Where Colors merge – Confluence of Indus & Zanskar in Ladakh

posted in: Asia, Jammu & Kashmir, Nature | 34

Colors are such mood-enhancers and I still don’t know anyone who does not love them. Especially when they are thrown in by nature. Watching a stunning sunset merge with the waters of an ocean or myriad colors of the flowers that dominate a valley – it is just mind-blowing. A few places where I enjoyed these include the Padar Island in Indonesia or the Dawki river of Meghalaya or the seven colored sands of Chamerel. Each one excited me more than the other. Here is yet another one that left me spellbound – the confluence of Indus and Zanskar in Ladakh.

Mesmerized by the colors of the Confluence of Indus and Zanskar
Mesmerized by the colors of the Confluence of Indus and Zanskar

“It was past noon that we set off to Leh from Lamayuru Monastery. Weaving past those stunning mountains and a few scattered streams, we stopped at a vantage point where it looked like a river had split into two. The harsh sunlight glistened off the rivers – creating a kaleidoscope of colors. It did seem as if the two were different and as I learned – they were. The confluence of Indus and Zanskar was no doubt picturesque but I had missed the merging of colors owing to the time of the day. The Google images hit me hard – it was a sight that I had to return to witness.” This was 2017 and a year later, I returned. This time to witness the full glory of the Indus Zanskar Sangam.

Read about my journey from Delhi to Ladakh through Kashmir.

About the two rivers – Indus and Zanskar

Indus river flowing towards Alchi in Monastery
Indus river flowing towards Alchi in Monastery

The longest river in Asia and the key one in Ladakh – Indus used to be the lifeline of the ancient civilization of India. The famed Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro cities survived until the river altered its course. And thus, was the decline of the renowned Indus Valley Civilization. The river now flows through Ladakh and enters Pakistan to eventually flow into the Arabian sea. Locally called the Sindhu River, I saw, touched and admired it through my journey in Ladakh.

Indus river near Chushul, enroute to Tso Moriri
Indus river near Chushul, enroute to Tso Moriri
Zanskar River at Nimo Village, Ladakh
Zanskar River at Nimo Village, Ladakh

While the main Indus river originates near Lake Mansarovar in Tibet, one of its tributaries – the Zanskar river starts from the Zanskar mountain range. It flows through the Northeastern part of Ladakh. Owing to the freezing temperatures of this region, the river freezes in winter – giving way to the famous Chadar Trek over its surface. The river joins the main Indus river at the village of Nimmu (Nimo) – just outside Leh, creating the gorgeous confluence of Indus and Zanskar.

Arriving at Nimo Village

Sunset at the Indus-Zanskar Confluence
Sunset at the Indus-Zanskar Confluence

Getting you back to my story of 2017 – when I first stopped for a brilliant sunset at this Indus- Zanskar Confluence. No doubt that that was one gorgeous landscape but the pictures on Google made me itch to see it in a better light. With this trip to Hemis Monastery, I had it earmarked, especially since it was just outside Leh. Luckily for me, it turned out to be a perfect plan as the confluence was on the way to Alchi Monastery.

Guru Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, Ladakh
Guru Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, Ladakh

I was keen to get to Nimo village – the point of the confluence, by 10:30 am to take advantage of the light. Short of taking a stick, I urged my fellow travelers to pile into our bus at Leh by 9 am. With a quick stop at the Guru Pathar Sahib Gurudwara and an even smaller one at the Magnetic hill (more on that below), we followed the Indus river to finally arrive at the Nimo village. We did not have to enter the village but instead went to the same 2017 vantage point on the highway – from where my eyes finally, feasted on the colors of the confluence of Indus and Zanskar.

The Magical Confluence of Indus and Zanskar

Confluence of Indus & Zanskar at Nimo in Ladakh
Confluence of Indus & Zanskar at Nimo in Ladakh

A distinct bluish-green river flowed between two mountains to merge with the greenish river that we were following. The textured mountains around this magical confluence of colors further enriched its vibrancy. The blue skies added to the aura – making the silence of the land so endearing. Along the vantage point, the fluttering prayer flags added a serenity. The whole atmosphere just urged you to leave everything and sit down to stare at the enchanting landscape.

Prayer flags at the Indus-Zanskar Confluence, Ladakh
Prayer flags at the Indus-Zanskar Confluence, Ladakh

In case you still haven’t guessed which river is which – let me help you. The Bluish green one is the Zanskar one while the other is Indus. During Summers, the Zanskar river is even bluer and during winter it changes to the green one while Indus becomes bluish. I could well imagine this change of colors as I was at the start of Winter and Zanskar already seemed to be in transition to the green. You can even see it partly freezing at the corners.

Another interesting seasonal phenomenon of these two rivers is that in Summer – the Zanskar river flows faster while in Winter, Indus tends to flow faster. As I shared earlier, given that Zanskar tends to freeze in winter, it is natural that it slows down. Indus only carries ice blocks but does not freeze completely. Naturally, it overtakes Zanskar.

Things to do at the Indus & Zanskar Confluence

With these mighty flowing rivers of Ladakh, there is plenty to do here. One of the key things to do at this meeting point of Indus and Zanskar is to embark on a river rafting expedition.  From Grade 2  to over Grade 3 rapids, the Indus river rafting can be done at various points – from Alchi Monastery to Kharu and the most popular – Nimo village.

Zanskar River Rafting offers higher grades as compared to Indus. However, even those can be done here. The best part about Zanskar river rafting is that it is like a tour of 3 to 7 days, where you get the best of both Indus and Zanskar. It allows you to traverse along these famed rivers to monasteries like Lamayuru Monastery and Alchi Monastery.

Lamayuru Monastery
Lamayuru Monastery

Besides River rafting in Ladakh, there are various other things to do around the confluence of Indus and Zanskar. Here are a few more –

  • Visit the Lamayuru Monastery – the oldest one in Ladakh. It is a one and half hour journey from here. (80 km by road)
  • Head to Basgo (9 km from Nimo) for its unusual ruins and the ancient monastery of Alchi. (32 km from Nimo).
  • Stop at the Hall of Fame Museum on your way back to Leh. It is just 30 km towards Leh from the confluence
  • Have some tea and refreshments at the lovely Guru Pathar Sahib Gurudwara, on the way back to Leh. It is 11 km from Nimo. Renowned for the legend of a demon who was trapped on a stone by Guru Nanak Dev. More on this in a separate post.
  • Try the wonder of the Magnetic Hill (7 km from Nimo) when heading or returning to the Confluence. Park your car in the marked boxes and even though the slope seems upwards, the car moves by itself up. An optical illusion of the landscape but worth the fun. 🙂
  • Gear up for some ATV fun at the Magnetic Hill. It is fun speeding through the desert and mountains.

The confluence Sangam of Zanskar and Indus by itself, needs no activities for its beauty spearheads it to one of the must-do things in Ladakh. Even after 2 trips here, I am still in awe of what I saw. I am sure you too, will be mesmerized. So, while you plan your stop here in Ladakh, you can just pin this to your board.

Getting here

  • Read this travel guide to Ladakh for the best way to reach Leh. You have the option of flights to Leh as well as road tripping through Manali or Kashmir to Leh.
  • To get to the Indus-Zanskar Confluence, you can hire a car or a taxi in Leh. You can even bike to it from Leh. It falls en route to Kargil as well as Alchi. To get it on your google map, click here.

Travel Tips

  • Though there is a village close to the confluence, it is better to head to the vantage point above it as it allows you to see the beauty of the colors.
  • It is better to stop here in the first half of the day. This will allow you to take advantage of the good sunlight.
  • River rafting on the rivers is generally recommended in Summers.
  • Chadar trek does not start at the confluence but a few kilometers ahead of it in Zanskar Valley. The trek is quite a challenging and treacherous one as you have to walk on ice. It takes place in the months of January and February – once the river is completely frozen. Remember to plan well for it.

Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug.

I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don’t find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through words on this travel blog.

My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including Lonely Planet India and Jetwings.

 


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Popularly referred to as a Restless Ball of Energy. My Mom refuses to entertain my complaints about my equally restless daughter & assures my husband that I was born with a travel bug. I am a Post-Graduate in Marketing by qualification and a travel blogger by passion. Besides travel, I enjoy photography and if you don't find me at my desk, I would be out playing badminton or swimming or just running. I believe in planning for every long weekend through the year. And when I cannot travel physically, I travel virtually through words on this travel blog. My travel stories have also, got published on various websites and magazines including Lonely Planet India and Jetwings.

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34 Responses

  1. Third Rock

    Thank you for sharing your post, We need some similar article for our Blog. Are you a freelancer?

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    hi mam
    really it is a very good article thank you for sharing this article.

  3. Suzy

    What an incredible place! I would love to explore the stunning scenery. Its an interesting location for me as I’m a geologist but the cultural significance and history of the Indus would add to the intrigue. Great post, really inspiring.

  4. Mei and Kerstin

    Wow! Such breathtaking landscapes! The colors of the rivers are truly stunning, and are really inspiring us to visit Ladak. When we do, we’ll certainly go to Lamayuru monastery too, since it’s less than 100km away. Thanks a lot for sharing this!

    • Ami

      You are bound to love the Lamayuru Monastery. And yes, it is definitely a good idea to visit it when you head to this confluence.

  5. Nisha

    Great story! I always think it is better to hire a car , though more expensive than bus. It affords us flexibility and we can cover unknown gems. I am told that there is a motorable way that goes down to the river. Langar at Pathar Sahib is awesome.

    • Ami

      Considering we were more than 6 people, the bus worked out better for us. You can go right upto the river but the view is better at the vantage point. And I missed the langar lunch but the tea was awesome. Thanks for stopping by Nisha.

  6. Catherine Salvador Mendoza

    Great photos of Indus Zanskar. Haven’t actually heard of this place before but sure does look interesting to me. I’d love to have some tea and refreshments at Guru Pathar. Good sunlight is always a catch when visiting a place!

    • Ami

      Thanks Catherine. This place is high up North India near Kashmir. You should plan to visit it when you are here. Thanks for the lovely comment.

  7. Carissa

    I never knew India has this stunning mountains and rivers! Indus and Zanskar is definitely a worth visit. It looks peaceful and just… wow When I see such beauty like this, I can’t help but just admire and be in awe of how much amazing nature really is. Now I’ve discovered something new to visit! Thank you for sharing!

    • Ami

      Ladakh has some really surreal landscapes and is quite an offbeat travel. I hope you can visit it. Am sure you will love it.

  8. sherianne

    The colors of the rivers and mountains are gorgeous. The blueish green it almost surreal. River rafting would be a lot of fun and I would love to explore the monastery

    • Ami

      I missed out on River rafting myself but am sure it is beautiful. Everyone says so. Fingers crossed that both of us make it.

  9. Vicky and Buddy

    I see why you went back a second time! Those colors really are amazing. And it’s interesting to learn about how the colors and speeds change throughout the year. I’d love to see this for myself one day. Thanks for the tip about getting there early!

    • Ami

      Fingers crossed that you visit it soon. Trust me, besides this, Ladakh will enthrall you with its other landscapes. Thanks for stopping by

  10. Claire

    What a beautiful place, even more so with the peace flags. I’ve seen the joining of rivers in Manaus in Brazil, where the colour change is just as marked – but not quite as pretty!

    • Ami

      Now you added some intrigue with the Manaus mention. Thanks for the same. I hope you get to see this while I see the other 😀

  11. Tami

    I absolutely love your photo of the confluence and the prayer flags — such stunning colors! So interesting that the two rivers are different colors like that!

    • Ami

      Quite a wonder actually. While one can appreciate the science behind it, I still feel it is nothing short of a miracle.

  12. Melody Pittman

    This is such unfamiliar territory for me, not having been to India, but the landscape here is truly divine! OMG, those rivers and the views! I’d love to visit the monasteries, too. These are Nat Geo worthy photos!

    • Ami

      Thank you Melody. That is a high praise and totally made my day. Here is wishing that you get to India soon!

  13. Bidisha

    Confluences are always such a pretty sight and Ladakh is undeniably so picturesque. If you happen to visit Sikkim someday, then do look for the confluence of the rivers Teesta and Rangeet.

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