Why admire rain-washed landscapes from the windowsill? Savour surreal natural beauty as you go one of these four treks, perfect for the season.
Markha Valley Trek, Ladakh
Why go? Well-trodden foot tracks between diffused roadless villages make the Markha Valley Trek one of the most popular adventures in Ladakh. There are stunning ruins of medieval forts in Markha and Hankar, along with weather-sculpted canyons and rocks, monasteries and snow peaks.
Route: Starting from Chilling, the route mostly follows the course of the Markha River. Crossing the villages of Skiu and Tunespa, you reach Hankar via Markha on Day 3 of the walk. From Hanker, the trail begins to ascend to the hidden pastures of Tahungtse. Pushing further on Day 5, you arrive at the broad valley of Nimaling. On Day 6, the trail first climbs up to the pass of Kongmaru La and then drops almost 1000m to the village of Chukirmo. The final day of the trek sees you descending even further to the village of Chogdo, before finally entering Shang Sumdo, where you get back on the road and take a vehicle back to Leh.
Facilities: Cafes, tenting facilities and homestays (about Rs.500 per person including food) exist in almost every village the trek passes through.
Getting there: Fly to Leh from Delhi. Or, take an AC Volvo bus from Delhi to Manali (Rs.1200; 14 hrs) and then board a bus to Leh (Rs.2000, 20 hrs). From Leh, drive to Chilling village – the trailhead for the trek – in about 3 hrs.
Spiti Left Bank Trek, Himachal Pradesh
Why go? This spectacular trek takes you deep into the Martian landscape of the Spiti Valley. It offers a chance to walk through the ancient valley of the Spiti River, exploring unreal scenery and quaint mountain culture.
Route: The Spiti Left Bank Trek is a seven-day haul along the course of the Spiti River, from Poh to Kiato. After spending a night at Poh, the first day’s walk takes you to the village of Dhankar in about 5 hours. On Day 2, you break camp and head for Lhalung, located three hours away, where you can savour gorgeous views of the Spiti River. On Day 3, it’s a six-hour walk to Demul, surrounded by formidable mountains and green pastures. Spend an extra day here if you like. Next morning, break camp early and start on the eight-hour walk to Langza. Ahead of Langza, the trek gets tough and eventually takes you to the ancient and ambient village of Kibber. Hereon, the route eases out again, ending at Kiato, where you can find road connections to the town of Kaza.
Facilities: Every village you stop for the night would typically have a few homes refitted to double as lodges for trekkers. Expect very basic facilities (squat toilets, hard beds on which you can roll out your sleeping bag, and simple veg meals) for about Rs.500 per person.
Getting there: Take an AC Volvo bus from Delhi to Manali (Rs.1200; 14 hrs), and then hop on board a share jeep to Tabo (Rs.1000, 6hrs). Poh, the trailhead for the trek, is about 10km from Tabo, and can be accessed by share jeep (Rs.300).
1 or 2 Days
Harishchandragad Trek, Maharashtra
Why go? An utterly flabbergasting experience, the trek to Harishchandragad involves visiting the eponymous fort on a mountaintop that was built sometime in the 6th century by local lords. Adding to the highlights are a few temples and caves, as well as some excellent viewpoints.
Route: From the trailhead at Khireshwar, a trail leads to a pass called Tolar Khind, which provides access to the fort. The first section of the trek involves vigorous hiking through a forested area. During the monsoons, there might be the odd stream for you to ford along the way. It takes about 90 minutes to reach Tolar Khind, from where the route becomes quite tortuous. It will be an hour before the gruelling climb from Tolar Khind eventually flattens out and gives way to undulating terrain. From here, you have to crest a series of small before you arrive at the periphery of the fort.
Facilities: Remember that there are no proper lodging options in Harishchandragad. Carry all necessary camping equipment from Mumbai if you wish to overnight in the caves at the fort. A few villagers from nearby villages provide basic dal-chawal meals on top of Harishchandragad when the trekking traffic is high.
Getting there: Take a slow train from Mumbai CST to Kalyan (1hr 30min). From Kalyan, board a state transport bus to Khubi Fata before proceeding to Khireshwar. Public transport is hard to come by, so you may have to walk the 6km to the trailhead.
One Tree Hill trek to Matheran, Maharashtra
Why go? The Matheran Trek via One Tree Hill is immensely popular with trekkers, not just because of the pretty landscape it passes through but also because it comes with the added incentive of combining the trek with a weekend getaway in Matheran. The One Tree Hill hike commands a special mention in the history of Matheran. It is said that the hill station was discovered in 1850 when Hugh Malet – then collector of Thane district – happened to climb up to the Matheran plateau via this route during one of his routine outings.
Route: Setting out from Ambewadi, you will first have to follow a concrete paved track that runs through paddy fields before giving way to a mud trail. The trail begins to gain altitude as it climbs up a hill. Some 10 minutes up this trail will bring you to a lovely meadow. After about 30 minutes of traversing the meadow, you will come to a flat land marked by paddy patches. From here, you take the path leading right and keep ascending the ridge until you come to a tiny hamlet. Proceeding from the hamlet, the trail enters a dense evergreen forest. Walk through the breadth of the forest, and you are presented with the final – and toughest – section of your climb: Shivaji’s Ladder, the endpoint of the trek.
Facilities: Carry adequate snacks, beverages and water for the hike – there are no stalls until you reach Matheran.The friendly inhabitants living in the village midway through the trek can replenish your water supply. You can also avail scruffy lodging here in case of an emergency like bad weather.
Getting there: Exit Mumbai via Sion and Panvel, and take the old Mumbai-Pune Highway. Turn left at Chowk Fata and drive until you reach the T-point commonly called Boregaon Fata. From here, a village road leads to Ambewadi village, the beginning point of the trek. The journey takes about 90 minutes.
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