Sham Valley trek


Photo of Sham Valley trek by Rituraj Banerjee

Apricot Valley - yes, that is the other name also by which Sham Valley goes. It is home to the Apricot flowers that bloom during the season of winter. Sham Valley trek is spread across the ancient land of Sham Kingdom of Ladakh. Located amidst the Ladakhi Himalayas, and bounded by the Karakoram range in the north, the trek begins from the village of Likir. This ancient village, which dates back to as far as 15th century, is the abode of a monastery which whispers the myths and legends of the bygone past. Lasting for 4 days, Sham Valley trek ends at the village of Temisgam.

The entire trail is splashed with sparkling streams and willow canopies, Cedar vines and Barley fields, narrow gorges and mountain passes. This is not all; bestrewn throughout the trail are mystical gompas and antique museums, golden Buddhas and mysterious deities, rarest thankas and Tibetan scrolls; makes this trek a perfect combination of nature and culture. Being a hub of ancient Tibetan Buddhist rituals, Sham Valley trek helps you gain the best first-hand teachings and experiences of Tibetan Buddhism: their rituals and cultures, languages and traditions, lives and histories.

Where is it?

Sham Valley trek begins from the village of Likir. About 58 km from Leh by car. Leh is about 2 hours from Delhi by flight. Leh to Likir is the drive-able part of this trek. Nearest airport is the Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport of Leh. About 54 km from Likir. Nearest railway station is the Jammu Tawi railway station. About 680 km from Leh.

Difficulty level

Sham Valley trek often goes by the name Baby trek on account of being one of the easiest treks of the Ladakh region. Even being a high-elevation trek, this one is devoid of tough trails or steep climbs. Chief share of the entire trail follows gradual ups and downs once in a while. Although the paths go through high-altitude mountain passes and narrow gorges, the extreme easiness of the steady gradient makes Sham Valley trek ideal for beginners and families.


Yes, it is certainly a do-it-yourself trek. Being an off-beat trek of its kind, Sham Valley trek, as far as I am concerned, is arranged by few organisations. In any way, the easy gradient makes it lot better for trekkers - even for beginners. Sizable part of the trek is a straight-forward trail, through steady uphill and down. Guides and porters are available at Leh.

When to do it?

The best time to do Sham Valley trek is between the months of May and October. During this period, the valley radiates wide range of colors from wild roses and willow trees to barren hills and contrasting greenery of meadows and pastures, and vines and orchards.

The route

Sham Valley trek begins from Likir. About 58 km from Leh. Leh is about 2 hours from Delhi by flight. The trail from Likir follows the Likir Monastery and ascends to Phobe La through barren lands. Phobe La is located at an elevation of about 11,745 feet. Further uphill trek after a slight descent leads you to Chagtse La at an altitude of about 11,900 feet. Moving along the motor-able road, amidst the Ladakhi ranges, you reach the settlements of Yangthang. Next comes Tsermangchen La through the village and valley of Ulley and Spango, respectively. Tsermangchen La is located at an altitude of 12,300 feet. Downhill trek from here follows Hemis Shukpachen - famous from Cedar vines. Next comes the Mebtak La, at 12,200 feet elevation. En route falls the Rongtil La. Marked by prayer flags and chortens, Mebtak La makes way for Temisgam. Adorned by apple and apricot orchards, Temisgam is a village of utmost beauty. The logical trail of Sham Valley trek ends with a car journey back to Leh. Alternatively, one can stay at Ang, relatively a smaller village, instead of Temisgam.

This is the route of Sham Valley trek:

Leh* > Likir* > Yangthang* > Hemis Shukpachen* > Temisgam* > Leh*


Day 1

Delhi to Leh (2 hours)

Leh is about 2 hours from Delhi by flight. Located at an altitude of about 11,500 ft, you need acclimatization. A day's span can be easily spent in Leh, sightseeing the historical locale - number of monasteries and museums : Shey Monastery, Thiksey Monastery and Hemis Monastery.

Shey Monastery is about 15 km from Leh. Opening hrs between 6 am to 6 pm (closed between 1 pm to 1:30 pm). Entry fee per person 30 INR. The Monastery, built by the first monarch of Ladakh, is home to 12 ft high statue of Lord Buddha. This was built in 1633. Shey Monastery celebrates festival twice a year: once, Shey Rul-lo on the first month of the Tibetan calendar; then, Shey Surb-lo on the seventh month of the Tibetan calendar. The monastery is situated at an altitude of about 11,000 ft, en route Thiksey.

(c) Saurabh Chatterjee

Photo of Shey Monastery, Leh Manali Highway, Shey by Rituraj Banerjee

Thiksey Monastery is about 18 km from Leh. Opening hrs between 6 am to 6 pm (closed between 1 pm to 1:30 pm). Entry fee per person 30 INR. The Monastery, built by the Geluk Pa order of Buddhism, is situated on the isolated flank of the mountains. Founded by Palden Sherab Rinpoche, Thiksey Monastery is a colossal structure of 12 storey, splashed with stupas and statues, thankas (colourful cloths) and paintings. Thiksey Museum is located inside: home to rare weapons, antique Buddhist scriptures and texts, and symbols. Gustor festival is celebrated every year on the twelfth month of the Tibetan calendar. Thiksey Monastery is also known as 'Mini Potala' of India on account of its uncanny resemblance with Potala Palace of Lhasa, Tibet.

(c) amod86

Photo of Thikse Monastery, Thiksey by Rituraj Banerjee

Hemis Monastery is about 45 km from Leh. opening hrs between 8 am to 6 pm (closed between 1 pm to 2 pm). Entry fee per person 100 INR. Built in 1630, this one happens to be the largest monastery in Ladakh. Belonging to the Druk Pa lineage of Buddhism, Hemis Monastery celebrates anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava during June-July. Guru Padmasambhava, or Lotus-born Lord, is also known by the title Guru Rinpoche. He was an 8th century Indian Buddhist master. Celebration of the anniversary is known as Hemis Tsechu. The Monastery is home to a rare collection of ancient Buddhist scriptures and books.

(c) Isen Majennt

Photo of Hemis Gompa, Hemis by Rituraj Banerjee

The three monasteries more or less make up Leh sightseeing. After sightseeing, the journey can be broken for the night at Leh. There are home-stay facilities, guesthouses and hotels for your accommodation. Gangba Guesthouse is located at the Upper Tukcha Road, Leh.

Day 2

Leh to Yangthang (4-5 hours)

Tucked up at an elevation of about 11,975 feet, the settlement of Likir lies 58 km from Leh, drive-able by car. The chief site of attraction is a monastery by the same name as that of the village.

Tracing back to as far as 15th century, Likir Monastery is one of the oldest ones in Ladakh. Currently home to about 120 monks and Buddhist scholars, the Gompa belongs to the Geluk Pa sect of Buddhism. Chief attraction of the Monastery, among many, is the painted mandala of Wheel of Life, held by Yama. Walls, which are adorned by paintings and thankas, breathe legends and myths from a distant past. Splashed with statues of different incarnations of Lord Buddha - Maitreya, Shakka Muni, Bodhisattva, Amitabh, the temple of Likir Gompa must be equally appealing. Originally known by the name Klu Khayil Gompa, the monastery preserves a 75 feet high statue of Lord Buddha, and one that of Tsong Kha Pa - founder of the Yellow-Hat sect of Buddhism.

Photo of Likir Gompa, Likir by Rituraj Banerjee

The word "Likir" means "guarded by serpents"; legend has it that, two Nagas (serpents) - Nanda and Taksako - have been protecting the walls of the Monastery from time immemorial. Statues wrought with gold and copper, some of the rarest scrolls and scriptures of Tibetan Buddhism, and numerous thankas and murals make this the wealthiest monastery in the region. Annual festival of Likir Gompa is adorned by rich Tibetan cultures and rituals, Cham Dance and mask dance.

Famous for Pashmina and Woolen clothes, Likir village has some of the finest guesthouse and home-stay facilities, just across the river, for your accommodation.

Photo of Sham Valley trek by Rituraj Banerjee

Sham Valley trek begins from Likir. Spread across stretches of Apricot flowers and apple orchards, an uphill trail moves amidst barren lands and mountain slopes devoid of natural vegetation, parallel to the motor-able road, towards Phobe La. Lying at an elevation of 11,745 feet, Phobe La, or Phobe Pass, overlooks across the village of Sumdo. Sumdo Chun - an ancient Tibetan Buddhist temple - can be seen from the top of Phobe La. Downhill at the beginning, same along the motor-able road this time, and then steep uphill from Phobe La leads to Chagatse La. Located at an altitude of about 11,900 feet, Chagatse Pass overlooks across the village of Yangthang. En route falls the beautiful Alchi village and a monastery by the same name. Limited but nice home-stay facilities are available in Yangthang.

(c) sandeepachetan

Photo of Sham Valley trek by Rituraj Banerjee
Day 3

Yangthang to Hemis Shukpachen (2-3 hours)

Yangthang to Hemis Shukpachen, although via Tsermangchen La, is an easy trek of about 8 km. Gentle ascent from Yangthang leads to a Ulley village, tucked up amidst the snow-capped Himalayas, at an altitude of about 13,280 feet, is the highest village in western Ladakh. Gradual descent from here, through a Spango Valley, and across stretches of Apricot flowers and wild roses, should bring you to a stream of water, sparkling under the canopy of willows. It is from here that the trail moves uphill, and further to Tsermangchen La. Located at an elevation of about 12,300 feet, Tsermangchen Pass offers 360 degree panoramic view of the Greater Himalayas.

(c) sandeepachetan

Photo of Hemis Shukpachan by Rituraj Banerjee

Gradual downhill trek brings you to the settlements of Hemis Shukpachen. This traditional village happens to be only patch of greenery amidst barren mountains. Featuring rare Cedar vines and apple orchards, sacred Junipers and barley fields, Hemis Shukpachen is guarded by sparkling streams and willow forests.

A steady descent from the settlement brings you to Spango Valley. Across the valley, a gradual uphill moves towards Spango La. Located at an altitude of about 13,480 feet, Spango Pass offers beautiful view of a part of the Ridzong Gompa.

(c) hceebee

Photo of Sham Valley trek by Rituraj Banerjee

The belief that Guru Padmasambhava had meditated in the caves around Ridzong, makes the monastery by the same name a significant one to Tibetan Buddhists of the region. Located 73 km from, Rodzong Gompa belongs to the Geluk Pa doctrine of Buddhism. Legend has it that, lamas used to meditate in the caves around Ridzong in isolation, avoiding any contact with the outside world. Splashed with colorful paintings and thankas, statues of Buddha and other deities, stupas and murals, Ridzong Monastery certainly makes a chief attraction around the area. However, there is no accommodation facility in or around the Gompa. Several guesthouse and home-stay facilities are available at Hemis Shukpachen.

Day 4

Hemis Shukpachen to Temisgam (6-7 hours)

Rongtil La, at an elevation of about 12,520 feet, is an easy uphill trek from Hemis Shukpachen. Through a grove of sacred Juniper trees, the trail moves further towards Mebtak La. Located at an altitude of about 12,200 feet, Mebtak La is a steep climb - the only one in Sham Valley trek - from Juniper grove. Marked by prayer flags and all, Mebtak Pass offers serene views of the surrounding Himalayas.

(c) dwan

Photo of Temisgam by Rituraj Banerjee

Next, through the beauty of apple orchards and Apricot gardens, wild roses and willow trees, a downhill trek brings to the settlement of Temisgam. The village is features an ancient monastery by the same name.

About 90 km from Leh, Temisgam Gompa is as much ancient as 15th century. Founded by a Ladakhi ruler Drag Pa Bum, this monastery is the abode of incredible beauty. Amidst the stretches of rape seeds and wild roses is located a local school which provide quality education to the locals in local language. Unique of its kind, indeed.

Temisgam, as it happens, marks the end of Sham Valley trek. Being a hermitage of phenomenal beauty, Sham Valley trek is among the most traditional ones of its kind.

Leh is about 90 km from Temisgam village, motor-able by car; Delhi, 2 hours by flight from Leh.

(c) Mike Alexander

Photo of Sham Valley trek by Rituraj Banerjee

What to pack?

Use rucksack to carry luggage. Use plenty of drinking water. Prefer full-sleeve clothes; two warm layers would be needed at the campsites - especially the higher ones - where temperature falls drastically after sunset. Carry two pairs of trousers and thermals. This trek would also need sturdy pair of hiking boots to negotiate with the rocky trail; extra pair of socks just in case. Carry flashlight and personal medication (if any).

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