Once the capital of the Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, the mesmerizing city of Leh in Jammu Kashmir rests at an elevation of 3,500 metres in the midst of crumbling castles, historic monasteries, jagged mountain paths, snowy summits and the endless brilliant blue sky. Ultimate destination of tourists craving a secluded and a travel-friendly region, the high desert city of Leh is encircled by mountains. Vast grasslands, frozen rivers, snow-capped peaks and the majestic Leh palace of the 17th century, which is modeled on Tibet’s Potala Palace, Dalai Lama’s former residence, overlooking the old bazaars and tiny lanes of the city, are the signatures of the city of Leh. Ideal for trekking, Leh offers wondrous but strenuous treks blending together a combination of picturesque views and adventurous thrill. Here are the 5 best trekking trails in Leh, Ladakh.
1. Markha Valley Trek
One of the most popular trekking trails in Leh is the Markha Valley trek which takes you from Spituk on an 8-day journey through varying landscapes till the Hemis and Thiksay monastery. In the barren topography of Leh mingled with the secluded and unique culture of Ladakh, Markha Valley trek is one of the most diverse treks in the region. Venturing into two Himalayan mountain passes exceeding the jaw-dropping elevation of 4500 metres, Markha Valley trek takes you through thickets of roses, serene valleys and vast dry landscapes. Passing through the regions of Zinchen, Yurutse leading to Ganda La pass then down to Skyu, the trail further follows the course of Markha river, a tributary of the Zanskar River till Markha Valley. Passing through Thachungtse, Niamling, which is the highest camp on this trek and which also provides wondrous views of the Zanskar mountain range, Kongmaru La pass, which is the highest pass in this trek, Shang Sumdo, ending the trail with a descent and an easy walk along the stream towards the Hemis and Thiksay monastery. This trek, also offers an opportunity to interact with the nomadic families, and is best experienced from June to October.
2. Parang La Trek
A very popular 9-day trek in Spiti Valley is the Parang La Trek which begins from Kaza and takes you over the Parang La pass at a hair-raising elevation of over 5600 metres offering a spellbinding view of Spiti Valley. The trail traverses the traditional trade route between Ladakh and Spiti providing some magnificent views of shimmering lakes, vivid landscapes and steep gorges. Covering the regions of Kibber, Dumla, Thaltak Meadow, Jagtha, Bonrojen, Pare Chu River, Dak Karzong, Datang Yongma, Chumik Shilde leading up to glittering Tso Moriri Lake with sweeping views of the Lungser Kangri peak. Further an ancient monastery in Karzog and a drive from there to Leh via Mahe bridge culminates the trek. Quite a challenging adventure, Parang La trekking trail is best enjoyed from the months of August to October.
3. Spituk to Stok Trek
An easy and a comparatively short trek, Spituk to Stok trek takes about 4 days and courses some of the most pristine spots of Leh. Starting from the Spituk village leading to the lush green Zingchen valley, a scenic spot where the river Rumbak joins the Indus river, passing through the exotic flora and fauna of the Hemis National Park followed by an ascent to the adorable Rumbak village and an arduous and steep trail near Stok La descending towards Mankarmo. The trail ends with a descent to the lovely Stok village. The months of May to October offer the best time to undertake this stimulating journey.
4. Chadar Trek
One of the most challenging treks in Ladakh is offered by the Chadar Trek or the Frozen River trek. The trail, following the course of the frozen Zanskar River at an astounding elevation of 3800 metres, offers an exhilarating trekking experience. Walking this frozen river is the only path from Kargil to Padum during the winters. Taking 15 – 20 days, this trek culminates at Chilling and can be covered by two routes. One, which is the most exacting, is through the frozen river where you can view the chilling blue water gushing path with your every step. Another route takes you through the mountains and boulders on a rugged terrain. Starting from Tilat Sumdo and going through Tsomo Paldar and Naerak Pullu, the trail ends at Chilling. Fragile in nature, this trail can offer some obstacles like landslides on the way, making it an even more precarious journey. Various attractions like historic forts, glorious monasteries and frozen cascades are witnessed along the way. Best undertaken from mid January – February, the temperature at this altitude adds to the challenge of the trek.
5. Kang Yatse Trek
Rising up to 20,000 feet, Kang Yatse is one of the most wondrous peaks in Ladakh. This enthralling trek goes through glorious valleys, sparkling rivers and several lovely villages acquainting you with the local culture of the area. The Kang Yatse trek is an addition to the Markha Valley trek leading up to Niamling and going through Kang Yatse, from the peak of which you can have a charming view of Tibet and the Zanskar river. The trail ends at Martselang and the journey back to Leh will have you witness the tranquil monasteries of Hemis, Shey and Thiksey along the way.
The tranquil and isolated nature of the city of Leh in Ladakh makes it a perfect destination for a quiet holiday while the rugged terrain with the green grasslands, breathtaking valleys, mesmerizing mountain ranges make it ideal for adventure. These 5 treks offer a challenging and an exciting venture into the wondrous city of Leh.