Kiros Travels in collaboration with Adventure Sindbad brings you a walk to remember – the Markha Winter Walk, aka the Tea House Trek. Kiros Travels is India’s leading adventure aggregator portal, where the best tour agencies and operators of India come together with adventure enthusiasts to participate in personalized, one of a kind adventure tours.
Blessed with the meditative beauty of the snow-embalmed Himalayas, Markha Valley is one of the enduring adventure destinations in Ladakh, from where you can take in breathtaking views of the Ladakh and Zanskar ranges. Markha Valley has found admirers worldwide.
More popular as a summer destination for its virginal willow groves, gurgling streams, emerald green pastures and tranquil Buddhist monasteries against the backdrop of barren mountains, its winter avatar might put you under a hypnotic spell. The best thing about this mesmerizing snowy wonderland is its proximity to Leh, the capital of Ladakh, making a winter adventure feasible even when its more famous cousin Chadar Valley is off-limits due to heavy snowfall.
Markha River Valley is accessible to trekkers from the west through the Ganda La pass near Spituk and Gongmaru La pass near Hemis. The serene Markha River meanders waist-deep along the south of this enchanting valley. The best time to enjoy the thrill of camping is in February. Seasoned trekkers maintain, once you’ve experienced Markha Valley, you return a changed person – a true believer.
The Markha Valley Winter Walk has another nickname – ‘Tea House Trek’. The quaint Buddhist villages along the way are dotted with rustic tea houses where you can experience the famous Ladakhi hospitality. You literally trek from one tea house to the next, spending the nights in a combination of parachute tents and clean Himalayan homestays. En route, you will see the stunning Kang Yatze peak (6400 m.), Stok Kangri peak (6122 m.), Hemis National Park (5182 m.), and cross the mountain passes Ganda La (4800 m.) and Gongmaru La (5200 m.). Each day you can revel in something wondrous on your Markha Valley trekking adventure.
Dates : The Markha Winter Walk commences from March 10 and continues till March 18, 2018.
Day 1: The Leh airport (3256 m.) is among the highest airports in the World. Weather conditions can be unpredictable during the winter. When you are flying from New Delhi to Leh in winter, it is better to book the first flight that arrives at 8 am, as the flights scheduled to land later in the day might get cancelled due to bad weather. Air India and Jet Airways usually have the first flights. It is recommended, that you spend the first day resting in your hotel room. Acclimatization with the rarefied air at Leh (3500 m.), the capital of Ladakh, is a prerequisite for a successful trip to Markha Valley.
#Day 2: Ladakh in winter is a completely different experience vis-à-vis Ladakh in summer. A tour of the Leh Palace, monasteries (Gompa), museum, fort and shopping for trekking gear at the local market place will take up most of your second day, and also help familiarize you with the prevailing Buddhist culture and traditions of this region. The rest of the day is for gear check and comprehensive briefing before the commencement of the winter walk.
Day 3: The Markha Valley Winter Walk begins on the third day. Beyond Nimo village at the confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers, the vehicles turn left along the frozen Zanskar River to reach Kaya Do, which is about 2.5 hours drive from Leh. At Kaya Do, there is a cable trolley, that takes all the trekkers and their gear across the Zanskar River to the Markha Valley side. Depending on the size of the group, it may take an hour for everyone to cross over. On the other side, the gear and provisions are loaded on horseback and the trek towards Skui begins. At Skui there will be home stay for the night after a short climb to the local monastery for enjoying the sunset and the sprawling scenery.
Day 4 : The next morning, the group treks for 3-4 hours and arrives at the tiny Sara village. The entire route is embalmed by purifying snow and ice. You need to reapply sunscreen every two hours because of the intense sun shining bright through the thin atmosphere, reflected by the snow.
Day 5 : Next, the group ventures straight from Sara across a river bridge turning left encountering several icy streams to arrive at the big village of Markha. Shepherd settlements with sheep enclosures and guard dogs line the route. You may spot the occasional Himalayan blue sheep, red fox and even the elusive snow leopard en route, the last one is aptly nicknamed ‘The Ghost of the Snows’. Colour returns to the landscape in the form of fluttering prayer flags near the gateway to Markha. A hillock divides the valley into two parts. Markha Gompa and the ruins of the Khar fort are situated atop this hillock. The farm fields on the other side are entirely under snow at this time of the year. The group will stay here for 2 days.
Day 6 : The next day, you can head out after breakfast and reach Umlung village (3800 m.) before lunch for a bout of sightseeing. The quaint Tacha Gompa and the craggy Markha Spires make for a stunning route. Hop over to Umlung for butter tea and walk back to Markha village.
Day 7 : As you head back to Skui, if the road not buried under tons of snow, you may head over to the high Kongmaru La pass (5250 m.), otherwise retracing your steps directly to Skui just in time for late afternoon tea is the better option. An amazingly clear view of the Milky Way in the night sky will make this a night to remember.
Day 8 : All that is left now is to trek back to Kaya Do, cross the river in the cable trolley and hop into the waiting cars that will drive you to Leh for a hot shower and change of clothes. Feel free to shop for curios in the evening and enjoy a trek-ending party in the night.
The next morning after breakfast you bid adieu to wintry Leh and board your flight back to New Delhi.