Trekking in Ladakh: Ladakh Travel Guide

Introduction

Leh Ladakh is counted among those few destinations which offer an  ideal setting for mountaineering and trekking. With its uneven terrains and picturesque locales, Ladakh offers an exciting mishmash of scenic charm and challenging heights to adventure enthusiasts. But  such virulent conditions have not shaken the determination of a traveler to avoid challenges posed by nature. Also it is very easy to find overnight accommodation in villages.

Maps

One of the major problems in this region is finding a good map. However, you can get a good quality foreign map (Olizane Map sections) from Ladakh Book Shop above the SBI ATM in Leh. It will cost you around INR 1000 to 1200. However, there are  a number of locally published trekking maps available in Leh, which can be purchased for Rs. 200.

Prerequisites for Ladakh Trekking

If you are trekking in the areas around Nubra Valley and Tso Moriri, you’ll have to get an interline permit. It can be obtained from any travel agent in Leh and costs around INR 100-200. In order to climb Stok Kagri, you require a permit from the Indian Mountaineering Foundation (IMF). It can be obtained at a price of INR 2000 and the office of the IMF is near Chanspa Road in Leh. In order to trek in the Hemis National Park, you’ll have to get issued a permit from the Dhaba below the Rumbak village. The cost of permits is Rs. 20 for Indian and Rs. 100 for foreigner. Technically speaking, the permit and approval is required all the peaks but Stok Kangri is the only one where you’ll get checked.

Seasons for Trekking

The best time for trekking in Ladakh is July and August. Since early September, there is a possibility for storms and snowfall. In February, you can attempt the demanding Chadar ice-trek. Much of its route is next to the frozen Zanskar River, crossing side tributaries on shaky snow bridges and camping in rock caves en-route. Also, trekkers require winter equipments and an experienced local guide.

Preparations for Ladakh Trekking

Since most trekking routes in Ladakh starts around 3500 meters, proper acclimatization is necessary to avoid Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS). The best way to acclimatize is a 2 days rest. Other than that, you can acclimatize with baby treks or more tenure to the hardcore treks such as beginning from Lamayuru, Spituk or Martselang rather than Hinju, Photoksar or Zingchen.

Horse Treks

At high altitudes, carrying heavy stuff is very much exhausting much more than what people expect. Therefore, it is advisable to consider using pack horses as the accompanying horseman can play a double role ( including a guide). You can contact travel agents who’ll happily arrange packaged tours all inclusive of tent, guide, horses and food at a price of $ 35.

Homestay Treks

There are several popular trekking routes where several rural homestays and parachute cafes are located. They counteract the need of carrying significant supplies and camping gear. Available at a price of INR.400 on the basis of single and  double sharing, these Homestays offer a sneak peek into the local culture.

Some of the treks are listed below:-

Markha Valley Trek

  • Duration : 9 days
  • Highest Point : Kongmaru La (5135 m)
  • Difficulty : Moderate

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One of the most  famous treks of Ladakh, the Markha Valley trek is all about magnificent landscapes and green oasis. While trekking on the route, travelers are likely to come across various small villages, shepherd camps and passes. It is advised to travel the route between the months of June and October.

Journey via the Markha valley route starts from a place named Spitok. Walking south-west of the Indus, flowing across the valley, trekkers would reach to the river’s confluence with Zinchen. On the final day, the trekkers would end up at the famous Hemis monastery by crossing Kongmaru pass.

Henaskut to Wanla

  • Duration : 6 days
  • Highest Point : Nyigutse La (5000 m)
  • Difficulty : Moderate

Trekking on this route starts from the village of Henaskut which is around 160 kms from the city of Leh. The trekkers can expect to climb many passes like Yogmala, Niyiguste La and Pirkiting La. The journey via Henaskut concludes at a small village named Lamayaru. Here, the oldest Ladakhi monastery is situated. Travelers wishing to explore this trek route are advised to make their arrangements between June and October.

Lamayuru to Padum

  • Duration : 9-10 days
  • Highest Point : Singay La (5000 m)
  • Difficulty : Moderate

Stretched as a massive and beautiful landscape, the trek encapsulating the region from Lamayuru to Padum is the longest. Trekkers wishing to limit the journey to a short duration can do so by finishing at Padum in Zanskar valley. One may reach Padum on the 9th or 10th day from the commencement of the trek. Darcha village in Lahul and Spiti district of Himachal is the actual end point of the trek.

Tsomoriri to Kibber

  • Duration : 7-8 days
  • Highest Point :Parang La (5580 m)
  • Difficulty : Moderate
  • Best time to Visit : September to October

The trek alongside the Tsomoriri Lake welcomes the travelers with a beautiful landscape. Walking down the path, trekkers may come across various monasteries, monks and the locals. The serene and beautiful landscape along with the warm hospitality of the locals makes trekking on this route of Ladakh a comfortable one. After Tsomoriri the route runs a trail to Kyangdam which ultimately leads to the base of Parang La, the highest point in the region. From here, glaciers take on the surroundings. A few hours walk in the southeast direction and Kibber is there.

Hemis to Zangla by Junglam

  • Duration : 9 days
  • Highest Point : Charchar La (4950 m)
  • Difficulty : Moderate

Trekkers planning to take this route have an option to start the journey from the three neighboring Himalayan villages. These are Hemis, Martsalang and Zengchan. After choosing amongst the three villages, the trekkers will enter the famous Markha valley via Junglam pass. This trek route is open between the months of June to October.

Sham Trek (Liker to Khaltse)

  • Duration : 5 days
  • Highest Point : Tsermangchan La (3750 m)
  • Difficulty : Easy

Considered as one of the easiest routes in the Ladakh region, the Sham trek is very much suitable for sightseeing. The trek is populated with numerous monasteries and villages which give an insight about the Ladakhi culture. Trekking via this route is preferable between June and October.

Lamayuru to Darcha trek

  • Duration : 19 days
  • Highest Point : Shinkhul La (5080 m)
  • Difficulty :Moderate

From the famous monastery of Lamayuru, the trek via this route commences. In the first half, trekkers enter Zanskar through the isolated villages of Padum, Lingshet and Photoksar. After a gap of some days, the route leads to its final destination, Darcha in Himachal Pradesh. It is advised to explore this route between the months of June and October.

Lamayuru to Hemis  

  • Duration : 15 days
  • Highest Point : Kongmaru La (5135m)
  • Difficulty : Moderate

The trek between the famous Lamayuru and Hemis monastery is filled with many passes. In addition to this, trekkers can also visit the Hemis national park on their way which is famous for snow leopards. To balance the difficulty of the trek, nature has blessed the route with the beautiful valley of Markha. June to October is the best time to  start trekking on this route.

Chader Trek

  • Duration : 11-30 days
  • Highest Point : Lingshet
  • Difficulty : Challenging

Open for almost a month only (mid Jan-mid Feb), the frozen Chader trek is hell of a challenge for the trekkers. Adventure lovers have to walk several days, or travel by taxi to reach Padum from the starting point Chilling. This includes trekking in the snow for a couple of days to reach Padum. Helicopter facility is also available for the return journey to Manali.

Rumtse to Tsomoriri

  • Duration : 7-8 days
  • Highest Point : Yalang Yugula (5440m)
  • Difficulty : Challenging

Trekkers wishing to explore this route have to start off from Rumtse which is around 85 kms from Leh. The path first crosses three passes before the Tsokar lake which is then followed by three more. Best explored between the months of June and October, the finishing point of this trek is Tsomoriri lake.

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Saboo to Khaltsar  

  • Duration : 5 days
  • Highest Point : Digar La (5300m)
  • Difficulty : Moderate

Saboo village, which is 7 kms from Leh is the starting point of this trek. The first phase of the trek is devoted towards exploring the Nubra valley via Digar La while the other phase includes walk to Khaltsar along the Shyok river. June to October is the preferred time for trekking in this region.

Hemis to Takh

  • Duration : 12 days
  • Highest Point : Kongmaru La (5135m)
  • Difficulty : Challenging
  • Best time to Visit : June to October

Beginning from Hemis monastery, trekkers enter the Markha valley after a day long walk. In order to continue the trek, a night halt at the beautiful valley is the routine. After crossing several villages and passes, the route leads to the final stop of the trek, Juktah at Leh-Manali highway.

Spituk to Stok

  • Duration : 3 days
  • Highest Point : Stok La (4900m)
  • Difficulty : Moderate

One of the most preferred treks by wildlife lovers, the Spituk to Stok route gives an opportunity to visit the Hemis National Park. Following this, one comes across several high passes, remote villages and mountains of Rupsho. This trek is open between June to October.

Hemis to Tsomoriri

  • Duration : 10-15 days
  • Highest Point : Kongmaru La (5135m)
  • Difficulty : Challenging

Starting from the famous monastery of Hemis, the route wil lead to Tsomoriri in about two weeks. Trekking via this route is filled with visits to the Hemis National park and remote villages Besides, one can enjoy the spectacular scenery of the mountains of Rupsho in the end. Like the other trekking options of Ladakh, this route is open between June to October. 

Liker to Khaltse Trek

  • Duration : 5 days
  • Highest Point : Tsermangchan La (3750m)
  • Difficulty : Easy

The very convenient, Liker to Khaltse trek is best suited for sightseeing. While trekking, one has the option for exploring the various Tibetan monasteries and nomadic villages. Open for the entire year, it is also termed as Baby trek by the travelers.  

Lamayuru to Hemis

  • Duration : 15 days
  • Highest Point : Kongmaru La (5135m)
  • Difficulty : Moderate

The trek between the two famous monasteries of Ladakh-Lamayuru and Hemis is filled with many high passes. Besides this, the Hemis national park and the beautiful valley of Markha further add to the fun of the trek. Between June to October is the best time to embark on this trek.