Where Colors merge – Confluence of Indus & Zanskar in Ladakh

posted in: Asia, Jammu & Kashmir, Nature | 39

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

“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

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
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

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

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

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

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

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.



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