Trekking in Ladakh

Trekking in Ladakh, Leh Ladakh Overview

Known for its majestic and moon shaped terrains, Ladakh is visited by nature lovers and adventurous enthusiast. Sitting in the lap of the mighty Himalayas, trekking in Ladakh is an experience with countless thrilling and exciting trekking routes and trails. From traversing over a glacier, climbing long stretches of mountainous terrain, and manoeuvring their way through a long and steep ridge, Ladakh treks have easy to difficult challenges, even for professional trekkers. A myriad of beautiful and serene high altitude passes, valleys, flora and fauna make Ladakh a dream vacation destination.

The diverse landscape and altitudes at Ladakh ranging from 9000 ft to 25,170 ft offer numerous trekking options. One of the most pristine and beautiful destinations of the country, the region has countless unexplored trekking trails. Summers are the perfect time for trekking in Ladakh since winters are harsh with temperatures dropping to -30 degrees Celcius.

There are no permits required for travelling to Leh. However, registration is needed for all foreign nationals, especially those travelling by road. Registration is undertaken at Drass, Rumtse and Sarchu. Those travelling by air should get their registration done at the airport. A 'Protect Area Permit' is needed for visiting restricted areas including Tso Moriri, Tso Kar, Pangong Tso Lake, Dha Hanu and Nubra Valley. Permits may be obtained through registered travel agencies.

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14 Routes for Trekking in Ladakh

Easy Trekking Routes:

1. Spituk to Stok

Duration: 4 days

A famous trekking route among enthusiasts, the trek to the Stok Kangri summit is popular for the view of the Stok summit and the sunlit Zanskar and Karakoram peaks. If you’re new to the world of trekking, this relatively easy and short trek covers some scenic areas of Leh. The trek starts Spituk village, which is about 7 kilometres drive from Leh. The hike from Spituk to Zinchen takes around 4-5 hours and is usually the first halt on the route. It runs through dry, barren land to greener areas of Zingchen valley. The Rumbak River flows into the Indus and the summit is a perfect place to set up camp, enjoy the landscape, and taking a dip in the oldest of rivers in history. Next, comes a 3-4 hour trek through the Hemis National Park, largely uphill and the most difficult part of the trek. It will bring you to the pretty village of Rumbak. Day 3 will be a bit more arduous with a steep trail near Stok La and then descend down towards Mankarmo, a long trek of five or six hours. On the last day, a 3-4 hour descent through narrow valleys with lovely rock patterns will bring you to the village of Stok. You may also check a nineteenth-century museum at Stok.

2. Lamayuru To Alchi Trek

Duration: 5 Days

The trek offers a chance to interact with people from remote villages. A number of monasteries are also spotted across the route.

3. Ripchar Valley Trek

Duration: 9 days

This trek begins at the Lamayuru monastery, Ladakh and is one of the most intriguing treks in Ladakh region. With a number of small villages and pasture lands, the irrigated crop fields of the Zanskar and Karakoram Range, and the valleys blooming with flowers in July and August are a treat for the eyes of the trekkers.

4. Padum To Darcha Trek

Duration: 12 days

The Darcha-Padum trek passes through a number of regions with varied topographies and landscape. It extends from the Padum region of Zanskar valley, passes through Tokpa, Chalang, Ramjak, and Lakong, and goes up to Darcha region of Himachal Pradesh. The trek also leads to one of the most famous parts of Ladakh - Kargil.

5. Lamayuru To Darcha Trek

Duration: 5-7 days

Regarded as one of the world’s most thrilling trekking trail with a peak altitude of 5000 meters, Lamayuru To Darcha Trek is well connected to the Zanskar valley. The monasteries, such as Lamayuru, Phuktal, and Lingshed are sure to lift up the spirit of the trekkers on this route.

6. Indus Valley Trek

Duration: 8-10 Days

One of the easiest but most mesmerizing treks in Ladakh, the Indus Valley Trek is ideal for beginners. Trekking along the Indus Valley trail, the oldest civilization known in history is a walk through the beautiful Sham Valley and its villages, high mountain passes like Phobe-La and a number of Tibetan Gompas like Likir, Thiksey, and Alchi. There are dramatic changes to the landscapes with snow-clad mountains and ground on one side and lush green valley on the other. The trek covers areas of Leh, Skardu and a barren desert.

7. Tsomoriri Lake Trek

Duration: 18 to 20 Days

The Tsomoriri Trek is one of the most beautiful and serene treks in the region. The starting point is Rumptse and the trek heads to the green Kyamar Valley, traversing through the gorgeous Rupshu Valley. You'll ascend to Kumur La (4770m), where a stunning view of Kang Yatse and Indus Valley are bound to take your breath away. A steep ascend to Shibuk La (4875m) offers a panoramic view of Tso Kar. The trail further continues to Pangunagu, Nuruchan and passes through Horlam Kongka La (4900 m) and Kyamayuri La, also the northwestern shore of Tsomoriri. The final climb leads to Parang La and then the trek descends to Jugstok and further to Kibber, one of the highest villages in the world.

8. Lamayuru to Alchi Trek

Duration: 9 Days

This trek takes you to two of the most ancient monasteries from the 11th century. The route covers the beautiful valley of Wanla and Sumdochoon and many high mountain passes like Penji La and Prinkiti La. The starting point is Lamayuru and the route passes through Prinkti La (3750m), Shilla, Wanla, Base of Tar La, Tar, Man Gyu and then to Alchi. There's ample scope to witness and contemplate the culture and scenic beauty of Ladakh.

9. Nubra Valley Trek

Duration: 10 to 12 Days

This exhilarating trek to the most remote regions of the Himalayan belt is nothing short of an adventure. Following the Indus Valley and the trail moves towards Zanskar Valley. The cold desert of Hunder and the splendid Diskit village and monastery are the major attractions. The trek begins from Sabu Village and covers the high altitude Digar La pass at an altitude of 6000 meters to reach Digar Village. The trail moves along the Shyok river and continues towards Agyam Village and Khalsar Village and comes to an end with a descent to Diskit village via Sumur.

Moderate and Difficult Trekking Routes:

10. Markha Valley Trek

Duration: 8 days

One of the popular trails for trekking in Leh, Markha Valley trek, takes about 8 days and will take you through varying landscapes. The scenic landscapes and the Kongmaru La pass at 5000 m above sea level and the sight of Hemis National Park make this trek are stunning. This trek also begins from Spituk to Zinchen and then onwards to Yurutse. The trail moves up to the Ganda La pass and then descends down to Skyu. Proceeding further to Markha Valley along the course of Markha River, you'll cross the river several times before reaching Thachungtse.

Next, comes the highest camp on this trek - Niamling with a spectacular view of the Zanskar range. Kongmaru La pass comes next, which is the highest pass on the Markha Valley trek. You may be tempted to spend a night at the village of Shang Sumdo from where an easy descent stream will bring one to the famed Hemis and Thiksay monastery, before a drive back to Leh.

Alternate Route: Markha Valley Trek with Stok Kangri Climb, This trek could be a more thrilling and adrenaline-filled experience through the Stok Kangri. The ten-day trek route via the Stok Summit at 4900 meters makes this Leh trekking experience arguably one of the best but definitely not for the faint-hearted.

11. Jhunglam Hemis To Padum Trek

Duration: 12 days

This trek runs through beautiful monastery of Hemis and Latza Kongmaru and then passes through Zalung Karpo La, Tilat Sumdo, Zangla Sumdo, and ends at Padum.

12. Kang Yatse and Dzo Jongo Trek

Duration: 13 days

Undertaken mostly by professional trekkers, this route offers spectacular views of Zanskar, Karakorum, and Stok ranges from the Ganda La pass. It is a wonderful experience including the dopamine-enhancing camping en route, the view of the wildlife at Hemis National Park, hike through valleys, and the visit to monasteries.

13. Kang Yatse Trek

Duration:12-13 days

Kang Yatse is one of the most stunning peaks in Ladakh. At an extreme altitude of 20,000 feet, it’s a demanding trek and may also be considered as an extension of the Markha Valley trek up to Niamling, from where you will proceed to the base camp on Kang Yatse. Though the distance between the two campsites is less, it’s mostly an uphill route that is quite difficult. The ascent to the summit of Kang Yatse gives a bird’s eye view of Tibet and the Zanskar River. The return trek through Kongmaru La pass with its jutting peaks and deep gorges is a mesmerizing experience.

14. Chadar Trek

Duration: 6-20 days

Most fascinating of all treks, the Chadar trek on the frozen Zanskar River is the most fascinating of all the treks in Leh. Every year when the river freezes, the route is open to adventurous trekkers for a couple of months. It is a challenging trek demanding physical and mental fitness. The name ‘chadar’ trek is given since the river resembles a blanket of snow. The starting point of the trek is Chilling, 64 kilometres away from Leh. There's everything on the route from frozen waterfalls, monasteries such as Lingshed Gompa and Karsha Gompa (the largest in Zanskar), and even a fort at Zangla village. The daytime temperature usually ranges between -5 and -10 C and at nights it can plunge down to -25 C. Hence it’s necessary to carry enough warm jackets (wind and rainproof) and clothes.

Acclimatisation

One of the major problems faced by trekkers while trekking in Ladakh region is altitude sickness or acute mountain sickness, caused by exposure to a lower percentage of oxygen at high altitudes. Acute mountain sickness displays the following symptoms - dizziness, headache, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, loss of breath and rapid heart rate.

A gradual gain in altitude is the most obvious precaution one may take. Rest for a day or two after every climb of 2,000ft. The rest gives our body plenty of time to acclimatize with the climate. Carrying a few medicines like Diamox, Dexamethasone, Aspirin or Disprin could always come in handy. You may also carry portable oxygen cylinders which are a great source of temporary relief. Avoid smoking, drinking and turning the heater on if you are travelling in a car. Getting adequate sleep and keeping the body hydrated is necessary.

Accommodation and Food

The majority of the hotels in Ladakh region are family run establishments and offer personalized services. Some of the best luxury hotels are Hotel Charu Palace Leh and Grand Dragon, Hotel Shangrila and Spik n Span. Standard hotels include Hotel Asia and Hotel Dreamland, among others. However, homestays are a great way of getting acquainted with local people and their incredible hospitality.

Essential Equipments for Trekking in Ladakh

A small backpack (for trekking), a kit-bag with padlock, a good sleeping bag, a sweater, a fleece jacket, waterproof jacket, good trousers as well as a waterproof trousers, gloves and cap, hiking shoes, sunglasses and sun cream, a frontal lamp or an electric torch, a self-inflating mattress, first aid kit and a walking stick (optional) are a few essentials that you must carry for trekking in Ladakh.

Tips for Ladakh Trekking

1. Trekking in Ladakh is a major attraction for travellers but one needs to be extremely cautious. Temperature is low even during summers hence carrying woollen clothes is a must.
2. Keep enough stock of drinking water since dehydration is a major concern among trekkers.
3. Basic amenities are available at Leh, the capital of Ladakh City. Facilities for long-distance STD calls and internet are also available in the city.
4. You won't find a cellular network in most part of Ladakh. It is also a politically sensitive region and photography is restricted in selective places, be attentive of signboards warning of such restrictions.
5. Credit cards are not accepted at most of the shops and ATMs are scarce so carrying cash along might be handy.
6. Respect the sentiments, traditions, and culture of the local people. Don't damage crops by walking through standing harvest.
7. While travelling, it's advisable to carry six copies of the permit as these are required to be submitted at the checking points.

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