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India: The Markha Valley Trek
July 6 – 24, 2020
From New Delhi, India

 Overview: Join us for this challenging and inspirational trek though "little Tibet." The trek consists of remote, rugged hiking over two major passes on the high–altitude plateau north of the Himalayan range. It is appropriate for experienced hikers in good health. There will be some exposure on the trails and bridge crossings. Be prepared for "roughing it" as conditions are as variable as the topography. Our trek dates begin July 2 from our starting point in New Delhi, India.

This moderate trek offers an unforgettable opportunity to enjoy unspoiled Tibetan culture against the backdrop of magnificent scenery. Ponies carry our gear and our staff prepares savory meals. There will be time to relax and sightsee in Leh before and after the trek. This isolated area has only been open to outsiders for about twenty years and is infrequently visited due to its location near the border between India, and Tibet. Although careful to retain their cultural heritage, the Ladakhi people are open and friendly to visitors.

Leadership: Our Trek Leader is Marin Johannsson. She holds a B.S. in Recreation with a special emphasis in Outdoor Leadership. Marin has taught rock climbing, snow camping, rafting and canoeing. Trained in first aid, she has led many treks for us since 1990. When not on the trail, Marin also is a rafting guide and collects Tibetan Thangka paintings. Marin works closely with our local guide and dedicated staff members (cook, porters and assistants) to make this special trip a complete success. Ask us for references if you would like to talk to people who have traveled with them.

Markha Valley • Daily Itinerary Detail:

Pre Trip Days: Fly to New Delhi, India.

Those from the Americas 'lose' one day crossing the international date line. Note that you must arrive in New Delhi. If you would like to arrive early (or depart late) we can arrange a transfer and accommodations for you upon request and can also help with air or custom options before or after your trek! Ask us questions before you plan!

Day 1: After you arrive at the New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport and complete customs formalities, our driver awaits outside the secured area of the New Delhi Airport. From there it's just a ten minute ride to our air conditioned hotel. You will be briefed on hygiene, health and safety issues. Ensure that you get a bottle of water and drink well to rehydrate after your flight. (No Meals)

Day 2: We will meet for an early breakfast. You can join us whenever you wake up. Today's objective is to rest and recover from jet lag. Delhi could be humid — very hot and very rainy. Optional sightseeing today could include the Jama Masjid Mosque and the Red Fort in Old Delhi, followed by a leisurely late lunch at a tasty Indian restaurant. Free time for relaxation before a light early dinner. Our staff will continue to brief you on further trip details. (Breakfast, Dinner)

Day 3: Today we have an early morning transfer to the domestic airport for our flight from Delhi to Leh (11,496 feet). The spectacular show is outside the window as our flight takes us over the main Himalayan range and onto the Tibetan plateau. As soon as you land you can tell the difference. The air is clear and cool and people are relaxed and friendly. You'll hear the welcoming Ladaki greeting "Julay! Julay!" We'll transfer by car to our comfortable guest house located on the outskirts of Leh in a neighborhood called Changspa.

It is very important that you rest this afternoon. It will also aid your acclimatization if you drink plenty of water. Our guest house has a well and provides good clean drinking water (boiled & filtered) in the dining area. Never drink water from any other source unless it is from a sealed bottle!

Once Leh (population 20,000) was a main trading point on the Asian silk route and one of the most exotic bazaars of Asia. Farms are surrounded by stone lined walks that meander along small streams and are fun to wander. You will see mani walls made up of hundreds of stones each inscribed with the mantra "om mani padme hum." At sunset, views abound from everywhere but especially from our rooms! (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 4: Free day for acclimitization, sightseeing and shopping in Leh. Visit the deserted Leh Palace overlooking the town. Eight stories tall, it was built in the 16th century — around the same time as the Potala in Lhasa. The old town of Leh clusters at the base of the hill below the palace. The Leh Gompa stands high above the palace.

Visit the educational headquarters of the Ladakh Ecological Development Foundation. Visit Sankar Gompa (gompa is the Tibetan/Ladaki word for monastery). Be sure to ask lots of questions of your guides and the people that you meet at the guest house or in town. People are very friendly and you will find Ladakhi people are happy to explain their culture to you. Pictures are a great way to share something about yourself and your life back home — bring some! People like to learn about your family, how you live and what kind of work you do as well.

Take a short nap or rest in the afternoon. Don't underestimate the combined effects of jet lag and altitude. You may not feel it at first, but if you rest and drink as much as you can now, you'll adjust to the higher altitudes faster. Also be mindful of the extremely bright sun. You can get sunburned very easily at this altitude. (Breakfast, Dinner)

Day 5: Sightseeing by car. We'll visit Shey, (the old capital of Ladakh), Thiksey Monastery (architecturally impressive), and the Stok Palace Museum. Ladakh or "La–Dags" means land of the high passes. It is one of the last strongholds of Mahayana Buddhism — the principal religion of Ladakh for the last millennium. Buddhism has been brutally repressed by the Chinese in Tibet for the last forty years. Ladakh became a part of India with independence in 1948, following the first of three wars waged between India and Pakistan. China annexed a large portion of Ladakh in a war fought with India in 1962.

This border zone was so sensitive, it only opened to foreign tourist in 1974. It is the best place to see and experience traditional Tibetan Buddhism. The first independent kingdom was established in the ninth century. Encouraged by royal patronage, the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Buddhism established many of the monasteries in the region around the fourteenth century. Around 1639 a new capital was founded and palace at Leh was built along with a string of monasteries, including the well known Hemis. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 6: Today we will drive to the road's end and begin our days of trekking. Our starting point will be near Jinchan (11,900 feet). We hike to Rumbak (12,470 feet) where we spend the night. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 7: Today our goal is from Rumbakpast Yuruche (13,500 feet) to Gondola Base Camp. It is a full day of hiking — about 4–5 hours) that transports us to a beautiful campsite. Since we are now at a high altitude, the air temperature is much cooler. Behind us is a remarkable panorama of dramatic views under a sparkling sky. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 8: Rest day for acclimatization. Surrounding us are many different and comfortable walks, meandering through rough–hewn valleys. With open eyes, there is much to see and explore as we slowly grow accustomed to the thin air and the palette of nature's light and color in the Himalaya. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 9: The first part of our day is a steady climb to the crest of Gandala Pass (15,910 feet) — requiring about three hours. After we rest and take–in the wonderful view, we'll make a long and steady descent to Shingo (5–6 hours). (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 10: Today we'll pass through gorgeous gorges (sorry!) and splash along several easy stream crossings, before we reach the village of Skiu (11,160 feet). Turning east, our path follows the Markha Chu (chu means river in Ladaki). Crossing the river, we pass through fields and bucolic scenery as we arrive in Chalak — a collection of just a few houses at 12,100 feet. We'll camp nearby. Total hiking time today is 6–7 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 11: Today we continue trekking and exploring along the Markha River canyon. After a river crossing, we later set camp tonight near the village of Markha. Total hiking time 5–6 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 12: Following the Markha River, we pass clusters of mani walls and chortens. We'll enjoy wonderful views as we amble upthe valley. Following the main trail through Humlung village and past its monastery, we'll arrive at Hankar, the site of impressive fort ruins. Soon after, we'll leave the valley to climb gradually. We'll follow a stream to the village of Tahungtse, camping in the nearby pastures at 13,620 feet. Total hiking time today is 5–6 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 13: We climb steeply this morning, passing a small lake to finally reach a plateau at 15,500 feet. This beautiful area is dominated by the mountain Kang Yaze (21,000 feet). We pass several mani walls before reaching our camp in the wide open Alpine meadows of Nimaling at 15,490 feet. Total hiking time today will be 4–5 hours. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 14: There will be a steep but steady climb to the top of Kongmaru La at 16,730 feet — the highest point on our trek! First, we'll cross the river, then continue on a steady climb with lots of switch backs towards the top. The climb requires about two to three hours. We are rewarded with excellent views of Ladakh and the Karakoram Range where we can spy points as far away as Pakistan. Afterwards, we descend steeply along grassy slopes dropping through a gorge as we head to our camp at Chukirmo (13,350 feet). This is a long hard day of 8 or 9 hours hiking time. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 15: Continuing our decent, we arrive at the village of Shang Sumdo — a short two to three hour walk along an easy path. Vehicles will be waiting there to drive us to Leh. We stop on the way to visit Hemis Monastery — home of the famous Hemis Festival in June. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 16: This is our final day in Leh. Free time in the afternoon will be followed by dinner at our guest house and memories of the trail. (Breakfast, Dinner)

Day 17: Today we begin early with an airport transfer for our return to Delhi. Soaring over the mountain barrier that once isolated Ladakh, we reluctantly return to the modern world. Free time in the afternoon is for rest and exploration. In the evening, we meet for a simple but delicious vegetarian meal at our guest house. (Breakfast, Dinner)

Day 18: An all day excursion to the Taj Mahal in Agra is our main event today. We take the train (Shitabi Express) early in the morning for its three hour trip to Agra. We'll visit the Taj Mahal — the famous Moghul monument constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife Mumtaz Mahal. Our tour includes a visit to Fatehpur Sikri, an abandoned Moghul city. Our return is again by the Shitabi Express which arrives back in Delhi at 10 PM. (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner)

Day 19: A free day today in Delhi for sightseeing, relaxing or shopping. New Delhi is historical and has excellent museums as well as many ancient ruins. Our group will check out of the hotel at noon and later transfer to the airport for the departure back home. Lunch and Dinner are on your own today. (Breakfast)

PostTrip Departure: Return travel home. Those in the Americas typically arrive home the same day with the reverse travel across the International Date Line.

Important Note: This is meant only as a guide to what our days will be like. Changes may be made as we go along. These depend upon local conditions, our acclimatization and health, etc. It should be noted that this is a difficult, high–altitude trek. Good health, a high level of fitness, and a positive attitude are a "must" to make it enjoyable. Sturdy vehicles will be provided to and from the road heads. However, this kind of travel is not for those who are prone to car sickness or who are afraid of heights. All of the areas to be visited are remote and there are no reliable sources of medical care outside of Delhi.

Travel Details: If you arrange your own air travel, note that you must arrive in New Delhi by day 1 and you may not depart earlier than the afternoon of day 19. For most westerners this will mean air travel starting from your home country two days before the meeting date in New Delhi. Crossing the International Date Line will make it seem as if you 'lose' a day flying to India. On your return home you may arrive on the same day, often just hours later than the local time of your departure from Delhi.

You are welcome to travel early or stay late. We can arrange additional transfers, tours and accommodation on request. There are convenient, inexpensive internet cafes within a leisurely walk from our city hotels.

All prices mentioned in this description are in U. S. Dollars ($USD). See our Policy section for complete information on trip cancellation and other policies.

The Markha Valley Trek • Administrative Details:

(+) Land Cost (land cost as itinerary has described):

$2880 USD

(+) In-Trip Airfare Estimate (air during itinerary program):

+  $400 USD

(=) Total Program Cost (Land & In-Trip Air costs combined):

$3280 USD

Trip Deposit (submit with application):


Single Supplement (optional single accommodation):

$600 (optional)

Maximum Group Size:

Eight Participants

Other Cost & Need Considerations:

Passport, Visa(s), Physicians Visit, Emergency Medical & Evacuation Insurance, Travel to/from New Delhi, Meals Beyond Above Itinerary, Beverages, Spending/Personal Money.

Trip Activity–Level:

Moderate: Usually involves hiking an average of four to six hours each day — with some trekking time being spent at high altitude. Accommodations consist of evenings spent at tea or guest houses and tent camping along the trail.

Registration Deadline:

April 6, 2020 ($100USD late fee thereafter)

The Markha Valley Ladakh Trek Printable Itinerary:

The Markha Valley Ladakh Trek

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India: Markha Valley Online (Instant) Application

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