Rafting the Indus & Zanskar
18 days / Mid June - September
Pricing is based on group size and seasonality, please check with us to secure the best pricing.
• Raft down the Indus and Zanskar rivers for five days, soaking in the remote beauty of the region as you challenge yourself to a succession of increasingly difficult rapids.
• Expand your knowledge of temples and temple architecture with visits to some of the area’s most beautiful monasteries, temples, statues, carvings, and gompas.
• Marvel at the Dalai Lama’s beautiful golden-roofed summer palace and visit a local oracle.
Day 1: Arrival Delhi
We will pick you up at the airport and bring you to your hotel. Spend the day exploring New Delhi, a bustling metropolis that successfully combines the ancient with the modern. Along with the fast spiraling skyscrapers, the city is dotted with many historical monuments that stand as silent reminders to the region’s ancient legacy. The first impressions for any visitor traveling in from the airport are of a spacious, garden city with tree lined roads.
Day 2: Delhi - Leh
In the morning, we’ll board a plane for a spectacular trans-Himalayan flight to Leh. After landing and checking into the hotel, we’ll relax and acclimate to the altitude. In the evening, we’ll take a walk through the Leh Bazaar.
Day 3: Leh
After breakfast, we’ll take a guided tour of the Shey and Thikse monasteries. Shey Palace was built in 1645 by Deldan Namgyal as a summer residence for the kings of Ladakh. It is the oldest palace in Ladakh and above the palace is an even older, ruined fortress. In 1655, the same king built the two-storey Shey Gompa adjacent to the palace. The Gompa has a 12 meter high seated Buddha statue made of gilded copper sheets and is the biggest metal statue in the region. Thiksey Gompa is perched high on a hill above the Indus. Its buildings are arranged at various levels, leading up to the private apartments of the incarnate lamas on the summit. From here one commands a magnificent view of the valley. The Gompa possesses a rich and beautiful collection of hundreds of handwritten or painted prayer books. In the evening, we take a walk through the Leh Bazaar up to Shanti Stupa to enjoy a panoramic view of the entire town.
Day 4: Leh
After breakfast, we’ll drive to Hemis to visit Hemis Gompa, one of the largest and most important monasteries in Ladakh. It was built in 1620 by the king-architect Singe Namgyal, a great patron of Buddhism. He filled Hemis with golden statues, stupas set with precious stones and thangkhas brought from many places, including Tibet. The lamas of Hemis were associated with the Ladakhi royal. Although only about a dozen lamas actually live here, Hemis has several hundred lamas attached to its subsidiary monasteries. After the visit, we raft down the Indus River from Karu village to Choglamsar near Leh. This section on the river has some interesting stretches with easy Class II rapids. After changing out of wet clothes, we’ll board our vehicles and drive to a Tibetan Refugee Center. In addition to a school, clinic and craft shop, the center also boasts a lovely, two-story, golden-roofed summer palace for His Holiness, The Dalai Lama. Assuming the person is available, we can also pay a visit to the local oracle.
Day 5: Leh – Ulley Tokpo
After a morning drive to Phey Village, we’ll enjoy a picnic lunch and then head down the Indus River to Nimo Village. This stretch on the river is within the picturesque walls of the Indus Gorge and consists mostly of Class II or Class III rapids. At Nimo Village, we’ll board the waiting vehicles and drive along the side of the river to Uley Topko, where we will spend the night in a permanent tented camp.
Day 6: Ulley Tokpo – Lamayuru - Kargil
In the morning, we’ll drive to Lamayuru Monastery and Mulbek, a town famous for its statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha. The huge statue is carved out of solid rock and dates back to the 7th or 8th century. We continue down the Srinagar Leh highway to the Zanskar Rafting Expedition put-in point on the Doda River in Kargil. This town serves as an important base for adventure tours in the heart of Himalayas.
Day 7: Kargil – Panikhar - Rangdum
Today, we leave the Srinagar Leh highway and drive to Rangdum through Suru Valley. En route, we pass through Panikar and Parkachik, with magnificent views of the Nun and Kun massifs (7,000 m), hanging glaciers, and large meadows. After making brief stops at these villages, we'll continue our drive and set up our camp in the lush green meadows near a 200 year old Rangdum monastery.
Day 8: Ringdom – Penzi La – Remala
Today after exploring the monastery, we drive to the Zanskar Valley, enjoying spectacular views of the Zanskar peaks from atop a high mountain pass. We’ll continue up the Stod River and set up our camp for the night at Remala, the start point of our rafting expedition.
Day 9: On the river to Karsha
Today after a detailed safety briefing, we load up our rafts and set out on our first day of the expedition on the Stod River. It is a fairly easy section with Class II rapids. We conclude our day’s rafting near Karsha Gompa, the largest and wealthiest monastery in the Zanskar valley. It was founded in the 10th century and belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Buddhism. We’ll take an evening tour of the monastery.
Day 10: On the river to Zangla
Enjoy a relaxed day on the river, marveling at the magnificent backdrop of the Zanskar Range. We’ll make camp near the bridge at Zangla. Zangla is a typical Zanskari village – a descendant of the king of the erstwhile Zangla kingdom still lives there! The village houses are clustered at the foot of the bare mountain slopes and the fields are spread in front of the houses towards the river.
Day 11: Rest day at Zangla
We’ll spend the day relaxing and taking short hikes or getting to know the local villagers. If we’re feeling ambitious, we can even raft a short distance to the village of Hanumil and set up camp there for the night.
Day 12: On the river to Neyraks
You’ll appreciate the day of rest when you tackle this beautiful, but challenging stretch of the river. We’ll be running through a high-walled gorge where in some places the cliffs loom as much as a kilometer above your head! The rapids pick up in intensity and we’ll shoot through some Class III sections. There are few places to stop and the big rapids come fast and furious. There is no human habitation and the only landmark to let us know we’ve reached Neyraks is a clump of tall shrubs on the riverbank, the only bit of greenery we come across in this area.
Day 13: On the river to Lamaguru
Back on the water, you’ll find that the entire river narrows to just two times the width of a raft. We’ll negotiate some tricky Class III rapids and a few Class IV ones. We’ll stop for lunch at a breathtaking waterfall that surprisingly gushes out of a small hole in the mountain. After lunch, we continue down the river and finally make camp near the confluence of the Zanskar and Markha rivers.
Day 14: On the river to Nimo
After yesterday’s challenges, you’ll find this section of the river fairly relaxing – with the exception of the Class IV “Chilling.” Chilling has some big holes and our approach varies according to the water level. From here on, the sheer gorge gradually relents and we get our first signs of civilization – a road winding along the river. We’ll make camp near the confluence of the Zanskar and Indus rivers.
Day 15: On the river to Saspol –Drive to Leh via Alchi
After crossing the confluence, we’ll raft down the Indus River and negotiate some Class IV+ rapids. We’ll finish up in Saspol near a bridge and board our waiting vehicles. We drive for a short distance to Alchi village and visit the monastery, one of the most famous monasteries in the Ladakh region. It was founded in the 11th century by the noted teacher Ringchen Brangpo and is famous for its paintings of Tantric significance. After exploring the monastery, we’ll continue our drive back to Leh.
Day 16: In Leh
You can relax and do a little shopping during the day. Or, if you still have lots of energy, take the optional half-day guided excursion to Khardung La, the world highest auto road (5,600 m). Thanks to its altitude – the same altitude as the base camp at Mt. Everest – it’s a true test of your physical endurance. In the evening, enjoy a celebration dinner at local Tibetan restaurant.
Day 17: Leh – Delhi
Early morning, we will catch a flight to Delhi and check into our hotel before we take an afternoon guided tour of New Delhi. The tour of Imperial Delhi features the Humayun tomb, an outstanding monument in the Indo-Persian style, as well as a visit to Qutab Minar, the tallest stone tower in India.
Day 18: Delhi – Onward destination
Spend the day relaxing or shopping before returning to the airport for your evening flight .
• We encourage our clients to stay in locally owned accommodation, use local guides and use transport owned and operated by local people wherever available. This keeps money in the local economy
• We usually operate only small groups (maximum 16 people) so that we will have a minimal impact on local environment. All our trekking guides are trained and responsible for ensuring that the guests understand the nature of the local environment and minimize the impact that they may have.
• We use only designated campsites, collect and dispose of all litter. In addition, we boil our drinking water instead of using bottled water, and use responsible cooking fuels (kerosene) instead of wood.
• We provide proper equipment for porters for the type of trek they are about to work on. Only necessary equipment and food supplies are taken to minimize the load on the porters.
• Every guest receives “Responsible Tourism” information before they leave for the tour. This contains details and advice on how they can make a positive difference during their travel.
• We work in partnership with various local non-profit organizations, which in turn, provide local community development. We contribute 2 to 5 percent of our profit each year through these non-profit oriented organizations for health and sanitation, awareness program, free education, tree planting, and other good works.