Anyone with a passion for the outdoors will be drawn to the vast, desolate desert country of Ladakh. And that’s regardless of whether you’re an expert mountaineer or not. Ladakh’s cold and dry terrain, high elevation, and unpredictable weather tend to discourage travelers to go trekking here. But if the bursts of purple wildflowers, verdant meadows, and piercing blue lakes are something you’d like to experience, then a trek in Ladakh will be worth your time. So here’s a list of some of the best treks in Ladakh that you must experience.
The most well-known trek in Ladakh is the Markha Valley Trek in the Hemis National Park. As you start your trek here, you’ll see the snow-covered Stok Kangri mountain to the north and the Zanskar range to the south. The Indus valley runs parallel to the Markha valley. You will encounter stunning mountain landscapes, exotic animals, and tiny, secluded settlements surrounded by lush barley fields on this trek. You will have the chance to stay at the homestays in these areas and learn about the locals’ way of life.
The Markha valley can be reached from two different routes - one from Spituk and the other from Chilling. The trek from Spituk takes the longer and tougher route while the one from Chilling is the easier and shorter one. The Kongmaru La Pass (5,265m), which links the Markha Valley with the Indus Valley, is the highest point of the walk. The road passes by Hemis National Park, which is renowned for the snow leopards that only come out during the winter.
Difficulty Level: Beginner to intermediate
Duration Of The Trek: 6 to 8 days
Starting Point: From Spituk or Chilling
Best Time To Visit: End of April to the beginning of October
The Nubra Valley Trek runs from Phyang to Hunder and connects the Indus valley and the Nubra valley. This trek follows the historic trade route which was previously a part of the Silk Roads network that connected Central Asia to India. So you’re sure to learn a little about the history and culture of this place. You also get to pass through the Lasermo La pass, which is the highest point on this off-the-beat trail and is covered in snow even in the summer. Not to forget, you get to see the stunning view of the Karakoram range from the pass.
Once the trek is completed, you’ll get a tour of the Nubra valley’s main attractions. At the Hunder Sand Dunes, you can walk around and take in the view of the 32-meter-tall Maitreya Buddha statue that is located at the Diskit Monastery. From there, you’ll go across the Khardung La pass back to Leh, and back home.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate
Duration Of The Trek: 5 days
Starting Point: Sabu town
Best Time To Visit: Mid-July to end of September
The climb up Stok Kangri is not one for the timid. While more seasoned mountaineers proceed to the top, beginners can opt to hike up to the Stok Kangri base camp and leave it at that. The hike requires you to cross mountains and glaciers, and one of your main problems will be the chilly, thin air. But once you reach the peak and take in the breathtaking view of the surrounding mountains, you will realize that the Stok Kangri trek was worth all of the physical and mental strain.
One point to note is that, even though it’s a tough trek, it’s a non-technical one, so you won’t be needing any mountaineering equipment. If you want to take the easy route, you can choose to begin the excursion in Stok, Spituk, or by combining it with the Markha trek. The two treks can be combined to make your trip exciting and adventurous.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to Advanced
Duration Of The Trek: 7 to 9 days
Starting Point: Leh base camp
Best Time To Visit: mid-June to the end of September
Also read: 5 Best Treks to Experience in August
The Chadar Frozen River Trek has become one of Ladakh’s “next big thing” over time, and it’s not difficult to understand why. The route that crosses over the Chadar river serves as a lifeline for Zanskar, which is shut off in the winter owing to excessive snowfall. The trekkers’ endurance is put to the test as they traverse the 105 miles of the frozen Zanskar River in mind-numbing conditions of -25° to -35° degrees during the peak winter season.
But, because the temperature is so low, the river remains frozen and makes a path for trekkers. Besides, there aren’t many hikes that pass through stunning gorges with frozen waterfalls and that cling to the icy path which transforms into a sky-reflecting mirror. This by no means is an easy trek and follows a very tough path and takes over 8 days to complete.
Difficulty Level: Difficult
Duration Of The Trek: 8 days
Starting Point: Chilling or Tilad Do
Best Time To Visit: Mid-January to mid-February
Also read: Tips For Backpacking In India
Lamayuru and Alchi, two of Ladakh’s most significant holy sites, are connected by a monastery circuit. It’s a wonderful chance to explore Ladakh’s isolated villages and breathtaking landscapes. Lamayuru is surrounded by a lunar landscape of hilly desert and is believed to be the oldest gompa in Ladakh. As you move along the trek, you can explore the nearby shrines, marvel at the relics made from human bones, and listen to the monks chanting in the beautiful prayer hall.
To survive the five days, you can set up your tents near the rocks along the banks of the Ripchar River. Alchi is a tranquil town with a monastery that is spread out over a mountainous canyon. Alchi is known for its remarkable wood carvings and its vivid, otherworldly murals. So once you’ve made it here, you’ll certainly see why the effort was worth it.
Difficulty Level: beginner to intermediate
Duration Of The Trek: 5 to 6 Days
Starting Point: Lamayuru
Best Time To Visit: mid-June to September
Also read: Experience The Zanskar Trek, Leh
The Sham Valley Trek, also known as the ‘baby trek’, is ideal for anybody looking to start their trekking experience. It’s great for beginners, children, nature enthusiasts, or anyone else who wants to experience the beauty of Ladakh. The trek offers breathtaking vistas as it passes through Leh’s Sham area. The flowing streams in the region transform the Sham Valley, making it a breathtaking sight for ardent hikers and nature lovers. The views in the Sham region are what give the region its vitality.
You also get a chance to explore the region as and when you’re trekking. You may visit some historic and well-known monasteries at Likir, Rizong, Temisgam, Basgo, and Alchi during and after the journey. And finally, the best part of the trek is experiencing local culture and food while spending the night in the homes of locals and checking out the small villages.
Difficulty Level: Moderate
Duration Of The Trek: 4 days
Starting Point: Hemis National Park
Best Time To Visit: All year round but most popular from May to October
To get to Tso Moriri, the largest high-altitude lake in India, you must travel via seven mountain passes from Rumtse. The vibrant wildflowers and spectacular view of Ladakh’s snow-capped peaks make this trek worthwhile. You’ll have the pleasure of walking past Tso Kar and Tso Moriri, the pristine lakes of Ladakh.
When trekking, keep a look out for the beautiful birds that visit the area, such as the Bar-headed Goose, Horned Lark, and Brown-headed Gull. Stop at the Chumathang hot springs on your way down to relieve your sore muscles. Plus, if you’re fortunate, you might run across the nomads along the trail and be welcomed to have butter tea inside their yak-wool tent. The main Changpa community is Korzok, which is also the largest hamlet in the area.
Difficulty Level: Intermediate to advanced
Duration Of The Trek: 7 days
Starting Point: The small hamlet of Rumtse
Best Time To Visit: mid-June to mid-October
Also read: 4 Best Treks In The Himalayas In April
The high white-capped mountains of Ladakh provide a wide variety of hikes and treks for all outdoor lovers. And if you love hiking and exploring nature in its purest and rawest form, then Ladakh is the place to visit. Now that the trekking season is approaching, don’t wait for too long. Check out the treks mentioned above and get your trekking gear ready to go.
When Should We Trek In Ladakh?
The best time to go for a trek in Ladakh is in the summer months from mid-June to mid-September. That’s when the ice melts off, and you get to experience some stunning views of the vicinity.
Can Beginners Do Chadar Trek?
Though the trek wasn’t for beginners initially, with adequate preparation and guidance, it can now be conducted by anyone looking for adventure. Make sure you choose the operator well as they are the ones who can either make your excursion or break it.
How Many Days In Ladakh Is Enough?
If you’re aiming to explore Ladakh, about 15 days is enough time for you to do that. But if you only want to cover touristy places, 7 to 10 days are going to be enough.
Is There An Oxygen Problem In Leh Ladakh?
Leh-Ladakh is about 10,000 feet above sea level, which means that once you start going higher, the amount of oxygen in the air begins to fall. This can cause some issues for some people and needs immediate medical attention.
Can I Drink Alcohol In Ladakh?
Yes, you can drink in Ladakh but you need to ensure that you drink in moderation. Drinking causes dehydration and in Leh-Ladakh, it can further lead to headaches and acute nausea.
How Difficult Is Markha Valley Trek?
The Markha Valley trek is classified as a beginner to intermediate trek. At this trek, you reach an altitude of 17,060 meters, and is one of the most fun treks to experience.
What Is The World's Hardest Hike?
The world's hardest hike is the HuaShan, in China. It’s often described as one of the most difficult and dangerous hikes in the world.