be hot during the summer. This is the most popular trek in Ladakh and is suitable for beginners. However, it does have its challenges with some steep climbs and descents. You will be going through villages in the arid Sham region in Ladakh. You will get to Likir at a ninety-minute drive from Leh. This trek is ideal who want to try a shorter duration trek, beginners, and families. It is a lower altitude trek than the other areas where you mostly sleep below 4000 meters, and the passes are relatively shorter in the distance. Lately, homestay accommodation has been mushrooming. It is possible to do this trek without packing animals; you can have a support vehicle to carry your duffel bags and meet you at the homestay at the end of the day.

  • Duration: 4 – 5 days.
  • Level: Moderate.
  • Hours of Trekking Per Day: 4-5 hours.
  • Highlights: Rugged and frequently changing landscape, plus monasteries at Likir and Ridzong.
  • When to Go: Anytime from late May to late September (it will be hot during July and August).

Ladakhi Woman

Lamayuru-Alchi: Ancient Monasteries Trail

Four of the oldest surviving monasteries in Ladakh lie on this route, which is more robust than the Markha Valley Trek. It is a superb opportunity to combine the trek with the historical heritage of this region. It begins from Lamayuru, which is about three hour’s drive from Leh on the Srinagar-Leh highway. This famous village is the starting point for many treks in Ladakh. There are several guest houses in the town. Lamayuru monastery is beautifully perched above the camping ground. This trek is challenging in parts, but the Zanskar range’s clear sparkling streams make it worthwhile. 

  • Duration: 5-6 days.
  • Level: Moderate to strenuous.
  • Hours of Trekking Per Day: 5-6 hours each
  • Highlights: Lamayuru Monastery, the oldest monastery in Ladakh, dates back to the 11the century and is where the mystic Naropa meditated in a cave. Alchi Monastery is celebrated for its impressive early Kashmiri Buddhist murals.
  • When to Go: Mid-June to late September.
Resting on top of Tar La in Ladakh

Resting on top of Tar La in Ladakh

Rumtse-Tsomoriri trek

This trek takes you to the remote area of Changthang – a continuation of the Tibetan plateau. You will be trekking in a high-altitude area home to the Nomads. It also becomes the summer breeding ground for many rare and endangered birds.

  • Duration: 9 days.
  • Level: Strenuous.
  • Hours of Trekking Per Day: 6-7 hours.
  • Highlights: Rich in Flora and fauna in Hemis National Park. We visited Stok Palace at the end of the trek.
  • When to Go: Mid-June to late September.
Trekking in Ladakh

Trekking in Ladakh

Padum-Darcha: Remote Wonders 

Despite being a long trek from Zanskar in Ladakh to Lahaul in Himachal Pradesh, it is an ideal trans Himalayan trek for the first-time trekker, with only one pass above 5000 meters. It starts at Padum; two days drive from Leh, there are plenty of campsites, and homestays are growing annually. Then, you will trek towards the Lugnak Valley, southeast of Zanskar, an old trading route between Zanskar and Lahaul. If you like a longer and more challenging trek, you can combine the Lamayuru with the Padum trek. It will become a three-week-long adventure. It is best to do this trek soon as a road is being built between Padum and Darcha.

  • Duration: 9 days.
  • Level: Easy to moderate.
  • Hours of Trekking Per Day: 5-8 hours
  • Highlights: Phuktal monastery is a mind-blowing monastery. This isolated location of Phuktal is only reachable by trekking. 
  • When to Go: June to September.
Thiksey monastery

Thiksey monastery

Zanskar Chadar Trek: Walking on Ice 

When snowfall starts covering Ladakh’s higher reaches from the end of September, it cuts off the Zanskar Valley from the rest of the world for as long as nine months. The only road becomes inaccessible, so the resourceful residents walk on the frozen Zanskar river during the winter to get in or out of the region. The rigid sheet of ice that forms on the river is referred to as Chadar. This is a great winter experience as long as you are fit, adventurous, and willing to bear the extreme cold. You will be mostly sliding and shuffling on the ice rather than walking. You will have to be very well equipped for this extreme adventure.

  • Duration: 10 days.
  • Level: Challenging. It’s one of the most strenuous treks in India.
  • Hours of Trekking Per Day: Trekkers have to cover an average of 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) in about 5 hours per day. The whole journey is just above 100 km.
  • Route: Trek follows the river from Chilling village, around 2 hours southwest of Leh. 
  • When to Go: Mid-January to mid-February.

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