Rafting & Kajaking

Rafting down the Indus and Zanskar rivers in Ladakh is a very different experience, and will give you a new, river’s eye view of the scenic beauty and the picturesque landscape. We organize day trips as well as multi-day expeditions – don’t forget your umbrella ;-)

Indus River - Day Trips

© Shalabh, Ladakh

Zanskar River - Day Trip

This trip is one of our favourites! We'll pick you up at your guesthouse/hotel in Leh after breakfast. About two hours sightseeing of fantastic Ladakh and Zanskar will bring you to Chilling, the starting point of your rafting/kajaking experience. Here we'll provide you with waterproofed gear, helmet, paddle - and some safety instructions. The next 150 minutes you'll enjoy the ice-cold Zanskar water..

In Nimo you're invited to a hot lunch buffet, including different vegetables, coffee and tea. Enjoy your meal below our spacious parachute tents - and relax! Early afternoon our jeep will bring you back to your guesthouse/hotel in Leh. .

Videos Rafting/Kajaking

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start daytrip zanskar
30 sec

road to the river
2 min

in the cold water
8 min

the end point
3 min

after work hot lunch
2 min

raft 01
2 min

raft 02
8 min

raft 03
1,5 min
raft 04
4 min
raft 05
1,5 min
kayak surfing
5 min
going home
3 min

© G. Anderer, Germany - Shalabh, Ladakh

Indus - Big Water Expedition

The Indus is the largest river flowing out west from the Himalayas, challenge yourself, join a guided raft trip down its mammoth Class IV white water with bestladakh and our partners, the only experts on this river. We can easily promise a fantastic adventure within a breathtaking picturesque landscape! Please, ask for details or for our offer!

Zanskar River - Expedition

This frigid river originating high in the Himalayas has one of the best gorge runs in the world. The icy-cold waters of this untamed river cut across the mountains creating a breathtaking gorge where, because of the intensity of the river and the difficult terrain, camping spots are hard to find. The rapids can reach grades 3, 4 & 5 in any one continuous stretch. This is a multi-day expedition spanning over 6 to 8 days and promises to provide you with a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Please, ask for details or for our offer!

Tsarap Chu - Self contained Kayak Expedition

The Tsarap Chu is the principal tributary of the Zanskar and offers one of the most stunning multi-day self-contained kayak expeditions in the World. We offer a guided trip down this gem in late August and early September. Please, ask for details or for our offer!

Expeditions - Custom Trips all over India

Customised trips for white water addicts are tailored and can range from scenic and easy expeditions to the extreme, including arranging logistics for first descents. So if river exploration is what makes you tick......get in touch with us and we will make your dreams of rarely seen pristine rivers come true.

The amount of unexplored white water all over India is phenomenal and we have a resourceful team to take care of all that is needed in organising trips not only to Ladakh but any part of India.

Our usual style of organising such trips is working with small groups, exploration with an emphasis on interacting and appreciating the ways of the people living in the valleys we explore.Usually we can arrange day trips without further preparation.

This means you can book your day trip whenever you like for one of the following days.

 

However, expeditions will take some time to organise, as one needs to obtain permissions as well as food, tents, cook, etc. Depending on your trip, plan a minimum of 2 weeks’ preparation. For any further questions please don't hesitate to ask for details...

River Reports

Indus

For my 21st birthday we decided to kayak the Upper Indus from Mahe Bridge as close as we could get to the Tibetan border. By this point in the trip we were well practiced in the art of haggling. The truck driver wanted 400rs for the trip up the valley but Tom S was well chuffed to bargain him down to 397rs. After an afternoon teaching the local kids to kayak we set off next morning down the river to Hymia our intended night stop. Arriving at around 3pm we decided to carry on, its hard to recall who was the first to break in at Hymia but downstream the river was excellent. The canyon walls glowed in the early evening light as we raced down the river eager to kayak as much as possible before we had to hitch back to Leh. We started to become concerned when in an hour we only saw one truck pass us, with visions of a cold night under the stars without sleeping bags we rounder the corner to see the last big rapid and the truck waiting to watch us go down. Once at the bottom of the rapid we jumped out quickly to flag down the truck and race back to Leh just in time for a curry and a beer to celebrate my 21st, perfect.

© Shalabh, Ladakh

We rose not so early next morning and finding we were still in quite good shape after the last 6 days grueling routine, we decided to continue down the Indus. Below Khalse we had been told the river disappeared in to deep dark gorges towards Pakistan, but Shalabh assured us it was all “completely run able”. Previously this section was not open to tourists so had never been paddled, keen for a first descent on such a major river off we set. Joined by Nimu on the river Shalabh and Dan provided road support and were able to scout ahead (the river was in fact roadside and only severely gorged up in flat section) . What followed was one of the best days kayaking of the trip. The river started flat for the first twenty kilometres the slowly increased in pace, the 300 or so cumecs forming some monstrous rapids. The valley was very beautiful and we were treated to apricots ripe on the tree as were inspected. A swim for Nima on one of the biggest rapids saw Tim and Ben chasing him and his boat for near on a mile, with a long time spent on the water Nima was quite shaken when he finally reached the bank. He decided to call it a day, we continued to Sanjak directly into the falling sun, we arrived tired but tired but very having after completing 60km of first decent in one long day our 8th on the river. We had kayaked around 260 miles descending over a mile through some of the biggest mountains on earth. Dreams of continuing all the way to the sea were quickly crushed by Army reminding of the presence of the Pakistan border and the fact the river still had another 3000m through some deadly gorges.

Zanskar

The Zanskar more than lived up to all our expectations. Over 50 miles of box canyon, sheer rocks walls rising straight up from the water in some places up to a mile high. Some great play waves kept us well entertained and gave us a good workout. With some much water so confined there were some very confused rapids with bolis and whirlpools that catapulted you from one side of the river to the other. One constriction saw all 200??? cumecs compressed through a 3m gap! Knowing there were limited places to camp we stopped for the night early, had some rather rapid washes in the river, and enjoyed the last rays of the days sun, gazing up in awe as the canyon walls turned a multitude of colours.

© Shalabh, Ladakh

Our final day saw us trekking up the Khurna River and convincing ourselves that any attempt to paddle it would probably result in being helicoptered out. We camped by the river near Nimu and walked into town for a big slap up meal and some beers to celebrate, (even Dan after 2months cultivation had that rat shaved of his face). There was an archery contest in town, but unfortunately the archery had finished for the evening and all that was left was the drinking and dancing…

Drass

After hitching a ride with a big 1512 Tata truck back to Leh we headed off for the Tsarap and Zanskar rivers the main focus of our time in India. We were now a team of nine joined by Andy Milton and Shalabh. The Tsarap River has its source in Tibet where lazily meanders across the border into India then cuts through the Greater Himalaya. On the plain between the Greater Himalaya and Zanskar mountain ranges at Padum it is joined by The Doda River to form the mighty Zanskar. Now with a volume of around 150 cumecs the river heads north cutting directly through The Zanskar mountain range and surges through deep impenetrable box canyon surrounded by 5500m peaks. With the current water levels we planned on six days to cover the 180 miles from where the river leaves the main Leh to Manali to its confluence with the Indus are Nimu.

© Shalabh, Ladakh

The drive from Leh to the get on took eight hours taking us back over the Tanglang La (5317m) but thankfully due to our time already spent in Ladakh we were not affected by the altitude this time. We camped that night by the river not far from the road and eat our supposedly “luxury” meal before having to go lightweight carry four days food for the trip to Padum in the boats. The night was clear and cold, but we were stoked that our Outdoor Design bivi bags kept us so warm as we lay out watching the shooting stars. Meanwhile Tom S was stoked his Terra Nova tent came with a “vestibule”!

Our first day on the river dawned bright and sunny, but not long after getting on the water the clouds came in. At 4300m the air temperature was very low and the Tsarap’s waters were barely above freezing. We drifted along trying to stay as dry as possible, keeping our hands out of the frigid waters and sheltering them from the wind under our buoyancy aids. The river slowly meandered away from the road into the mountains and with the path marked on the map being fairly none existent we were now in with no option of turning back.

After lunch the sun came out and the whitewater picked up with some interesting short class four gorges. After 40km we arrived at our first campsite an amazing spot on a river beach at the Zara Chu’s confluence. Its clear blue water, a sharp contrast to the Tsarap silty grey, provided us with drinking water.

The next day we paddled a further 30km through some very impressive canyons, the river was tamer but a relentless upstream wind chilled our hands to the bone so we were very glad to see Phuktal Gompa our rest for the night. Arriving mid-afternoon we had plenty of time to look around this Buddhist Monastery. Claimed to be 2000 years old the centre of the Gompa is a huge cave which houses the prayer hall and a spring, the reason for the Gompa location. Built literally into to the cliff face the Gompa clings precariously to the side of the canyon. We slowly looked around and watched the young monks going about their daily classes which included some rather noisy and physical debating rituals.

Next morning there was a mix of excitement, apprehension and annoyance among the team. Today was to be the most challenging water of the trip but mysteriously in the night Tom S boat had somehow made its way to the opposite river bank ops…

So followed a day of great whitewater, although with slightly more flat than we were expecting. Upon joining the main valley we met several pony trains, rather amusingly our boats seemed to spook the ponies and soon a pack of wild ponies were charging down the river bank taking the occasional pack pony with them, much to the ponymens annoyance ops!
© Shalabh, Ladakh

After a nice lunch lazing in the sun on yet another beautiful beach we had the mammoth portage around the rather heinous Reru falls. Andy decided he rather take his chances on the river than the sharp rocks at is edge and put in just below the four river wide holes to run the middle section of the rapid. A few more people joined for the run out with comments of:

“That’s the biggest green wave I’ve ever seen!”
“It wasn’t very green when it broke on my head.”
Ah

Getting into to the rhythm of this hardcore expedition boating, we spent another night on a beach just before Padum, paddled some rather large rapids next morning before breakfast and re-supplied in Padum before camping again just before the entrance to the Zanskar gorge. Padum is a fairly uneventful town apart from Andy’s claim to it selling the best samosas in the world. Of course the rest of us know these can actually be found in Kargil, but Andy failing to paddle the Dras doesn’t know this. We had cabbage for dinner. Tom had previously on several occasions made it very clear that being 87% water cabbage is a very inefficient in terms of calorific value per gram (he’d done calculations). Though he took it quite well when he discovered he had being carrying a cabbage hidden behind his footrests for the last four days!

The Dras valley is at the edge of Ladakhi Kashmir and India. The Zoji La at the head of the valley takes you to Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley and the valleys northern ridge marks the border with Pakistan.

In 1999 the Kargil war took place here and the main road up the valley linking Leh and Srinagar was heavily shelled. The valley has been peaceful in recent years but a heavy army presence remains, their large guns pointing north. Signs warning “You are now under enemy observation” remind you of the many vehicles that were shelled on the road.

The valley is part of what was Baltistan it is lower lying and greener than the rest of Ladakh and over 87% of the locals are Muslim and speak Balti. The river was first kayaked in 1985 by Peter Knowles and his team, so with some vague information we returned to the valley most probably the first kayakers in 20 years.

The town of Dras is reputed to be the second coldest town on earth, though we were sure we had been colder. We kayaked the river from 20km above Dras for three days down to the Suru confluence, shortly before it disappears into Pakistan.

The river begins relatively small around forty cumecs meandering through Alpine meadows. It then passes through two short gorges before gaining several more tributaries, blocked by a ridge the river makes a sharp left turn and drops steeply between high valley sides.
© Shalabh, Ladakh

After having its volume doubled by the joining of the Shingo the rivers surges on to meet the Suru now with a vast flow of over 150 cumecs. To navigate a river as its character changes so dramatically with so much continuous challenging whitewater in such a beautiful valley was a truly unforgettable experience.

We were joined by Shalabh on the river and Nimu providing road support. They made our confrontations with the army a hundred times easier, so much so the army provided us with accommodation, free food, sold us bootlegged rum and even offered us drugs. Following our recommendations two more groups kayaked the Dras this summer including Peter Knowles again who believes our last day on the river may actually have been a first descent and yet to be repeated due to army troubles.

Suru Valley

In September 2005 Mark, Nima & Shalabh followed the old man of the mountains Mr Peter Knowles to explore the rivers of eastern Ladakh. The Suru is along the drive to the raft section of the Zanskar via Kargil. The ferocity of the Suru River has deterred paddlers from spending much time exploring the valley which has numerous side tributaries, and the Bartso was exactly that, a gem waiting to be discovered.

© Shalabh, Ladakh

The Bartso flows into the Suru at Sankoo and there is a very scenic road going some 20 kilometers up the valley. We jumped onto the river at the end of the road close to Bartu and immediately found some fun Class III with a few harder rapids including one devious undercut above Sisur, we jumped out at the first road bridge and made a road portage of a 3-4 kilometer section to put back at Patu Village.

The sections we drove around is very obvious from the road, a very runnable continuous Class IV’ish section with a large 20 foot waterfall right under the village of Sishar (something of the kind!).

After Patu there was surprise Class IV drop after which the river flowed quick and continuous but the rapids were mostly Class II. We paddled down across the confluence and pulled out at the first bridge on the Suru.

It’s a great little one day creeky paddle on the way to the Zanskar or a cool way to begin a 3 day trip down the lower Suru.

Highly recommended, also because of the beauty of the Suru Valley and the excellent cheap accommodation at Sankoo in the J&K tourism rest house (150 Rs, DBL ROOMS).
© Shalabh, Ladakh