Rafting and Kayaking

The crystal clear rivers of Bhutan are one of the kingdom’s best kept open secrets. Fed by the glacial-melt of the Eastern Himalayas, six major rivers (Wang Chhu, Sunkosh, Puna Tsang Chhu, Mangde Chhu, Kuri Chhu and Dangme Chhu and their tributaries), have been scouted for kayaking and rafting. They cut through high valleys and low plains to meet up with the Brahmaputra River in India. The pristine natural setting and the sheer variety of the rivers’ courses provides a unique opportunity to explore Bhutan’s beautiful wilderness. Adventurous travelers will not be disappointed by the rugged, untamed waterways of Bhutan. The rivers are plentiful with strong currents varying between slow, gentle flows in some places and powerful, raging torrents can be found throughout the country. Although adventure sports and tourism are relatively recent introductions to Bhutan, they are rapidly gaining in popularity.

The river courses available in Bhutan offer something for all visitors, regardless of experience: There are easy routes for beginners and hair-raising runs for the veterans. Besides the rafts and the kayaks, Bhutanese agents also organize walking and trekking expeditions along the scenic river banks. The best time for rafting and kayaking is from March to April and November to December.

SAFETY
Bhutanese rafting and kayaking guides are well trained and will do everything to ensure that you enjoy the adventure while minimizing the risks. The rivers of Bhutan were first surveyed for potential routes for water sports in 1997 by Gerry Mofatt and Peter Knowles, both experienced rafters/kayakers at the invitation of the Royal Government and the Department of Tourism.

They trained the first batch of Bhutanese river-guides and conducted surveys to grade the rivers. Since then, other rivers have been surveyed including the Punatsang Chhu, Manas and Amo Chhu. TCB guidelines ensure that all operators use well maintained professional equipment and maintain a reasonable guide-client ratio.

This fertile valley is about a 45-minute drive away from the capital Thimphu. It is one of the most historic valleys in Bhutan. Both trade goods and invading Tibetans came over the pass at the head of the valley, giving Paro the closest cultural connection with Tibet of any Bhutanese district. Now it is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the kingdom. The valley is home to an array of important cultural sites such as:

Taktsang, or Tiger's Nest, Bhutan's most recognizable monastery, Kichu Lhakhang, which along with Jambay Lhakhang in Bumthang is the oldest temple in Bhutan, dating back to the 7th century.

PARO CHHU (BONDEY - ISUNA BRIDGE)

  • Location: Paro Valley, Western Bhutan
  • Length: Approximately 10 km (3 hours)
  • Difficulty: Class III-IV
  • Flow: About 500 cfs
  • Season: March - April
  • Craft: Kayaks recommended due to narrow and steep rapids

LOWER PARO CHHU (ISUNA BRIDGE - CHHUZOM)

  • Location: Paro Valley, Western Bhutan
  • Length: 7 km (1 hour)
  • Difficulty: Class II - III, with one V
  • Flow: Approximately 500 cfs
  • Season: March - April
  • Craft: Kayaks (too small for rafts)

Less than an hour's drive away from Paro airport, the capital of Bhutan, with a population of approximately 100,000 people, lies at an elevation of 2,320m. As you enter the valley you drive on Bhutan's first two-lane expressway straight into the heart of the city. Places to visit in Thimphu include the Textile Museum, the Folk Heritage Museum, the Tashichho Dzong, the National Memorial Chhorten (a stupa dedicated to the third king of Bhutan), and the Centenary Farmer's Market - a colourful market full of local produce and handicrafts. Visitors can visit numerous monasteries around the valley as well as a vibrant nunnery.

The Wang Chhu or the Thimphu River snakes its way down at the city's southern end.

WANG CHHU - UPPER RUN (CHHUZOM CONFLUENCE - LOWER TAM CHHU, DOBJI DZONG)

  • Location: Thimphu/Paro/Phuentsholing Highway, Western Bhutan
  • Length: Approximately 4 km (2 hours)
  • Difficulty: Class IV, one class V
  • Flow: 800 - 1000 cfs
  • Season: March - April, November - December (Caution: a high water in this section is extremely dangerous. Not recommended for amateurs)
  • Craft: Only Kayaks

WANG CHHU - LOWER RUN (TAM CHHU - 4 KM DOWNSTREAM)

  • Location: Thimphu/Paro/Phuentsholing Highway, Western Bhutan
  • Length: 4 km (1 hour)
  • Difficulty: Class III
  • Flow: 800 -1000 cfs
  • Season: March - April, November - December (Tips: a high water run is possible with good scouting)
  • Craft: Kayaks, Rafts

Punakha, the old capital, is a pleasant sub-tropical valley. It is home to the impressive Pungthang Dewachenphoi Phodrang Dzong- the administrative and religious center of the district. In Winter it is home to the Bhutanese Central Monk Body. Since the 1680s the dzong has been the site of a continuous vigil over the earthly body of Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal, the founder of the country, which lies in a special chamber in the dzong. Built by Shabdrung Ngwang Namgyal in the 17th century, the fortress stands at the confluence of two rivers- the Pho (male) Chhu and Mo (female) Chhu rivers.

UPPER PHO CHHU (WANGTHANGKHA - SAMDINGKHA)

  • Location: Punakha Valley, Western Bhutan
  • Length: Approximately 7 km (2 hours)
  • Difficulty: Class III-IV
  • Flow: 2000 -3000 cfs
  • Season: March - April, October - November
  • Craft: Kayaks and Rafts

LOWER PHO CHHU (SAMDINGKHA - BELOW PUNAKHA DZONG)

  • Location: Punakha Valley, Western Bhutan
  • Length: 7km, (1.5 hours)
  • Difficulty: Class III with one IV at the bottom
  • Flow: 2000 - 3000 cfs
  • Season: March - April, October - November (Tips: runs at high water possible)
  • Craft: Kayaks and Rafts

MO CHHU - TASHITANG DEVIL'S GORGE SECTION (TASHITHANG - BELOW PUNAKHA DZONG)

  • Location: Punakha Valley, Western Bhutan
  • Length: 12 km, 5 -7 hours with scouting
  • Difficulty: Class V
  • Flow: 1000 cfs
  • Season: Feb/Dec. (Caution: higher than medium flows makes this run dangerous. High water runs not recommended for amateurs)
  • Craft: Kayaks only (too steep for rafts)

MO CHHU - UPPER RUN (14KM ABOVE PUNAKHA DZONG - KABJISA)

  • Location: Punakha Valley, Western Bhutan
  • Length: 3 km (1.5 hours with scouting)
  • Difficulty: Class IV - V
  • Flow: 1500 - 2000 cfs
  • Season: Mar-Apr, Nov-Dec
  • Craft: Kayaks only

This is also the name of the dzong (built in 1638) which dominates the district and the name of the small market town outside the gates of the dzong. The name was given by Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyal who was searching for the best location for a dzong to prevent incursions from the south. At the chosen spot, the Shabdrung encountered a boy named Wangdue playing beside the river and hence named the dzong "Wangdue's Palace."

There are three main roads in Wangduephodrang. The Lateral Road enters from the west at the Dochu La Pass, crosses the Puna Tsang Chhu at Wangduephodrang Dzong, and continues east to Trongsa. A spur road heads north from Wangduephodrang to the dzong at Punakha and slightly beyond. This road eventually becomes the trail to Gasa. A second spur departs the Lateral Road near the Pele La pass halfway between Wangduephodrang and Tongsa, travelling south a short distance to Gangtey monastery and the Phobjikha valley where the rare Black-necked Cranes come to roost in the winter.

UPPER DANG CHHU (WANGDUEPHODRANG DOWNSTREAM - KICHU RESORT)

  • Location: Wangduephodrang, Western/Central Bhutan
  • Difficulty: Class IV -V at medium flows, V - V at higher flows
  • Flow: 400-500 cfs
  • Season: March - April, October - November
  • Craft: Kayaks only (too small and steep for rafts)

LOWER DANG CHHU (WANGDUEPHODRANG UPSTREAM - PUNA TSANG CHHU CONFLUENCE)

  • Location: Wangduepwhodrang, Western/Central Bhutan
  • Length: Approximately 5km (1 hour)
  • Difficulty: Class III+
  • Flow: Class IV with 3 Class V scouts (Tips: runs possible at high water if the first section is scouted carefully and the paddlers are strong)
  • Season: March - April, November - December
  • Craft: Kayaks and Rafts

MIDDLE DANG CHHU (KICHU RESORT - DANG CHHU DOWNSTREAM)

  • Location: Wangduephodrang, Western/Central Bhutan
  • Length: 5 km (1.5 hours)
  • Difficulty: Class IV with three class V scouts
  • Flow: 400 - 500 cfs
  • Season: March - April, November - December
  • Craft: Kayaks. (Tips: rafts possible but only with crew and portages. It is time consuming but there are great runs at stretches)

PUNA TSANG CHHU - THE CANYON (KAMI CHHU - WAKLAYTAR)

  • Location:Wangduephodrang, Western/Central Bhutan
  • Length: Approximately 15 km (4 hours in kayaks with scouting, longer for rafts due to portages)
  • Difficulty: Class IV-V at low to medium flows, solid vat-high flows
  • Flow: 5000 - 7000 cfs
  • Season: March - April, November - December (Caution: a high water on this stretch can be extremely difficult. Not recommended for amateurs)
  • Craft: Kayaks. (Rafting possible with strong crews)

About a four-hour drive from Wangduephodrang is the central district of Trongsa, at an elevation of 2,000 m. It is the ancestral home of Bhutan's royal family and from where the first two kings ruled the kingdom. It was considered the most strategic of Bhutan's districts.

The resplendent Trongsa Dzong can be seen about 20 km before you actually reach it. Its labyrinth of temples, corridors, offices and living quarters for the monks add up to a masterpiece in Bhutanese architecture that has been beautifully preserved.

MANGDE CHHU - UPPER SECTION (YUNDO CHOLING PALACE - LANGTHEL)

  • Location: Trongsa, Central Bhutan
  • Length: Approximately 5 km (2 hours with scouting)
  • Difficulty: Class IV
  • Flow: Approximately 3000 cfs
  • Season: March - April, November - December
  • Craft: Kayaks

MANGDE CHHU - EMA DATSI CANYON (LANGTHEL - RAYFAY)

  • Location: Trongsa, Central Bhutan
  • Length: Approximately 7 km (3 hours with scouting)
  • Difficulty: Pool drop class III-IV at medium flows
  • Flow: Approximately 3000 cfs
  • Season: March - April, November - December (Caution: high water makes this section very dangerous. Not recommended for amateurs)
  • Craft: Only Kayaks

EMA DATSI CANYON - KEVORKIAN CANYON (RAYFAY - TINGTIBI)

  • Location: Trongsa, Central Bhutan
  • Length: Approximately 50 km (2-river days)
  • Difficulty: Class V -VI at low to medium flows
  • Flow: Approximately 3000 cfs
  • Season: March - April, November - December (Caution: high water runs not recommended for amateurs)
  • Craft: Only Kayaks

Bumthang is one of the 20 districts comprising Bhutan. It is the most historic dzongkhag if the number of ancient temples and sacred sites were to be accounted. Bumthang is made up of the four main valleys of Ura, Chumey, Tang and Choekor- although all the valleys are generally referred to as Bumthang.

Bumthang's main claims to fame, besides its Swiss like landscape, are buckwheat, diary, honey and apples among other products.

The language spoken in the Bumthang district is known as Bumthangkha, although each of the four valleys have their own dialects.

CHAMKHAR CHHU - THANKBI

  • Location: Bumthang, central Bhutan
  • Length: Approximately 5 km (2 hours)
  • Difficulty: Class ll, one class lll
  • Flow: 900 - 1500 cfs
  • Season: March - April, November - December (Caution: a high water in this section is extremely dangerous. Not recommended for amateurs)
  • Craft: Only Kayaks

TANG CHHU - MISITANG TANG

  • Location: Bumthang, central Bhutan
  • Length: 10 Km (3 hour)
  • Difficulty: Class III and IV (including one of the only class VI piece of flat water in the world)
  • Flow: 400 -8000 cfs
  • Season: March - April, November - December (Tips: a high water run is possible with good scouting)
  • Craft: Kayaking only, portage is not an option

Your Name

Your Email

Country Name

Number of Adults

Number of Children

Place of Entry

Place of Exit

Arrival date

Departure date

Your Message