Himalayan High Meadows Trek

The remote Markha Valley and superb mountain vistas from Nymaling
Overview

overview

This Ladakh trip combines the Indus Valley Odyssey with a ten-day trek in the Markha Valley. Begin at Stok Palace, trek through narrow canyons, and cross 16,500' Gandha La into the Markha Valley. Camp in the heavenly alpine meadows of Nymaling and trek past ancient Buddhist chortens, cliff dwellings, ancient battle sites, and reverential monuments of Buddhist empires long past. Enjoy superb views of high peaks in Tibet, Pakistan, and India while experiencing the famous hospitality of Ladakh. Mules or horses carry all of your gear. This is a blissful immersion in Buddhist life and everyday practice.

itinerary

itinerary

  • Day 1: Delhi/Leh
    Arrive in Leh and head to your guest house

    Fly from Delhi to Leh, the capital of Ladakh and situated among the hills on the north side of the Indus Valley. Upon arrival, you will be met by your guide and transferred to your hotel to begin your adaptation to the high altitude. You will have an afternoon orientation with your guide.

    Meals
    None
    Lodging
    Snow Lion Guest House or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 2: Thiske/Shey/Hemis
    Explore Thikse Monastery

    Visit Thikse Monastery, the largest gompa in Ladakh that is situated atop a craggy hill. Here you will find an important collection of Tibetan books and some excellent artwork. Afterwards, visit the palace at Shey, which sits in a strategic position  on a ridge overhang out into the Indus Valley. Your drive continues on to Hemis where you visit the gompa also known as Chang-Chub-Sam-Ling (or Lone Place of the Compassionate Person). The Hemis Gompa belongs to the Brokpa order and was founded in the early 17th century. It contains well-preserved frescoes showing Kashmiri influence, as well as the largest Thangka in Ladakh. Return to your guest house in Leh for your overnight.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    Snow Lion Guesthouse or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 3: Temisgam
    You may be invited into village homes for tea

    Drive to Temisgam (4 hours), one of our favorite villages in Ladakh. You will find your camp set up in a beautiful apricot grove beneath an ancient palace and monastery with a cold rushing stream nearby. Off the main roads and trails, this village is seldom visited by Westerners and you will have several days to explore the extensive fields and villages. You may even be invited into several houses for tea or local beer called chang. The climb to the monastery and old palace, as well as the nights here at 10,000' elevation, will aid in your acclimatization. The trip continues to become more remarkable for the cultural experience that unfolds. You have the sense that your long journey to Asia, over the Himalayas and onto the Tibetan Plateau, has taken you to a place so beautiful, remote, and pure that the effort has been worth it.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping or guesthouse
    Show on a map
  • Day 4: Lamayuru
    Visit extraordinary Lamayuru Monastery

    Make the exciting trip to the ancient Lamayuru Monastery and spend time exploring the extensive buildings of this ancient Buddhist sanctuary. This extraordinary gompa is perched atop a beautifully eroded crag, complete with rock pinnacles and caves above the Indus. Return to Temisgam for your overnight.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping or guesthouse
    Show on a map
  • Day 5: Hemishakpatchan
    Meet families and friends of your JOURNEYS guides

    After breakfast, drive to Hemishakpatchan via Saspol Village. This is the home village of many of our staff, and they will certainly invite you to visit their families and homes. There is a very interesting monastery here, and participants on JOURNEYS treks have started a public library at the monastery and built a nunnery as well. We also support other ongoing projects through our Earth Preservation Fund, such as the large water-driven prayer wheel restored through the contributions of previous JOURNEYS travelers. There are excellent views of snowy mountains, and wild sheep can usually be seen grazing on a nearby slope. At the homes of your guides, you will have the great experience of visiting some of their relatives. Overnight at the camp near the Hemis Library.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping or guesthouse
    Show on a map
  • Day 6: Ridzong/Chulican
    Visit another monastery and meet the resident monks

    Drive to Ridzong Monastery, the favorite Buddhist site of many visitors to Ladakh. You go back in time to an era when Buddhist Canons ruled the affairs of men and religious scholarship was the most important task of society. Overnight camp will be at Chulican.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
    Show on a map
  • Day 7: Alchi/Leh
    Visit the monastery and village of Alchi

    Today you will drive along the Indus River to the famous monastery at Alchi. This monastery preserves some of the most spectacular Buddhist wall paintings ever created. Also visit Likkir Monastery where the monks are of Gelukpa order and the Kushok is the Dalai Lama's younger brother. Return to Leh for your overnight.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Snow Lion Guest House or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 8: Stok - Begin Trek
    Explore Stok Palace before setting up camp outside the village

    Today you are driven to the village of Stok, the starting point of the trek. After visiting the Stok Palace, the residence of the Queen of Ladakh and a very nice museum containing some of the finest Thangkha paintings in the world, you set up camp just above the village.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
    Show on a map
  • Day 9: Cross Stok La
    Enjoy high mountain views on your trek

    This is a tiring but exhilarating day as you walk up a spectacular high barren valley of ever-changing color; in every direction there is a stunning panorama. Giant fingers of granite hundreds of feet long and massive dunes of purple scree contrast with the deep blue skies of the Tibetan Plateau. The path then steepens and the air thins as you climb towards Stok La (14,200'). Stopping for breath, you can see right back across the Indus Valley into the Karakoram Mountains. From the top of the pass, the path leads steeply down for about an hour to your camp near Rumbak village.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
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  • Day 10: Rumbak to Shingo
    Spot hints of green on your high mountain hike

    Your horsemen come from various villages along the route of the trek, so you may be able to stop in their homes for chang and other refreshments. This gives you a unique opportunity to take part in traditional village life. Moreover, all other villagers you meet are particularly friendly and welcoming because you are with their friends and relatives. It is a 90-minute walk to the next settlement, Urutse, and the mountain views from here are excellent. After lunch, you set off for the Gandha La (16,500') Pass, which is higher than the Stok La, but the trail ascends more gently. From the top, there are magnificent views across the Markha Valley into Zanskar. You camp just over the pass at Shingo.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
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  • Day 11: Markha Valley
    Pass the Markha Valley on today's trek (photo by S. Ertfass)

    This is a much easier day's walking, but no less spectacular. From the tiny hamlet of Shingo you enter a narrow gorge with almost sheer, 1,000-foot sides. This part of the trek can be extremely hot, even though for most of the day you are walking in the shade of thick scrub, something very unusual for Ladakh. Luckily, you cross and re-cross a gently flowing stream all day, so there is always a chance to take a cooling bath. The valley walls become increasingly steeper and higher, until eventually you come out at the junction of the Markha River. A ruined fort dominates one side of the valley, a huge wall of scree the other. Down the Markha River you see the silhouettes of some of the big peaks of Zanskar. A five-minute walk takes you to the village of Skiu where you camp for the night. There will be ample time to explore the area. Walk to Kaya village, known to Ladakhis for its coppersmiths, and see one at work. There may be a chance to buy some items he has made, including drinking bowls, spoons, chang pots and plates. There are also two simple, but beautiful, temples here almost unknown to tourists. Those who want to do a little more walking can head northwest along a precarious path high above the valley to the very impressive confluence of the Markha and Zanskar rivers. Otherwise, you could take a swim in the river or just lie in the sun where you camp beside the river.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
    Show on a map
  • Day 12: Markha Valley
    Continue your trek onward to Markha village

    You set off up the Markha Valley, an easy walk that is gently uphill. Although the mountainsides are stark and barren, as they are throughout Ladakh, parts of the valley itself are a blaze of brilliant greens and yellows. Wherever melt water from the glaciers provides irrigation for the land, there are oases of dazzling color. The path zigzags across the river, sometimes taking you high up across the steeply-banked scree. You pass an ancient ritual site -- a mass of red-painted shrines and yak horns probably dating back to the pre-Buddhist Bon period. After lunch beside the river near the small village of Chalak, you continue up the valley towards Markha. There are a number of settlements on the way, each guarded by a round stone wolf trap to protect the sheep and goats. After about 2-1/2 hours, you have to wade across the Markha River (usually about knee high) in order to reach the village of Markha itself. Markha is just a cluster of houses in a crescent shape above the river. You camp in a beautiful flat meadow beside the river.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
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  • Day 13: Markha to Thachungchy
    Kang Tase mountain (photo by S. Ertfass)

    Markha is at about 11,800,' so the morning walk is relatively easy going. Passing old water mills, you come into a wide open valley where again you ford the river (or be prepared to take the perilously slippery route on the scree slope above). After an hour, a little monastery appears above you, perched 500 feet up on a needle of rock. It is usually closed, though worth the climb just for the magnificent view. You stop for lunch in Hankar, the last year-round settlement in the Markha Valley. A ruined fort dominates the village from one side and on the other side the horizon is filled by the 21,000' Kang Yase, which is where you are heading. The path gets steeper above Hankar and you walk for only about two hours before setting camp at Thachungchy (14,100').

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
    Show on a map
  • Day 14: Thachungchy to Nyimaling
    Stop in a shepherds' summer camp

    You will find that the walking becomes more difficult as you gain altitude, but you may find this to be the most beautiful day of the whole trip as you make your way toward the head of the valley. For much of the time, the horseshoe of Kang Yase rises above you, unbelievably close and the more you climb, the better the view into Zanskar and beyond. This really is the roof of the world. Passing an icy cold glacial lake reflecting the snowy peaks above, you arrive at Nyimaling (15,763') by lunch time. This is the shepherds' summer camp for the whole Markha Valley and is literally 'the meadow of the sun.' Very few places in the entire world have the wild beauty of Nyimaling. It is a lost world of its own and tranquil beyond words.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
    Show on a map
  • Day 15: Explore Nyimaling
    Another hike on Kang Yase awaits the energetic

    Spend the day at Nyimaling where life here follows the rhythms of nature and nothing is hurried. Little children sit in the sun while their mothers beside them make cheese and butter, yaks play on the mountainside, and flocks of sheep and goats sweep across the valley on their way to distant grazing lands. There are carpets of wildflowers, alpine and desert species side by side, and a great profusion of birds -- from high altitude finches to great soaring eagles. This can be a day of complete relaxation or, for the more energetic, a day to climb even higher to the ice and snow fields of Kang Yase. It is possible to reach as high as 19-20,000' without technical skills or equipment. The views are superb as snowy peaks stretch in every direction. It is possible to see from Nanga Parbat and K-2, the second highest peak in the world, all the way to the mountains of Western China. It will be cold in the evening, but you can expect a beautiful sunrise.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
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  • Day 16: Gongmaru Pass
    Look for yaks among the high rocks

    Leaving Nyimaling in the early morning and crossing the Markha River for the last time, you head up towards the Gongmaru La Pass. This is the highest point of the trek at 17,052,' but you are acclimatized by now and if anyone does have problems it will be possible to ride a horse over the pass. More likely, your conditioning will make this pass seem easier than the previous lower ones. The path on the other side drops steeply and you descend awhile before stopping for lunch. You pass through the village of Chogdo, a group of houses high above the valley floor. Again, you cross the river a number of times as the banks of the valley are too steep for a path. There are still few signs of human habitation beyond simple houses and an occasional farmer with his stock. By mid-afternoon, you have come down about 4,500' to the village of Sumdo where you set up camp (12,150').

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
    Lodging
    Camping
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  • Day 17: Trek to Hemis
    Take in the courtyard at Hemis monastery (photo by W. Elf)

    You will have an easy two-hour walk back to the Indus Valley, where your trek ends. A private vehicle takes you 20 minutes or so to Hemis Gompa, the biggest and most important monastery in Ladakh. After lunch at the monastery, you return to your guest house in Leh.

    Meals
    Breakfast, Lunch
    Lodging
    Snow Lion Guest House or similar
    Show on a map
  • Day 18: Fly to Delhi
    Bid farewell to Ladakh and its friendly people

    Return to Delhi on an early morning flight, where JOURNEYS' services end. Due to unpredictable weather in Leh and frequent flight delays, we recommend two overnights in Delhi before departing on your international flight. We can assist with accommodations and excursions such as a visit to the Taj Mahal near Delhi.

    Meals
    Breakfast
    Lodging
    None
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Price and Date Details

Price and Date Details

Jun 25-Jul 12, 2015
Or Privately on Request
Land Cost:
$4,250
Delhi/Leh/Delhi flights add $450 (estimate)
Single Supplement:
$500
The single supplement is applicable if a roommate is not available or if single accommodation is specifically requested. While single accommodation is not available on all trips, we will try and honor this request whenever possible.
Need to Know

Need to Know

Duration:
18 days
The number of days, or duration, in a destination corresponds with the itinerary as published. This is the time period covered by the land cost. The total number of days includes the time required to travel between the USA and the destination country.
Comfort Level:
1
Camping and guest houses
Group Size:
2-12
The stated range indicates minimum required for guaranteed departure and maximum accepted on the scheduled dates. Exceptions can often be made for private departures.
Activity Level:
4
Camping and guest houses
Terms & Conditions: 

Standard

Included in costs: Meals as noted, each night in double occupancy accommodations, land transfers between components, English speaking guides, park or site entry fees, surface transport, equipment other than personal gear, government tax, airport transfer assistance, in-country ticket reconfirmation and check-in assistance (where permitted), complete pre-departure packet, toll-free pre-departure phone assistance.

Not included in costs: Meals not noted as included, gratuities, beverages (except tea or coffee at meals), international or domestic airfare unless specified, airport departure taxes not included with air tickets, visas, itinerary changes after confirmation, any services not included in itinerary, any costs incurred due to canceled or delayed flights, acts of nature or other happenings beyond our control, or other costs as are more fully described in JOURNEYS Terms & Conditions.

Deposit and payment schedule: $500 per person per trip or the applicable amount based on the trip and the proximity of the departure date. A second deposit of $800 per person is due four months prior to departure, and final payment for land arrangements is due 60 days prior to departure.  Any applicable permit fees required in advance are non-refundable as well.  Airlines require full payment when tickets are issued. The deposit may be made by Visa, Master Card, American Express, or check, and the Reservation Form may be submitted by fax, mail, or via our website. Full payment schedule and cancellation penalties are described in our Terms and Conditions as noted in our Global Expedition Catalog, on our website, and elsewhere. Please request these if you do not have them before advancing a deposit.

Air fares: JOURNEYS can make complete air arrangements applicable to your trip as noted in this itinerary. If you wish to redeem frequent flyer mileage or arrange flights directly with the airline, you may do so on your own at no penalty. If you do, please consult with us on exact arrival and departure dates and times before having your tickets issued to avoid errors.

Insurance: When you make your application, we strongly recommend the purchase of comprehensive travel insurance in case of emergency situations. Please contact us for a recommended policy.

Itinerary Change Fee: There will be a $40 fee for changes once an itinerary has been confirmed and approved. Additional cancellation penalties or change fees may apply as per our terms and conditions. The passenger is responsible for such fees.

Resources

Trip Extensions

Trip Extensions

Everest View Mountain Flight

Duration: 1 days

Enjoy the magnificent Himalayas close up. You'll have a bird's-eye view as you fly along the full length of the Nepal Himalayas. This is the best way to see Everest. *This trip is available from Kathmandu, Nepal when booked with conjunction with a Ne... read more

Dhulikhel Lodge Visit

Duration: 3 days

Lovely lodge with traditional architecture, private gardens and panoramic views; village and short treks nearby.

Kathmandu Hospitality

Duration: 3 days

2 hotel nights with breakfast, 2 airport transfers, Kathmandu sight-seeing, ticket reconfirmation and assistance with any necessary trekking permits.

Delhi Hospitality Package

Duration: 3 days

Visit Delhi before or after any Journeys Asia tour.

Chitwan National Park

Duration: 3 days

Chitwan National Park is probably the world’s best habitat for the rare Bengal Tiger and the One-horned Rhinoceros. Ride elephants in search of these animals and the hundreds of other animals and birds found here. Almost 700 sq. miles of lush rive... read more

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