This moderate trek is an unforgettable opportunity to enjoy unspoiled Tibetan culture against the backdrop of magnificent scenery. Ponies carry our gear and our staff prepares savory meals. Although careful to retain their cultural heritage, the Ladakhi people are open and friendly to visitors.
There will be time to relax 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.
Day 1: Your driver will meet you outside the secured area of the New Delhi Airport. From there it's just a ten minute ride to our air conditioned hotel where you will be briefed on hygiene and health and safety precautions.
Day 2: We will meet for an early breakfast. You can join us whenever you wake up. Today's objective is to rest and conquer jet lag. Delhi may be humid — hot and perhaps rainy. Optional sightseeing includes 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 brief you on more trip details.
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 sense 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 to our comfortable guest house located on the outskirts of Leh in a neighborhood called Changspa. It is very important to rest this afternoon and drink plenty of water. Our guest house has a well and provides good clean drinking water (boiled & filtered) in the dining area.
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!
Day 4: Free day for acclimatization, 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 and the Sankar Gompa (gompa is the Tibetan/Ladaki word for monastery). 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.
Day 5: Sightseeing by car to visit Shey, (the old capital of Ladakh), Thiksey Monastery (architecture), 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. 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 built many of the monasteries 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.
Day 6: Today we 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.
Day 7: Today our goal is from Rumbakpast Yuruche (13,500 feet) to Gondola Base Camp. It is a full day of hiking 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.
Day 8: Rest day for acclimatization. Surrounding us are many different and comfortable walks, meandering through rough–hewn valleys. 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.
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).
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 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.
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.
Day 12: Following the Markha River, we pass clusters of mani walls and chortens to enjoy wonderful views as we amble up the valley. Following the main trail through Humlung village and past its monastery, we arrive at Hankar and its fort ruins. 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.
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.
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 startling 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 to our camp at Chukirmo (13,350 feet). This is a long hard day of 8 or 9 hours hiking time.
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.
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.
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 p.m.
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 transfer to the airport for departure back home.
2013 Scheduled Dates: 2013 Markha Valley, Ladakh Trek — July 9-27, 2013 — From New Delhi, India
Also see tour packages in:
Asia India Outdoor: Land Rambler Hiking & Trekking Cultural Journey
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