Markha Valley Trek
The nearest City you start off from is Leh, from where you can drive to either Chilling or Stok and start the trek.
You would be traversing through several villages, typically small, 10-15 houses, such as Skiu,Rumbak,Markha,Hankar.
A deservedly popular trek, that follows the beautiful Markha valley. It is almost always done in the direction described, as in the reverse direction the approach to the Gongmaru La is very steep and unpleasant. This means you get an impression of there being fewer trekkers on this route than there in fact are. It is a reasonably straight-forward trek, with many villages on the way, and even the odd tea "house" tent, it is possible avoid camping out except for the night before crossing the Gongmaru La, which necessitates a tent, and good sleeping bag as it gets very cold here even in summer.
Markha Valley trek is located between the Zanskar and Ladakh, in the Himalaya region. This valley runs parallel to the Himalayan range. Markha Valley trek has beautiful, wild and barren landscapes. These landscapes are linked with the Ladakh also known as “Little Tibet”. These landscapes are very dramatic and enticing.
Flora and fauna
Markha valley remains cold in the month of November to February and minimum temperature goes down to minus 30 degree celsius during the month of January and February. March to Early may, sunshine remains abundant. Summer remains from May to August. From Mid of July till August, Markha Valley can get very varm, but it is also the rainy season. But in general, Ladakh is in rainshadow of the Himalayas. There is a lot of exposure to the sun. Make sure that you bring sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.
Best time to go for this trek is from June to end of September.
The locals in the region speak in the Ladakhi language. Ladakhis generally speak a decent amount of Hindi as well, although it's handy to be familiar with 'Julay", the Ladakhi word for Hello. Greet any local with Julay, and you're sure to get a heart warming smile as a reply!
There are a number of places where you can start your Marka Valley trek:
Take one of the frequent buses to Spitok village (which has a famous monastery). From here, you walk along an exposed dirt road until you reach Zinchen. Alternatively, you can catch a direct taxi from Leh to Zinchen (~1500rs as of July 2016).
Stok is another good option (and has its own amazing monastery). Starting from Stok adds roughly a day to your trek and it takes you over the StokLa pass on the way to Rumbak. Great views of the Indus River Valley from the pass. A taxi to Stok from Leh should be around 700/800rs (as of July 2016).
If you want to do the trek in the opposite direction from most people, you'll want to start from Shang Sumdo. I don't know how much the taxi costs from Leh to Shang Sumdo, but the opposite direction is 2,500rs. I've taken this ride three times and had the same driver each time. (Be careful, two of the times the driver tried to bring in additional, non-fare-paying local passengers.)
Cross the bridge over the Indus, follow the jeep road across the empty uninteresting flats. It gets hot here, so try to be threw before the sun gets high in the sky. After about 7 km turn up the Zhimgchan valley, with scattered trees, to Zhingchan village a small settlement of a few houses, and a few campsites. Keep going a few km to Rumbak village, a good place to spend the first night. (aprox. 6-7 hours from Spitok) Yurutse village, is the first village you come to. Lartsa campsite, with beautiful views, is further on, and makes a good place to set up your tent. (aprox 4-5 hours from Rumbak) An hour or so from here is Kanda La (4870m). Looking south west you can see Shingo village(with camping area) , a few km further on. Spend the night in the area around the villages of Skyu Yokma, and Skyu Gongma. (aprox. 6-7 hours from Lartsa) It’s 17km from here to Markha village, far but not a difficult walk up the Markha valley. You’ll first pass Pentse campsite , then the settlements of Nakdi village , Sara village , and Chalak village, before coming to Lhatho campsite Shortly before Markha village with it’s plentiful campsites, (aprox. 7-8 hours from Skyu) Continue past Tetsa village, Umlung, Da-amo campsite, the highest permanent settlement in the Markha valley: Hangkar village(4000m) . From here the trail goes up to the Nyimaling Plains, a high and remote area, route finding becomes more difficult. The normal campsites are Tsigu campsite and Nyimaling campsite (aprox 7-8 hours from Markha), but there are lots of options on the high plains, From here is the most difficult stage of the trek, take your time and be aware of the possibility of altitude sickness. Follow the clear trail up the Gongmaru La (5130m) (aprox 2 hours form Nyimaling camp). On descending from the pass you come to Lhartsa campsite and Chuskyurmo campsite just outside, Chokdo village (6 hours from Nyimaling campsite) From this point it’s an easy descent past Ozang village to Hemis village, with it's famous Monastery (aprox 4 to 5 hours), restaurant, and shops. You can camp here or take the bus back to Leh.
As Markha Valley is located near to Tibet, tourists can feel the touch of Tibetan culture in the lifestyle of people living there. Markha valley gets heavy snow fall during winter and because of that it remains isolated for most of the months in a year.
Kang Yatse Trekking
Kang Yatse is situated in Markha Valley in the south east side of the Leh. This valley is located on the top of the Nimaling Plateu. This is one of the popular treks of Markha valley.
Prepare for hard haggling. A 8 day trek including guide, cook, mules, horsemen, tents, sleeping bags, and vegetarian dishes, can cost as low as 1000Rs (20$US) per day per person, up to 40$US. If you have time, do not go through an agency and hire your equipment from stores in Leh, and your guide/cook/mule/horsemen from the Tibetan Refugee Camp. It will be much cheaper.
Foreigners are usually given a foreigner price and it is extremely hard to get the "Indian price" (ie 1000Rs per day per head) as quoted above. But with the number of agencies in Leh offering this trek, it is worth a try. Choose your agency carefully. Some agencies do not hesitate to leave trash behind - find an agency which will bring back the trash.
It is possible to do this trek entirely on your own without any equipment/ ponies etc, by staying in homestays on the way. If you are alone, you can hire a "guide" by contacting any of the trekking agencies in Leh. These guides are mostly students who work as part time guides during tourist season for extra money. These guides charge Rs 800 per day (price as of June 2012). The cost of stay in homestay is Rs 500 (again as of June 2012) per night per trekker. It includes one night stay, dinner, breakfast next morning and a packed lunch for next day.You need not pay for guide's accommodation or food as homestay for guides is free.
You can absolutely do this trek solo. There are enough homestays and parachute tent tea stalls to keep yourself fed and sheltered. A guide can teach you more about the local culture, but navigation is not an issue here - the trail is quite obvious. If you have a tent and sleeping bag, you can skip the homestays and do camping instead.
Altitude sickness is a common ailment for hikers doing the Markha Valley Trek. It is essential to take things slow to avoid the onset of altitude sickness. It is absolutely critical to have an acclimatisation day at one of the intermediate villages before the pass; something which a number of trekking agencies do not include in their itinerary. Insist on one even if it costs a tad more.
Generally, symptoms of altitude sickness include headache, nausea, heavy breathing, wheezing and loss of appetite. Continuing ascent with these symptoms may result in the more severe pulmonary edema or cerebral edema which can be fatal.