Markha valley – the best teahouse trek in the Indian Himalayas

markha valley
markha valley

Markha valley is the closest you get to classic Annapurna circuit style tea-house trek in India. I hiked Markha valley in late September which is end of the season here. The video at the bottom of this post shows a glimpse of the whole experience.


Markha valley

The stark contrast of colors created by green fields along the Markha river bed with dry barren mountains on both sides and clearest blue skies makes for an incredible and unique landscape. Not to mention the warm hospitality of Markha people combined with you being in a complete disconnect from the outside world provides a chance for an amazingly immersive experience as you find yourself in an altogether different world.



Starting from Leh and ending the trek at Leh, it takes about 7-8 days depending on your speed and the number of rest days, if any, that you take along the way. Unless you’re an experienced hiker, I’d recommend planning for 10 days which gives you enough time to enjoy the trek. Count at-least one day of acclimatization in Leh before the trek. A shorter version of the trek saving two days is also possible as described later in the post.



Markha valley makes for an amazing Do-It-Yourself (DIY) trek without a requirement of guide/porter and without needing to carry significant provisions of food, camps, etc., which would be needed for trails not having any villages en-route (like Pin-Parvati trek, Chadar trek, etc). The arrangement at homestays is such that some of the village homes double up as a (very basic) guesthouse allowing you to stay in the extra rooms they have. Mostly, the rooms are built of thick walls with a multi-layered roof of wooden logs and a top layer of mud.Β  This keeps the inside naturally warm, with mattresses, blankets/quilts provided as well to fight the cold as it goes freezing outside. Meaning you also don’t really need a sleeping bag. The lighter the backpack, more enjoyable the trek! πŸ˜€

Very often, especially when it’s less crowded, you get to have dinner with the host family in the common dining room while getting to know about life in this high altitude region far away from the city life. When it gets crowded and the rooms are full, the dining rooms which are quite big, also serve as a place for many travelers to get a shelter and rest. You get dinner and breakfast at the homestay and packed lunch in the morning when you leave to continue the hike to next village. The villages are far from each other and very often the packed lunch is the only food you have during the whole day before you arrive at the next village.

The homestays help making it easy to trek without the help of a guide/porter. Which is what I personally prefer. Don’t have anything against those folks but I just like the full freedom I get being completely on my own. By staying in the homestays you’re directly contributing to the local economy, if that is something you want to contribute to. The homestays in the villages throughout the trail provide a gem of an experience. In my opinion, the experience is even more authentic and closer to the local culture as compared to the hotel-ish teahouses of the more popular treks in Nepal.


Markha valley trek

markha valley trek map

The trek is usually done in counter-clockwise direction. It starts from Zingchen (3400m), where you can get a taxi drop from Leh. Zingchen is the first village with 4-5 houses in total with two also serving as homestays. Moving ahead from Zingchen you arrive at a trail diversion. The left one takes you to Rumbak and beyond to the Stok. The right one continues to Yurutse (4100m) with a single homestay which is often packed. Even at the end of the season, it was packed by the time we arrived and I had to find a sleeping place in the dining room.

After Yurutse starts the climb to Ganda la (4900m) and after a long hike you cross the pass and walk downhill with Shingo being the first village. Further down you reach the trail meeting the Markha river valley at Skiu (3400m). This is where you start hiking the actual Markha valley. Taking a left from here takes you up the Markha valley while towards the right is an exit via Chilling. Instead of starting at Zingchen, you can alternatively start the trek from Chilling. Chilling is connected with Leh by road, so you save about two days and skip the early pass crossing for even better acclimatization as you move up the valley.

After Skiu, the trail heads up to Markha (3700m) and Hunkar (4000m) and then to Nimaling (4800m). All the villages in the valley are really nice with awe-inspiring views. The valley falls under Hemis national park and occasionally you see herds of mountain deer and blue sheep, especially in the upper section of the valley. You’d need to be really lucky to spot the elusive snow leopard, though. Nimaling – also known as freezing nights pass – is literally the coldest I felt on the whole trail. There are no permanent houses here, it’s just a group of camps.

After Nimaling begins the hike up to Kongmaru la (5300m) from the top of which you get some incredible views on both sides of the pass. Crossing the pass you’re going down the other side reaching one of the villages on the way staying for a night or directly catching a taxi to Leh from somewhere near Shang sumdo.


Closing thoughts

Even being solo, you don’t really ever feel lonely on these treks as you keep meeting other travelers on the trail and even more so at the day’s end in the homestay. During my trek, I met people from different parts of the world all the time and surprisingly didn’t meet a single Indian traveler the whole time. Coincidentally, the same thing happened during my Annapurna circuit hike as well.

I think the best thing about such long treks isn’t getting a break from the usual, not even the amazing views you get to see, not the fact that you get to know yourself better. All those are there AND true. But the best thing has to be the new perspectives you come across during discussions with people from different cultures and countries. I find that enlightening. πŸ™‚


Have any questions or feedback? Do let me know in the comments below.


  1. Hey bro, reached your blog thru youtube video. Loved it and the post. I was wondering if you could mention the pricing of the homestays for a night. I am planning for J&K with Ladakh trip this July and intend to do the Markha Valley trek solo.

    1. Hey! Thank you! Glad you liked it! πŸ™‚

      The pricing of homestays in Markha per person per night (incl 3 meals) is about INR 1000.
      July is a great time for Markha. Enjoy the trip!

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you’ve any further questions. Happy to help!


  2. Is there any electricity available in the teahouses for the purposes of recharging?

    Thx for your post. Loved it. Appreciate the info.

    1. Hey, some of the villages on Markha trek do have electricity (big solar panels have been installed to supply whole village. Only solar though as cables haven’t reached beyond Skiu.) but it’s not very reliable.

      Charging basic devices like phone and camera will be possible, during the evening hours when there is electricity though.

    1. Markha is a great trek to do on your own. I’m sure you’ll have an amazing experience! Happy to be of help if you’ve any other questions.

  3. Hello my friend, really like your video, I’m also planning to do this trek, in Sept also, could you please tell me roughly what the daytime temperatures were when you were, there also how busy was the trek?, I know July/Aug are peak season
    Hope you can help
    Many thanks

    1. Hey Steven, glad you liked the video! Markha is not busy at all in September which is like end of the season, and you see less and less people as you move towards end of Sept.

      September skies are usually clear so it’s quite sunny during the day and I don’t remember the exact temperatures but I was mostly walking in a t-shirt during the daytime so it must have been like 15-20 deg Celsius. The pass crossing day would be colder though. And it used to get very cold during the nights especially at the Kongmaru la base camp where I remember I used 4 layers of blankets!!!

      Hope it helps, do let me know if you’ve any other questions as well, happy to help. πŸ™‚

  4. Hi there,
    Is only one homestay in Yurutse? What will happen, when I will arrive there and it will be full?
    By the way, really great post!


    1. Hey Thanks Miki, glad you liked it! And apologies for the late reply…

      So these homestays have arrangement to get you a place to sleep even when rooms are full. Usually the kitchens are huge with several comfortable mattresses and that’s where many travelers sleep after dinner is done. This is a make do arrangement but works alright as the place is clean and warm.

      If you don’t want that, you could either start your daily hiking early so as to arrive early and get a room, or talk to the homestay owner to see if they could help you out.

  5. Hi Atul!

    Thanks a lot for the feedback ! I am heading to leh very soon and planning to hike the Markha Valley. I am actually wondering if I should buy a sleeping bag or not (planning to head to stok kangri if we’ll acclimated), but you seem to say that there’s no need to in the homestays. Is that right ?

    You also say “Nimaling – also known as freezing nights pass – is literally the coldest I felt on the whole trail. There are no permanent houses here, it’s just a group of camps.” in terms of sleeping bag, what did you do here ?

    Thanks in advance for you help,
    All the best,

  6. Hey buddy! Loving the description, thanks. We have been looking for a teahouse Nepal style trek in India, and this sounds like it. You mentioned that you went in September, the end of the season. The only time we may be able go is in October. Do you know if it is possible to do the trek in October? Or maybe thee is too much snow? Thank!

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