rafting in zanskar indian himalaya

August 09, 2024

Rafting the Zanskar River in Ladakh, India 2024

This is a river adventure like none other. A two-week expedition that will give you an opportunity to discover little seen parts of western Ladakh. Get ready for sights and sounds of monasteries, drums, fluttering prayer flags, canyons and white water that is far beyond your dreams and expectations.

The trip begins with a flight over the Himalayas into the Trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to Leh town, this is where we can explore ancient palaces and monasteries. Drive past 7000 meter high mountains and spectacular glaciers, to begin the river run in the Zanskar valley at 12,000 feet. Spend the first two days enjoying the moderate white-water where you get an opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery and natural surroundings. Zanskar offers spectacular physical features, unlike anything you have seen in all of India or the world. At the end of the Zanskar valley, get ready for the spectacular Zanskar Canyon, also referred to as the Grand Canyon of Asia. The walls of the Canyon go up thousands of feet off the river bed giving you the feeling that you are so isolated (which you are) from the rest of the outside world. The Zanskar canyon is a grade 4 section and offers amazing white water for rafting and kayaking.

Spend most of your days on the Zanskar floating past all this natural beauty before stopping to camp in the late afternoons. Enjoy great meals by the river and laze in the afternoon sun or stroll & explore the surrounding area. Enjoy a spectacular star filled nights sky filled while you sit around a camp fire and listen to stories of the many runs our guides have done on their favourite rivers. You will also discover the rich culture and history of the natives as we make our way down the Zanskar, and take back memories that will keep you thrilled for a long time to come.

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Delhi Airport, Welcome to Asia! If traveling in a group will be met by one of our guides and taken to your hotel to relax and unwind. Then if time allows wander out into all the confusion and colours Delhi has to offer. If you arrive be yourself you will be given instructions on how to get to hotel. Group meeting and dinner in the evening.

Day 2: Delhi – Leh. An hour-long flight from Delhi to Leh will take you over the Greater Himalaya where one will be able to see the K2 amongst many other breath-taking views. After transferring to the hotel we rest and acclimatize and drink lots of water before those who have the energy can wander around Leh to get a feel for the place. Then have a great dinner in one of the restaurants or at our hotel.

Day 3: Leh – Today we take it easy to acclimatize to the altitude of 11,000 ft and remember to drink lots of water before we embark on a visit to the Thikse and Hemis monasteries. We can also check out the Tibetan market for souvenirs and maybe presents for the folks back home or just take in the magnificent sights of peaks across the horizon and get ready for the drive to Kargil the next day. Overnight stay at Leh hotel.

Day 4: Leh- Kargil. The drive to Kargil over the Fotu La Pass at 14,000 ft. is spectacular. We will be stopping for photo opportunities on the way to the Lamayuru monastery, that belongs to the ‘Red Hat’ sect monks where will can immerse ourselves into an ancient culture. We will stop at the stone statue of the Maitreya (the future Buddha) at Mulbek, before our arrival at Kargil where we will overnight in a quaint hotel!

Day 5: We are on the road again as we make our way from Kargil to Rangdum. We will go through Panikar and Parkachik, and take in awesome sights of the twin peaks Nun and Kun, both above 7000mt, and numerous hanging glaciers and lush meadows before we reach our camp for the night.

Day 6: Today we travel from Rangdum to Remala.This is the last day of driving before we get on the river. We travel over the Pensi La pass at 14,000ft. to enter the Zanskar valley and get some amazing views of the Drung Durung glacier and the Zanskar range, again stopping regularly for any photo opportunities. The starting point for the expedition is the Doda River, a tributary of Zanskar. At Remala we hope to get a good night’s sleep as we camp by the river and anticipate what it has to bring!

Day 7: After a great breakfast we get all the rafts rigged and our gear sorted into dry bags and barrels. We join in on the talk on safety procedures and basic instructions for paddling by our experienced and competent river guides before we hit the river. The trip starts with a grade 3 section, a great way to get our team work sorted and a good introduction to river rafting for the first-timers. We raft for about 4 hours with a lunch break at the river banks before floating down to the confluence of the Doda & the Tsarap Chu rivers. Here we strike camp in the early afternoon which then gives use the choice to rest and enjoy the camp or hike up to the Karsha Monastery. Before all helping to prepare the dinner that our guides will cook for us!

Day 8: We can get up at sunrise to see and photograph the morning light on the Karsha Monastery, and then get on the river as we make our way downstream towards Honia. We will have a blast as we hone our paddling skills on grade 3 rapids and get ready to enter the Zanskar Canyon. Along the way we take in the beauty of this natural wonderland as the valley narrows down before reaching our nights camp site. Here we can sit round and have some hot tea or a beer and talk about things to come.

Day 9: Pack up after breakfast and get moving as todays 25klm gets us deeper into the canyon to reach Nyerak. This is a grade 3 section and warms us up for the rafting that is to follow in the days to come. At Honimul, the last village before we enter a breath-taking canyon, the banks of the river now give way to mountain walls that rise thousands of feet above us. We run some sweet lines through rapids before stopping for lunch, then back on the rafts and some more fun before reaching our camp below the Nyerak village. This is one of the few campsites in this narrow canyon and is a perfect place for a layover day to explore the area.

Day 10: Layover Day. This is a day ear-marked for rest. You could choose to hike to the Nyerak village, mingle with the locals and visit their homes, or relax and enjoy a book under the Weeping Willows, wash in the stream that runs beside the camp and get ready for another exciting day on the river.

Day 11: Today’s 35 km of river takes us through the core of the Zanskar canyon and brings us to Lamaguru at the confluence with Markha River. Here we will encounter big grade 4 rapids before breaking for lunch at a beautiful site by a waterfall. We paddle further through the stunning red canyon walls and some extraordinary sights and colors that mother nature can only provide before camping for the night.

Day 12: Today we are bang straight at it with grade 4 rapids on our way to Nimu where the river confluences with the mighty Indus river. We pass by the village called Chilling while encountering some epic white water on the way to the take out and the end of our river journey. Its at Nimu that we take out, dry ourselves, pack the gear on the vehicles and then drive back to Leh. We can grab a hot shower and either get out and do some last minute retail therapy or just relax before another great dinner in the town of Leh.

Day 13: After breakfast we take our flight back to Delhi which again will fly you past some spectacular views of the mighty Himalayan range and allow us to bid farewell to the mythical land of Ladakh. Arrive Delhi take connecting flights or overnight before heading home or on to our next adventure!

Dates and Prices

Date: August 9th  2024

Price: US$ 5,400 Trip costs are based on double occupancy. Should you prefer single rooms and tents, the single supplement cost is $500. Should you be traveling alone but willing to share rooms and tent, we will try to match you up with a roommate. If we are unable to do this, the surcharge is $350.

Costs include: Delhi to Leh return airfare, airport transfers, hotel in Delhi for one night on arrival, all land travel from Leh, rafting equipment, life jacket, helmet, splash jacket, wet suit, raft guides, safety kayakers, food & accommodation in hotels (Leh & Kargil), & camping.

Cost excludes: meals in Delhi, expenses of a personal nature like cigarettes, alcohol, insurance, etc, any costs arising out of unforeseen circumstances such as bad weather, landslides, road conditions or any other circumstances beyond our control.

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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