Land Of The Nomads Trek in Ladakh

Red Chilli Adventures
  • 10 days
  • Moderate
  • 4.9
  • Hilly

Land Of The Nomads Trek in Ladakh by Red Chilli Adventures


A beautiful trek through the pristine wilderness of the plateau of Chang Tang, which stretches far into Tibet. This is a real high altitude trek that will take you across 2 major passes before entering Rupshu and the land of the Changpa nomads- a people of Tibetan origin who live in encampments of black yak hair tents, and earn a living by breeding yaks, sheep and pashmina goats, from whose soft wool comes the expensive pashmina wool. The highlights of the trek are the spectacular changing landscape and the nomads.


  • Day 1:

    Spituk - Zingchen (4-5 hours) After an early start from Leh, we will travel by jeep to Spituk, where horses will be waiting to carry our equipment. The trek will begin along an old jeep road into a parched and exposed region, so water and sunscreen are absolutely vital! After plodding through the shattered land for 3-hours, we will enter the lush Zingchen Valley, where the Rumbak River flows into the mighty Indus. Further into the valley lies our campsite, in the two-house hamlet of Zingchen (meaning big field). The rest of the day may be spent relaxing, or even taking a dip in the river.

  • day 2:

    Zingchen - Ganda La base (3-4 hours) Today we will enter Hemis National Park, where we may be fortunate enough to glimpse wildlife as diverse as the snow leopard, lynx, Ladakhi Urial (a type of goat), arghali (great Tibetan sheep), blue sheep, red fox, Tibetan wolf, dhole (wild dog), marmot and mountain hare. After paying the entrance fee, we will climb gradually through a beautiful gorge that will unveil the imposing Stok Range from time to time. Before reaching Rumbak, we will stop at a teahouse run by women from the village. After a warm cup of tea, we will continue through Rumbak, and pass by the house of Yuruche, before reaching camp at the base of Ganda La (4545m). From our campsite, we can see a spectacular view of Stok Kangri and the whole of the Stok range.

  • day 3:

    Ganda La base - Skiu via Ganda La (6-7 hours) After a light breakfast, we will begin our 2-hour ascent of Ganda La (4900m); views of the lofty Zanskar and Stok Ranges will leave you speechless. The usual chorten and prayer flags mark the top of the pass, where one may see blue sheep, marmots and arghali roaming the hills. After a short rest, we will make a gradual hour-long descent to Shingo and take a break for lunch. We will finish the day by hiking for 2-hours through a spectacular gorge before making camp at Skiu (3300m). Within this idyllic village lay an old monastery, and ruins of an old castle (once a rest stop for the Royal family on their way to Srinagar).

  • day 4:

    Skiu - Markha (7-8 hours) Following the Markha River, we will hike through the lovely valley on a fairly level path. The trail bisects the river at various points, and passes winter settlements that contain Lhatos (religious shrines for local deities) and Mani walls (stones inscribed with Buddhist prayers). During peak season, a number of tented teahouses will be open for refreshment. Once we cross the river for the final time, we will arrive in Markha, the largest village in the valley (consisting of around 20 houses, an old monastery and a ruined fort). Note: Water and sunscreen are essential, since the valley is quite exposed.

  • day 5:

    Markha - Hankar (5-6 hours) The Markha valley trail continues passed old stone-mills, a ruined castle and the auspicious monastery of Techa, which proudly perches upon a towering cliff that looms above Markha, but is well worth visiting, if we have the energy! The path then intersects the river several times before cutting through the last hamlets in the valley. After leaving the village of Umlung, we will be afforded our first view of mighty Kang Yatse (6400m), which will stay in sight. We will press onward to the Hankar, where we will make camp.

  • day 6:

    Hankar - Yakrupal (5-6 hours) After yesterdays strenuous walk, today is easier as we walk through the remote Langthang valley, where few other tourists go. It's only the villagers from Markha, who use this valley as a pasture ground for their sheep, donkeys, yaks and horses. From Hankar follow the valley down until it divides, cross the river and follow the valley to the left along the Langthang Chu River. The valley down to the right leads to Markha. The Langthang River has the tendency of rising during the day due to snow melting in the mountains and by noon it becomes a dangerous river to cross. An early start in the morning is therefore essential, as one has to cross the river several times. Yakrupal is a nice, green campsite where both the horses and we will have a good meal.

  • day 7:

    Yakrupal - Khar via Zalung Karpo La (5-6 hours) After Yakrupal, continue up the valley towards the pass of Zalung Karpo La (5200m). From the top of the pass there is a spectacular view of the Zanskar range on the one side, while on the other, the highest plateau in the world appears, the Chang Tang plateau stretching far into Tibet. The only inhabitants of this desolate wilderness, where the climate is so extreme that you can get sunburn and frostbite at the same time, are nomads and semi-nomadic people, who live in tiny villages with only their yak, sheep, pashmina goats and a small harvest of barley on which they survive. The trail down is steep and again several river crossings will follow. The beautiful and lush campsite of Khar will be our home for tonight. Kharnak means black castle in Ladakhi, and situated on a hill above the campsite one can imagine the former palace of Khar where the king of Kharnak used to live. Now only the ruins of this former kingdom remain, which the nomads believe to be haunted. It is also said that the nomads in Dat are descendants of the people that lived in Khar and that they for some reason moved to Dat three to four generations ago.

  • day 8:

    Khar - Dat (5-6 hours) A relatively easy day and a beautiful walk through wide, lush valleys (by Ladakhi standards!). At Tantse Sumdo the valley divides, the left valley leading to Dat and the right to Zanskar, by the Jumlam trek, a trek where one really would get wet feet with its 80 river crossings! On the way we pass several nomad's camps before reaching the tiny village of Dat, a settlement of stone huts and the winter headquarters for the nomads in Kharnak. Here they live from October to December and March to June. The nomads of Kharnak are colorful and joyful people moving together with their yaks and pashmina goats. In Dat there is also a Gompa, still used by monks of the Gelugpa Order. When the villagers are away from Dat, they return every second day to light the candles in the monastery.

  • Day 9:

    Dat - Lungmo Che via Yar La (5-6 hours) From Dat we enter the fantasyland of the Changthang plateau and follow a long, wide valley before taking one of the side valleys towards Yar La (4950m). In the spring the nomads move with all their animals towards Zara and one will be astonished by the sight of 30-40 families moving with their yaks in caravans. It is an easy ascent to this pass. From here it is a short walk (1-1 ½ hours) down to the pastures of Lungmo Che where we spend the night, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, grazing yaks and pastel light.

  • Day 10:

    Lungmo Che - Zara- Leh (6 hours) The trail follows the rolling hills towards Yagang, another settlement of stone huts which belongs to the Kharnak nomads. From Yagang we will drive towards Leh via Taglang la 5200 m.


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