About the Markha Valley Trek

82 km(51 mi)
Type of trail

Difficulty is highly personal. Be aware of the weather conditions as bad weather turns easier trails in difficult trails especially in the mountains.


Lodging means a mix of hotels, hostels or AirBnB’s.

Camping, Lodging
Elevation gain
4260 m(13976 ft)
Most of the time
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The Marksha Valley Trek is an exhilarating journey through the Himalayas, known for its stunning landscapes and cultural richness. This trek traverses diverse terrains, from verdant valleys to arid highlands, offering breathtaking views of snow-capped peaks and serene lakes. Along the way, trekkers encounter traditional villages, ancient monasteries, and a glimpse into the local way of life. The trek demands good physical fitness and acclimatization to high altitudes. Ideal for adventure enthusiasts seeking solitude and a deep connection with nature, the Marksha Valley Trek promises an unforgettable experience amidst some of the world’s most majestic mountains.

Women standing in mountains with hiking poles

Jess Fellows

Having always been ‘sporty’ but never one to excel in any particular pursuit, Jess loves the simplicity of long distance: you don’t need to be particularly talented or fast at walking, you need only put one foot in front of the other. 

And it’s going the distance that truly tests one’s character. Slowing right down to see the natural world and its magnificence, and truly seeing it. To continuously be navigating new waters, and learning along the way. It’s the sense of freedom and resilience that Jess is consistently hungry for, to witness herself in all manner of experiences and extremes. To trust each tiny step, and to remember the bigger picture will take care of itself.

After a few long distance cycle tours, Jess was supposed to cycle around the world. Having planned and saved for many years, only a global pandemic could be the reason she didn’t go. So in the summer of 2020, craving some transformation and adventure, she decided to shave her head and start walking from her house in Bristol. She would go for 3-4 days at a time and enjoyed a few trips exploring the landscapes around the city and beyond. It was on these hikes that she and her partner started dreaming of bigger hikes for even more nature immersion. The thru hiking obsession had begun so by the summer of 2021 they were ready to take on the UK’s longest footpath along the South West Coast Path. The following summer they decided to return to Turkey to trek the Lycian Way, followed by hiking the GR5 route across the French Alps. After some shorter thru hikes in the UK, Europe and walking in the Himalayas, they are currently preparing for the PCT in 2024.

Jess has type one diabetes, eats a plant based diet and wears barefoot shoes. For work she is a wedding celebrant and yoga teacher on retreats. Check out her website to read more about her offerings and insights on her blog, and follow her PCT journey @uprootlife.

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The Trail

The Markha Valley Trek is a well-established trail that follows the Markha River through a stunning valley in the Hemis National Park. This is a beautiful and popular trek in the Himalayas, and for good reason. Firstly, it’s straightforward to access from Ladakh’s capital, Leh; it’s a 2-hour taxi journey to get to the start. Secondly, it’s easy to navigate while on trail since there are few alternative paths and you can generally rely on following cairns and donkey droppings. And lastly, this is one of the only multi-day treks in the area that can be done independently and by staying in homestays. If you don’t fancy carrying a tent but do fancy a hiking adventure without a guide, The Markha Valley Trek comes highly recommended. It’s a spectacular valley, with incredible mountain landscapes. It feels like you might have traveled back to another time and another planet; the rock color and formations are otherworldly and the villages showcase a real sense of traditional Ladakhi culture and lifestyle.

The landscape incorporates red rock mountains, snowy peaks, and green fertile villages along the river. These stark contrasts are breathtaking. As you move through the valley you will walk through some small, remote local villages living a very traditional lifestyle. You’ll witness history and Tibetan culture from the region as you pass old gompas and monastery ruins. The locals still live off the land as much as they can, but since trekkers now regularly come through, many of the mud-brick homes have been turned into homestays. This new source of income for the locals has helped preserve their lifestyle and has meant more regular access to supplies by mules.

A guide is not necessary for this hike and you don’t need to pay for a permit (as of September 2023). The trail is safe and obvious for independent hikers to follow and more often than not you’ll meet other independent trekkers on the path too. However, if you’d like to experience a guided trek and wish to learn more about the local culture and history of the area then you can easily organize a guide beforehand when in Leh. From one of the travel agencies, you can have the whole trek organized for you, with a guide. Just be sure to clarify with the agency what the price includes, as some companies may not include meals etc. Prices start from around 4000 INR (45 euro) per day for this option.

Any of the agencies in Leh can also help with arranging your transport. This can be useful if you want to team up with other trekkers to split the cost of the ride. However, you can also speak with any of the taxi drivers independently and arrange your transport and organize everything yourself. The taxi costs around 3600 INR (40 euros) from Leh to the trailhead, which you can split between you and other travelers if you share the journey.

As with much of India’s infrastructure, the ongoing road construction has meant that the trailhead has moved over time, and will likely keep moving. You can start at the original starting point of Chilling or further along in Skiu or even Sara. The dirt road is extended all the way here so you can choose where you want to begin as the taxi driver will take you to any of these points, but note that the dusty dirt road isn’t the most inspiring section of the trek!

There is also an alternative start point, at Zingchen, which is a shorter distance to drive from Leh. From Zingchen you will follow the path to Rumbak and then up to Ganda La pass at 4900m and then down to Skiu to meet the Markha Valley trek. This alternative adds between 2-3 days extra onto your hike, and it’s recommended that you first acclimatize in Leh beforehand. Taxis from Leh to Zingchen cost around 1900 INR (21 euros).

The elevation isn’t too demanding for the first couple of days, just a slow inclination in the profile. The real kick-up begins when you turn away from the river towards the village of Hankarm and beyond.

For navigation, you’re unlikely to go wrong until Kongmaru Pass. There are always animal droppings along the path as the mules are so regularly passing back and forth with supplies. There are also lots of other hikers on the trail, so you’ll be able to confer with them and follow their footsteps. The trail is marked on the app maps.me which is a useful resource to have with you.

On the descent through the valley on the final day, the trail can be difficult to follow in parts. This may be due to landslides and the changing flow of the river. The trail goes up and down, quite steeply in places through the valley, and towards the end, you need to cross the river a few times. Simply follow the donkey droppings, as so many locals use the trail, and cross at safe points along the river and before long you will find your way to Chogdo where there is a homestay to either rest or drink a chai before heading back to Leh. You can either arrange your taxi pick up from here ahead of time, with the driver that dropped you at the start, or you wait to see who’s waiting at the homestay and share a lift with other trekkers.


The Markha Valley Trek is often hiked in 3 to 6 days. Here you’ll find the stages for the 6 day itinerary. To reach the trailhead it takes a 1.5h drive from Leh to Chilling and from the end point Hemis it takes 1h to drive back to Leh.

Stages for 6 day itinerary

Stage 1:

Chilling – Skiu, 6.9 km | 4.3 mi

Stage 2:

Skiu – Markha, 21.2 km | 13.2 mi

Stage 3:

Markha – Hankar, 11.2 km | 7 mi

Stage 4:

Hankar – Nimaling, 10.7 km | 6.5 mi

Stage 5:

Nimaling – Kongmaru La – Shang Sumdo, 17 km | 10.6 mi

Stage 6:

Shang Sumdo – Hemis, 10.7 km | 6.5 mi


Homestays, campsite at Nimaling, and camping with your tent.

Included in the price of a night’s stay, you will receive dinner, breakfast, and a packed lunch for the following day. The price is consistent between the villages which is a welcome change when traveling in India as no bargaining is necessary, the price is very transparent and the hosts are upfront. You don’t need to pre-book accommodation as they will always make room for you. Note that the accommodation is basic, usually a mattress on the floor in a shared room. There are minimal shower facilities, and the toilets are literally holes in the ground so make sure to take your toilet paper with you.

The food is hearty, homemade, and locally grown. Typically rice, lentils, and vegetables for dinner, chapatis and jams for breakfast, and a simple packed lunch of sandwich, boiled potato, boiled egg, juicebox, and chocolate bar. Prices for food and accommodation tend to be around 1500 INR (17 euros) per person per night. You could opt to carry a tent and camp along the way, but the homestays often prove to be a memorable part of the experience. Up at Nimalang, there is a campsite to stay at with tents and bedding already set up, there are no buildings in the area. The price is a little higher at 1800 INR (20 euros) per night, and given the location, you can understand why.

Best time of the year

The best time of year to hike the Markha Valley Trek is during the high season in Ladakh, between June and September. This is when you’re most likely to have clear skies, a low chance of precipitation, and relatively warm days. Beyond these months, the snow will likely make access to the roads and paths impassable.

Safety & Gear

When planning the Markha Valley Trek, please consider several key factors to help you have a safe time. Before embarking on your hike, conduct thorough research on the trail. This includes assessing factors such as trail difficulty, length, elevation gain, and terrain and putting them into the context of your abilities.

Altitude is a factor that needs to be taken into consideration. Take time to acclimatize in Leh (3500m) before embarking on this trek.

Stay informed about the weather conditions in the area. Avoid starting on the trail during severe weather conditions, including thunderstorms, heavy rainfall, or extreme heat, as these can pose significant risks to your safety.

Be sure you have a supply of water and energy-rich snacks to maintain energy and prevent dehydration. Bring at least two liters of water with you.

Familiarize yourself with the trail map and carry navigation tools like a mobile device to stay oriented and avoid getting lost.

Invest in the right hiking gear, including comfortable, supportive footwear, proper hiking clothing, such as warm base layers and a hardshell rain jacket, hiking poles, a well-fitted backpack, and essential equipment like maps, a GPX device, and a first-aid kit. Check out our comprehensive gear list for long-distance trails like this.

Respect the principles of Leave No Trace by minimizing your impact on the environment. Stick to designated trails, pack out all trash, and show respect for wildlife and natural habitats.

Good to know

Take time to acclimatize in Leh, especially if you’re unfamiliar with trekking at altitude.

Try to share taxis with other hikers to split the cost of getting to the trail. The taxis used in Leh are typically 7-seater minivans/cars and the taxi price will be a total price, not per individual. There are plenty of travel agents to assist you with getting to and from the trailhead, and they’ll put you in touch with other hikers. There are often boards outside the agency shops advertising how many spots are available for each trek, but you’re also likely to meet other trekkers in cafes to arrange it yourself.

Occasionally you’ll pass through villages or tents selling tea, snacks, and maggi noodles but don’t rely on this, and bring snacks with you from Leh. At the homestays, they offer filtered water but do carry with you a filter of sorts to ensure the safety of the water you’re drinking as an extra precaution.

The Markha Valley Trek can be very remote at points, but usually other hikers throughout the day and villages at the end of each day. It can also be very cold when sleeping at Nimaling (4800m) so make sure to pack lots of layers and or your sleeping bag.

Check out a full recap of this trail on my Instagram.

Point to point
Highest point
5260m (17,113 ft) Kongmaru La

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