The Indus river is the one of the longest rivers in Asia, rising in Tibet from a mountain spring, and flowing through into Ladakh, India. It is fed by numerous glaciers on its route, and branches off into the Zanskar, a powerful tributary that rushes through the arid landscape of Ladakh. Most of the rafting in Ladakh takes place on the Zanskar, but there are some fun stretches on the Indus too.
The Zanskar has carved a dramatic path through the rocky terrain, creating steep gorges and canyons that wind through the land. Rafting on the Zanskar gives you a chance to explore these breathtaking turns and take on the swirling rapids. You’ll get views of monasteries perched precariously on craggy hills, magnificent peaks in the distance, and small hamlets along the river banks.
There are multiple rafting stretches on the Zanskar, offering rapids from Grade I to Grade III, and suited for different levels of experience. Check out the options below to figure out which one suits you best.
Rafting in Ladakh: Indus or Zanskar?
Rafting on the Indus is slightly easier and quieter than the Zanskar. In the Indus, you’ll be running Grade I and II rapids, with some stretches of Grade III. The Zanskar, on the other hand, is a faster flowing river, with stronger rapids.
Very easy rafting on the Zanskar: Tsogsti to Nimmo:
The Tsogsti-Nimmo stretch is a 5 km long run, with mostly flat water and low grade rapids of about I and II. You’ll paddle through the famous Zanskar Gorge, with the rugged walls rising up above you. It’s very scenic, and you’ll enjoy the peace of this land. This rafting trip takes about one hour, and is suitable for families and beginners looking for a taste of the river rafting action in Ladakh.
Easy rafting on the Zanskar: Scorpoche to Nimmo
This Scorpoche-Nimmo stretch is an 18 km long run, with fun Grade III rapids. You’ll enjoy the views all around, but on some stretches, you’ll have to focus completely on the river and the rapids ahead of you. This rafting trip takes about 2 hours, and is suitable for beginners looking for some thrills.
Easy rafting on the Indus: Karu to Choglamsar
This stretch takes place on the gentle stretch of the Indus river, but covers a good distance of 25 kms. You’ll spend 3 hours on the river, enjoying the views and taking on the challenge of a few Grade III rapids. This trip is suitable for beginners who will be able to paddle for 3 hours.
Moderate rafting on the Zanskar: Phey to Nimmo
Phey to Nimmo is a popular stretch because it gives you a 25 km long stretch, with a mix of Grade II and III rapids. It takes three hours, and offers views of tiny villages, snow-capped mountains, and monasteries nestling on the slopes. You’ll be able to enjoy paddling down a few peaceful stretches with great views, and then you’ll brace yourself for the swirling rapids ahead. This trip is suitable for fit beginners or those who want the full Zanskar rafting experience.
Challenging rafting on the Zanskar: Chilling to Nimmo
This 28 km long run takes you all the way from Chilling to Nimmo, on a thrill-a-minute ride. You’ll spend a little over 3 hours on the river, battling Grade III rapids with all your might. On this stretch, you’ll be in the thick of the action, taking on the Chilling rapid, Shoot rapid, Scorpoche rapid, and Gorge rapid, as well as passing through some stunning landscapes along the way. This stretch is suitable for fit beginners who will be able to paddle for over 3 hours.
Very tough rafting on the Indus: Saspol to Khalsi
Also known as the Alchi-Khalsi stretch, this 30 km session is one of the most challenging rafting trips in Ladakh. It has often been compared to the white waters of the Zambezi river, and is only suited for experienced rafters. You’ll spend about 4 hours on the water, taking on Grade III and IV rapids, but the biggest challenge is the long stretch of almost continuous rapids at Nurla. These rapids go on for about a kilometre, but they start closer to the end of your trip, so you’ll wrap up with a big bang! This stretch is not suitable for first-timers as it requires endurance and technical skills.
Choose your own adventure:
When to go rafting in Ladakh:
Between June to late August, the water levels are high and give you the best river rafting experience in Ladakh. The water is always cold, but with the cloudless skies and warm sun during these months, you’ll be better off. During peak winter months, the Zanskar river freezes over completely, and becomes the location for the iconic Chadar trek.
- The water is always cold during rafting, but you’ll be provided with wet suits, life jackets, and helmets.
- Kids below 12 years will not be allowed on the rafts. For the Saspol to Khalsi route, the minimum age limit is 15.
- Book your tickets in advance. It can get surprisingly crowded during rafting season.
- Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or contact lenses during rafting. You’re bound to get splashed (a lot!) and likely to be dunked in the river as well.
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