The whiff of mysticism that permeates your voice as your pronounce Ladakh is palpable. The arid cold plateau perched at a staggering altitude of 3000 m epitomises Beauty. Rows and rows of jagged peaks adorn the stark landscape, broad green valleys and meadows of dusty yellow run past sparkling streams and charming villages with orchards of apricots and walnuts. Monasteries and prayer flags are another characteristic of the mountainscape. The rugged terrain is studded with sapphire lakes and villages with white huts against terraces of swaying barley fields. The wilderness is best explored on your two feet and in this article, we give you a snapshot of the 5 best treks in Ladakh.
Arguably, Ladakh's most popular trail, the Markha Valley trek reveals the finest of Ladakh's barren landscape alongside luxuriant villages. Despite being a teahouse trek, it is not an easy trek because of the ascent and the rarefied atmosphere. The trail starts from Spituk and winds along the Indus River to reach Zinchen, and further onwards across the Ganda La and Kongmaru La towards Shang Sumdo. Part of the trek is through the Hemis National Park, which increases the chance to spot the endangered Snow Leopard. The rich green of barley and wheat fields gives way to dusty, yellow meadows and mountains with vibrant red, green, yellow and brown rock striations. Another highlight of the trek is a beautiful glacier behind Kang Yatse just before you reach the broad valley of Nimaling. Colourful prayer flags line the trail. The hospitality of the locals on the way is something that will be etched in your memory long after.
On the Markha Valley Trek
The Sham Valley Trek is a shorter trek but packs in some astounding scenery. Mountains with dollops of mist swim against the infinite blur of rose fingered skies at daybreak. Ancient monasteries with colourful prayer flags dot the rugged landscape. Hemis Shukpachen, with its orchards of walnuts and apricots, can rival paradise any day! The Sham Valley trail runs across sparkling glacial melts and villages with pretty huts hemmed with gardens of cabbage, potatoes, coriander and onions. Locals in traditional attires and jewellery can be seen tending to herds of animals. Sunflowers bloom in abundance and against a backdrop of red peaks, they look stunning. The trek begins at Likir and loops over the cold plateau to end at Temisgan.
Lakes of Ladakh
A comparatively difficult trek, the Lamayuru-Alchi Trek takes you to some of Ladakh's oldest monasteries at Lamayuru, Alchi, Wanla and Marg-gyu. Lamayuru's "moonscape" of strangely shaped rock formations looking upwards at sparkling blue skies is striking. The monotony of the unbound expanse of a barren, isolated terrain lit up by the duet of a blistering sun and floating clouds is punctuated by the brilliant red and gold of the decorations inside the monasteries and terraced green fields of barley and wheat. The trail winds over the Pritikingkar La and Tar La passes and presents the phantasmagorical scenery and spiritual side of Ladakh.
Lamayuru's surreal moonscape
Stok Kangri Trek
The 6000 m behemoth is Ladakh's most climbed peak and offers spectacular views and unbridled thrill for those who dare attempt the climb. Isolated, rugged landscape marks the route. In summer, the vast meadows wear a profusion of wildflowers in varied hues. The trail threads past streams, glaciers, moraines, grasslands and snow-capped mountains and lets you experience nature in all her powerful glory. Apart from a few tiny villages, most of the trail runs through isolated terrain. There is snow in the upper reaches and the panorama of serrated peaks, both barren and snow-hooded, are astounding in the late morning sun. At night, the sky lights up with immaculate stars and the Milky Way glows against silhouettes of tall peaks.
A group of trekkers proceeding towards Stok
The Chadar Trek is India's most glamorous trek and involves walking over the frozen Zanskar aka the Chadar. The trail follows frozen flow of the river, sandwiched between near-vertical cliffs. At places, the ice is thin and the smallest distraction can lead to an icy fall into waist-deep waters. The sparkling ice takes on different hues with the movement of the sun. Sometimes it is blindly white, at others blue or a piercing amethyst. Sometimes it is gold and ruby. Waterfalls frozen mid-way present striking visuals. The Chadar serves as the lifeline for the hardy Zanskar tribesmen when heavy snowfall cuts off all access to Leh. Over days, they lug essentials over sledges drawn by hardy dogs or on feet in temperatures that plunge well below -20⁰C.
Walking on the frozen Zanskar
Pick any of these trails & be mesmerised because Ladakh is sheer magic!
Article by: Mohana Das