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Markha Valley Trek And Rafting In Zanskar

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Ladakh is renowned for its unique landscape that presents contradicting features that are equally appealing. It is this unique and exciting topography of the region that makes it just right for carrying out the adventure activity of trekking. The trekking trail of Markha Valley presents a thrilling means to explore the unreal and exquisite beauty of Ladakh while also providing the participants the adrenaline rush to quench their thirst for adventure.


The trekking trip that lasts for six days and five nights offers a moderate difficulty level making it suitable even for trekkers with only limited experience. The trek takes the participants to a height of around 5000 mts above sea level and requires them to traverse over diverse landscapes. Participants opting to enjoy the Markha Valley Trek And Rafting In Zanskar  get an opportunity to pass over Kongmaru La Pass, the lush green Markha Valley and the also enjoy the enchanting views of the snow-capped peaks of Korakoram mountains. In addition, the trekkers also get to travel through the various local villages with their fields of barley and potatoes, which add colour to the otherwise barren landscape.


Despite the difficulties and challenges offered by this high altitude trekking trail, the participants can enjoy a great experience. The simplicity of the everyday life of the local population irrespective of the harsh living condition proves educating and enlightening for trekkers. At the same time they gain spiritual satisfaction and mental peace by getting an opportunity to visit an extremely famous and old monastery that is well known for its beautiful paintings. In fact it would not be wrong to state that this trip proves extremely fulfilling and satisfying for the participants.


Brief Itinerary


Day 1 – Arrive and rest in Leh

Day 2 – Acclimatization in and around Leh

Day 3 – Leh (3500 Mts) to Zingchen (3734 Mts ) to Ganda La Lower Base Camp (4363 Mts)

Day 4 – Ganda La lower base to Shingo Campsite (4376 Mts) via Ganda La (4971 Mts)

Day 5 – Shingo Campsite to Chilling (3189 Mts) using Ropeway/Ziplilne

Day 6 – Chilling to Leh. Rafting & Driving.


Detailed Itinerary


Getting to Leh


Ladakh – The land of passes has almost become centre of Earth Tourism these days J It is a landscape second to none and unique to the core.


One may choose amongst the various ways to reach Leh:


  • Flight – Costliest option that off course saves time. The peak season is between June and September, sooner you book the cheaper the rates. The flight rates can go up till 15 – 20 grands, so one needs to plan early for this. At least two days rest & acclimatization in Leh needed.


  • By Road via Manali – Cheaper option that involves a lot of road journey but is more or less streamlined. Volvo buses are easily available till Manali and from there, the sharing or reserve taxis can be hire easily. Due to the permission requirements, one should either arrive in Manali 1/2 days early or should book for something before reaching Manali. The share taxi rates from Manali in an Innova or Xylo can vary between INR 2500 to 3500 per seat depending upon where you sit in the car (middle and front always preferable). The journey should take around 18 hours in a taxi. At least one day rest & acclimatization in Leh needed.


  • By Air and road via Srinagar – Expensive option but gives you the chance of seeing the beautiful Kashmiri towns on the way. Flight rates again can rise very fast closer to the departure date and should be planned early. Shared or reserved taxi options are easily available from Srinagar till Leh. Shared seat rates would range between INR 3000 to 4000. The journey should take around 10 hours in a taxi. At least one day rest & acclimatization in Leh needed.


  • By Rail and road via Srinagar – Another cost effective option but a bit uncomfortable since it involves changing mode of transport twice, once in Jammu & then in Srinagar. One can avail train facility on this route till Jammu. Jammu to Srinagar is another 8 hours journey for which one can easily get shared taxi from Jammu. At least one day rest & acclimatization in Leh needed.


  • On a bicycle – The best way to reach Leh is this! Not to mention that riding a bike from either Srinagar or Manali (typical routes) to Leh in itself is a great expedition that should be planned well in advance. Many cyclists would reach Leh absolutely fit & fine who don’t usually require acclimatization. Rest however is personal choice J


  • On motorcycle – Another preferred way these days to reach Leh is on motorcycles. The fuel guzzlers can be hired from Delhi / Chandigarh / Manali @ INR 800 to 1500 per motorcycle per day. At least one day rest & acclimatization in Leh needed.

Day 1 – Arrive and rest in Leh


This day is typically critical for people arriving in Leh by flight. The altitude of the city (3500 mts) is definitely ‘High Altitude’ and sickness does happen. Headache, loss of appetite are common symptoms that may get worse into vomits, and nausea. The best way is to rest for the day and wait for your body to acclimatize but don’t sleep too much. Staying awake helps. If you are not feeling too bad, go for small walks to the market, etc. and drink as much fluid as possible. Enjoy local soups, special Ladakhi salt tea, and water as much as you can. A tablet of Dimox may also help but if the situation worsens, see a doctor.


Day 2 – Acclimatization in and around Leh


This day is usually required by most modes of transport (except bikes). Stay active and visit one or two monasteries. This should be the second day in Leh for those reaching by flight. The greatest thing about monasteries is that they are always high! You can practice the High Altitude climb and the climb also helps immensely in acclimatizing. Climbing higher and staying lower is the best way to acclimatize. A tablet of Dimox may be taken if not feeling well but don’t depend upon Dimox too much. Test your body for the trek that starts tomorrow.


Day 3 – Leh to Zingchen - 28 Kms by road & Trek to Ganda La lower base via Yurutse (10 Kms, 6 – 8 hours)


Leh (3500 Mts) – 28 Kms – Zingchen (3734 Mts) – 6 Kms – Rumbak Campsite (3855 Mts) – 2.2 Kms – Yurutse (4172 Mts) – 1.6 Kms – Ganda La Lower Base (4363 Mts)


Road Journey – Start the drive early morning (especially if you are travelling in summers) because it is good to avoid the scorching sun of Ladakh. Take the airport road from Leh to drive towards Spituk village where you cross Indus River using a bridge. The road from here moves parallel to Indus (right of Indus) and Kashmir highway. After reaching Pharka village, the road moves away from the Indus towards Zingchen. One can see a big board declaring the beginning of “Hemis High Altitude National Park”.


Trek – The trek starts from a barrier made by forest department to mark the end of road for vehicles. However, the half-baked road would be used by us to walk upon. One can see the confluence of Stok and Rumbek Nallas (small water streams) here. We would start the walk besides the Rumbek Nalla. The start would not be easy because the altitude is seriously high and the breath can be a usual issue to start with. However, after walking slowly for some time, one starts gathering the breath faster than expected. The trail has very gradual incline giving enough opportunity to pick up the breath. One starts on the left of Nalla and continues to walk on the dirt road for around 1 hour. Through this route, one can only see towering brown mountains on either side that have no vegetation whatsoever! However, alongside the Nalla, some pretty Himalayan roses among many other plants can be spotted. After around 1 hour, we cross the Nalla to move to the other side using a bridge. The trail earlier used to continue on the right of Nalla but due to frequent landslides on that side, the trail has now been shifted to the other side for a short distance. After walking for another 10 – 15 mins, one can see Bon Budhist shrine along the trail. The place does not have a special name (or at least we could not find out the name) but one can spot the brilliant make-shift deity statues here that can mesmerize those who are believers. Walk for another 15 mins cross another bridge and come back to the original side of the Nalla (right of Nalla). From here, one should take the upper trail (away from the water stream). The incline degree increases a bit from here but is still quite gradual. Another 30 – 40 mins walk would take you to the Rumbek camping site, marked by temporary tents (set up by locals) and a board with map (by forest deptt.).


From Rumbek camp site, the view opens up significantly. Start moving upwards (south west) from the site, crossing small water streams flowing from Stok La & Stok Kangri. One needs to move eastward, through the Rumbek village for going to Stok La but we need to take the trail on the western side, towards Yurutse. After walking for around 50 - 60 mins, we reach at a confluence of two streams coming from Stok. From this point, take the incline on the west towards Yurutse. After around 50 – 60 mins of hike from here, one can start seeing the Gompas that mark the beginning of the village, Yurutse. One can rest here for some time and enjoy the appalling serenity of this remote high altitude village. The place has a nice Home Stay option available.


As one starts from Yurutse, a short 15 mins walk takes us to a big field that has been cordoned off by the villagers. Presenting an astonishing view, the field is uncharacteristic with so many flowers and herbs that make a rainbow of colours in the ever brown/white background – Blue, Green, Yellow, Red, Orange, and mixtures J Keep walking on the trail for another hour to reach the Ganda La lower Base camp. The camp site is in the middle of a large valley with mountains on 3 sides marking its boundaries. There is a small water source which may dry up in late summers or early summers (when it is covered with snow). The site has been developed with proper marking of sleeping area, pits, water point, and a permanent toilet. However, the development does not come free, camping charges (150 per sleeping tent & kitchen tent, one time transit charges per person) have to be paid. Night in the camps.




  1. Popular Trees – Grown domestically for wood by the villagers, mostly in the starting part of the day’s trail
  2. Himalayan Rose – Beautiful pink roses on plants (that can be counted as trees) of a bit larger size compared to roses we see in plains. Can be spotted intermittently.
  3. Sporlow Mendok – Small purple flowers that have a peculiar smell and can be spotted at 2-3 places, Mendok means flower in Ladakhi lingo.
  4. Lacchu Mendok – Mesmerizing, zig red & orange flowers that stand out from everything here. Nice smell and spotted mostly towards Yurutse and ahead.
  5. General green shrubs & yellow flowers all along the trail




  1. Himalayan Chokor – A hen like bird that can be spotted easily around the Ganda La base. Her eggs are larger in comparison to the typical hen. The bird and eggs were consumed in the yester years but nowadays they roam around without fear J
  2. Blue Sheep – Can be spotted around the confluence of Stok Nallas or in fact nearby any stream through the trail. A deer like animal that is a treat to the eyes.
  3. Snow Leopard – Can be spotted only in the winters, a sight would be an achievement that is best left undescribed!
  4. Golden Eagle – The nest can be spotted through the year near the holy shrine of Bon Budhists (on opposite side of the mountain) but the bird is usually visible only during the Spring season
  5. Pigeons, Crows, and sparrows are also visible

Day 4 – Ganda La lower base to Shingo Campsite and a La Lower Base (4363 Mts) – 1.2 Kms – Ganda La Upper Base (4528 Mts) – 2.2 Kms – Ganda La (4971 Mts) – 3.7 Kms – Shingo Campsite (4376 Mts)



We start early morning today to cross the pass soon in the morning. Start walking westwards on the clearly demarcated trail towards the Upper Ganda La base. Continuous and steady incline (avg. slope of around 17%) for around 50 – 60 mins takes us to the Ganda La Upper base. This is also a similar camping site that can be used either before the climb of Ganda La from Zingchen side or after the climb from Chilling side. Same rates of camping are applicable here as well, even when there might be no-one present. A permanent toilet has been made here as well.


Continue moving upward from here into the narrow valley in the south west direction. One walks here alongside a seasonal gorge that dries up once all snow melts down. One is continuously greeted by Marmots and Himalayan Hare on the way with small shrubs trying to compensate for the lack of oxygen in the valley. After walking for around 1.5 hours, one needs to turn northward to climb to a local top. This turn can be easily spotted because this is the first time since morning when a trail diverges. One can see Stok Kangri through most of the climb today but the view from here is quite magnificent. The climb from this point becomes a bit steeper (avg. slope of around 21%) till the pass. One can see the base camps from this local top, offering the last clear line of sight. The climb should take around 20 – 25 mins from the diversion. Walk towards the spur on the south west for around 10 mins to get the first glimpse of Ganda La. One should be able to see a flag up on the pass. The tempting pass keeps inviting you through the steady climb of around 50 – 60 mins from here.


The view from Ganda La is amazing, almost 360* view with Zanskar range in the South (front) and Stok Kangri at the back. Zanskar range of mountains is visible only from select trails in the Himalayas, Markha Valley being one of them. If the weather is very clear, one can also see the peaks Nun & Kun (only the small portion though). The pass joins Rumbak & Markha Valley. Standing here, one can also see some other passes like Singe La, etc and realize why the ancient mankind would name this land as “Ladakh” literally meaning ‘The land of passes’


While coming down from the pass, the trail is smooth and one can stroll down fast (if required). Start walking straight down the gorge into the Markha valley. Walk to Shingo campsite is all downhill and easy. It should take around 1.5 hours to reach Shingo camping site that is also used as the Base camp for the ascent to Ganda La from Chilling side. Night stay in camps.




  1. Leh Berries (seabuckthorn also called Tset locally) – Small red & orange grape like fruit that has become extremely famous in the recent past. Some wild versions may not be edible, consult your local guide before tasting.
  2. Juniper – A holy tree whose bush like leaves are also used for holy smoke
  3. Padu (locally called) – a strong smelling shrub that can be used as incense
  4. Zathot – A long, thin shrub that stands out from the bush types (mostly visible) of Byama. This is also eaten like vegetable by the local inhabitants




  1. Marmot – Large squirrel type animals found in plenty here. Vegetarian and harmless, these guys cutely keep criss-crossing you all the way.
  2. Black belled Magpie – An astonishingly beautiful bird with a collage of colors (blue, black, and white) on her body!
  3. Black Redstart – A cute little bird (somewhat like a sparrow) that extremely colourful (with large mixes of black & orange)


Day 5 – Shingo Campsite to Chilling (Ropeway)


Shingo Campsite (4376 Mts) – 2.32 Kms – Shingo Village – 8 Kms – Skiu Village Start (3379 Mts) – 7 Kms – Chilling Ropeway (3200 Mts)


The day is mostly downhill and easy. As we start in the morning, we walk along the same gorge as yesterday that takes us to Shingo village after around 35 – 40 mins. A famous village in this valley that was recently been touched by a solar lighting initiative. Home stay options are also available here.


From the village, start walking alongside the Shingo Nalla. The trail is mostly closed on either side with large brown mountains. The stream would ask you to cross itself multiple times, jumping over the small or big boulders. The trail hardly moves away from the river. If Ladakh was not an arid region with dim hopes or rains, this trail could have been very risky but it is what it is! Only occasionally the well laid out trail moves upwards to give a bit more open view. Blue sheep can be sighted along this stream easily. The trail is longish with continues decline and may become a bit boring, so enjoy the hike and keep talking or singing or even better enjoy the rare flora & fauna visible alongside the trail, point is to not think about the destination (Skiu).


As the village Skiu approaches, you can feel the presence of civilization marked by some fields with properly laid boundaries. The beginning of the village is marked by a holy tree – Juniper and usual Gompas. Home stay and camping options are available her. The walk from Shingo to Skiu should take around 2.5 to 3 hrs. Shingo Nalla meets its big brother – Markha Nalla here that flows from east to west. Follow on the right of Markha Nalla, downstream to move towards Kaya village. Kaya is an ally village of Skiu, only 20 mins away from Skiu. In case, one wants to go to Markha, you need to move upstream & on the right of Markha Nallay, through upper Skiu.


From Kaya, walk for another 6 Kms to reach the ropeway, on the half paved road. The road was used by vehicles till some time ago but after the bridge over Zanskar was destroyed near Chilling, the village has again been cut off. After walking on this half-baked road for around 2 hours, one can see the confluence of Markha Nalla & Zanskar River. A short hike from here, would take you to the Ropeway point. Crossing the ropeway would sure be a thrilling experience that can’t really be described here J


Cross the Zanskar and move on the other side of the river to Chilling that is around 5 – 6 Kms from Chilling village. Stay here in Homestay.


Remote Ladakhi villages are a lifetime experience and one must take them at least once! People, trees, crop, and even dirt is untouched here. Enjoy the local cuisine along with the special Ladakhi tea (salty) tonight. Despite the remoteness, the villages would always seem sufficiently fed and developed, most importantly, the people won’t look restless or disturbed. Although the common logic of modern day development would make you feel pity for them but they surely don’t need it!


Day 6 – Chilling to Leh. Rafting & Driving.


Rafting for 28 Kms from Chilling (3189 Mts) to the Confluence of Indus & Zanskar, near Nimmu (3140 Mts). Drive for 38 Kms from confluence point to Leh.


It is 28km of rafting for around 3 hours that includes a range of rapids including a Class III + rapid, at a point where the river converges to a large extent. Your guide will provide you a rafting helmet, wetsuit and booties before giving you a brief set of instructions on how to oar and safety procedures if you are thrown overboard. The water is cold and silty coming from the glaciers upstream.


If you are considering taking a camera its best to bring something waterproof or bring a small dry sack you can stick in your life preserver and make sure its well attached in case you are thrown overboard. The most exciting stretch of rapids is close to the end of the trip just before the bridge that crosses the river.


From here we drive to Leh (around 45 – 50 mins) and stay in hotel.


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Where Ladakh
Duration 6 Days / 5 Nights
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