With huge volumes of melt-water thundering down from the Himalayas, white water rafting in India’s northern rivers is an exhilarating experience. Carving their way between densely forested mountains and steep gorges, rivers such as the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Indus and Zanskar make India rafting holidays some of the world’s most exciting.
Whether it’s just for a few hours or stretching over days, rafting on northern India’s rivers is an experience you’re not likely to forget. Huge volumes of glacial melt-water water fill the rivers creating world-class rapids. With hiking and camping options increasing the sense of overall adventure.
The Himalayas, the world’s largest mountain range, form India’s northern border with Nepal. Huge rivers carry massive volumes of glacial melt-water down from the mountains to India’s lush plains and into the Ganges. It’s here you’ll find most of India’s rafting opportunities.
The Himalayan rafting rivers are virtually inaccessible in the winter months, with roads and access routes frozen solid or too treacherous to pass. Some rivers, like the Zanskar, are frozen solid and others simply too cold for rafting. But come the summer thaw, the access roads open and glacial melt-water gushes down from the high Himalayas filling the rivers to very high levels. It’s still very cold but the external temperatures make it safe to raft
The main rivers are the Alaknanda, Bhagirathi, Indus and Zanskar, with the Teesta also being raft-worthy at certain times of year. Draining the Chamoli, Tihri and Pauri regions, the Alaknanda flows for approximately 190km through the Alaknanda valley into the mighty Ganges. It’s a similar course followed by most of these rafting rivers through their own steep sided valleys.
Rafting down river from the Himalayas, you’ll marvel as the landscape, culture and language changes dramatically, all within the shadow of the huge mountain range.
There’s a variety of rafting adventures available, from one-day trips to multi-day excursions complete with hiking and camping options. Negotiate high-grade rapids through deep gorges, seeing a side of India most tourists never get to visit, and camp at night in some stunning locations along the river banks.
Riverside tent camps exist all along the main routes, especially in Garhwal, many with their own arrangements for dining and toilet facilities. You’ll also get to stop off at traditional villages along the route and sample Himalayan hospitality.
Most agencies allow rafters over the age of fourteen on most river trips. People who can’t swim may not be allowed on some stretches but are generally accommodated. As explained above, the summer is the only possible time of year for rafting in northern India.
Permits for rafting some rivers may be required so it’s best to go with an established tour company, especially in some border areas. They will also sort your accommodation in the riverside camps and villages mentioned above. They can also provide all the necessary safety equipment required for India rafting holidays.