Overview

Markha Winter Walk – Overview

During the middle of winter, in the high altitude arid mountains, when the peaks and valleys are covered in snow, and the trees stand all bare, it feels like the Himalaya is in deep meditative state! A state which exudes an aura of peace and serenity so profound that it pervades into the being of every traveller who cares to visit.

We discovered this trip accidentally in the winter of 2017, when our scheduled trip to Chadar got cancelled due to excessive snowfall and we had to think of alternatives and zeroed on Markha Valley. Markha Valley is generally a summer favourite and has few takers in winter with its illustrious cousin the Chadar trek drawing all the attention of trekkers. To our good fortune, what we chanced upon to our delight when we walked the Markha Valley was a ‘winter wonderland’ with exquisite scenery. Imagine a sprawling valley with huge swathes of snow, occasionally interspersed with charming villages, shepherd settlements and buddhist chortens, an ancient monastery perched high on a hill, lengthy prayer walls and colourful prayer wheels, mountain gateways erected of poplar with icy prayer flags fluttering in the cold wind. The place is at once is both elevating and calming.

Starting from Leh, the main town of Ladakh, we spend a couple of days acclimatizing before embarking on the 6 day trek which takes us to the heart of Markha Valley and back. We spend the nights at clean Himalayan homestays interacting with the locals and enjoying Ladakhi hospitality and great food prepared by our very own kitchen team. In the day time we walk from one village to the other enjoying the snow and some awe-inspiring landscapes.

The Markha Winter Walk is a classic trans-Himalayan winter trekking experience. An experience so deep it will convert you into a believer.

 

TRIP HIGHLIGHTS

  • Ladakh in winter – unparalled winter Himalayan Experience
  • Serene winter landscape and scenery
  • Cozy, traditionally heated homestays and Ladakhi hospitality
  • Ancient Tacha Monastery and Markha Spires
  • Cable trolley ride across Zanskar river
  • Ice Hockey Matches in Leh

 

ITINERARY AT A GLANCE

Day 01:Arrive Leh(3500m). Rest & Acclimatization
Day 02: Leh Sightseeing
Day 03:Drive to Kaya Do(3150m). Trek to Skui(3350m)
Day 04:Trek to Sara (3500m)
Day 05:Trek to Markha (3800m)
Day 06:Trek to Umlung (3800) and back
Day 07:Trek to Skui
Day 08:Trek to Kaya. Drive to Leh
Day 09:Depart

 

Cost Inclusions

Markha Winter Walk – Cost Details

COST:

INR 59800

COST INCLUDES

  • Entire Accommodation during the trek – Hotels in Leh, homestays on Trek
  • Experienced Trek Crew: Qualified Trip Leader, Local Guide, Cook, Kitchen Helpers and Horsemen
  • Food:
    • All Meals on the trip except lunches and dinners at Leh
    • 3 meals per day – Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and beverages
  • Porterage – 15 Kg/person
  • Road Transportation: All Transfers as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Permits and Taxes:
    • ALTOA Fee and trekking permits
    • Includes service tax

COST EXCLUDES

  • Personal equipment and sleeping bags
  • Airfares to and out of Leh
  • Any additional transport or activities apart from the trip itinerary
  • Travel Insurance
  • Expenses rising through unforeseen conditions like bad weather, natural calamities, flight cancellations, etc
  • Rescue and evacuation services
  • Expenses of any personal nature like phone calls, drinks, cigarettes, souvenirs, laundry, etc
  • Tips
  • Anything not explicitly mentioned in the inclusions

Itinerary

Markha Winter Walk – Itinerary

Day 01:Arrive Leh(3500m). Rest & Acclimatization
The Kushok Bakula Rinpoche Airport in Leh at an altitude of about 3256m is one of the highest airports in the World. In the winter , the weather conditions may not be at its best. Flights start landing into Leh as early as 8am in the morning. It is always best to try and book the first flight to Leh especially in the winters. During a bout of bad weather days, it is always the first flight that generally comes in and the rest get canceled. Jet Airways and Air-India normally have the first flights departing from New Delhi to Leh. Go-Air is the other carrier.
You will be received at the airport by one of our representatives. Lookout for ‘Adventure Sindbad’ placard as you walk out of the small domestic airport. The transfer to your hotel in Leh town takes just 15 mins. Today is the day for complete rest and acclimatization. Comprehensive briefing and gear check in the evening followed by a stroll through the charming market.
Meals: B, Overnight Leh Hotel.

Day 02: Leh Sightseeing 
A half day sightseeing of Leh covering a few palaces and monasteries to get you acquainted with the Ladakh’s history and culture. Ladakh once upon a time was Western Tibet. This is also where Tibetan Buddhism is practised till today. The monasteries and palaces are generally built on high platforms or perched on a hillocks around Leh and are wonderful viewing vantage points. For people who have seen Ladakh in the summers, winter views are something else with all the expanse snow covered and in silence. As if the whole of Ladakh has gone into meditative mode.
Post lunch, we do some shopping for the trek and retire early to be well prepared for the trek tomorrow.
Meals: B, Overnight Leh Hotel.

Day 03:Drive to Kaya Do(3150m). Trek to Skui(3350m)
Kaya Do is about 2.5 hrs from Leh town. We make an early start and head towards Nimo. From there we turn left and follow the frozen Zanskar river till Kaya Do where there is a Cable trolley fixed over the Zanskar. This road is pretty busy in the winters because of the deluge of tourists who descend into Leh for the Chadar Trek. At Kaya Do, we use the cable trolley to cross over the Zanskar river into the Markha Valley side. It takes almost an hour for all trekking gear and people to cross over. Once crossed we load them on horses and start walking to Skui. Kaya and Skui are twin villages adjacent to each other separated by a water canal. We settle into a local’s home for the night. Early evening we can walk to the monastery above the village for the sunset and a bird’s eye view of the Valley that extends. Return to the homestay for dinner around the bokhari.
Driving Time: 2.5 Hrs; Trek Time: 2 Hrs
Meals: BLD, Overnight Homestay

Day 04:Trek to Sara (3500m)
Mornings are really cold. The sun comes in late and the trekking starts a little later in the winters. Once its comfortable to walk. Also, the Sun sets early giving us a very short day to make the best use of. Sara is a small village with about 4 houses on the route to Markha. IN the winters it easily takes 3-4 hours to reach. The scenery if snow covered is one of the best on this route. On a clear blue sky day, this route has wonderful photo ops. The landscape is either white, brown or blue. The blue only coming from either the sky or the colourful jackets of trekkers. We need to continuously re-apply sunscreen every 2 hours to protect from the intense heat of the sun which gets reflected by the snow. People are like little specs in the vast snow and icy valley of Markha.
Trek Time: 4 Hrs
Meals: BLD, Overnight Homestay

Day 05:Trek to Markha (3800m)
Another beautiful day to the big village of Markha. We go straight from Sara and near the river cross a bridge and turn left. A line of shepherd settlements mark the route today. The sheep are back for the winter in protected enclosures and the dogs guarding them are always barking. A good chance of spotting Himalayan blue Sheep on the route as well as red fox. And if your very lucky the ghost of the snows! There are multiple small icy streams to be crossed just before we reach Markha. The view from the gateway to Markha decked with prayer flags is really something! Markha is divided into 2 parts with a hillock in between. On the hillock is the Markha Gompa and the ruins of the Khar(fort). The other side of the hillock has another bunch of houses with farmfields which now lie under a layer of snow.
Trek Time: 4 Hrs
Meals: BLD, Overnight Homestay

Day 06: Excursion to Umlung (3800m) and back
One good thing about today is that we don’t need to pack again since we are staying 2 nights at Markha. We have a relaxed breakfast and head towards Umlung village. On the way are the famous Markha Spires and then the quaint Tacha Gompa perched up on a hill almost 100m above the ground. Just the walk up and down takes about 40 mins. A monk who resides in Markha walks all the way to the gompa each day of the year to light the monastery lamps. It is also a fantastic view point for the craggy mountains that surround and the Valley on either side. We would most probably have lunch at the monastery, head to Umlung village for tea and walk back.
Trek Time: 4-5 Hrs
Meals: BLD, Overnight Homestay

Day 07:Trek to Skui
We are on our return journey now heading back to where we started. This is because we cannot go ahead and cross the high Kongmaru La(5250m) which would be under heaps of snow in the middle of winter. The only option we have is to retrace our steps. After 4 days of trekking we are well acclimatized to walk back faster so we have a long day walking directly back to Skui. We should reach Skui late afternoon for a hot cup of tea. Today is our last night of the trek and to do some star gazing in the super cold nights.
Trek Time: 7-8 Hrs
Meals: BLD, Overnight Homestay

Day 08:Trek to Kaya Do. Drive to Leh
We pack early and head towards the cable trolley after breakfast. Our vehicles will be waiting on the other side to pick us up and drive us to Leh where a hot shower and a fresh pair of clothes await. Some shopping in the evening for your loved ones back home and a trek ending party with a Bokhari on the sides.
Trek Time: 2 Hrs; Driving time: 2.5 hrs
Meals: BLD, Overnight Homestay

Day 09:Depart
We bid adieu to Leh with a heavy heart and some warm memories of the icy region. After an early breakfast, we head to the airport for our flight back to Delhi and onward departure. Trip Ends!

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