Rafting the Zanskar from Chilling to Nemo

Too many travelers arrive in Leh and then spend the rest of their vacation making long drives to visit all the sites. If you want a bit more adventure and want to spend your time outside enjoying one option is a fantastic day of rafting on the Zanskar which is just an hours drive from Leh and about 3 hours of rafting which includes challenging class III rapids.

Rafting Boats in Zanskar Canyon

Rafting Boats in Zanskar Canyon

Rafting trips are organized by a number of tour operators in Leh and should cost no more than 1500 Rs a person. The first trips start in June and the last trips are taken in September. The best time to go is in middle to late July when the river sees its peak flows from glacial run off upstream.

Boat Launch at Chilling

Boat Launch at Chilling

It is 28km of rafting from the put-in at Chilling to the take out at the junction of the Indus and Zanskar at Nemo. It’s a speedy ride down the river with almost continuous rapids. Your guide will provide you a rafting helmet, wetsuit and booties before giving you a brief set of instructions on how to oar and safety procedures if you are thrown overboard. The water is cold and silty coming from the glaciers upstream.

Zanskar Canyon

Zanskar Canyon

If you are considering taking a camera its best to bring something waterproof or bring a small dry sack you can stick in your life preserver and make sure its well attached in case you are thrown overboard. The most exciting stretch of rapids is close to the end of the trip just before the bridge that crosses the river.

Raft on the Zanskar

Raft on the Zanskar

The Zanskar River is older then the surrounding Zanskar Mountains cuts a dramatic canyon directly through the mountain range. Geologically the junction of the Indus and Zanskar is an important area of study and the surrounding rocks near the take-out are of the Indus Group a 2000m thick formation made up of inter-layered marine and terrestrial deposits which were deposited just prior to the Indo-Asia collision in the basin that then existed between the two continents. Understanding the age of these rocks has helped geologists understand the exact timing of the collision between the two plates that occurred about 30 million years ago. The dramatic folding of the layers happened post deposition during the uplift of the Himalaya.

Kayak in Zanskar Canyon

Kayak in Zanskar Canyon

If you loved this rafting trip or want a real adventure on the Zanskar River consider a 4 day trip from Padum all the way down the Zanskar. It’s a real journey to get to the put-in at Padum and requires a 3 drive from Leh which first takes one to Kargil and then another 2 days through the beautiful and remote Zanskar valley to Padum. Enroute to Padum from near Pensi La Pass you can view the Drang-Drung Glacier the largest in Ladakh after the Siachen Glacier. The actual rafting trip includes some difficult class V rapids and you will be camping on the river banks for at least 4 nights as you float down this grand canyon. We don’t currently offer this trip but its on my personal wishlist and would be happy to share my research with anyone who is interested. Feel free to comment or email me personally at – davidurmann@himalayanwonders.com

Class III Rapids in Zanskar Canyon

Class III Rapids in Zanskar Canyon