The Zanskar River Rafting Expedition
Our “special” feature drives through most of western Ladakh, monasteries, palaces, villages, hikes and travel to one of the most surreal places on the planet.Undoubtedly a classic, this journey to the last truly lost horizon of our shrinking planet – Zanskar, the “land of white copper” is a trip of a lifetime.
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Vacation Style Holiday TypeCamping, Rafting
Activity Level Demanding
Group Size Medium Group
Our “special” feature drives through most of western Ladakh, monasteries, palaces, villages, hikes and travel to one of the most surreal places on the planet. Starting the trip on the Stod river, we begin our self contained multi-day river adventure down the spectacular and scenic Zanskar river gorge.
The trip takes you down the extremely desolate, remote and sheer Zanskar gorge with walls rising a few thousand feet out of the river bed, culminating on the mighty Indus river, (which incidentally lends India its name). We finish with spending a couple of days in Leh town acclimatizing at 11,000 feet above sea level and visiting the ancient monasteries, palaces and villages around Leh.
Undoubtedly a classic, this journey to the last truly lost horizon of our shrinking planet – Zanskar, the “land of white copper” is a trip of a lifetime.
Fly Delhi – Leh (3466m ; 11,370ft)
Transfer to hotel. Rest, hydrate and acclimatise. Overnight Leh hotel, the Mogol.
On a clear day, you could see as far as K2. We land in very barren landscape as the plane nearly skims the sides of Spituk gompa on one of the most difficult landings in the world.
Reach the airport early to get a window seat on the ‘A’ side for great views. Be prepared to be frisked a lot on this flight – this is a high security flight. Keep a pen and your passports handy – visitor’s registration needed when we land at the airport.
Leh, where the altitude of 11,500 feet makes you lightheaded and the simplest chore — climbing a few stairs or struggling with a tight sleeping bag could leave you short of breath. Many people may need up to 24 hours to acclimatize. Headaches and breathlessness usually can be controlled with rest and very light exercise, if any.
You will meet your guides at the basic but charming Hotel Mogol, nestled in the quiet part of Chanspa, a ten min walk into the town square. You will be briefed about the trip, and encouraged to hydrate and rest all day (yes, even if you are full of beans, its best to rest up). A nice walk into the market in the evening is a delight.
Acclimatise in Leh
Acclimatise, hydrate and sightseeing. For the more energetic a visit to a few monasteries such as Shey, Thikse and Hemis will be arranged. Or choose to relax and walk into Leh town, to its exciting market and outdoor restaurants. Again, the mantra is rest and hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more. In the evening we meet for a packing update, where we discuss what goes on the trip and what can be left behind in Leh at the hotel. Overnight Leh hotel.
Drive Leh – Kargil (3201m ; 10500 ft ; 9-10 hrs)
Today, We set out after an early breakfast, and we will pass the airport and Spituk gompa on our way, travelling west of Leh towards Kargil. After the army camps, the road rises upto a plateau and passes the diversion to Phiyang gompa. After 36 kms of leaving Leh, we reach Nimu, the confluence of the Zanskar with the Lion river, the Indus.
The next 60 kms are a culture vulture’s dream. 06 kms after Nimu we pass the temples and derelict fort at Basgo. Another 10 kms, we reach the painted caves at Saspol. The historic gompa of Alchi is only a 4 km diversion from here.
44 kms further down the road we reach Khalsi where the road crosses the Indus river and slowly winds its way 27 kms upto the beautiful gompa at Lamayuru. On the left, just before reaching the village, there are great views of the ’moonlands’. We continue climbing for 15 kms upto the highest pass on the route, the Fatu La (13,450ft). After 36 more kms we cross another pass, the Namika La (12,210ft) and then the road descends 15 kms to the village of Mulbekh. Just before the village, there is an ancient 9 metre sculpture of Maitreya, or future Buddha carved into the rock. From Mulbekh, the Wakha river leads upto the cliff face gompa of Gyal.
41 kms further is the town of Kargil which marks the transition to a predominantly Muslim area from where one can either continue west to Kashmir or take the rough road south up the Suru valley into Zanskar, which is our destination. Settle into the hotel D’Zojila in a quieter part of town, have our last showers, and charge camera batteries. We are moving into a week of the great outdoors!
Drive Kargil - Rangdum (3964m ; 13,000ft ; 8-9 hrs)
A spectacular drive past Panikar and Parkachik, with magnificent views of the 7000 metre plus Nun and Kun massif, hanging glaciers and large meadows. We drive till Rangdum Gompa (12,000 ft).
From Kargil, the road runs south upto the Suru valley for 67 kms upto Panikhar. The Balti settlements along this valley are surrounded by lush fields growing a wide variety of crops and fruits ; the villages may seem rather untidy and in a state of disrepair. As we gain height the mighty snow capped peaks of Nun (23,410ft) and Kun (23,220 ft) begin to dominate the view.
The road swings to the east for 63 kms, past the last Muslim settlement of Parkachik, to the Buddhist Gelukpa monastery of Rangdum, sitting astride a small hill in the middle of a wide plain. An optional hike around the huge meadow. Overnight Camp
Drive Rangdum – Remala (3635m ; 11,925ft ; 6 hrs)
We drive to Remala, which is the starting point for the rafting trip on the Stod river, a tributary of the Zanskar river. Overnight tented camp.
The Pensi La (14,440 ft), which is the entrance to Zanskar is only 20 kms from here. We drive over the Pensi La (14,500 ft), which enables grand views of the Zanskar peaks at the bottom of which is the Drung Durung glacier that feeds the Zanskar river, 40 km below, into which we flow trip the next day.The road descends to the Stod or Doda river which it now follows past the well cared for Zanskari villages to Padum (90 kms), the capital of Zanskar. A little more than a large village, it has a surprisingly large Muslim population, mainly Baltis from the Kargil area, who have settled here since the mid 17th century.
Rafting expedition begins at Remala
Raft till near Karsha Gompa, near Padum. (3496m ; 11,466ft ; 4 hrs) We raft 30 km in 4-5 hrs which includes a break for lunch and hot beverages. We are surrounded by 6000 metre high peaks. River section today includes a Class II section, a good introduction for first timers as well as to the river in general. Settle into camp by afternoon, we can take an optional hike around Camp. For the energetic, a long walk to Karsha Gompa, is possible.
Rraft from Karsha up to Honyo / Pidmo (3361m ; 11,025 ft ; 3 hrs)
After a late morning start, we raft from Karsha up to Honyo / Pidmo (3361m ; 11,025 ft ; 3 hrs). This stretch is approximately 25 km with Class II and III rapids. Another easy day to get used to the river, the altitude and hone our paddling skills.
Raft 25 km to Nyerak (3286m ; 10,780ft ; 3 hrs) a Class III section
After packing camp, we raft 25 km to Nyerak (3286m ; 10,780ft ; 3 hrs) a Class III section. The gorge narrows in on the river – there is now a new rapid formed at the entrance to the canyon, by the making of the road, the dynamiting and also due to a fallen JCB ! This indeed is a Grand Canyon in its own right. We stop for the day to pitch camp in a gorge below Nyerak village.
Rest day at Nyerak
Take a hike to Nyerak village or relax under the cool shade of the willows at our Campsite. Wash up at the campsite stream and enjoy the day off.
Raft from Nyerak to Lamaguru (3190m ; 10,465ft ; 6 hrs)
Todays 35 km rafting section takes us from Nyerak to Lamaguru (3190m ; 10,465ft ; 6 hrs) through the core of the Zanskar A classic white water day with continuous Class III rapids, and a few Class IV rapid where the river squeezes between a gap of about 18ft. We stop for lunch near a huge waterfall and continue to camp at the confluence of Markha river with the Zanskar. Rock formations, spires and an amazing palette of colours add to the trip today. Camp.
Lamaguru to Nimu (3154 m;10,345 ft ; 3-4 hrs)
We raft 40 kms of Class III/IV white water from Lamaguru to Nimu (3154 m;10,345 ft ; 3-4 hrs) today. We raft past the village of Chilling and exciting rapids as the Zanskar plunges out of the canyon to meet with the Indus at Nimu. We end our trip at the confluence of the Zanskar with the Indus. Drive an hour back to Leh. Last minute retail therapy and a hot shower! Overnight hotel.
Fly Leh - Delhi
Transfer to Leh Airport. Fly Leh – Delhi. Trip ends
We believe that along with the privilege of adventure in the Himalaya comes a serious responsibility, the responsibility to protect and contribute to its ecology, cultures and its tremendous beauty. The “Leave No Trace” philosophy is followed to the letter and we work to minimize the environmental impact of our trips. We are scrupulous in our camping, cooking and sanitation practices; we limit the number of trekkers we allow to join us on our trips and the number of trips we lead in a given area.
In wilderness, commercial agreements between service provider and client require a depth of understanding that is more than what is routinely attached to similar agreements elsewhere. In the outdoors, we have to balance pursuit of stated objective and risk. We try to overcome risk and deliver the objective promised in the agreement between client and service provider. But that does not mean that we ignore risk altogether to chase an objective. We wish you to be informed on what makes a trip safe for you and everyone else.
Please take a few minutes to read the following:
The nature of wilderness
By definition wilderness implies remoteness. It means that response to any accident or mishap takes time. Timely intervention is a life saver. Working back from this, it becomes imperative that any commercial adventure in wilderness be conservative in terms of the risk it courts. Yet adventure means there will be risk. The way out is to manage the risk involved in such a fashion that a safe experience is provided. There are a few things that the client can do.
Prepare in advance
Commercial expeditions entail strain even if others are carrying your load and doing the team’s work. Prior physical conditioning – particularly of the cardiovascular sort contributing to improved endurance – helps. Please invest time and effort for that before embarking on the trip. It will help you in the field.
Be honest, speak up
We encourage clients to be honest about how they are feeling on expedition days; voice any personal difficulties they may be experiencing. This helps the team make relevant decisions for clients’ well being, something crucial when venturing into altitude. Not all of us are meant for altitude. If your physiology rebels, there is nothing to be ashamed of it. Speak up. Make sure that your disclosures about self are not biased by an objective you are feverishly trying to achieve like getting to the summit of a peak or crossing a high pass at any cost. Don’t let summit fever and similar instances of extreme personal ambition, consume you. It puts you and your support team at risk. Stay with the team’s assessment of risk. Go with the resultant decisions. If you think you have a point to make by all means do so. We will hear you out. But risk assessment and decisions, will be by the team leaders as the onus of a safe expedition primarily rests with them.
Let the leaders work
You may be familiar with rivers, mountains and altitude. We don’t wish to question that. But there are reasons why many of us choose to go as clients. One of them is that our primary vocation is something else, while those working in the mountains as guides have chosen to make that their primary vocation or at the very least, dedicate time to it. More than us, they are in the mountains. They are alive to it. That’s why we entrust our passage to them. So, please let them work free of interference. Please don’t influence their judgement. Your expedition needs their best work and best judgement. In any expedition, leadership style will vary with the risk being tackled in a given situation. There will be times when we can travel easy in a very consultative fashion. There will be times when that is not advisable and a more directive style may be adopted by your guides. Please comply.
Be open to alternatives
We can set up the best safety systems possible, checking and double checking to make sure that nothing is left to chance. But we don’t control or totally overcome variables like weather and terrain / river conditions. They impact expedition’s progress. If team leaders review / alter plan citing concerns on any front, we request that it be respected and not viewed as money’s worth denied even if it dims prospects for achieving an expedition’s original goal. Such challenges are frequent in the outdoors. Seasoned trekkers and climbers, when they realize that a particular objective does not seem achievable on a given trip, learn to be happy with other pursuits to compensate – like staying camped and enjoying the mountain environment or attempting more doable hikes from wherever they are. We request you to stay aware of these possibilities. Be open to them. Decades ago when exploration and first ascents were happening in the Himalaya, the explorers / mountaineers / hikers devoted months to their work. Committed outdoorsmen still do. They wait out unfavourable circumstances by having a lot of time and patience. Time is what the modern world does not have even as the mountains remain the same, posing the same challenges; the same risk, the same unpredictable circumstances. An exceptionally lucky circumstance may deliver success. But luck isn’t commonplace. We should be mentally prepared for the above mentioned alternatives.
If you don’t achieve your objective it isn’t the end of the world. Be patient, another chance will emerge. There is a simple reminder, climbers often tell their colleagues leaving for a summit: “ the mountain will always be there; make sure you are there.’’
In other words – be safe.
Our expedition trips are designed for energetic and flexible people who have the spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. Previous experience in the outdoors and camping helps, though is not a must. These trips are participatory in nature, and everyone is expected to pitch in, set up and break down their own tent, clean their own dishes. Look up our trip grading before you sign up.
Grading of Trips
We have graded our trips in four different categories and you should choose one that suits you the most. Grading of each trip has been done keeping in mind a lot of factors like the trip duration, the altitude, the terrain, the no. of hours of activity everyday, temperatures and conditions encountered, and the level of fitness needed. Any kind of exercise which gets you fitter before this trip is advisable, as it will enable you to enjoy the region more.
- Easy : Most of our camp based trips, with easy activities, that are optional and involve fairly easy travel. Trips may include short hikes of two to three hours or optional walks at low elevations. Includes less demanding whitewater trips with easy support and myriad options.
- Moderate : Active trips involving hiking over reasonable terrain, within vehicular access, upto elevations less than 4000 meters, or trips with long walking days, multiple rafting days, wilderness camping. Includes more demanding whitewater trips with Class III rapids.
- Demanding : Hiking and trekking to elevations exceeding 4000-5000 meters, away from vehicular access, over multiple days. Encompasses demanding whitewater with Class IV rapids.
- Challenging : Our most demanding trips include climbing at high elevations in excess of 5000 meters, in remote and extreme conditions with no access to roads; trips to remote, extreme wilderness; mountaineering trips, and demanding whitewater trips with Class IV-V rapids.
The Next Step
Ready to go? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to book your place and we will guide you through the booking process. Please sign and scan/email us your booking form and inform us about the status of your payments at the time of confirming the trip (Booking form and Payment details below).
Why travel with Aquaterra Adventures?
We are a pioneer in active adventure travel, and run the most number of rivers in India, having opened them up over the past several years. We set the standard and have a strong reputation for excellence. We have a lot to live up to and we ensure we provide the safest, quality trips for our guests.
Should you wish to contact any of our past guests for a trip reference, write to us.
In remote regions, we often use local suppliers who provide services that may include vehicles for transportation, equipment, logistical support, hotels, guest houses etc. We do not own or operate these independent services or suppliers. We work with them as they share our commitment to service and quality.
All travel by road / rail as applicable (by air and non ac car / jeep / coach), all arrangements for staying and camping while on the trip, accommodation on twin share basis in tents / rest houses / hotels, all meals including those at Leh / Kargil hotels, professional guide fee, all rafting, kayaking and safety equipment with India’s most experienced guiding team, expert leadership, camp staff, cook etc.
Airfare – Delhi-Srinagar or Leh-Delhi, Airport transfers in Delhi, any stay and meals in Delhi, bottled water / alcoholic beverages at Srinagar / Leh / Kargil hotels, restaurant meals outside Srinagar /Leh/Kargil hotels, sleeping bag, items of personal clothing, expenses of a personal nature like laundry, phone calls, alcohol, cigarettes, basic medical and evacuation insurance; any costs arising out of unforeseen circumstances such as bad weather, landslides, road conditions and any other circumstances beyond our control.
Rates quoted are on twin share. If you prefer single accommodation, the single supplement is Rs. 14,500. If you are traveling alone and wish to share accommodation, we will try our best to find you a roommate. If that is not possible, you will need to pay a “forced” single supplement of Rs. 4750.
Booking conditions: All bookings are subject to availability of space at Camp. We book space on a 100% advance. All payments by wire transfer, cash or cheque/draft in favor of “Aquaterra Adventures (I) Pvt. Ltd.”
Tips & Gratuities: Our recommendation is a minimum 5-10% of your trip cost for tips to be distributed amongst the team that makes your adventure safe and successful. This includes drivers, guides, cook, kitchen team, porters and horsemen. Of course, this remains a personal choice.
If it becomes necessary to cancel your tour, you must notify Aquaterra Adventures India Pvt. Ltd. immediately in writing. Once we receive your notice, cancellation will take effect. Please note that the following charges will apply on cancellation:
- if cancellation takes place more than 45 days prior to departure, your full deposit
- will be returned except a processing charge of Rs. 5000 or US$ 77 ; (60 days for Brahmaputra trip)
- if cancellation takes place between 45 and 30 days prior to departure, 50% of the
- tour price will be forfeited (between 60 and 30 days for Brahmaputra trip); and
- if cancellation takes place less than 30 days prior to departure, 100% of the tour price will be forfeited.
Some trips attract a minimum processing charge – please check.
The tour price is quoted as a package. No partial refunds or credit will be given for services not used. We recommend that you obtain travel insurance upon booking.