Ladakh Trekking: A Beginner’s Guide

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Last Updated on November 16, 2019 by Audrey Scott

Having fielded numerous questions about trekking in Ladakh — which trek to choose, how to find a trekking agency, when to go, how to get there, what to pack, and more — we’ve created this Ladakh Trekking Beginner’s Guide. We hope it encourages you to make the long journey to Ladakh and explore its stunning mountain landscapes and fascinating Ladahki and Tibetan Buddhist culture and people. You won't be sorry.

Ladakh Trekking: A Beginner's Guide

Every year we try to go on a big trek, one that takes us far far away and high into the mountains. For us, it's not only a way to exercise our bodies, but to clear and challenge our minds. It’s a way to disconnect from all that is part of our daily life — technology, social media, blogging — and reconnect with nature and ourselves.

Our trek of the Markha Valley in Ladakh in India’s high Himalayas was one of our favorite treks of all time. We had dangerously high expectations, having dreamed of this region for over a decade. Fortunately, what we found in Ladakh and on our trek far exceeded what we had imagined, not only in terms of the stunning landscape but also the Ladakhi people.

Short attention span warning: This is a long post. The reason: it contains all we wished we'd found when we researched our own trip to Ladakh. Here is my attempt to put together all you need to know to choose, organize and then enjoy a trek in Ladakh. If questions remain, let us know!

Update: This article was originally published in January 2014 and updated in July 2019 with current 2019 prices, a Ladakh trekking packing list and other information.

Update: You can now buy the Ladakh Trekking: A Beginner’s Guide with all the information from this site plus lots of extra details and other goodies (like packing and other preparation) in an easy ebook that you can download and take with you.

Buy the Ladakh Trekking Beginner's Guide

Choosing a trek in Ladakh

There are loads of trekking choices in Ladakh. Your choice will depend on the amount of time you have, how remote you'd like to go, and the difficultly level you seek. Some of the more remote treks require special permits as they may go into sensitive border areas, but trekking agencies can easily take care of this for you within a day or two.

Ladakh Markha Valley Trek Views
Room with a view from Hankar village along the Markha Valley Trek.

There are endless variations of treks you can take in Ladakh, with many taking you to remote areas and can go up to three weeks. You can find a full list of Ladakh trekking options here.

Some of the more popular treks in Ladakh include:

  • Markha Valley Trek (6-7 days): This is the one that we chose because it combined hiking and landscapes with people and culture by incorporating homestays with families in villages along the way. For us, this combination is ideal and resulted in a trekking experience that exceeded our expectations. The Markha Valley Trek is also the most popular Ladakh trek and we’re told it can get crowded in the high season (July and August). If you travel to Ladakh during high season, take this into consideration and perhaps choose a less popular trek to avoid crowded trails and home accommodations.
  • Hidden Valleys of Ladakh, Zanskar Range (9-10 days): This trek takes you into the Zanskar range and through small villages throughout the valley area. Camping gear is required as it’s not possible to do homestays for the entire trek.
  • Nubra Valley (5-6 days): This can either be done without much trekking for 2-3 days, or it can be a fuller trekking experience with camping, camel rides and more. We’ve heard the area is quite beautiful.
  • Kharnak trek (15 days): Begins like the Markha Valley trek but continues further south for another week. A Ladakhi trekking guide told us this is one of his favorite treks.
  • Rumtse to Tsomoriri (8-9 days): This was another favorite trek from a guide we spoke to because of the beauty of the lakes and the joy of interaction with shepherds along the way. This trek is on the short list for when we return.
Environmental Note: No matter which trek you choose, please remember that Ladakh is a high desert with a fragile environment. As visitors, we need to respect this reality and try to reduce our impact. Here is some good advice on traveling responsibly in Ladakh.

Water is scare in Ladakh, so please be mindful of this and take short showers and reduce your use of this precious resource. In addition, we ask you not to buy bottled water and instead use a refillable water bottle in both Leh and on your trek. This will reduce the plastic bottle waste already piling up in Ladakh, as well as the energy and resources used to transport the water bottles there.

To trek independently or with a guide?

Some treks require a guide due to the difficulty of the trail or local regulations. Other routes like the Markha Valley Trek can be done independently (e.g., without a guide) because the trail is pretty well marked and there are villages to stay in throughout the way. You then have the decision of whether to go on your own or hire a guide. Factors include: budget, your trekking experience, skill at reading trekking maps, and weather. Let's examine these.

Although our Markha Valley trek could have been done without a guide, we were thankful to have one. Having a local guide provided us with the peace of mind that we were always on the right path (as some of you may remember, we have a history of getting lost in mountains).

As luck would have it, we crossed our first Markha Valley trek mountain pass in the middle of a snow storm. Without our guide, we never would have found the correct approach. Two guys trekking independently with us said they would have turned back that day if it weren’t for our guide to help them find the path. Word to the wise: It pays to hitch a ride with Dan and Audrey…if they have a guide!

Our local guide also provided local context and culture (e.g., Ladakhi Buddhist) to the experience. We asked him many questions about his life growing up in a remote village in Ladakh and the changes he’d seen in his short lifetime. He served as an interpreter, providing us the flexibility to have conversations with families we stayed with or ask questions of people we'd met along the way.

Ladakh Trekking, the People You Meet
Friendly mother and daughter running a tea house where we ate lunch.

So while trekking Ladakh independently may save you some money and perhaps allow you a little more flexibility, our experience proved to us beyond a doubt that the benefits of having a guide in this region far outweighs the costs.

Ladakh Accommodation and Sleeping Options: Camping or Homestay?

Some treks will give you the option of either camping or homestays (staying with Ladakhi families in villages). Here are the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Camping: The primary advantage of camping (if you are going with an agency) is that it includes a horse to carry your bags so you don’t have to haul your stuff on your back up to 5,000+ meters and back down again. Another bonus: you can sometimes camp closer to passes, making for easier ascents. A perhaps obvious disadvantage of camping: sleeping in a tent when it’s rainy and cold or blowing snow can be unpleasant. In addition, this option is usually more expensive as you'll need your own cook and horse guide in addition to your trekking guide.

Homestays: If the trek you choose offers the option of homestays, we suggest taking it. Staying with Ladakhi families in villages throughout our Markha Valley trek was absolutely one of the highlights and delights of the experience. The people, culture and tradition ground you. Food (see below) is also a fun facet. Not to mention, homestays are typically less expensive than camping.

Ladakh Trekking Homestay
Proud grandfather in our homestay in Skyu.

Note: We recently met the founder of Mountain Homestays, a social enterprise working to empower rural communities through the development of homestays together with local people and families. You can search for unique Ladakh homestays here, including those focused on astronomy where you have access to a powerful telescope to explore the sky in almost perfect high altitude and remote conditions.

What to expect in a Ladakhi homestay:

  • Home-cooked meals: All food is vegetarian, which is better and safer for the digestive system, particularly at altitude. Alert the trekking agency, your guide and host families in advance if you have any food allergies. Dinner is often quite hearty and is either a traditional Tibetan/Ladakhi meal like momos (Tibetan dumplings) or temo (twisted bread dumplings) with daal (lentils) or greens from the garden. All our dinners were made freshly for us and were very tasty. Breakfast, a little less remarkable, usually consists of Indian flat bread (chapatis) with butter and jelly, while lunch is some sort of bread with packaged sliced cheese, hard boiled egg and some snacks.
  • Sleeping area: Sleeping in homestays usually consists of mattresses on the ground with lots of blankets piled on top. If you’re trekking in the high season you might need to share your room with other trekkers. For us, we had our own room most nights. Take a sleep sack with you. Sheets looked pretty clean, but it was unclear when the last time blankets were cleaned.
  • Toilets: Expect bleak. Outhouses or compost toilets are usually attached to the house or just outside. They do the trick, but don’t expect any luxury here. Bring a headlamp so you don't, um, accidentally slip and fall.
  • Common room: Some of the best memories at the homestays come from hanging around drinking tea around the traditional stove in the big common room. The bedroom is for sleeping, but this common room is where you should spend most of your time during a homestay.
Ladakh Trekking, Inside a Homestay
Traditional Ladakhi house with a big common room and stove.

What to look for in a Ladakhi trekking agency and guide.

Book a tour in advance or on the ground?

We did not make any bookings or inquiries for treks before arriving in Leh. We figured that we would use the two to three days acclimatizing in Leh (absolutely required if you plan to enjoy your trek) to research all our options and book our trek. Since we traveled in shoulder season, this provided plenty of time to make our arrangements.

If you decide to travel during high season (July-August), you may not have the same flexibility. Consider sending a few email inquiries in advance to be certain that agencies are not already at capacity with their guides and tours.

Update: If you are looking for a trek in Ladakh with social impact and purpose we recommend you check out Global Himalayan Expedition (GHE). We recently met the founder, Paras Loomba, and were impressed by him and the work of this social enterprise. Its mission is to electrify villages through solar energy, and one of the ways it does so is through trekking and travel experiences in Ladakh.

This means that its trekking expeditions not only provide travelers with an incredible trekking experience in Ladakh, but they also provide the opportunity to help bring electricity and solar energy to a remote mountain village. GHE also trains local families in hospitality and helps them set up homestays so that they have additional sources of income and employment that help keep people in these remote, rural areas. This not only preserves these villages, but also the unique culture in them that would otherwise die out with migration to bigger towns and cities.

Choosing a trekking agency in Leh

You will see trekking agents everywhere in Leh. Many of them will have signs outside advertising their treks, as well as notices if they are looking for more people to fill treks with specific departure dates. The idea here is that the more people who trek together and share a guide, the lower the per-person cost should be. We originally hoped to join one of these treks, but the timing didn’t work out with our schedule.

Ladakh Markha Valley Trek
Lunch break with a view of Kang Yaze Peak. Markha Valley Trek, Day 5.

We walked around Leh for an afternoon visiting various agencies asking questions about trek options, costs, departure dates and flexibility to add on stops. Most of the trekking agencies gave us a similar price range so our decision was made based on the feeling we got from the agency (e.g., did the agency feel like a middleman or were they actually responsible for their own guides and tours), their patience, and their flexibility to accommodate special requests.

We chose Ecological Footprint in the end because we liked how the owner, Stanzin, explained all our options and was flexible to work with us to create a trek that met our needs, not just one that fit into a prepackaged box. In addition, Stanzin is Ladakhi and know the community well. All the tours he operates use local people and aim to invest back into the communities. So while the tour was slightly more expensive than what some of the other tour agencies were offering, we felt that the price was worth it for the quality of the experience. We believed that our money was well spent.

We can also highly recommend our guide from Ecological Footprint, Dorjee Tondup. He is young but wise beyond his years and dispenses bits of perspective and peace everywhere he goes. His respectful approach to local people opened doors for us everywhere. His approach to everyone he met served as a lesson for life. He guides on all the major Ladakh trekking routes.

Ladakh Trekking Guide
Our guide, Dorjee, enjoying a moment along the Markha Valley Trek.

Choosing a guide

Although you may or may not have the option to choose a specific Ladakh trekking guide, we offer a few questions and suggestions to help you find a good match.

Ask to meet the guide before you leave on your trek.

This is something we usually do before any trek to give us peace of mind that we’ll get along well with our guide. We’ve never had to change guides, but if you do think that the guide assigned to you will be problematic then ask for a change. Remember, it’s a long journey. It will be particularly long if you must spend it with someone who rubs you the wrong way. Not to mention, you'll want someone you feel comfortable with and trust in the case that weather or health turn south. We know this firsthand because a guide from another agency who trekked alongside us in Ladakh annoyed absolutely everyone, including his own client. We spent energy trying to avoid him.

Ask for a Ladakhi guide.

During high season in Ladakh, demand for guides is high and so people come from all over India to guide for the summer. We don’t want to discriminate, but we feel that you'll have a better experience with someone who is a Ladakhi guide because of the knowledge of local culture and language. Our trekking companions had an Indian guide, and while he knew the mountain trails, he didn't know the families running the homestays or the Ladakhi language and culture.

Explain any special needs to the guide.

This goes for medical needs, as well as any other idiosyncrasies you might have. For example, we take a lot of photos so we stop a lot on the trail and slow things down. Alerting the guide in advance of this behavior lets the guide know not to worry when it takes us a while to go from point A to B. He can adjust his pace accordingly. One of the women trekking at the same time as us had back issues, so her guide would often carry one of her bags for her when her back ached. The idea: help your guide help you.

Estimated Costs for Markha Valley Trek

The updated price for our Markha Valley Trek (6 nights/7 days) including a guide, accommodation (homestay), food and transport to/from the trek is around 20,000 rupees per person. This also included a stop at Hemis Monastery on the way back to Leh. (Not all trekking agencies offer this, so ask about it. We really enjoyed the additional stop on the return and recommend it.)

Ladakh Hemis Buddhist Monastery
Why it's worth stopping at Hemis Monastery on the return to Leh.

This was slightly cheaper than some of the other trekking agencies while others offered bare bone prices at 1,600-2,000 rupees per person per day. Understand that you typically get what you pay for.

Homestay costs on Markha Valley Trek (Updated 2019)

If you do decide to do the Markha Valley Trek independently, find out in Leh what the official rate is for homestays that year. The official rate is a standard amount set every year by the homestay association so that the families all charge the same amount and don’t try to underbid each other (thereby causing tensions in the community).

Updated homestay prices, July 2019: The the standard Markha Valley homestay rate is 1,200 Rs ($17.50) per night per person. This includes dinner, breakfast and a packed lunch. A tent at Nimiling is 1,400 Rs ($20.50).

When to Trek in Ladakh?

The trekking season in Ladakh really begins to take off early-to-mid June and runs until September. The high season is July and August with August being the busiest month. Rains usually start late August to September. If you can time it, we recommend going early in the shoulder season in June. Note that weather is always the wild card, however.

Ladakh Trekking Buddhist Chortens
Chortens in the village of Skyu, Day 2 of the Markha Valley Trek.

Our trek was mid-June and there was hardly anyone (6 people) along our entire Markha Valley route. This meant that the homestays were not crowded and there were no traffic jams on the paths. We experienced a surprise snowstorm on our second morning at the first pass, but that just added to the excitement and meant that all the mountains around us sported a beautiful covering of snow.

Acclimatization and Accommodation in Leh before Trekking

No matter which trek you choose, be sure to spend at least two days acclimatizing in Leh (or wherever the setting off point of your Ladakh trek happens to be). Take a walk through the old town up to Leh Palace and Namgyal Tsemo Gompa. This helps get the blood pumping and the legs moving. It also gives you some experience climbing hills at altitude.

If you are susceptible to altitude sickness, consider taking even more time to acclimatize in Leh. Your hike will be more enjoyable and successful for it.

Leh Palace
Good acclimatization walk in Leh = climbing up to Namgyan Tsemo Gompa on the right.

As for where to stay in Leh, there are a lot of guesthouses and hotels for every budget. You can search here to see which hotels are available during your visit and compare prices.

The owner of Ecological Footprints, the trekking agency we used, has recently opened up a guesthouse called EcoResidency. We haven't stayed there yet, but it looks quite nice and quiet.

Food recommendations in Leh

Summer Harvest: Best momos in town. We feel confident in this statement as we sampled momos in four different restaurants and kitchens in town. Be sure to ask for the homemade hot sauce. We never ventured beyond momos (they were that good), but other dishes emerging from the kitchen looked tasty as well.

Ladakh Food, Momos
Fried momos from Summer Harvest Restaurant in Leh, Ladakh.

German bakeries: Don’t ask me why, but Leh is bursting with German bakeries. They don’t all have their own ovens, so it seems like they get their baked goods from a central German bakery source. If you’re craving a cinnamon roll or some quasi European pastries, stop by one of these and enjoy with a chai. Quality is mixed, but when you consider how remote you are, you'll be grateful.

Lassi guy: In the alleyway just to the right of the mosque on Leh Bazaar is a tiny place with this friendly guy making and selling yogurt and paneer (Indian cheese). For a few rupees he’ll create a fresh sweet or salty lassi for you and invite you in to enjoy a seat while he explains how he makes it all. Highly recommended.

Ladakh Food, Lassi in Leh
Making Lassi in Leh.

Monasteries and Other Sites in Ladakh

On our return journey from Leh to Srinigar we hired a driver from Leh to take us to visit a few monasteries on the way to Lamayuru, where we dropped us off and then picked up in the evening (pre-arranged) by a driver/shared jeep en route to Srinigar for the overnight drive.

Update: There is now an online shared taxi service in Ladakh to find other travelers going to the same monasteries, villages or trailheads. This not only shares the cost of the taxi or jeep, but more people in the same vehicle also reduces the carbon footprint of your travel and makes it more environmentally sound.

Likir Monastery

While traveling, we often find ourselves focused on the present. This is a good thing. Then, something helps us appreciate the history, the roots of where we happen to be. This too, is useful because it provides perspective.

Likir Buddhist Monastery in Ladakh, at almost 1,000 years old, is one of those places.

Visiting Likir Monastery near Leh, Ladakh
A fisheye view of a Buddhist temple in Likir monastery near Lah, Ladakh.

For much of our visit to Likir Monastery we were alone, save a sole monk who tidied up and made sure visitors took their shoes off before entering the temples. We enjoyed it all in peace and found ourselves stepping back, literally and figuratively, just trying to imagine how monks had gathered in those spaces for centuries — chanting, meditating, praying.

Alchi Monastery

Built in the 10th to 11th century, Alchi Monastery is made up of three major shrines. It's located not far from Leh, so it's an easy to visit on a day trip or en route to Lamayuru (like we did).

Alchi Monastery, Ladakh
Audrey turns the prayer wheels at Alchi Buddhist monastery.

Lamayuru Monastery

Lamayuru is one of the small towns in Ladakh, named after the famous Lamayuru Monastery perched high above the town. It's a nice walk up to the monastery with a view of the town below, interesting chortens in this high desert landscape, and intimate temples.

Lamayuru Buddhist Monastery, Ladakh
Prayer flags with Lamayuru Monastery above.

Transport: How to get to Ladakh

Unless you have your own set of wheels (or wings) there are three main routes to get to and from Ladakh.

By Bus or Shared Taxi to Leh:

Taking the public or regular bus is the cheapest option and certainly delivers an experience, but it is often the slowest option. To book a shared taxi or jeep to/from Ladakh consider using this newly developed Ladakh shared taxi booking system to help you find other travelers to share the cost and space. This not only saves you money, but with more people in each jeep it also reduces the environmental footprint.

Srinigar to Leh: You have the option to take a two-day “Super Deluxe” bus (overnight in Kargil) or a 12-hour shared ride in a private jeep (with 6 other passengers). Both leave from the same area in Srinagar. Please note that the roads are only open for a short period each year, usually from May – September.

We flew from Mumbai to Srinagar and then took the bus up to Leh and a shared jeep for the return leg to Srinagar. If you have more time, consider taking the train from wherever you are in India to Jammu and pepper in a few strategic visits and stops along the way to Srinagar.

Transport to Ladakh
Taking the “Super Deluxe” bus from Kashmir to Ladakh.

There are, of course, advantages and disadvantages to the bus and jeep. While the bus ride from Srinagar to Leh is long and not particularly comfortable, you are able to take a lot of photos out the window, as the pace is glacial, snail-like for much of the way. It's also an experience to travel with locals (e.g., Buddhist monks hopping on and off) and fellow adventurous travelers. Suggestion: try not to focus on the missing guardrails along the way. A dose of fatalism may also help.

Bus and Shared Jeep Costs from Srinagar to Leh (Updated 2019): Bus tickets = 1,399 Rs/person. Jeep price depends on your negotiation skills, but usually costs between 2,300-2,700 Rs/person depending upon which seat you have (i.e., back seats are cheaper).

Manali to Leh: This route from the south also features the option of a 2-day bus trip vs. 16-20 hours in a shared jeep. We didn’t take this route so can’t speak to it firsthand, but we met several people who did. The roads seem to be in worse shape than the Srinagar route, but you go over four large mountain passes which are supposed to be stunning. If you’re coming from Delhi, this is the more direct route. The roads are usually open for a few months of the year, again from June – September.

Bus and Shared Jeep Costs from Manali to Leh (Updated 2019): Bus tickets = from 900 Rs/person for the standard HRTC bus to 2,700 Rs/person for the more comfortable Volvo Bus. Jeep price between 3,700 – 4,100 Rs/person depending upon which seat you have (i.e., back seats are cheaper).

Update: We have heard that recent road improvements have shortened the length of this journey and have made it more safe.

By Plane to Ladakh

Flying into Leh is certainly more expedient, but you'll miss the beauty and adventure of the roads. The views from the skies in the mountains are supposed to pretty spectacular, however. Be sure to leave buffer days in your travel schedule if you fly as flights are frequently canceled due to bad weather.

Most planes fly from either Delhi, Srinagar and Mumbai (new in 2016). Try to book your tickets early as prices go up very quickly. Begin your flight search with Skyscanner as it includes all low-cost airlines in its listings.

Ladakh Trekking Packing List

Much of what we include in our How to Pack for a Trek article applies to trekking in Ladakh. However, we offer a customized Markha Valley trek packing list to ensure you have all you need to enjoy the mountains yet don’t overpack.

Since we chose the Markha Valley trek with homestays this meant that we didn't need to worry about tents, sleeping gear or food. We carried our own gear (mostly clothes) in a small backpack. The goal is to be sure you have all the layers you need to be comfortable in Ladakh's varied weather, but to not carry too much so as to struggle with your backpack's weight on the high mountain passes.

If you are doing another trek in Ladakh that includes camping instead of homestays then you'll need to bring (or rent) sleeping bags, sleeping mats, and other camping gear.

Trekking Backpack

Recommended women's backpack: Deuter ACT Trail Pro 32 SL Backpack – Very light and comfortable to carry. Includes all sorts of great functionality like a built-in rain cover, water bladder compatibility, wide waist belt for stability, and more. Love this backpack. Buy on Amazon | Buy on REI (28-liter)

Recommended men's hiking backpack: Osprey Packs Exos 38 Backpack – This backpack comes in several sizes, and the Large version is well-suited for tall people. Light, comfortable, and durable. The walking stick holder is a little janky, but the rest of the backpack is well-designed. Buy on Amazon | Buy on REI (48-liter)

Trekking Clothes and Shoes

You don’t need a lot of different clothes. Don’t worry about wearing the same thing every day. Everyone does it. It's more about having the proper layers since temperatures may rise and fall dramatically between day and night as Ladakh is a high desert. Here are the trekking clothes we suggest for a Ladakh trek.

  • 1 set of hiking clothes: T-shirt (preferably quick dry), long-sleeved hiking shirt (his and hers)) or pullover, shorts or trekking pants, hiking socks.
  • 1 set of sleeping clothes: T-shirt, pajama bottoms (or yoga pants), socks. To ensure these remain dry, pack them in a plastic bag or other impermeable container inside your backpack.
  • Ski hat and gloves: This may not be necessary later in the season, but by early to mid-June we were very thankful to have these as we were stuck in a snowstorm on our 2nd day.
  • Hat and sunglasses: The sun's rays are exceptionally powerful at this altitude and you'll find yourself especially exposed when there isn't a cloud in the sky. Be sure to wear a hat at all times to protect your face and sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Hiking shoes: Low-rise hiking shoes are fine, but if you have weak ankles consider bringing full support shoes. We both recently shifted to wearing Oboz Sawtooth hiking boots. The insoles and support for your feet are really good, and the shoes are sturdy and can stand up to some tough terrain. In addition, Oboz plants a tree for every pair of shoes sold so you can feel good that your purchase is going towards reforestation and environmental projects.Men's Obuz Sawtooth Hiking Shoes: Buy at REI | Buy on Amazon. Women's Obuz Sawtooth Hiking Shoes: Buy at REI | Buy on Amazon
  • Extra t-shirt: Just in case.
  • Underwear for every day of your trek: With an extra pair thrown in for good measure, if you like. Recommended his and hers
  • Extra pair of socks: Just in case you want to switch out or it's freezing and you need an extra layer to stay warm in your sleeping bag.
  • Fleece or other shell jacket: For cool nights or sleeping.
  • Rain jacket (optional): Just in case it rains. We used ours as an extra layer to stay warm at night. I recently upgraded to a NorthFace Climatech technology waterproof jacket and I love it. It not only provided protection against the rain and cold, but the jacket material is very breathable so it didn't feel like a sauna inside when trekking in it. Highly recommended. Buy at REI | Buy on Amazon.
  • Thermal underwear (top/bottom): If you're trekking either early or late in the season, consider bringing along some silk long johns as they are warm, comfy and take up almost no room at all.
  • River shoes or flip flops: At the end of a long day of walking you may want to take off your hiking shoes and give your feet a rest. But you'll still need something on your feet to go to and from the outhouse or nearest bush. That's where flip flops or river shoes worn with socks (yes, ignore the fashion police) are perfect.Buy on Amazon (Women's) | Men's River Shoes

Other Recommended Trekking Gear

  • Waterproof backpack cover: You never know when a rainstorm will hit, so it’s essential to keep a rain cover for your backpack close at hand.
  • Camera bag: If you are carrying a separate DSLR or mirrorless camera I suggest a camera bag that you can wear on your waist so that your trekking backpack rests on top. I really like the ThinkTank Sling Camera Bag which fits a mirrorless camera body and two lenses. It is comfortable for hiking as it sits right on my hips and I can still wear a backpack or daypack that rests on top of it.
  • Reusable water bottle: We carry a reusable liter water bottle on us and refill along the way. A CamelBak water bladder in the backpack also works really well. Homestays (and some tea houses) will be able to provide you with purified water so just refill your bottle each time you have access to clean water. Even if the trek does sell bottled water, please don't purchase it. Plastic bottle waste is an enormous problem at elevation and in villages that have no options for garbage disposal.
  • Water Purification: Although the homestays will provide you with clean water it's good to carry some purification or sterilization drops in case you need additional water from
    a mountain stream or non-purified village tap.
  • Walking stick: Highly recommended, especially for downhill sections to help with balance and to take some of the pressure off your joints. Two walking sticks or one, you ask? That's a personal preference. We usually share a walking stick set of two so each of us uses one stick.
  • Quick-dry travel towel: To dry off your hands or face.
  • Sleep sack: To provide a clean layer between you and blankets provided at the homestays.
  • Headlamp: Some of the homestays do not have electricity or lights. Carry your own headlamp to find your way to the outhouse or to sort through your stuff at night.

Toiletries and Health Kit

  • Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss: You know, the basics. And don't laugh at us that we put dental floss as a basic.
  • Sunscreen: The higher the SPF of the sunscreen, the better. The sun is very powerful at this high altitude.
  • Sunglasses: Necessary. That sun is darn strong.
  • Hand sanitizer: To be on the safe side.
  • Pack of tissues or roll of toilet paper: Always a good idea to carry your own, just in case.
  • Blister care: Duct tape is remarkably effective for hot spots and blisters on your feet if you address them when you first feel them. Compeed is magic when you already have blisters as it essentially covers your blisters with a protective later which allows them to heal below.
  • Medical Kit (for emergencies): Band-Aids, anti-bacterial gel (for cuts), rehydration packets, ciprofloxacin/azithromycin (or another medication against stomach bacteria), Tylenol (anti-headache/aches), Immodium (or some sort of “stopper” if you get diarrhea). Note: All this can be easily and inexpensively purchased at local pharmacies, including in Leh.

Electricity and Charging Batteries

Although some homestays may have solar energy that you can use to charge your smartphone it's best to be prepared in case you don't have any access to electricity during your trek. Some tips to handle this and further your battery power.

  • Put your smartphone on airplane mode. There is no connectivity along the trek anyhow, so don't waste your phone’s battery power trying to find a network.
  • Consider buying a phone case that doubles as an extra battery. Here’s an example for our iPhone X battery case. Alternatively, you could carry a Mophie charger. They all provide another 1-1.5 charges.
  • Take an extra camera battery or two.
  • Don’t spend time reviewing your images on your phone or in the camera viewfinder, as this will quickly consume battery power. Unless you are reviewing images to determine whether you’ve captured a specific shot, there will be time enough for photo review when your trek is finished.
  • Solar-Powered Energy Bank: If you really are concerned about charging your phone and gear along the way, consider bringing a solar powered power bank.

Still have questions about Ladakh and trekking there? Ask away in the comments below!

Update: You can now buy the Ladakh Trekking: A Beginner’s Guide with all the information from this site plus extra details and other goodies (like packing and other preparation) in an easy ebook that you can download and take with you.

Buy the Ladakh Trekking Beginner's Guide

About Audrey Scott
Audrey Scott is a writer, storyteller, speaker and tourism development consultant. She aims to help turn people's fears into curiosity and connection. She harbors an obsession for artichokes and can bake a devastating pan of brownies. You can keep up with her adventures on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And you can learn more about her on the About Page and on LinkedIn.

195 thoughts on “Ladakh Trekking: A Beginner’s Guide”

  1. @Quyen: We tried to be thorough to get all the information needed in one place 🙂 Although we did meet a few independent trekkers on the Markha Valley Trek, we were thankful to have our guide.

    @Jenna: Our favorite treks usually include a combination of nature/landscapes and people/culture. No matter where we’ve been in the world, homestays are usually the best option. Glad you found this helpful!

  2. @Alison: So glad you found this useful and hope it helped answer some of the logistical questions you had for planning your own trek.

    I’d rate the difficulty of the trek as medium…leaning towards medium high. The big challenges come from the two mountain passes at around 5,000 meters at the beginning and the end (but these are nowhere as difficult as the ascent to Mount Kilimanjaro’s summit). The idea is to leave early in the morning and go slow. Take your time…one foot in front of the other.

    We just had regular low rise hiking boots and we were fine – there was no real difficult footing that I can remember. We did have to cross a couple of streams and just took our shoes off, rolled up our pants and walked across. However, if you go later in the season the streams might have more water due to melting glaciers. Ask at the trekking agency about how the streams are during the time of year that you’re going.

    I’ll be publishing next a packing/gear guide that will have suggestions on what clothes, medications and other things to take with you.

    Any other questions, just let me know!

      • Akhil, you could ride a bike on the main roads in Ladakh, but not on the trekking paths mentioned in this article. They are too steep and difficult for biking. I don’t believe the area is dangerous, however.

  3. I can see why this was one of your favorite treks, not just for the nature but also for the homestays and the people you got to know. The information you give here is so helpful!

  4. Thank you so much for all of the useful information in this post. It’s great to get the lowdown from well-seasoned travelers who have been there so recently. We are looking forward to putting your advice to good use this summer. One question: How would you rate the difficulty of the Markha Valley trek? What was the footing like? Did you have to ford any rivers? I always like to have an idea of what I’m in for…

  5. You know, at EBC in Nepal I didn’t take a guide and probably would have defaulted to the same decision here but your discussion of the cultural interaction it opens up make me think maybe that isn’t the right decision. I love that you guys commit to at least one long trek per year, by the way.

    This has me sort of daydreaming about it, but perhaps when I finally get around to India it’ll spark the memory of reading this and push me up north!

  6. @Stephen: At the beginning of our journey we didn’t deliberately plan a long trek each year – it just sort of happened. Then we realized that it was something we really looked forward to and so for the last few years we’ve arranged the rest of the year’s travel around the trek. Still doing some research to decide on this year’s trek.

    I can completely understand choosing to trek independently. Next time you have the decision just think about whether there are cultural/language issues where the guide can help to make deeper connections. Safe travels!

  7. @Rod: Thanks for your kind comment. Glad to hear that even if you don’t have Ladakh as part of your travel plans, articles like this still open up what’s possible.

  8. I love reading travel blogs because I get to experience, so to speak, some things I probably wouldn’t even dream about doing. Thanks for sharing your adventure. My own travel plans will unlikely take me to Ladakh anytime soon, but your post made me realise about the possibilities of traveling somewhere so far off where I’m from.

  9. Hey Audrey! Thanks for sharing this comprehensive post about Ladakh, I was looking for an online guide to the area and you have answered all of my questions.

  10. Wonderful post, Audrey. How old would you guess children need to be to do the trek? Teenagers, or could 10 and 11 year olds hack it?

  11. @Mike: Thank you, glad you enjoyed this. Our guide talked about a family doing this trek with children around 10-14 years old, but I believe they hired a horse to take the kids over the high mountain passes as those were tough considering the high altitudes. I’d also spend more time acclimatizing with kids in Leh before setting off on the trek. Best thing to do would be to contact a trekking agency in Leh (we can recommend Ecological Footprint) and ask their opinion. Would be an incredible experience for kids!!!

  12. Fantastic post, a great resource and instant nostalgia for me as I think back on our two week trek from Manali to Leh in the mid ’90s (we camped and our pony man was nicknamed One Eyed Jack since he only had one eye and wouldn’t tell us his real name). It was easier to pick a guide and route back then since there weren’t too many options! The Nubra valley was spectacular as well, btw.

  13. Great information. It’s a place I’ve thought about trekking after seeing a film – at the Best of Banff Film Festival. You’ve provided a great resource – and the prices sound reasonable.

  14. @Karen: Glad this post brought back good memories from your own time in Ladakh in the 90s. I think you’d be surprised by how much Leh has changed since then, but the village and rural areas are likely the same. The route from Manali to Leh has some big mountain passes, so that must have have been an incredible trek…especially with a guide named One Eyed Jack 🙂

    @Leigh: Now I’m curious about the film you saw about Ladakh. The prices are reasonable, in my opinion, but a bit higher than some other parts of India or Nepal so we heard a few people voice some complaints. Of course, it may be a bit more expensive in high season but probably not too much.

  15. How cold were you during the trek? What would you typically wear while trekking? at night? How would you say the temperature/conditions compared to Kilimanjaro?

  16. @Alison: Temperatures will partly depend on when you go trekking. We went mid-June so it might be warmer if you go in July/August.

    The key for this (and most treks) is layering. For most days we would wear a pair of hiking/travel pants with several layers on top including a t-shirt, fleece, windbreaker. Depending upon how warm the day got sometimes we went down to a t-shirt and other times we’d add extra layers. A sun hat and sunglasses are necessary as it is so strong up at that elevation.

    However, on Day 2 & Day 6 where we had the mountain passes to cross we were dressed in long johns, hiking pants, waterproof pants (for the snow storm) and an additional jacket or two on top. After we got over the pass we’d strip off extra layers and put them in our backpacks.

    At night I had pajamas to change into (I always like sleeping in something other than what I hike in) which included silk long johns and yoga pants + t-shirt and fleece on top.

    Kilimanjaro was definitely colder on ascent day, but on other days Kili was warmer.

    I’ll be writing a full post on packing, clothes and gear for this (and other treks) soon!

  17. This sounds like an amazing experience! I wish I could go and trek through here like you guys did. How much money did it take to travel to this location?

  18. @sfadley415: The cost of getting to India depends on where you are coming from originally. If you can, try to fly into Delhi as it’s closer to Ladakh.

    Once in India we flew from Mumbai to Srinagar (and back) on IndiGo airlines. Because we didn’t book that far in advance the one-way tickets went up to $130/person while on the return it was more like $80/person. The price of the bus from Srinagar to Leh was around $20 and the jeep return was around $25.

    Hope this information helps.

  19. Brilliant information. Extremely useful. I am thinking of doing a trek in the Himalayas at the end of the year and maybe I will end up here rather than the usual Nepal circuit.

  20. @Nathan: India and Ladakh prices are certainly very different than the US 🙂 The quality of the experience was extremely high for us, but it’s important to manage expectations. Let’s just say that the toilets were on the rough side…

    @Ross: We also loved the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal, but if you’re looking for something that is a bit more remote and less trafficked then Ladakh is a great choice. Good luck with your trek!

  21. Hey Audrey. I just got back from ladakh.. well a couple weeks ago now. What a spot! Those fried momos are unreal.

    Think I’ll have to get back to Ladakh in the summer time to do some trekking. Hope all is well.

  22. @andrew: So glad that your trip to Ladakh went well! Loved looking through the photos on your post of the delivery of hockey equipment, especially the smiles and look of surprise when they took out the gear. And yes, you will need to return in the summer to do some trekking.

  23. Hi Audrey, thank you so much for all of the very useful information on your site. I was wondering if you had any other recommendations apart from Ecological Footprint to organise the treks in Ladakh?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Vivek,
      We can only comment on Ecological Footprint in Leh as we didn’t try any other trekking agency. Without having experienced a company ourselves we can’t recommend it. You can find a full list of all the registered agents in Leh here:

      Good luck and enjoy your trip!

  24. Hi Audrey, your work is very inspiring 🙂
    brilliant write up!
    just what I was looking for, since my husband and I are planning our first trekking trip this year. You recommend visiting between early June to Aug (which would not be possible for us), any suggestions for visiting post that time (Sept- Oct)? We are not looking at very strenuous/ high intensity trekking.

    Many thanks,

    • Hi Neha,
      You’ll have access to more routes if you go in September rather than October as quite a few mountain passes are closed off by snow once October comes around. Many of the routes we mention above – Markha Valley, Nubra Valley, Zanskar Valley (from Lamayuru) – should still be accessible in early-mid September. However, this all depends on the weather as snows can come early or late. Best thing would be to contact a trekking agent closer to the time that you’re going to find out what routes are still open.

      Good luck and enjoy your Ladakh trek and adventure!

  25. Hello Audrey!

    I am deeply indebted to you for writing this article. I plan to go to Leh in July 2014 and I’m very excited. Thanks to your guide I can now plan better. The only thing I wanted to know was, where did you stay when you landed in Ladakh the first night. Did you book a hotel/guest house in advance or did you land and just look for a place to stay?

    Advice is greatly appreciated.

    Thank you

    • Hi Anurag,
      We did not book accommodation in Leh in advance, but we also arrived mid-June when it was still considered low season. One of the people in our bus had a reservation and we joined them to see if there were extra rooms (and there were). If you’re arriving in July (high season) I’d likely book in advance so that you are sure to have a room. On our last night we stayed at Khazanga Guest House, a small family-run place on Upper Tuchka Road. A great family. We also stayed at Asia Guest House the first few nights. Also good (and a bit more expensive than Khazanga), but a bit away from town.

      • That’s awesome. Thank you for the information. I will certainly make reservations in advance and do my research. I have a few more queries, if you didn’t mind.

        1. How did you get around Leh? Like from the airport to your hotel and around town? Is it close enough to walk or did you have to rent bikes/tuk tuks?

        2. I am trekking independently but I wouldn’t mind company, I will feel a little safer too. Is there a service offered by trekking agencies such as the one you trekked with, where they can pool me with other trekkers provided we are both interested in doing same/similar treks. From what I understand, hiring a guide for independent trekking can be extremely expensive.

        • Glad the information was useful. As for your questions:

          1) We arrived in Leh by bus, so hopped in a taxi/bus to get up to Asia Guesthouse. The bus station is downtown while the airport is on the outskirts of town. When you make your hotel reservation ask the hotel for how much a taxi should cost into town from the airport. To get around town we were on foot. It’s a long town, but still small enough to walk.

          2) Trekking agencies throughout Leh will have signs outside indicating treks that are leaving soon that are looking for additional people to go along (e..g, to share costs). When you see a trek and time that fits what you’re looking for then inquire at the related trekking agency to get all the details. If you’re looking to arrange trekking with others in advance then take a look at Lonely Planet Thorntree to see if groups are looking for more people.

          As for hiring a guide independently, you can take a look above at our costs from last year for 2 people on the Markha Valley Trek.

          Good luck and enjoy your time in Ladakh!

  26. Great work by both of you! And good luck with further globe-trotting!!
    Just a question on Markha Valley trek. Can this be done in 5 days with homestays?

  27. Hi Balex,
    Don’t think you can do the full Markha Valley trek in 5 days if you start from Zhingchan village (where we started). But, you can start the trek in Chilling village and this should allow you to complete the trek to Chokdo village in 5 days. Good luck!

  28. Hi Audrey – thanks for compiling a superb set of information about trekking in Leh. My husband and I leave Bangalore for Leh in a week and want to do the Markha valley trek since it seems like the best option for a medium-level experience over 5 days. We had a few questions for you (or your readers!) for our trek due July 23-27 of this year.

    1. do you know the current homestay rate along the Markha route? is it possible to stay in the homestays without reservation? (ie. on the spot booking)

    2. any info you wish you knew about the Markha trek that you know now?

    3. due to cost restrictions we don’t plan on hiring a guide. aside from the important cultural advantage of having a local with you, is there any other reason we would have to hire one? safety?

    thank you so much!!

    • Hi Anita,
      So glad that this post was useful for your upcoming trip. To answer your questions:

      1) I do not know the current 2014 rate for homestays along the Markha Valley route. My suggestion would be to contact several trekking agencies and see if you can find out the current price. The is an organization that certifies and regulates all the homestays so perhaps you can do some research to find their contact info. We essentially showed up at homestays without reservations and it wasn’t a problem. However, that was early in the season. Usually villages will have several options so if one place is full you can go to the next homestay house. We have heard that during high season some trekkers may end up sleeping on the floor in the living room area if the bedrooms are full.

      2) Good question. We had asked a lot of questions of the trekking agency (Ecological Footprint) in advance and had picked up some extra gear at the shops in Leh before going (e.g., long johns, gloves, etc.) and snacks (chocolate, crackers, etc.). So we were pretty well-prepared and since we had done other multi-day hikes in Nepal we knew what to expect in terms of altitude and homestays.

      3) Safety could be an issue if there is bad weather or you don’t have a good map. On our first mountain pass we encountered a freak snowstorm that covered up the hiking paths. Our guide knew where we were going so we were fine and helped others who did not have a guide. But, two of those who were trekking independently said that they would have turned back without our guide because they were getting really lost. Additionally, our guide shared stories of some trekkers getting confused with river/bridge crossings in previous years and following the wrong path. However, if you have a map and start your day at a similar time to other trekkers so you can follow along you should be fine without a guide.

      • Hi Audrey- my husband and I just got back from a very memorable trip to Ladakh yesterday. Your blog was so helpful that I thought it important to follow up my questions to you with a few points:
        1. ladies expecting their period at any point should bring all the pads/meds they need as absolutely nothing is available on the trail
        2. we went without a guide and had no issues at all since there are quite a few folks going along the same trail (as you mentioned). only advice would be to start each day by 8am (max) so you can beat the heat and see others going in your direction (amazing how much other smiling faces can give you energy to keep walking!)
        3. take a good first aid kit with you
        I’d end by mentioning that this was our first trek and we found it fairly challenging on the last couple days. We’re 30 yrs old and in decent shape but wouldn’t call this trek “easy” as I’ve seen the trek labeled on some other websites. Given the steep altitude changes, long distances on the last few days, and difficulty to sleep (I consistently woke up ever couple hrs each night), I would call this a “moderate” trek. Of course I have nothing to compare this to and we could have been better mentally prepared but I just want to put it out there 🙂 We’re looking forward to our next trek where we’ll be better mentally prepared and ready with walking sticks (which we didn’t have but looked to be gamechanging for all who used them!)

        Thanks again for your tips, thorough guide, and timely responses – very much appreciated! 🙂

        • Thanks so much, Anita, for sharing your experiences after your recent Markha Valley Trek! Sounds like you had a really great experience, even though the trek was more physically challenging than you expected. Although we have a decent amount of trekking experience, I also wouldn’t categorize this trek as “easy.” The two mountain passes at around 5,000 meters were definitely challenging, as were the days leading up to the 2nd pass. Glad you had no problems getting lost or with the homestays.

          Now you can think about your next trek 🙂 Maybe in Nepal?? or Sikkim?

  29. Hi Audrey 🙂 !

    That’s a wonderful article you’ve compiled…very helpful for those wanting to trek in Ladakh. I plan to do the Markha valley Trek as a primer and an acclimatisation trek for the Chamsher climb. What do you think ?

    What would you say are the differences in Ladakh and Nepal, at high altitudes, in terms of rarity of oxygen ? Is it similar or is the effect more pronounced in Ladakh ? I ask this to get an idea as I have trekked a bit in Nepal.

    The prices quoted by trek agencies for my programme are prohibitive, could you provide the contact details of your guide ?

    The cost of INR 13,000/ per person you incurred was while trekking through ‘Ecological Footprint’ ?

    Thank you,

    sudhir Kochhar

    • Hi Sudhir,
      I think your plan to do the Markha Valley trek as a way to acclimatize and get fit for the Chamsher Climb at over 6,000 meters is a good one. In Nepal we did the Annapurna Circuit trek which went up to 5,400+ meters while in Ladakh we were at 5,130 meters at our highest point. So the Markha Valley trek was similar (or easier) in terms of adjusting to altitude. As for other differences, the homestays along the Markha Valley trek are a bit more basic than along the Annapurna Circuit. And there are no menus anywhere you go – the family cooks one meal for everyone.

      Yes, the price we quoted above – 13,000 Rs/person for homestays (camping is more expensive) – was in 2013 and when we booked in person (i.e, not in advance). My suggestion would be to contact Ecological Footprints directly and see what price they can provide for your desired treks. The guide we had, Dorjee, works through the agency.

      Sounds like you have a great trip planned! Enjoy!

  30. A wonderful read and at the end of which, trepidation gives way to excitement – you have demystified many things without taking away the element of surprise – I hope that those who do this or the other treks in Ladakh, can contribute their experiences for the benefit of those that follow behind them – I am hoping to spend 6 weeks there starting in September and am looking forward to an education of a life time – Ladakhi’s are wonderfully hospitable and gentle souls and one hopes that they will remain that way – although the pace of development may not allow this to be so, for long.

    • Thank you, Rohit! Glad you enjoyed this article, found it fair and also didn’t find that it removed all the mystery of traveling in and trekking in Ladakh. 6 weeks in Ladakh sounds terrific. Please let us know how your experience goes. If you have any additional recommendations on traveling in Ladakh, or if you find we should update any information in this piece for the benefit of other travelers, please let us know.

  31. Great article and very helpful! There is not much out there on trekking in India! Did get the rabies vaccination prior to your trip? Would you recommend it?

    • Thanks, Lyannae. Glad you found it helpful, and we hope it helps you prepare for your trekking experience.

      We did not get a rabies shot in advance of our trip to Ladakh. In our experience, it was not necessary.

  32. Thanks for this super article. It’s perfect for my Markha Valley trek starting next week. The only question I have is whether the homestays on this trek had any electricity for charging camera batteries? Though I’m carrying an extra battery, I doubt if the two of them together will last the entire week.

    • Hi Sajid,
      Good question. I believe that there is one homestay that is connected to the electrical grid (i.e., reliable electricity), but the rest mostly used solar energy to charge a big battery. In most of the places we could charge our camera or battery for a bit to help top it up. Obviously, the amount depended upon how sunny it was that day 🙂 For our phones, we put them on Airplane mode to try and save the battery power.

      Enjoy your trek!

  33. What a beautiful country and amazing adventure. The people look so kind and friendly. It’s amazing how people can still be very humble in this day and age. Glad your trek went well, what a great adventure.

  34. Hi Audrey,

    You had helped us a lot with off-line questions to prepare for our recent Markha Valley trek. I returned back last week, and wanted to pass along this feedback. We did a 8-day trek at end-September to early-October 2014 through Ecological Footprint (Stanzin as our commercial contact, and Dorjee as our guide — same folks you had worked with).

    The cost of the trip had increased, perhaps due to the good publicity through your/this blog post — we were charged 17,000 INR Rupees PAX, instead of the 13,000 INR you had paid the year earlier. It’s overall good value from the FX exchange and quite low costs — Stanzin made our trip worry free with airport pick-ups, a half-day hike the day before for acclimation, and some extra requests such a fruit, candy, and meat on the first days. You could do better for sure shopping around once on the ground in Leh — as it was low season and there is not much different amongst the different outfitters as the homestays and food were the same — all the guides that we met on the trip seems to be of good/sufficient quality. However, the 4,000 INR different was not significant to us.

    An issue to watch for is with the tailor of our trip to 8 days duration, they simply added a day at the beginning where we were dropped off on the side of the paved/unpaved road for an additional 3 hours of hiking before the trek start point. We didn’t really care for this “added” first day, where a normal 7-days trek would have been preferred to have an extra day in Leh. However, the extra day walking on the road did help prevent acclimatization issues.

    There is very limited cellular coverage in the mountains. Only one or two homestays had sattelite telephone. Something to consider for the practicality of emergency evacuation services in your travel insurance. Still probably worthwhile.

    The timing of the trip was perfect. We understood the high season of July to August period to get crowded on the Markha Valley trails and homestays. We went in the low-season (early October). This is an ideal time to go as there’s less people and you get to observe the autumn changing colors and harvest. Additional risk is weather, but we were quite fine with each day being sunny.

    Things to bring that were not mentioned (or I didn’t see) in your other posts. A pillow case is good as the sleeping liners tend to slip off in the middle of the night. Protein powder as an easy to carry/make supplement. Instant coffee powder if you care about the quality of your coffee. And a padlock to use at the guesthouses and homestays…just in case.

    Thanks again for your time & attention in our planning. It helped us a lot.

    Thanks! Felix (USA) & Wemmie (Hong Kong)

    • Hi Felix,
      Really glad that you and Wemmie had a good trip and that everything worked out with Santzin and Dorjee. Thanks for the update and feedback on your experience. I’ve added a note in the post with updated 2014 prices. One of the reasons for the increase is that homestay fees have gone from 500Rs to 800Rs per night. Was the price of 17,000/person for 8 days or 7? Just want to be sure the fee comparison is fair.

      Yes, communication is quite limited in the mountains. In our case there was a young woman who got sick one night and there was discussion of what to do if she didn’t get better by the morning – take her by horse over the pass (faster, but higher altitude) or through the valley to the road on the other side (longer, but lower altitude). Fortunately, she got better and rested a day and was able to continue on her own.

      And if you do like coffee, it is best to bring your own. Definitely.

      Thanks again for sharing your experience and insights after the trip!

  35. Thanks for really useful article! We are going to Ladakh in August 2015 and we would like to make Markha Valley trek independently without guide and stay overnight in homestays. Is it better to book homestays in advance via some of these agencies? I think that homestays in August could be quite full. If so, how does it work as I do´not suppose that homestays have any internet connection.. Thanks!


    • Hi Daniel,
      Glad you found this article useful. None of the homestays where we stayed in the Markha Valley had internet, and only a couple had access to a telephone or mobile service. So, I’m not exactly sure how the agencies are able to book homestay spots in advance. When we trekked it was first come, first serve — whether you trekked independently or had a guide. As it will be more crowded in August we suggest you get an early start so that you have more options as to in which homestay you’d like to spend the night. Also keep in mind that the homestay price goes up every year. Enjoy your trek next year!

  36. Thanks for a comment. Do we need to carry own sleeping bags with us, especially for Nimaling tent “homestay”or silk sleeping bag liner is sufficient?


    • We did not carry our own sleeping bags, but relied instead on the blankets provided at the homestays. At Nimiling, the tent we slept in had sleeping bags inside. But the silk sleeping bag liner is important to carry, not only for warmth but also to have a clean layer between you and the blankets at the homes.

  37. Hi there,
    came across your site whilst researching a trip to Kashmir and Ladakh next year in May/June , best , most comprehensive information I’ve come across , many thanks , but when I tried to open the link the Ultimate Trekking Packing List , I get an error message , would greatly appreciate it if you could e-mail me the list



  38. Dear Audrey and Dan

    Thank you is a small word for this absolutely beautiful and very informative write up. This has come in handy while we are planning a trek to Ladakh around late July/ early August of 2015.

    We are a group of around 8- 10 divas planning to trek in Ladakh ( while fundraising to send underpriviledged children from India to school). All of us have various levels of trekking experience some of us have trekked EBC, ABC and some to Valley of flowers. We truly believe in choosing local guides and experiencing local culture while on the trek. They come with immense knowledge plus the wonderful hospitality which is boundless. We shall get in touch with Ecological footprint and hopefully if we are lucky will get Dorjee as our guide too :-). A few questions

    1) we are looking to do around a 7-8 days trek of moderate intensity reaching around 16,000 feet. If so which do you advise. Markha or Zanskar?

    2) Does Eco footprint have experience handling a large group like this?

    Thanks a million and hope we can connect with you via email if we have more queries?

    Cheers and hugs


    • Hi Priya,
      Sounds like you and your group have a wonderful trip ahead of you! As for your questions:

      1) I think both the Markha and Zanskar Valley treks would meet your needs (although we have not trekked in Zanskar Valley ourselves). One big difference is that with the Markha Valley trek you have the option of homestays (what we wanted) while with the Zanskar trek only camping is offered. Not sure if homestays are of interest to you.

      2) I do believe that Eco Footprint would be able to handle groups of this size as I know they sometimes operate as the local tour operator for foreign tour companies and have organized and guided up to 15 (or more) people. I think they have also organized trips for student groups as well.

      Yes, it’s not a problem to get in touch via email with more questions. But, if you don’t mind leaving comments that is sometimes better as then others who are interested in Ladakh can benefit from your questions and the answers.

      All the best,

  39. Hi Audrey and Dan

    As we are planning on the group trek a couple of queries come to our mind and hopefully we can have an answer

    1) For the Markha valley trek of 7-8 days, we are suggested to have 4 days of acclimatisation at Leh prior to starting the trek. From your perspective how many days are actually needed. Wondering if 2 days upto a maximum of 3 days would be good enough?

    2) How many days during the Markha valley trek of say the 8days were actual homestays and how many were camping? we are told that beyond a particular height it is only camp and no homestays? would sincerely appreciate a response on if that is so?

    3) Do you know anyone who has recently trekked with Eco footprint? how was their experience with them? we are planning to go with them and being a group of 8-10 we are keen to have some more latest feedback about them if possible and unbiased, hence the query to you?

    4) What were the approx cost of the trek ( excluding leh) for homestay and camping in Indian Rupees?

    5) In terms of payment, did you make 30% of payment in advance and if so how did you receive a communication from Eco footprint on receipt of payment. They seem to communicate via their facebook page primarily or sometimes via email rather than telephone

    Thanks a million and hoping to hear

    Merry Christmas from all of us and wishing both of you amazing adventures in 2015

    • Hi Priya,
      I’ll try to answer your questions the best I can!

      1) If you have previous trekking experience, then you can probably plan for 2-3 acclimatization days in Leh before the trip. My suggestion is to do walks and mini treks around the town and up to Leh Palace and the temple above it to test how everyone is feeling.

      2) One night of the Markha Valley trek is in a tent. This is at Nimiling. The tent was already set up when we arrived and they provided us with blankets so it was quite comfortable and warm.

      3) You can take a look Felix Wong’s comments above for feedback from someone who has trekked with Eco Footprints in October 2014.

      4) According to Felix’s comment above, the 2014 price for the Markha Valley trek with homestays is 17,000 INR/person. I don’t know what the camping price would be, but it would be more as a cook and horses have to be hired. Please note that the price will probably go up in 2015 as the official homestay rate goes up every year (e.g., 500 INR/person in 2013 -> 800 INR/person in 2014).

      5) We booked our tour in Leh. We chose Eco Footprints after talking with other trekking agencies. So we paid our deposit in cash. As for how to receive confirmation of the deposit, perhaps ask if they can email you this. I know that internet and telephone goes out a lot in Leh.

      Hope this information helps and good luck with your planning and trek!

  40. Hi Audrey and Dan,

    I’m having trouble contacting Ladakh Ecological Footprint
    The phone goes to a recording saying the number no longer exists and there has been no answer to my email
    Can you help?



    • Hi Max,
      I just sent you an email with the correct contact information for Ladakh Ecological Footprint. Internet goes out regularly in Ladakh, so sometimes it can take time to respond.
      Have a wonderful trip!

    • Hi Catherine,
      I checked with Stanzin at Ecological Footprints in Leh as we were not there in October. He said that it shouldn’t be that cold at that time, but but there won’t be the homestay/camping in Nimaling. What this means is that there would be an additional 2-3 hour more on that day. All the other homestays should be open. Hope this information helps!

  41. Hi Audrey,

    I found your blog is very helpful. Thanks for sharing.
    We plan to go Leh Ladakh in April 3-15, 2015. I’m reading many websites and never found Leh trekking in April. Is it possible to do 6-7 days trekking in April? Or it’s too cold?


    • Hi Patti,
      I wish I had a better answer for you, but that time of year is a bit uncertain for trekking (and roads). It really depends on the weather at that time. My advice would be to get in touch with a trekking agent in Leh who knows the weather and can advise on your options. Enjoy your trip!

  42. Thanks for such a useful post!! Was wondering if it’s possible to hire a jeep from Manali/Srinigar and drive to Leh ourselves? Is it possible to hire the jeep from one location and drop it off at another?

    • Emma, glad you found this post useful! I’m afraid that I don’t have any information about hiring a jeep from either location. Honestly, I would be hesitant to drive that route myself as the mountain roads are rather treacherous. I’d rather have a local driver who knows the turns and quirks well. If you want to have the flexibility of stopping and not being in a bus, my suggestion would be to hire a private driver with a jeep to take you from Manali/Srinigar to Leh, and then from Leh hire another private driver to take you back. Good luck with your trip!

  43. Hi Audrey – thanks for the great post! My husband and I are looking to do a trek in Ladakh in the next month and we are looking to hire a guide. However I’ve heard differing reports about the area and getting there in regards to safety given the close borders with Pakistan. Did you encounter any issues with safety in this regard or feel at all uneasy when in Srinagar on your way to Leh? Or even in Leh itself?

    Thanks again for your great information – super helpful! — Kristen

    • Hi Kristen,
      It’s always good to keep an eye on the news, but we didn’t have any problems with safety on the way to/from Leh from Srinagar. You know that you are very close to the border with Pakistan because that is where you’ll find large numbers of Indian military in the hills and around. While it may surprise you at first to see military, this has been the norm here for decades.

      Actually, on our return trip from Leh to Srinigar there had been a small incident the day before with a Kashmiri group attacking an Indian military vehicle. However, we didn’t know about this until after we returned to Srinagar, meaning that the roads were still open and operating normally.

      In Leh, we didn’t feel any safety or security issues.

  44. Hi Audrey,
    Thank you very much for this fantastic and complete guide, it made me consider this trek as a real option for this summer! I would have just a couple of question to ask you about:

    1) First of all, I sent an e-mail to Ecological Footprint 3-4 days ago and haven’t got any reply so far, is the contact you suggested Max in a previous comment the same the agency shows at the bottom of their website?

    2) I would probably do it solo, but in a “crowded” period (late July – August). Do you think it will be really possible to join some pre-formed group booking in advance with Ecological Footprint?

    3) Do you have any other feedback from a different good trekking agency, if Ecological Footprint won’t be available for some reason?

    Thank you very much in advance and good luck with your next trips, all my best!

    • Hi Daniele,
      Glad to hear that you found this guide useful and are considering the trek for this summer! As for your questions:

      1) Yes, the contact info for Ecological Footprints/Stanzin is the same as at the end of their website. As mentioned, internet does sometimes go out in Leh so it can take time to respond.

      2) I imagine that in the high season there will be more groups going out daily so I would ask Stanzin/Ecological Footprints (or whichever agency you choose) about existing groups that would be interested in adding an additional person to help reduce costs.

      The other alternative, depending upon your flexibility, is to wait until you get to Leh and walk around town looking at all the signs around town advertising for wanting additional people for certain departure dates. In the high season I can’t imagine you wouldn’t find something within a day or so.

      3) We did walk around and met with other trekking agencies, but I’m afraid I don’t remember names or contact information for them. You could try posting on Lonely Planet’s Thorntree to ask for recommendations.

      Also please note that Stanzin informed me at the beginning of the year that homestay & hotel costs are expected to go up almost 10% this year so the trekking costs will be higher than mentioned here.

      Good luck with the rest of your planning and hope you have a wonderful time!

  45. hey actually im planning to go for markha valley trek.. but my budget is tight like 200 to 250dollar per person.. means 12 thousand to 15 thousand INR per person. i want to ask that much money is enough or not?? and i want to know homestay cost of 2015 :/ … please help 🙁


    • Hi Jatin,
      I don’t know the exact homestay cost in 2015, but last that I checked (January 2015) it was expected to be around 1,000 INR/night. The stay in Nimiling is usually a bit more expensive. So if you travel independently without a guide then you should have enough money to pay for the homestays. Good luck and enjoy!

      • on markha valley guide is neededor not?… n to communictae with the people i think we need a guide?… anyway which trek is best zanskar or markha? for june 2015…

        and also tell me that which trek is less costly 🙂 … thanks

  46. Hi Audrey and Dan! Thanks so much for this great and detailed post – really helpful! I reached out to Stanzin and heard back from him about the Markha Valley Trek and we’re excited to get started planning!

    One thing he mentioned that I wanted to check with you about was that he requires a deposit into his company account in order to organize a trek in advance. Does that sound right? I’m generally pretty wary of advance deposits, so I wanted to make sure it wasn’t something I’d run into trouble with. Let me know what you think! Or if there’s potentially a way around that.

    Thanks a ton in advance,

    • Hi Ishani,
      Glad that you got through to Stanzin and good luck with the rest of your planning!

      We booked our tour on the spot (i.e., after we arrived in Leh) so we did pay a deposit when we agreed to take his tour so that he could reserve the guide and make all the transport and other arrangements for us. I understand that it may feel strange to transfer money in advance, but I also know that from the tour operator’s standpoint they need to protect themselves from people canceling (which does happen). You could always take a risk to book and pay when you arrive in Leh, but that means that he wouldn’t be able to reserve anything in advance. If it’s high season that’s a risk that there might not be a guide available on the day you want to leave, but in the shoulder or low season there’s probably some flexibility.

      All the best,

  47. Thanks Audrey, Great information here. I appreciate it.
    What about trekking in September to Mid Oct?
    Some other info I read said it is excellent in Ladakh then.
    Did you hear any stories about trekking in Sept-mid October?
    Thanks again, all the best.

    • Hi Arran,
      One of the commenters above – Felix – did his trek in late September/early October and had good weather. Stanzin said that the camp at Nimiling usually closes sometime in October, so the idea would be to go before then. Good luck and enjoy your trek!

  48. Hi folks

    Thanks so much for your blog, it’s really helpful. We are going to Ladakh at the end of August (this year) and are planning the Markha Valley trek on your recommendation! Just wondered what kind of training you put in before doing the trek? It’s difficult to envisage how tough moderate trekking at altitude is as we haven’t trekked at altitude before.

    Any info gratefully received.
    Susan and Rachel

    • Hi Susan and Rachel,
      We were just talking last night about how there are different definitions of “moderate” difficulty when it comes to trekking. The trek is not technically difficult (i.e., no crampons or special equipment needed), but the high altitude with the two passes (5,000 meters) is what makes things a bit difficult. If you haven’t trekked at altitude, my suggestion is to arrive in Leh 3-4 days early to acclimatize and do short walks to higher elevations to start getting your body used to the high elevation.

      We did not do much specific training before the trek, but we also were in pretty good shape from other treks we had been on. If you are active — running, long walks, 6-8 hour treks at home, etc. — then you should be OK without having to do special training. My suggestion is to take things slow on the trail — this will help preserve your energy and help with adjusting to the altitude as well.

      Good luck and enjoy your trek!

  49. Hi Audrey and Dan!

    First of all, you have created an amazing website! Beautiful photography! Congratulations!

    I found your website, as I am preparing for a 2 months trip to north India and as part of it, I would like to do Markha trek. Thank you for all the detailed information you have shared on this trek.

    I am planning on joining a group through a travel agency, once I get there. Do the trekking agency normally use ponies to carry the luggage? I have the same duffel bag you mention in you gear list (Eagle Creek Luggage Load Warrior Wheeled Duffel 25) and I was wondering if it would be suitable to use during the trek + day pack for essentials?

    I so much prefer it for travelling these days for the same reason that you mentioning! 🙂

    Thank yo so much for your reply

    • Hi Egueria,
      Thanks for your kind words about our website and photography. Really appreciate it.

      As for your questions. If you do a homestay Markha Valley trek then you will need to carry all your own stuff. This means using a daypack for a few clothes, layers (jackets), toothbrush, etc. The goal is to carry as little stuff as possible since you are going over some high mountain passes and you don’t want much weight on your back. The homestays provide food, blankets, etc.

      If you are taking the horse option for the Markha Valley trek then it would be possible to put some things on the horse to carry from campsite to campsite. However, the Eagle Creek 25-inch Load Warrior would be too big for the horse as it will also be carrying camping equipment, food, etc. My suggestion would be to borrow a duffel bag from the agency to put only the essentials of what you need in that bag (and then carry just water/sunscreen/camera in the day pack).

      This post on packing for a trek might be useful for you:

  50. Hello, anyone able to help give a guide on how much it would cost to hire a driver and jeep for six nights to go from leh to shimla in early October? Thanks!

    • Hi Catherine,
      I’m afraid that we don’t have this information. Best thing would be to ask around at travel agents or hotels in Leh or Shimla (e.g., phone or email). For example, Stanzin from Ecological Footprints helped arrange our transport for a day trip and then overnight to Srinagar. Good luck and have a great trip!

  51. Hi again folks

    Just making last minute plans for our trip this week to Ladakh, YAYYYY!! Very excited, but a little worried about the altitude as we’ll be flying in. Do you know of any accommodation within Leh which is lower than the other places? Or would that matter? Where did you guys stay? Sorry if this is repeating info you’ve already put on your site.

    Thanks again

    • Hi Susan,
      Exciting that your trip to Ladakh is just around the corner! As for accommodation in Leh, we stayed our first nights at Asia Guesthouse and our last night at Khazanga Guest House. The latter was better as it was a family place and a bit cheaper, but I don’t have contact information. You could probably ask around or if you are working with a trekking agent he may know. I don’t think it really matters where you stay regarding altitude as it’s all relatively the same. However, we do suggest taking a few days to acclimatize and walk up to Leh Palace and the nearby stupa as it’s on a hill overlooking the town. Have a safe trip!

  52. I just returned from my fantastic trip to Ladakh. What a place! I had a fantastic time and managed to get two treks in. However, I feel a need to warn other travellers against Ecological Footprint Trekking agency and particularly it’s owner Stanzin Odzer. I was very disappointed by his professionalism and really expected a lot more, partially because of the excellent review that his company received on this blog. Stanzin was unreliable, he left me waiting for him outside his office for a minimum of 2 hours (yes, I am very patient). He did not seem to care at all about how my trip was going to be, or even really help me set up my itinerary. I had to plan the route, chose one of his guides who was in his office and propose the trek to him! I also found that he would tell me one thing one day, then the next he would be saying something totally different. EG…. One of my friends had very little equipment, and we were told that a backpack could be lent and then the next day Stanzin totally denied this. Also, Beware if you are a solo traveller who wants to join other trekkers to bring down costs. Stanzin (and admittedly other agencies) absolutely do not want you to meet other interested parties until the very last minute of departure. In my case, he told me that there was a New Zealand girl interested in the trek that I wanted to do (Rumste to Tsommori). In fact the girl was from Holland and she was told that I was a New Zealander! I am Canadian. Stanzin has absolutely no qualms with lying and I suspected him of lying to me on a few other occasions as well but have no exact proof. I strongly recommend against using his agency. Dishonesty, Unreliability and having zero regard for his clients are very bad traits for a trekking agency operator.
    Side note… Stanzin’s “Manager” his right hand man, has no clue how crampon’s work although he is setting people up to go up a “Trekking Peak” called Stok Kangri where crampons with absolutely be required. Definitely unprofessional! …. and was a little disconcerting!
    Note to other trekkers…. There are many trekking agencies in Leh. I advise to shop around and don’t hesitate to leave and move on to another agency the minute you detect incompetence.

    • Hi Arran,
      Glad to hear that you enjoyed your time in Ladakh with the two treks you ended up undertaking. And sorry to hear of the disappointment and problems you had with Stanzin and his team. We’ve had quite a few people send us emails after their treks with him over the last couple of years and this is the first one with a negative report, so I’m disappointed to hear your experiences.

      To help other trekkers coming to Ladakh, perhaps you can share which trekking company you chose to go with that you were satisfied with on your treks? Thank you!

  53. Audrey,
    On my second trek I went with Sky High Treks & Tours. The owner Tsering Norboo was very professional and experienced. All of the guides that I met at his office were smiling, happy and full of energy. Tsering is a local Ladakhi as are his guides. He alway’s showed me the courtesy of offering me to stay for tea, even upon returning from our trek! I am confident that Tsering can set up any trek. I heard about Sky High Trekking from a geologist friend that used them to support his time in the mountains for two full months this summer. It went well the whole time. I will definitely use Sky High Treks & Tours on my next trip to Ladakh.
    Email: [email protected].

    • Hi Christine,
      The answer to this depends on your trek. On the trek we did (Markha Valley with homestay families) we carried everything with us at all times. However, if you are doing a camping trek you might be able to put a pack on one of the horses so then you only need to carry a small day pack during the day. Hope this information helps!

  54. Hi Audrey, First of all, thank you for the blog! Love the writing style, and most of all your lifestyle!

    I am looking at the Martha Valley trek and my question is whether the landscape is very arid? I can see it is a desert. Did you not miss some shrubs or greenery in the landscape? We did a trek in the Huayhuash mountain range in Peru and we are thinking this might be very “bleak” in comparison.

    Thank you! Laura

    • Laura, thanks for the kind words! Ladakh is high desert, but there are some shrubs and greenery around. However, there is beauty in the stark landscape so we didn’t miss greenery or lushness. But, it really depends on what you’re looking for in a trek.

      • thank you Audrey for the Ecological Footprints recommendation. We are back from our month away travelling in Ladakh and then travelling over to Shimla by road via the Kinnaur Valley. Stanzin arranged our trek and the driver and vehicle used for the road trip and his advice was very helpful. His team are honest, flexible, reliable and very hard working and their camping equipment is good (liked the mattresses). Tashi, our guide, was experienced and when I had trouble with loss of appetite and breathlessness/altitude sickness he was patient and let me know when I had not eaten enough that meal! We found Ladakh a beautiful kingdom with spectacular landscapes and are now going through our many photos. If/when we return, I will contact Stanzin (note to anyone thinking of trekking Markha Valley: Be prepared for walking in areas that have experienced flash flooding and the usual trekking paths are not available. Invest in good shoes). Thanks again.

        • Catherine, thanks for following up and sharing your experience in Ladakh and Shimla! Glad everything worked out with hiring a driver and making all your arrangements. Sorry to hear that you felt altitude sickness, but it sounds like you were in good hands and were able to persevere through it to still enjoy the trek. Thanks also for the heads up regarding the Markha Valley and flash flood areas.

  55. Huge thanks for this helpful blog and advice galore which gave us a great deal of confidence this summer (JUL 2015) to take our first big trip without children into the beautiful true wilderness of Ladakh. As a direct consequence of your blog we booked with Ecological Footprint in Leh – we have been booking travel for clients since 1990 so I would say we are an experienced pair of hands…what a brilliant recommendation! Stanzin was clear and friendly in emails as to what we could expect from our trek making suggestions as our aspirations grew. The only thing we ever found strange was occasionally emails took a while to answer – it wasn’t until we got there we understood that the internet is up and down A LOT. However it didn’t effect our decision to book and pay up front. We were met by Tashi who is superb and a real fixer – Chris got altitude sickness in the first 24 hours and Tashi organised for him to be whizzed to the local hospital, without drama. In 1 hour (!) Chris was mended. We were so lucky to have Darjee as our guide – same as you, but also we had a good team who made our adventure so much fuller and really happy. We also lost nearly a stone each (we weren’t that unfit, but that’s what a vegetarian/ no booze / intense exercise did for us). We still feel well because of our trek. It was a boost to our health both spiritually and mentally and I would love to thank you for your recommendation of Ecological Footprint as we both believe their care and passion for Ladakh made it for us. Full marks for an intelligent recommendation and thank you.

    • Chris and Billy, thanks for your long and helpful comment! So glad that you had a great experience trekking in Ladakh last summer and that you were well taken care of by Stanzin and his team at Ecological Footprints. That’s also great that Chris was able to get such quick care for his altitude sickness. Love that you are still feeling the positive benefits of this trek months later! Thanks again!

  56. Hi Audrey,

    Thank you so much for all the information on your blog about trekking in Ladakh.

    Ladakh is an amazing place and I would love to go back soon. Then I would definitely go trekking with Ecological Footprint again. The owner, Stanzin is very friendly, helpfull and attent. He called during trekking to make sure everything was ok. Even after trekking he called me (when I was not able to meet him because I had to take my plane the next day) to inform if everything was according to wish.
    When I had some spare days Stanzin and Dorjee suggested I could go visit Pangong Lake. They managed to get a permit in a short time so I was able to go there the next day (When you have the time, you should visit this place, what a beauty!)

    Before I went off I wrote several emails to 4 different travel agencies to get information about there trekkings. I only got my questions anwered by Ecological Footprint allthough sometimes it took a while. But beeing there I experienced myself there might be no internet at all for days. (So be patient;)

    I was very happy I went trekking with Dorjee! (Markha Valley) He is easy going and an experienced hiker. I learned a lot about Ladakhi culture. He knows many people along the route by which I met some really nice local Ladakhi people. ( When you got the chance you should definitely stay at Jimmy’s homestay in Shingo She is a lovely hospiitable woman and a great cook as well!)
    Dorjee made me feel confident and comfortable all the time, which I needed because I had some difficulties with the height during trekking.

    Thanx again I had an amazing time partially because of your blog!

    • Hi Diny,
      Great to hear that you had a good experience recently in Ladakh and this blog post and recommendations helped with your trip! Dorjee is very experienced with trekkers who have altitude sickness or problems at altitude, so I’m glad he was with you to help you and make you feel confident during the trip. Thanks also for the recommendation for Pangong Lake – we would love to return and explore more of the region one day!

    • Hi Diny,
      thank you for your helpful post, I’ll definitely try Jimmy’s homestay if I see it 🙂
      However – do you know what is the homestay price for 2016?


  57. Hi Audrey,

    Thank you for this very informative blog on Trekking in Ladakh.

    I just have one doubt in terms of when is the best time to go there. I have seen that some treks start in May but most of them around mid June or early July.

    Do you have any idea how trekking is around the month of May? As that is the only month I can possibly visit.

    Thanks for your feedback in advance.

    Best Regards,


    • Sabah, I think you would still be able to trek in May and this shouldn’t be a problem with the host families. Later in the month would probably be better in terms of weather, snow and roads. Best thing would be to check with Stanzin or a trekking agency to check what the conditions are at the time when you want to trek and when the shepherd tents at Nimiling open up for the season.

      Good luck and hope you have a great trek!

  58. Hi Audrey,

    We have just completed a Markha Valley trek about a week ago. I just want to thank you for this blog, it helped a lot with our planning!

    As recommended, we opted to go with Stanzin (Ecological Footprint). It was great working with him – even managed to arrange accommodation for us outside the trek schedule. He made sure we were all on the same page with the itinerary and that all things run smoothly. We’re also grateful that he gave us very nice crew for the trek – they were very patient with us (we take a lot of photos and rests!) and so accommodating. It was also very comfortable making friends with them. He also arranged a meeting with. Aside from the internet problem in Leh, it was smooth communicating with him :). If/When we happen to go there again, we will definitely contact him again 🙂

    Thanks again for this blog!

    • Trisha, thanks for letting us know how your recent Markha Valley trek went! Glad you had such a great experience, and I agree that it’s so nice to be able to go at your own pace so you can take photos and rest.

  59. Hi there! Audrey, your blog was extremely helpful, thank you for putting this together! I am considering trekking the Markha Valley and using a guide from Ecological Footprint. I would be travelling to Leh from Dehli, which I recognize is something that you did not do. Do you have any idea from speaking to people or based on your own trekking knowledge whether it takes longer to acclimatize after flying as opposed to taking the bus?

    I am in a bit of a time crunch, as I would only be leaving Dehli on the 18th and returning for my flight on the 29th. I hope to leave enough time for acclimatizing as well as for a 6/7 day trek. I am having trouble figuring out when the busses and flights leave and how reliable the schedules are. If you have any suggestions on how to acclimatize or how much time to leave for that after flying and/or taking the bus, it would be much appreciated!

    Thanks in advance!

    • Hi Debra,
      When you take the bus you are gradually moving higher in elevation rather than an immediate change. So while that usually helps a bit with acclimatization, I don’t think it’s a dramatic difference. Our suggestion would be to leave at least two days to acclimatize in Leh before starting on your trek. During this time try to do some walks to higher elevation — like the Buddhist temple on the hill overlooking the town — so that you are training yourself. You can ask your guide or Stanzin from Ecological Footprints for some suggestions on walks and best ways to acclimatize.

      The weather dictates a lot when it comes to transport – bus and air – so the reliability of schedules varies. If there are not clear conditions planes will not land or take off in Leh as the pilots need visibility to make it through the mountains. There are usually buses or private transport (i.e., several people sharing a jeep) every day from the jumping off points to/from Leh. Good luck and enjoy your time in Ladakh!

      • Hi Audrey,

        Sorry I wasn’t sure how to reply to you on the blog initially so I did email you this already. Just in case this forum is easier – Thank you very much for your response! Do you think then flying into Leh would require the same acclimatization period as taking the bus into Leh? We were planning on leaving about 3 days to acclimatize if we flew, then trekking the Markha pass from the 22nd to the 28th of August in order to fly back or get back to Dehli on the 29th. Does this seem reasonable to you?

        How do we find these private transport options ahead of time?

        If you have any other suggestions or resources, I would greatly appreciate it!

        Thank you so much again!

        • Hi Debra,
          Thanks for following up here in case the response helps others planning their trip. I think that if you leave yourself three days to acclimatize if you fly is enough. Just be sure to do some walks around Leh to higher elevations to help with the process. I think we took two days to acclimatize in Leh after our bus ride from Srinagar, but our bus journey took two days so in the end it’s about the same amount of acclimatization time.

          As for finding private transport options (e.g., shared jeep), I don’t know of any websites that list this. Stanzin from Ecological Footprints arranged ours from Leh to Srinagar. From Delhi you’d need to get to Minali (about 10-12 hours by bus) and then go by private transport/shared jeep from there. You can probably contact a guesthouse/hotel/travel agency in Minali to help you find out the times and arrange something. However, given the amount of time you have I’d probably fly to Leh from Delhi instead of spending 2-3 days by land transport.

          Good luck and enjoy your trip!

          • Okay great, thank you so much! I think we will fly to Leh since that seems more feasible given our time constraints.. We do plan to have two nights then and three days in Leh for acclimatization. Would you recommend a trekking pole for the Markha Valley trek?

            Thanks so much again!


          • Debra, your plan to fly in I think makes the most sense. Just remember to walk around during your acclimatization days and also drink lots of water.

            We picked up walking sticks on the trail and we were thankful to have them. If you already own trekking poles then bring them along. Otherwise, your guide can probably find a sturdy stick on the first day somewhere.

            Enjoy your trek!

  60. Hi

    Thank you for the wonderful information, me and my girl friend we are both planing to visit Ladakh this year around mid April. And your articles are such a inspirational for us, cant wait to visit this wonderful mountains, would you recommend us what to do, if we are going to be just for one or two days in Ladakh?

    Thank you

    • Hi Young,
      As you will be visiting Ladakh rather early in the season for trekking, my suggestion would be to go out to Pangong Lake as a day or overnight trip (provided the roads are clear). You could also rent a car and driver for the day and visit several of the monasteries in the area. The roads and routes out there are beautiful, so you’ll get a feel for the mountains and local culture.

      Enjoy your trip!

  61. Such a comprehensive and informative Guide, thanks for the heads up. Trekking and mountaineering adventure in Ladakh has been my dream for the longest time, can’t wait to make it in the reality. Seeing all of your photos give me a nerve to really save money and make that dream become reality.

  62. Hi Audrey
    Great blog! Very well written and descriptive.
    I’m planning to do a 10-12 day trip in Ladakh with some 5-6 days of trekking and rest of the days spent backpacking around the villages and towns. An recommendation on what route should I follow. I have done quite a few single day treks in himalayas and sahaydris. I want to do a mix of a nce trek and easy travel around ladakh.
    If you have any backpackers group in your mind who can help me with this, it would be even better.


    • Hi Manish,
      Thanks, glad you found this blog post useful! For a full list of treks in the area with estimated trekking times, check out this page:

      If you have 5-6 days for trekking you could do the Markha Valley trek in that time (6 days), or perhaps Nubra Valley. It also might be possible to do a shortened Zanskar Valley trek. To find other backpacker groups probably the easiest thing is to check out the different hostels in Leh and see if there are groups that are looking for more people. Also, many of the trekking agencies have signs outside asking for more people for treks. This works not only for treks, but also in sharing transport. We didn’t have much time after our Markha Valley trek to explore deep into Ladakh, but we did enjoy the monasteries we visited in the region.

      Good luck with your planning and enjoy your trip!

  63. Great photos and write up . As a frequent guest in Ladakh over the last decades I´d like to add this :

    Acclimatization and altitude sickness : the best prevention is a good map , i.e. plan your first nights between two and three thousand meters . This makes Srinagar-Leh with a night halt in Kargil @ 2693 meters close to ideal.

    The worst option is Manali-Leh , which starts below 2000 and where everyone , thru bad planning or accident , facest the risk of having to sleep up to a thousand meters higher than Leh with minimal prior acclimatization. For a better plan , look up the “Sleepless in Sarchu” post on my blog.

    Second best option is flying in , and sleeping lower than Leh : Alchi and Ule Tokpo are both four hundred meters lower than Leh.

    Second best prevention is medication – Diamox/acetazolamide , starting 24 hours inadvance. I was very mauch against this for many years , until I found out I slept a lot , lot better the first night(s) this way. Specialist docs like The Himalyan Rescue Association ( ) , International Society for Mountain Medicine all recommend this situations like Leh flyins or extreme fast ascents like Manali-Leh . Talk it over with a travel doc , not a GP.

    Drinking a lot of water is a popular , but contralogical advice : severe altitude sickness is edema , i.e. excess of fluids in the tissues , and you wont prevent this by pushing in more fluids to the system. See for example the warning on the Himalayan Rescue site , or at Pesonally I drink when thirsty , keep track of my urine color , and do better than the average.

    The roads to Leh are open a lot longer than most believe : earliest opening of Srinagar-Leh was April 9th , 2013 , and last two years the road finally closed around Xmas .Manali-Leh opens from mid-May to early June most years , and closes normally in November . I´m not exactly recommending this , but last time I took the Srinagar route in on December 1st. You´ll find road updates in the news sticky on my blog .

    • Thanks for this comment and advice! Really appreciate the details on acclimatization, altitude sickness, and transportation. I didn’t realize that the roads were now staying open so late into the year.

  64. Hi Audrey,

    Congratulations for this very useful article, and the photos are amazing!

    I am going to Ladakh next September and I am planning to do the Markha trek with a friend. We will have only 6 days for the trek, so we are wondering about the best itinerary.

    We read that there are to different itinieraries:
    one from spituk (8 days):

    and one from Chilling (6 days):

    Even though we only have 6 days, we would prefer the itinerary from Spituk because we really want to cross Ganda La. We are ready to walk a lot, but we do not want to take risk with altitude sickness.
    Which itinerary did you do in 7 days? Do you think it can be done in 6 days?


    • Hi Arnaud,
      You can do a similar trek to ours in six days as there is flexibility at the end of the trek. We started in Zingchen, which is a couple hours by jeep from Leh. Then, our first overnight was in Yurutse. In other words, the trek would begin with Day 2 of the Spituk link you shared above. Then, at the end of the trek you would cross the Kongmaru La pass and instead of overnighting in Shang Sumdo you would continue walking until you reach the road (just outside the village) and would get a transfer to Leh (arranged in advance with the trekking agency).

      Good luck with the planning!

      • Hi Audrey,
        Thanks a lot for your answer!
        Zingchen to Shang Sumdo in 6 days looks perfect. Crossing Ganda La on the 2nd day might be little bit challenging with regard to altitude acclimatation, but we will go slowly slowly… 🙂
        Can’t wait to be there!
        Thanks for your help.

  65. Thanks for all the tips and the booklet too! We just got back from the Markha Valley trek. We also chose to go with Ecological Footprint and we had a great experience. It was an amazing adventure!

    • Thanks for your trip report, Riki! Glad that our Ladakh Beginner’s Guide booklet helped with your planning and that you had such a good experience with Ecological Footprints!

  66. If you’re looking for an environmentally friendly trekking company in Ladakh, don’t go anywhere near Ecological Footprint. They are not eco-friendly!

    They have an admirable policy of refilling reusable water bottles with boiled water instead of using disposable plastic ones, not using plastic bags, not generating unnecessary waste, and so on – but they completely ignore it in practice.

    I kept asking our guide to stop creating plastic waste, but he didn’t seem bothered and even carried on buying packaged drinks for himself while we drank boiled water. When we complained to the owner, Stanzin, he didn’t think there was a problem. He didn’t seem to understand his own policy – he even offered us a plastic bottle of water himself! This company is all greenwash. They were also disorganised and the guide poor at communication.

    Sadly, the plastic ban is no longer in force in Ladakh, so it’s up to tourists to be responsible – especially when even so-called “eco” trek companies like Ecological Footprint don’t practise what they preach. You can get perfectly safe purified or boiled water at most hotels and guesthouses, at Dzoma Laundry in Leh, and at all homestays and camps if you ask, so please bring your own bottles to Ladakh. It’s awful to see such a beautiful place littered with plastic.

    • Hi Sarah,
      I’m sorry to hear about your experience regarding the plastic water bottles and plastic waste on your Ladakh trek. It is also really disappointing to hear that the plastic bottle ban is no longer in effect along the Markha Valley Trek. I thought it was working really well during our trek a few years ago, especially as all home stays provided clean water for free, and we didn’t see any plastic garbage along the trail. So sad to hear that has changed.

      When we trekked we brought our own refillable water bottle so we didn’t ask Ecological Footprints for water bottles (I didn’t know that was an option, to be honest). Our guide refilled a plastic water bottle along the trek, but he took it out with him. I’ll check in with Stanzin regarding this situation and update this article so that future trekkers know to bring their own bottles with them as they may not be provided by the trekking company (whether they go with Ecological Footprints or not).

  67. We are just back from a 3-week holiday in Ladakh (23 July- 14 August 2016), where we did 2 treks, 2 rafting trips and the cycle from Kardungla to Leh with Ecological Footprint. I want to echo the views of others regarding the care and attention that Stanzin and his team offer. When we arrived in Leh we spent 4 nights at the wonderful Nimmu House, 40km outside Leh. I was feeling unwell with altitude adjustment during these days. Stanzin drive me to Leh to get checked out at the local hospital, drove me back to Nimmu with a tank of oxygen, and then re-visited us before the trek to make final arrangements and ensure I was well. The trekking team, led by Tashi, were fantastic. To enjoy wild camping, and be met at the end of each day’s walking with a cup of ginger tea and biscuits was an amazing experience! We trekked from Lamayuru to Chilling for 5 days. This was spectacular, and we only met 4 other families during this period. We took your advice to walk at meditation pace….very helpful! At Chilling we took a day’s break from trekking and completed 28km of white water rafting. We then completed the Markha Valley trek in 5 days. We started from Chilling, where the bridge across the Zanskar was washed away last year. We had to cross the river in a pulley, which was not much bigger than an apple crate. What a way to start another beautiful trek. The Markha Valley was much busier, but still beautiful. We were glad that we had chosen to camp rather than use home stays, as this allowed us to walk similar distances each day. Campsites were busy, but the trekking companies seem to be respectful of the environment and take most of their rubbish with them. It was very cold at Nimaling, and we started our final ascent over 5200m in icy hail. Advice on clothing would be to take gear for all weather, as the days were extremely hot, and we were in our puffer jackets and woolly hats at night by the end of the trek. It was also very dusty on the Markha trail. Essentials included lip balm for dry lips, plenty of suntan lotion, and anything to manage the dust. Having said this, the views and exhilaration we experienced each day over-rode any discomfort. We can’t wait to go back. We will definitely be using Ecological Footprint again. Thank you for setting us off on this journey.

    • Hi Angela,
      Thanks for checking in here after your recent treks in Ladakh! I’m sorry to hear that you were sick upon arrival in Leh, but I’m glad to hear that you were well taken care of by Stanzin and his team at Ecological Footprings. It’s great you checked on by everyone to be sure you were well enough for your trek. Altitude sickness is not something to mess with or not take seriously.

      The experience from Lamayuru to Chilling sounds wonderful…now you have me dreaming about a future trek! It’s interesting to hear the perspective from someone who has camped along the Markha Valley trek as our experience was in homestays. That ascent from Nimiling is challenging in good weather, so I can only imagine what you went through with the icy hail!! Glad you had such a great experience!

  68. Hi Audrey,

    I rarely write reviews…even though me personally before I buy anything, choose a new restaurant, or select a service I pore over everyone else’s reviews. In keeping with the Buddhist tradition of Karma and to express our gratitude at the people prior to me who took the time to write a review of their personal experience with Ecological Footprints…I’m taking the time to write this review of me and my families (wife and two kids ages 12 and 13) experience on a 12 day trek of the Markha Valley and Stok Kangri with Ecological Footprints in August 2016. As a family, we have travelled and trekked all over the world from North America to Europe to Asia and as a result of our experience working with Ecoligical Footprints we left Leh feeling that this was our most rewarding adventure yet.

    Food: I was expecting a steady diet of rice and dal but was pleasantly surprised to find each and every meal a delicious event from a wide range of options from Tibetan, Indian, Chinese and Western. Every dinner consisted of tasty soup, followed by a warm and filling entree finishing off with some fresh or canned fruit depending on local access to fresh fruits. All of the meals were vegetarian made fresh from scratch. If you asked for it they accommodated unique dietary requests including vegans since it was basically only skipping the eggs, milk and paneer. For breakfast, there were a wide range of options available, but we stayed primarily to pancakes, cornflakes, muesli and omelettes.

    Accommodations: We opted exclusively for camping. The home stay option was made available to us but after visiting a few of the home stays along the route and enjoying the delicious food made available while camping we opted for camping every night. The sleeping pads were plenty thick to offer a sound sleep after a good day of trekking. We had rain almost every night and our provided tent kept us warm and dry.

    Schedule: We tend to be the “leave early, arrive early” type of Trekkers so we generally tried to have breakfast by 7:00 am and then on the trail by 7:30 am. Every morning we would be awakened by tea in our tents followed by breakfast 30 minutes later. After breakfast we would be given our “pack lunch” for the day and then we were off. We usually arrived at the next night camping location about an hour or so before the ponies arrived. This allowed us a chance to sit back and enjoy the panoramic scenery of the Himalayas. We kept a pretty good pace on the trek and when we did stop, we didn’t stop for longer than 10-15 minutes.

    Personnel and Support: We were very fortunate to have Dorgi, our Lead Guide and Samir, the Master Chef (aka Cook.). The two combined have +15 of Himalayan trekking experience. Both of them were very accommodating. Dorgi would often remind us that it was our vacation and that they were there to make the experience the most enjoyable and rewarding, so we would trek at our pace, stop as often as needed and leave when we were ready, all very relaxed. We also had a Helper and a Pony Man who handled the ponies. We had five ponies as support. Everyone was supportive with carrying additional gear to allow us to lessen our packs to enjoy the trek that much more.

    Everyone was fluent enough in English so we didn’t have any communication issues. Dorgi also spoke French which didn’t help me much since I barely know “bonjour.”

    Good support from Stanzin back in Leh when we needed some re-supplies with a solar light and changed up the juice boxes to accommodate our personal preference of pineapple juice versus guava juice.

    Stanzin also took the time to meet with us in Leh prior to the trek to review our gear and to answer any and all of our questions and concerns in a relaxed and supportive manner.

    Even though we were one of 4-5 treks in progress during the peak season, we always felt reassured that there was adequate support in case of emergency.

    Safety: Even though we were trekking above >15,000 feet for much of the time with two kids, at no time did we feel that we were in any precarious or unsafe situations. On all of the river crossings, Dorgi would select a safe crossing point and support with a helping hand.

    I’m always reminded of the mantra “don’t drink the water,” but every night Samir would boil water and refill our water bottles with safe drinking water so that they were cold by morning and ready for another day. I brought along an MSR water purification system but never used it.

    Good for families: Dorgi and Samir were very good with kids. In fact, they played cricket daily with the kids after a day of trekking. They made the extra efforts to teach and share what we were seeing and most importantly with kids to make it fun.

    Buy Local: I’ve used global guide services such as Alpine Ascents and RMI in the past but all of the profits and dollars end up back in Seattle or wherever. This is a local Ladakhis owned and operated business, so the profits and money stay and support the local community.

    Gear: we brought along all of our trekking gear from home but relied on local sources for our crampons, harnesses and ice axes for the Stok Kangri Summit. These locally sourced items all seemed to be originally sourced from the Indian Army. This local climbing gear was adequate but the next time we will bring our own climbing gear from home. The crampons took forever to put on with all of the straps which was a bit of an issue when removing after the glacier in the cold.

    Payment process: I almost always use a credit card especially when making deposits but a wire payment deposit of $300 was required to secure the ponies in advance. I submitted the wire payment about six months prior to our trek. It was a little unnerving wiring a payment to a guide company that I had never experienced personally but after reading the other prior reviews I felt confident that after I landed in Leh that everything would be prepared and ready to go and in fact we had the most amazing experience as a result of Ecological Footptints.

    • Sean, thank you for your comprehensive comment! So glad you had a great experience in Ladakh with Stanzin, Dorjee and Ecological Footprints! And, I’m really impressed that you did this with your children – what an incredible experience for them and for everyone. I’m glad that you had such good support with the camping, food, and support staff during the trek.

      Thanks again!

  69. We have just returned from Leh after doing the Markha Valley trek organized by Stanzin of Ecological Footprint Travels. Our party consisted of two adults and two boys, ages 11 and 13. In the interest of saving time we flew into Leh from Delhi and decided to stay put in Leh for two days in order to acclimatize.

    After two days in Leh I was not doing well. On Stanzin’s suggestion I decided to go to the SNM Hospital. Stanzin drove us to/from the hospital, helped us navigate the bureaucracy, bought the prescribed medicine from the market, etc. All this was done with good cheer and not once did he ask for payment.

    Since my acclimatization was suspect, Stanzin suggested a modified Markha Valley trek with an easier initial phase. This suggestion was made without demand for extra payment and once again confirmed that first and foremost Stanzin wanted us to have a great and safe experience.

    As others have also pointed out, the trek team was superb. Our core team consisted of Tsewang Tondup (guide), Stanzin Norgyal (horse man), Sidar Sherpa (cook), and Sonar Thupdanp (helper). The food, at our request, was vegetarian and excellent. The team did its best to look after out safety and comfort.

    After 2 days on the trek I had a relapse of altitude sickness and decide to turn back while my family decided to carry on. Stanzin personally came to take me back to Leh and never once broached the subject of extra payment. The team assured me that my family would be well looked after during the trek and I had complete trust in their ability to provide a safe, respectful, and fun experience.

    Back in Leh I stayed at Stanzin’s guest house while my family was on the trek and it was the best stay in Leh – much better than the premier hotel at which we had stayed during our acclimatization and at a fraction of the cost. Special thanks to Stanzin’s father who looked after me with great concern and to Manish Kumar for showing me Shanti Stupa and the footpath down from the guest house to the city. Did I mention that I was also served 3 delicious meals a day? Dorjee drove me from Leh to the camp site at the end of the Markha trek; I enjoyed his company and we bonded over our mutual passion for the band Indian Ocean.

    The trip to Ladakh ended too soon for us. We would love to come back one day and do another trip with Stanzin and his team. In conclusion, we highly recommend Stanzin’s company and his crew.

    • Jaiwad, I’m so sorry to hear that you got sick and had to cut short your trek. But, altitude sickness can be really serious so it sounds like you made the right decision. I’m also really glad to hear that you were well taken care of by Stanzin and in his guesthouse. We also had a similar experience in one of the guesthouses in Leh that Stanzin had recommended (this is before he had his own) where we paid much less, but were taken care of so well and the rooms were so comfortable.

      Thank you again for this comprehensive report and I do hope that you are able to return and complete the trek next time!

  70. Hello Audrey and Daniele, great post! I came from Ladakh recently and I used your guide as an introduction to the region. I did some research and I think that your guide is the most detailed one out there.

    One point I would add to your guide is that if you wish to do a trekking on your own, all trekking agencies are happy to explain to you the every day by day itineraries, as well as where to start from. That helped me a lot to decide which trek to choose from but in the end, I did the Markha Valley trek as well.

    To be very honest, I was looking forward to go on a less popular trek, but at the same time I wanted to do it by myself. Since I am not a super experienced trekker, I assumed that Markha Valley trek was the most perfect one for me. It was great!

    By the way, homestays have increased to 1000 rupees per night in case you want to update your guide 😉

    • Hi Joan,
      Thanks for your kind words that our Ladakh trekking guide was the most detailed that you found during your research. I definitely understand the desire to do a less-traveled route than the Markha Valley trek, but also that when going on your own it sometimes good to have an established and frequented trail. So glad you had a good experience!

      Thanks also for the feedback about the trekking agencies offering day-by-day itineraries and help if you do want to go on your own. When we went we knew we wanted a guide so we didn’t ask about that. Great to know! And, I’ll update the guide…homestay prices do seem to go up every year.

  71. We are traveling in late August with two children, ages 13 and 9 and looking to do a trek and are wondering what the weather is like then? We will be able to trek from August 14-24 and are looking for 6-8 day trek. I am cautious about the rainy season however. Is this trekking location suitable for us would you say? It doesn’t need to be pristine weather, but I would rather not bring my children on a long trek if it going to rain significantly.

    Any input what would be best at that time of year?

    • Hi Tim,
      What a great experience for your children! It would be useful to check out this detailed comment from a family with children who were 12-13 years old who did the Markha Valley Trek in August with Ecological Footprint:

      As for your question regarding weather. There might be a bit of rain in August, but I don’t believe it would be so much that it should deter you from your trip. We’ve had quite a few readers who have trekked at that time with good experiences. My suggestion would be to contact Stanzin from Ecological Footprint and express your concerns about the weather to see what he suggests. If you are trekking with children, you might want to hire horses or ponies to help them to cross some of the big passes.

      Good luck and enjoy your trip!

  72. Hi
    Fantastic inspiring website. I am heading to Ladakh independently (deliberately) in August as part of a physical and mental rehab, putting some bad past behind and pulling it together again for the future. Your comments in your ebook about walking and meditation very pertinent.
    Two questions — 1) is it easy to find transport from Leh to Zingchen? And from the end of Markha valley back to Leh? 2) Is there ever a time on that trek where everywhere is full and there is nowhere inside to sleep?
    Look forward to your response!

    • Hi Johnny,
      Trekking is always a good option for physical and mental rehab, and trekking in Ladakh is a perfect place for that.

      Our transport from Leh to Zingchen was provided by our trekking company. I’m not sure if there is a public bus that goes out there. You could ask a trekking agency to arrange transport for you. Otherwise, you can go around to the taxi/vehicle stand near the bus station in Leh and negotiate with one of the drivers to drop you in Zingchen to begin your trek.

      We trekked in the shoulder season, so availability was fine. We have been told that in the high season it can be that trekkers sleep in the living room or other areas of the houses if the bedrooms are full. In other words, I think the villages and families find some way of accommodating trekkers. The one place that could prove problematic is the camp at Nimiling as there is a finite number of tents set up there. But, if you leave early in the morning you should be fine.

      Enjoy your trek!

  73. Hi Audrey,

    Thank you for your extensive and well written post on Ladakh Trekking; it has been very helpful for planning our trip. My husband and I will be leaving for Leh in a couple of weeks, and intend on doing the Markha Valley Trek. We’ve done 3 different treks in the Nepalese Himalayas, and are looking forward to experiencing the Indian Himalayas. For the start of our trek, I think we will take transportation to Zinchen and walk to Rumbak the same day. The next day we will walk from Rumbak to either the lower or upper Gonda La base camp, and stay the night there. Are there parachute tents we can sleep in there? Did you also stay the night at Ganda La base camp? The main reason I’m asking this is to find out whether or not we need to bring a tent and sleeping pads. Our preference is to stay in home stays, or parachute tents like the one at Nimiling, and leave the tent and sleeping pads at home. That said, I’m not sure if we will need them for the Ganda La Base Camp.

    Kind regards,

    Nichole B

    • Hi Nichole,
      We did not spend the night at Ganda La base camp. Instead, we stayed at a homestay in Yurutse (one-home village) and then started out the next morning to cross Gonda La pass. Unfortunately, I don’t know too much about Ganda La base camp, but I don’t believe it’s set up the same way with parachute tents like Nimiling. Perhaps ask Ecological Footprints or another trekking agency for more advice. Good luck with your trek!

  74. I strongly recommend ecological footprint!
    My experiences have been amazing, and Stanzin is a wonderfully pleasent man. He arranged for my trip to the Stok Kangri, witch was both well organised and a lot of fun! The guide was perfect, not only well equipped for the trek, but also fluent in english and with heaps of cultural/local information.
    After spending close to two months with Stanzin, in and out of his office, I have nothing but kind words for both him and his agency!

    Amazing place, beautiful people!
    I will hopefully be trekking with ecological footprint in a not so distant future!
    Stig Sander

    • Great to hear you had such a good experience with Stanzin and his team at Ecological Footprint. I’m kind of jealous that you got to spent two months in Ladakh – must have been quite a journey!!

  75. Just returned from the valley trek with Ecological footprint with my wife and 12 year old son. The only thing I would add to the info here is the trek itself. We did some 10 and 15k treks in Australia to prepare, we walked 5km almost every morning and I run 5k a few times a week. This was absolutely no help at all on the trek 😉 Its an adventure and its not easy if you haven’t done a thru hike before, our second day Rumbak to some place over the pass, was 11hours long took in the 4900m pass and was 25+km! Having said that it is easily the most magical, inspiring fantastic adventure we have ever been on as a family and we travel several times a year. Stanzins guide Phuchock was a true local Ladakh mountain man from Zanskar, we felt safe, informed and well cared for every day. He knew every rock, mountain, animal, river crossing and person we met along the way. We opted to camp and our cook Karma was a true kitchen wizard. It’s a true adventure rewarding but not easy. Highly recommend.

    • Oliver, thanks for sharing your perspective on the difficulty of the trek. Going over two 4,900 meter passes is NOT easy, no matter how much preparation or training one has done. The altitude can be really challenging. But, glad to hear that you all persevered and had a wonderful experience!

  76. We–a total party of 15 with a mix of kids age 9-16 and adults from Seattle, Washington, USA–had a great trip to Ladakh thanks to Ecological Footprint. We went on a cultural tour to the Nubra Valley and a baby trek in the Sham Valley. We also stayed at Stanzin’s guest house and had the chance to meet his father and share some traditional Ladakhi music and dance. Our guides, Tashi and Chostar, were absolutely top notch, as were our drivers “Jimmy” and Tashi. I cannot say enough kind things about all the Ecological Footprint folks, their professionalism, enthusiasm, and flexibility.. We participated in a musical exchange with a school in Stok, and Stanzin and his staff were so supportive of our kids and our violin playing. In fact, our guides and drivers participated in evening jam sessions with singing, guitar, ukelele, and harmonica. I wish I could go back tomorrow!

    • Dannielle, it sounds like you and your group had a really unique and fabulous experience in Ladakh. Love the idea of the musical exchange and how the evenings turned into jam sessions. And, great to hear that you had a good experience with Stanzin and the Ecological Footprints team!

  77. Hi Audrey, thanks so much for the information, appreciate much! I am looking to trek in Ladakh during this early November. However, as it will be the winter period, I understand that there may be limited treks available and suitable for me. May I ask if you’ve any idea the Markha Valley Trek is available during this period? Looking forward to hear from you soon:D

    • Hi Roger,
      I don’t believe that the Markha Valley Trek will be available in early November as there will already be snow in many areas. Perhaps it’s possible to do sections of it as the main villages are inhabited all year round. Best thing is to contact a local trekking agency as they will know what’s possible during this time period.

      Enjoy your trip!

  78. Thank you for your informative post! It was really helpful for my friend and I when we were deciding which trek to do this September. We decided to go with Ecological Footprint and do the Markha Valley Trek. We found their responses to our queries very informative and professional and don’t regret our choice! The moment we met them we knew we were going to be well taken care of. Our guide, Navo, was really friendly and got along so well with everyone, including the homestay families, other guides and trekkers that we felt comfortable at every point along the way and had a really fun time. The trek was an unforgettable experience. I can’t wait to head back for another visit. Thanks again for your detailed post.

    • Great to hear you had such a good experience, Teresa! We’re also looking forward to returning to Ladakh one day — know that feeling 🙂

  79. Hi there:

    I have a question. We are considering trekking around Ladach this summer–we’ll have June 17-July 10th off. We trekked in the Andes and Nepal in the past. here is the question: how is the mountain scenery around Ladach–say Markha valley and Stok Kangri areas? It looks kind of monotonous on pictures I’ve seen. Ho is it say compared to Cordillera Blanca in Peru or Everest base camp trek in Nepal?

    Thank you!


    • Boris, the area of Ladakh is mostly high desert so you won’t get super lush forests and lots of green like you might in some other parts of the world. However, we we were pleasantly surprised at how the scenery changed day by day on the Markha Valley Trek as we went through red canyons or found alpine lakes or crossed high mountain paths (almost 5,000 meters). I haven’t been to Cordillera Blanca in Peru (hopefully, this summer), but I imagine that is a bit more green than Ladakh.

      Here’s a photo gallery from our Markha Valley trek so perhaps that might give a little more idea of the different landscapes:

      • Hi Audrey:

        Thank you for the reply. Very nice and informative photos. You’ll love Cordillera Blanca it’s beautiful. Judging by the pics it’s not greener it’s actually whiter–a lot more glaciers and so more lakes.


  80. I decided to contact Ecological Footprint’s owner Stanzin to arrange Markha Valley trek & various sightseeing in Ladakh. I was not disappointed as the trek & general sightseeing around Leh was very impressive. Spectacular scenery, wildlife. Dessert mountains and snow… The local guide Phuntsog was very knowledgeable, and I would highly advice anybody to hire at least a guide as the trek is quite demanding, and because there aren’t that many people there!

    I did it mid-May. There was almost nobody on the trail, which is odd because I thought that the daytime temperatures were very pleasant.

    I trekked prior to that in Nepal and Peru. Honestly, I am glad that I had prior trekking experience elsewhere before going on that journey, as Markha was surprisingly demanding. I must thank my guide for carrying a few pounds for me. Go light, you will see that this packs weights more the higher you go!

    In India sometimes, things do not go as plan – a ride could show up late… delays can happen, etc. I found that Stanzin could manage the unexpected always promptly, to ensure that my experience was great. His guesthouse is a bit away from the marketplace in Leh, but it is quieter, and the walk is rather enjoyable. His family is highly friendly, and you will feel welcomed there.

    Finally, if you are traveling like myself from the other end of the world (I am from Canada) make sure to spend a bit of time in Delhi and Ara for a completely different experience altogether. The contrast between the overcrowded cities and the mountains of Ladakh is fascinating.

    • Pascal, thanks for sharing your experiences of doing the Markha Valley trek in Ladakh with Ecological Footprints. So glad you had a great experience!

  81. Hi guys. I am planning a trip to Kashmir and Ladakh for next year. On your recommendation, we are going to trek in the shoulder season so flights into Delhi are 28 May and out 26 June. We will travel one way via road Srinagar to Leh and fly the other.

    Given the time of year, should we do Srinagar and the road trip first, trek and then the fly back to Delhi?
    Or fly into Leh first, trek and do road trip and Srinagar last?

    My concerns:
    Road first: Will the road still be too icy at the beginning of our trip?
    Flight first: Will trekking not be available that early?

    Appreciate your guidance on this one! Cheers. Philippa (NZ)

    • Hi Philippa,
      Great to hear that you’re headed to Ladakh, and also in the shoulder season! While I’m tempted to say that the road should be open and cleared of ice/snow at the end of May the real answer to your questions does depend on the specific weather patterns for next year. That determines when the roads are cleared. My suggestion is that before you plan to buy your Delhi flight tickets to get in touch with a trekking agency in Leh who can provide you with on-the-ground real information about the condition of the road (and weather). With flying, be sure to give yourself a few days of buffer as sometimes the planes are grounded or can’t land due to bad weather.

      As for trekking at the end of May/early June, that should be possible. You may have a bit of snow on the passes, as we did, but that adds to the excitement and beauty 🙂

  82. Ecological Footprints is really the best in business. Stanzin the owner, balances his knowledge and experience with humility as he plans to ensure that the experience of Ladakh is truly an enthralling one. He proposed a very gradual acclamatizaion plan for me considering my heavy disposition. Stanzin designed a mix of short excurcisons on bike, to longer monastry stays to suit my eagerness to experience Ladakh’s beauty and culture. The stay at Eco Residensy was fantastic, it was just far enough to enjoy Leh’s serenity without missing the buzz of the city center. His father a great and humble person himself engaged us with interesting conversations on Buddhism and meditation during our morning meet at the breakfast table. Additionally what drew me most was Stanzin’s resolute in trying to maintain the environment of Ladakh, a keenness often found missing in today’s run of the mill organisations. Ladakh is beautiful, Stanzin makes the experience perfect.

    • Thank you, Abhisake, for sharing your recent experience working with Stanzin and Ecological Footprints in Ladakh! The Eco Residency was not built when we visited, so I hope we have a chance to stay and experience it during a future visit. Sounds like a fabulous trip with a diversity of experiences and places to visit.

  83. Hello Guys,
    well hope you Guys are coming to ladakh later, just remember that there is your own place call as *Eco Residency*
    so please do plan about coming to ladakh, ladakh is change so much as compare to last time.


    • Thank you, Stanzin! We do hope to be able to visit Ladakh again and stay at your new Eco Residency as we’ve heard great things about it already. I can imagine many things have changed since our previous trip, but hopefully for the better 🙂

      • Hello Audrey,
        please do feel like your second home, its newly open but its really hard to understand this buisness, i thought its quite easy like organising a trek.

        anyway please do visit anytime, or some of your friends are coming than do let me know, i will surely be there to provide the best hospitality.
        have a great year
        simply ecological

  84. Trip of a lifetime!

    Our goal in travelling is for connection, interacting with and learning from different cultures, and immersing ourselves in far off locations.

    We rarely ever go with or go through a tour group, however it ended up being the best decision and best money that we have spent while abroad.

    My correspondence with Stanzin the weeks leading up to our trip got us so excited and gave us some nice peace of mind. Please note that when you correspond with people living halfway around the world some things may be lost in translation, misinterpreted, or there could be delay in response time. Just remember to breath and be patient! Stanzin and his employees are remarkable, kind, and incredibly passionate about what they do.

    We did the trek privately with a guide, horsemen, and chef. We camped every night. We connected with our surrounding and to our surprise had some of our best times lost in translation and spending time with our crew.

    I have done Annapurna doing homestays, and while that trip was amazing, if you choose camping and being with a guide you get a whole new perspective on your surroundings and the culture. And…Homestays while great at times are typically FULL of other trekkers. Ask yourself, are you going to the Himalayas to meet other tourists, or, are you going to immerse yourself and connect with your beautiful surroundings and the wonderful locals.

    If you want to trek – Stanzin and his company are the way to go!



    • Jack, thanks for sharing your experiences camping on the Markha Valley trek vs. homestays. I can see how spending the night in nature allows for another layer of connection and wonder. And, great to hear that you had such a good experience with Stanzin at Ecological Footprint and his guides, horsemen and cook!

  85. Great advice, and now that we just completed the trek (June 27-July 3, 2019), I can whole heartedly agree that Ecological Footprint, run by Stanzin was an excellent choice for our trekking company. We did not use a guide service, but the pony service was key to an enjoyable experience, connnection to the homestay hosts and the pony wrangler himself, Namgial, took us as guests 2 nights where his daughter included us in making traditional mok-moks and looked after us. It was a very challenging, memorable journey to an India few people experience. Give yourself some days to get used to the elevation – it’s key!
    Eileen Breseman (& family members, Rick, Dana & Gautam)

    • Eileen, thanks for sharing your experiences from your recent trek in Ladakh with Ecological Footprint. Great to hear you had such a good experience with the pony service and that your local wrangler even took your family in for a few nights. The impromptu cooking class with his daughter sounds like such a memorable experience. And yes, taking a few days to acclimatize to the altitude at the beginning is so important!

  86. Hi All,

    I can see Stanzin and his team a have lot recommendation 🙂
    Last year I was emailing with him and this year actually in a month time I will get to Leh. Finally!
    So I need to refresh contact with Stanzin and ask for treks offer.
    In a meantime I just want to ask for advice about a sleeping bag. Is it desirable to have warm one during home stay trek? I have read that blankets are provided and even the temperature might drop to minus 10 degrees it should be warm enough during the night. Last year early March on Annapurna Base Camp Trek I rented the down sleeping bag (up -20C but rather – 2C) and used the blankets provided. Hmm, some night was a little bit cold.

    • Darius, great to hear that you’re headed to Ladakh soon! I’ve heard that tourism is down this year a bit so this is good for you in terms of not as many people on the trails, and also good for local businesses.

      During our Markha Valley Trek we did not carry a sleeping bag and found the blankets at the homestays to be sufficiently warm as we could stack several of them on top of each other. We did carry a a silk sleep sack with us as both a layer of warmth and protection between us and the blankets. When you get in touch with Stanzin ask him his advice based on what the weather is this season or at the time of your trek. You can definitely rent gear locally in Leh.

      • Hi Audrey

        Thanks for advice. Then probably I will take a light 2 season sleeping bag and I will be needed to rent a pair of walking poles in Leh. It might be useful 🙂

  87. I could not agree more!

    I just finished the Markha Valley trek with ecological footprint. Stanzin and all of the staff were incredible. We went with a guide, Lobzang, and a pony man. Personally, I thought it was totally worth it! Lobzang was not only a great guide, but also super fun, personable, and hilarious. I’m not sure we would have made it without him! We also stayed in the Eco Residency and I cannot recommend it enough. The food we had there was better than most of the food we had at restaurants in Leh! The rooms were great- with good AC/WiFi/hot water/ect. It was such a nice place to come back to after the trek! Overall- using eco footprint made our trip super convenient, safe and enjoyable!

    • Hanna, thanks for sharing your experiences and glad you had such a good time on the Markha Valley Trek! Know that feeling of the guide helping & motivating you to get up those high mountain passes. Ours was also amazing in that way, especially as we got stuck in a snow storm!

      And, great to know that you had a comfortable experience at the Eco Residency as well. Seems like a great trip to Ladakh with Stanzin and Ecological Footprint!

  88. We have just returned from a wonderful trip, organised by Stanzin at Ecological Footprint Travels.

    We did a 3-day trek in the Markha Valley (from Zingchen to Chilling, staying at homestays in Yurutse and Shingo along the way), and had a great time with our guide, Jigge, who was fun, knowledgeable, and spoke good English. When we returned from our trek, we mountain biked down from the top of the Khardung La pass, and Stanzin arranged everything for us – the permits, the bike rentals, transportation to the top, and a ‘support vehicle’ to accompany us on the cycle down in case we had any problems.

    We also stayed for 2 nights at Stanzin’s Eco Residency in Leh, which was clean and comfortable, and the staff were all very friendly.

    Thanks Stanzin!

    • Robert, thanks for sharing your experience on the Markha Valley Trek and mountain biking from Khardung La pass. Wow, that must have been quite a mountain biking ride! Glad Stanzin took good care of you on the trek/mountain biking at and Eco Residency!

  89. I’m glad I chose Ecological Footprint as our guide for my first ever trek in Leh, Ladakh. Its owner, Stanzin is very experienced, trustworthy and patient in answering all my questions ahead of our trip to India. Based on my level of fitness (which is low and who was planning to trek with my teenage son (aged 13)) and not having any prior trekking experience, Stanzin advised us and we opted for the Markha Valley 6 days 5 nights trek. We went for the camping option instead of homestay, and Stanzin provided us with the best guide (Urgan) and cook (Siddha), a pony man and couple of horses for our trek. It was the most memorable trip ever personally for me and my son, and the views up there were just stunning. We were also lucky to have spotted the himalayan blue sheep, musk deer, wild yaks, marmots and pheasants on our trek. If you are planning a trek there, I highly recommend the services of this company. Thank you so much Stanzin and Urgan for taking care of us and making our trek a most memorable and incredible experience ever. Stanzin also operates a Hotel there which we stayed in Leh which I also highly recommend. And many thanks to you guys for providing this fantastic blog with really a wealth of information and linking us to Stanzin’s company.

    • This sounds like an amazing first trek with your 13-year old son! Especially since you saw all those animals on the Markha Valley Trek. I’m jealous of the Himalayan Blue Sheep sighting 🙂 And, glad Stanzin took good care of you and your son and advised you to take a trek that was suitable for you both and had amazing landscapes and views.

  90. Audrey – thank you for this excellent blog post. It was very helpful in planning our trip to Leh.

    Five of us recently (Dec 3-9) did the Markha Valley Trek (Zingchen-Yurutse-Ganda La-Shingo-Skiu-Sara-Markha-Skiu) with Ecological Footprint. Among the local tour companies, Stanzin stood out for his responsiveness and willingness to customize the trek for our group in December. Our original plan was to do Kongmaru La but based on route conditions Stanzin recommended that we change our plan and hike back to Skiu and offered a complimentary taxi for Hemis-Thiksay visit on our return to Leh.

    One of our friends didn’t acclimatize well and had to be taken to the hospital before the trek. Stanzin helped our friend with the follow-up visit at the hospital and drove him to Skiu to join us on the third day of the trek. Stanzin also provided gaiters, trekking poles and a couple warm jackets for the group.

    Our guide Ali and porters Manish and Ravinder were excellent. They knew the region well and helped us better understand the local culture and terrain. Hike to Ganda La was one of the toughest days and Ali was very patient with the group. Temperatures dropped to around -20C at night but Ali and Manish made sure that we were comfortable in the homestays.

    There were some minor issues like one of the porters going back from Skiu, delay in departure to Leh from Skiu, miscommunication regarding gear, etc. but overall Stanzin and his team did a good job.

    • Shashi, thanks for your comment and sharing your experience. Although I’m very sorry to hear about your friend having to go to the hospital, I’m happy that Stanzin and his team were about to support him and the rest of the group. Sounds like you had some really cold weather and challenging climbs, but glad you stayed warm, made it through and had a great trip.

  91. My sister and I did an extended Markha Valley trek about 5 years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then we did the Manaslu trek in Nepal. We are considering going back to Ladakh but are looking for another somewhat moderate trek. It seems that besides Markha Valley most treks in the area are more strenuous. We also realize we would probably be on another camping trek and are concerned about the price. Any recommendations on this?
    Thank you

    • Given the high altitudes of Ladakh it means that many of the treks are rather strenuous. I do believe that there are some easier treks (or easier portions of treks that you could take), but you’d have to consult with a local trekking agency on what is possible. One idea if you would prefer to stay in homestays vs. camping would be to base yourself somewhere like Nubra Valley (accessible by road from Leh) and either do a circuit where you can connect several homestays together or perhaps stay in one place and do different day hikes from that spot. But, I would consult a local trekking expert on what your best options are for the difficultly, length of time and budget.

  92. I also had an Excellent experience with Ecological Footprint Travels. Stanzin was very accommodating (even through 2 reschedules due to COVID). He is an excellent host. We had a blast riding bikes, taking a 7 day trek (including summitting Kang Yatse peak), and white water rafting. He even made a room available for us when we finished our trek a day earlier than anticipated.

    We saw one person complain about their stay/experience. But they seemed to be expecting a 5 star hotel experience. This is not a 5 star hotel experience. This is a remote, high adventure experience. The mattresses in the hotel are a little old and a bit lumpy. The electricity sometimes gets shut off. The water isn’t always hot. The treking gear is well used. The vehicles are aged. But Stanzin will do his best to make sure you have a great experience.

  93. Just got back from a trekking with Stanzin as a guide and he tailor made a trekking for me which I was very happy with! I went to almost 5000 meters altitude and really enjoyed the view so much. By the way, Stanzin is a great guide who takes into account your personal questions, which I greatly appreciated. Incidentally, he also organized another trip to Nubra valley and Pangong for me. Since I travel alone as a woman, this was really very pleasant for me! I would really recommend Stanzin as a guide!

  94. Audrey, Appreciate the comprehensive Ladakh trekking guide, including suggestions for trekking services and lodging. Based on recommendations I used Stanzin and Ladakh Eco House while in Leh, and this was great option. I had planned to do a Markha Valley trek, but after experiencing some altitude issues on some shorter hikes around Leh, decided to pivot and do a handful of other trip, including jeep trip, several day hikes, etc. Stanzin made the recommendations and was able to setup on short notice. Eco House was a friendly place to stay and got to meet lot of other trekkers / travelers during my stay, which was great as a solo travelled. Looking forward to a future trip to Ladakh and hopefully completing one of the treks.

  95. Thanks for such a comprehensive post on the Markha trek. I understand that you decided to engage a guide due to concerns regarding route finding. I’m planning to do the trek sometime in mid-September independently and my main concern is navigation from Kongmaru La pass down to Chokdo. I’ve read reports of trekkers getting lost finding their way down the pass and would like to seek your advice on this. I’ve done EBC and several mountain hikes in Europe but those were on marked trails. What was your experience on route finding from Kongmaru La down to Chokdo? Was the trail easy to follow? On hindsight, would you have done it without a guide? Thanks!

  96. We organized our recent trek through markha valley with Stanzin/Ecological Footprint and had the best time with our guide Milan. It was the perfect week, and we can’t wait to return!

  97. Like the couple in this original post, my friend and I worked with Stanzin’s Ecological Footprint. Stanzin’s Ecological Footprint should be the go-to tour operator for anyone planning a trek or stay in Ladakh. My friend and I completed two treks with Stanzin — the Markha Valley Trek and Tso Kar to Tso Moriri — and both experiences were exceptional. Stanzin worked diligently to customize trips to our dates and our trekking abilities, and he put together two extraordinary adventures. Stanzin is able to put together such great treks in part because he is a local who is very well known not just to the people of Leh but to the people who live in villages along the treks. Everywhere we trekked with Stanzin people came out of their homes or tents to greet him. In addition to organizing great treks, we enjoyed the five nights we spent at Stanzin’s Ladakh Eco House where we received delicious meals, comfortable rooms, and exceptional advice about how to explore Ladakh. In short, the sixteen days we spent with Ecological Footprint either trekking or relaxing in Leh were fantastic, and I highly recommend this trekking/touring company to anyone looking to explore Ladakh.


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