kayaking in tibet

Reting Tsangpo,
August 09, 2024

Other trips in Tibet:

Rafting the Reting Tsangpo in Tibet, August 2024

Well it doesn’t get much higher than this. The Reting Tsangpo is an incredible river journey and was first paddled by friends in 2005. Starting high up on the Roof of the world, the Reting Tsangpo snakes its way down and we meet the river at our put in point at the confluence with a small alpine stream with amazing views of the Nyenchen Thanglha range, near Namtso Lake. From here we paddle big whitewater alongside an incredible juniper forest and past nomad camps. In high water, big volume rapids are interspersed by lazy flat sections and great surf waves for kayakers. This trip is an amazing Tibetan rafting experience with its wonderful mix of mountains, nomads, monasteries and whitewater. The Reting Tsangpo has only been kayaked and rafted a few times, making this an experience not to be forgotten as nomads and yaks still look on in amazement at our colorful parade floating past!

Detailed Itinerary

Note: All itineraries are designed to be flexible based on river levels, road and weather conditions and the unexpected surprises of adventure travel in Asia.

Day 01: Arrival at the Chengdu Shuangliu International airport. One of our friendly guides will greet you at the airport and transfer to the Traffic hotel, were we spend the afternoon resting and catching up on the kilometers just flown. In the evening we’ll arrange a sumptuous Sichuan cuisine banquet in a local restaurant to get you into asia!

Day 02: Transfer to the airport in the morning and fly to Lhasa. Arriving at Lhasa’s Gonggar Airport, you’ll be met by our Tibetan guide and while you are taking large breaths to get used to the new altitude, we will take the scenic one-hour long drive to Lhasa and to your hotel where we will be based for a couple of nights. You may feel the effects of the high altitude, so it’s best if you have a relaxing afternoon, and drink plenty of water. In the evening, our guide will pick you up and take you to one of Lhasa’s better restaurants for dinner.

Day 03: (3650m) After breakfast at the hotel, you’ll meet our guide and head into Lhasa’s old quarter and tour the Jokhang Temple. Built in 650 AD, this ancient temple is home to some of Tibetan Buddhism’s most venerated statues. You’ll walk alongside the Tibetan pilgrims, some of whom will have come thousands of kilometers to worship at the sacred temple. After the tour of the temple, join the pilgrims for a Kora, or holy walk around the outside of the temple. For Buddhists, 108 laps of the temple is guaranteed to bring long life and good luck (start early if you want to do the 108 laps!). The lively market stalls and their owners are always good for some entertainment and it’s a great source for souvenir shopping in Lhasa, but bargain hard! After lunch we’ll head to Sera Monastery to watch the monks debate as they have every day since the 14th century. The Sera monks are renowned for their intelligence and political acumen making it a great spectacle to watch but don’t be tempted to jump the fence and join in unless you know the subject!

Day 04: (3650m) This morning your guide will take you to tour the Potala Palace which needs no introduction, as it graces the central features of Lhasa and is good training for altitude with loads of steps! We then visit the Norbulinka Palace, the park-like summer home of the Dalai Lamas and a great way to just take in the surroundings. The afternoon is free for last minute expedition preparation, shopping or site seeing on your own.

Day 05: (4100m) This morning we’re up early to drive to the Drigung Valley and on the way catch glimpses of the water levels we will be kayaking and rafting on. We’ll have a relaxed lunch at our campsite, where we will spend 2 nights. After lunch we will get on the Drigung river and run the upper section of the class 3/4 run. Our take out is right back in camp making it easy as we will still be breathing in the big ones; as it will be your first paddle at 4,000+ meters!

Day 06: (4100m) Right below camp is a short class 5 gorge. To avoid any morning anxiety we’ll load our paddling gear on the truck and drive five minutes to our put-in just below this lively gorge, as we really don’t have to beat ourselves up for such a short run! The lower Drigung is a wonderful class 3/4 run through two short granite gorges while passing villagers and paddling underneath pray flags.

Day 07: (4400m) We pack up this morning and continue our drive up and over a spectacular high pass (4980m) where the road winds past yak herds and nomad encampments. We will stop to take advantage of some great photo opportunities and then continue to our put-in on the Reting Tsangpo. We’ll set up camp by the river and paddle the section immediately above camp in the afternoon to get a feel of the Reting Tsangpo, which is a larger river than the Drigung.

Day 08 – 10: (4200-4400m) Rafting on Reting Tsangpo – Starting high on the plateau the Reting begins as an alpine stream before quickly building in volume and intensity. If snow melt and rain brings the water up this run has superb play waves and is a great introduction to big volume Himalayan style boating (class 2-4). If the water level is low the water is a stunning blue and the run becomes more technical. The river provides a great mix of relaxed floating and whitewater action suitable for experienced and intermediate kayakers and non-experienced rafters alike. The Upper Reting Valley is remote and the rare sight of foreigners makes the locals very inquisitive so expect the odd visit to our campsite. We’ll float by nomad camps, small villages and countless yaks! And stop in eddies along the way to take great pics of the spectacular craggy peaks on both sides of the river valley and of course of ourselves running some of the rapids. On the last day we’ll take out at lunch time, pack up the equipment and drive 4-5hrs to Lake Namtso where we will camp and just take in the whole beauty of this place (weather permitting)

Day 11: (3650m) This morning we’ll wake to one of the most spectacular views in Tibet. We can explore the pilgrimage site of Tashi Dor and surrounding areas taking memorable photos, before driving back over the pass to the Qinghai Tibet Hwy and returning to Lhasa for a hot shower and a great last night dinner in Lhasa and maybe after woods for those feeling like a drink a visit to one of the local bars..

Day 12: After breakfast we will then transfer to Lhasa airport for our flight to Chengdu which is quiet scenic flying over snowcapped mountains to meet connecting flights or get a hotel and take in the delights of the warmer climate and foods on offer in Chengdu.

Dates and Prices

Date: Aug,9th 2024
Price: $5800 per person for 5-9 passengers

$5,600 per person for 10+passengers

Single supplement $450 per person. Forced singles (if we cannot find a roommate for you) $300 per person.

Included in the land cost for your trip are

  • White Water Asia leadership on the trip and planning assistance before it
  • accommodations in hotels or inns in cities and villages
  • all arrangements in the field, including camp meals, cook staffs, group gear and rafting equipment including wetsuits
  • all meals while outside of Lhasa breakfast in Lhasa and a Sichuan Banquet on the night before departure in Chengdu
  • airport transfers on group arrival and departure days
  • sightseeing and activities as noted in the itinerary
  • ground transportation
  • monastery and monument entrance fees


Excluded from the basic trip cost are

  • international airfare
  • domestic flights within China (Chengdu/Lhasa round-trip)
  • insurance (see Insurance section below)
  • optional tipping off-river and to leader, guides and river staff
  • airport transfers if arriving earlier or later than trip dates
  • excess baggage charges
  • airport taxes
  • Meals in Lhasa and Chengdu
  • personal items like drinks, laundry, souvenirs, etc.

What to bring?

  • A pair of river shorts or swimming costume.
  • A pair of Chacos or similar sandals. Trainers are also okay.
  • Long sleeved shirt to wear under your life jacket.
  • A baseball cap for under the helmet to keep sun off.
  • Wide brimmed sunhat.
  • Sunglasses.
  • Chums for fastening your sunglasses to your head.
  • Nalgene or similar water bottle.
  • Carabiner for fastening water bottle to your boat.
  • Thermal Top Medium weight – Heavyweight Capilene or polypropylene is the best.
  • Waterproof sunscreen and lip balm SPF15 minimum
  • Lightweight long trousers.
  • Lightweight long Sleeved shirt.
  • Fleece jacket.
  • Down jacket
  • Ladies should bring a long skirt or sarong to cover your legs whilst in the company of locals.
  • Underwear.
  • Glasses or Contact lenses. Disposable lenses are ideal.
  • Toiletries. Toothbrush, toothpaste, biodegradable soap and shampoo.
  • Forget the cosmetics and hair dryer! But we do suggest moisturizer.
  • Hand wipes
  • A 3-season sleeping bag and thermarest sleeping mat
  • Travel Pillow.
  • Small pack towel.
  • Headlamp or head torch and spare batteries.
  • Shoes or boots for the trek.
  • Insect Repellent.
  • Any medication you may be taking.

Optional Items

  • Your favourite book or a journal for recording your river memories.
  • Sketchpad.
  • Photographic or video equipment. We recommend bringing your own waterproof casing and a cleaning kit as sand gets everywhere. Bring a spare memory card or plenty of film. Also bring spare batteries for your camera.
  • Waterproof disposable for the “action” on the raft shots.
  • Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman.
  • An iPod or other music preferences. We have speakers.

Personal Spending

  • The only money that you need to bring is for meals in town, souvenirs, DVD, personal items and the beer kitty for the raft trip if you drink. Please remember that many of the countries we visit do offer Credit Card and ATM facilities and for a small charge you can withdraw cash either from your account or Credit Card for convenience.
  • If you wish to pass on a gratuity to your guide we leave this entirely up to you.
  • Basically, we advise you to keep things as light as possible, without skimping on the essentials.

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