Where to Find the Best Whitewater Rafting in Europe

5 Min. Read

When you think of European travel, iconic images of London’s Big Ben, Rome’s Colosseum or Paris’ Eiffel Tower may slip into your mind at first thought versus, say, exhilarating whitewater. However, if you’re a bit of an adrenaline junkie, there’s no shortage of world-renowned whitewater rafting in Europe. If you go between May and October—prime paddling months—here’s where to find some of the best rafting in Europe.

7 of the Best Whitewater Rafting Trips in Europe

Where to find the best rafting in Europe: Sjoa River - Norway | Photo: Sjoa Rafting AS
Sjoa River Rafting in Norway | Photo courtesy Sjoa Rafting AS

1) Sjoa River, Norway

This name “Sjoa” actually translates into, “white water,” which is fitting for a world-class rafting destination. Norway’s popular Sjoa River pulls in tourists from all over the continent, because besides the fact that it’s absolutely stunning, the river caters to all rafting levels. From families and first-timers to the most experienced paddlers, you’ll be able to find the perfect run for your experience level through the narrow canyons and luscious waterfalls of this glacial-fed river. For the trip that put Norway rafting on the map, however, take on the middle Sjoa through Heidal, which offers nearly 10 miles of whitewater excitement through all of the well-known rapids, but avoids some of the river’s more expert-rated rapids. Rapid rating: Class II-IV

2) Noce River, Italy

In the tiny northeastern area of Italy, bordering Austria and Switzerland, sits the region of Trentino-Alto Adige, a breathtakingly beautiful landscape that looks more like a desktop screensaver than real life. This region is famous for encompassing a portion of the towering Dolomites and in the winter it’s a popular destination for snow bunnies in search of some epic skiing. Come summer, it’s a whole different story. In Val di Sole, also known as the Valley of the Sun, paddlers flock to the challenging Noce River. Recognized as one of the top ten best rivers for whitewater rafting in the world by National Geographic, the glacier-fed Noce River boasts a stretch of Class IV-V rapids that roar through the spectacular gorges of Mostizzolo all summer long. But with approximately 16 miles of navigable whitewater, less-experienced paddlers can also find fun and splashy rafting opportunities on the more moderate stretches between Fucine to Mezzana or from Piano to Dimaro. Rapid rating: Class III-V

Where to find the best whitewater rafting in Europe | Rhine River - Switzerland
Rhine River Rafting in Switzerland |Photo by Rosmari Voegtli/FlickrCC

3) Rhine River, Switzerland

As one of the most revered skiing destinations in the world, it should be no surprise that Switzerland is also a prime destination for whitewater rafters. And while there are many rivers throughout the Alps beckoning for adventurous travelers, the Vorderrhein—the headwaters of the Rhine River from Ilanz to Reichenau—should be at the top of any paddler’s list. Here, the aqua blue waters and dramatic canyon walls of the Ruinaulta, also known as the “Swiss Grand Canyon,” offer intermediate rafters and daring first-timers an exciting Class III-IV whitewater adventure on one of the most beautiful stretches of river in Switzerland. Rapid rating: Class III – IV

4) Inn River, Austria

With various rivers flowing into the area from the Alps and catering to all whitewater abilities, Austria’s Tyrol (or Tirol) region could be considered the epicenter of rafting in Europe. Expert rafters and kayakers flock to the area’s rivers during the summer months to challenge their abilities while beginners come to get their first taste of rafting. Yet it’s the Inn River that often gets credit as being the top spot for whitewater rafting in Tyrol. This crowd-pleaser offers an intense Class IV-V whitewater run through its Landeck Gorge, as well as a fun, Class III+ rollercoaster ride through its Imst Gorge. Regardless of which Inn River rafting trip is for you, one thing is for sure, it’s a powerful and thrilling river. Rapid rating: Class III-V

Where to find the best whitewater rafting in Europe | Tara River - Montenegro
Montenegro’s Tara River | Shutterstock

5) Tara River, Montenegro

The Tara River is not only one of the last wild rivers of Europe, it’s also one of the longest and deepest river canyon’s in the world (second only to the Grand Canyon in scope). Following the border of Montenegro, the Tara River Gorge is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of Durmitor National Park. While outfitters offer rafting trips on various stretches of the river through some 50 rapids, it’s the steep 11-mile section of the Tara River from Brstanovica to Scepan Polje that attracts the more adventurous. The “adrenaline” stretch, as it’s often called, offers beautiful scenery, waterfalls and 21 splashy Class III-IV rapids as it drops like a staircase with calm pools below each rapid. The water is so clear and pristine, you’ll want to scoop up a handful and taste it for yourself. Rapid rating: Class III-IV

6) Una River, Croatia

Scenic river canyons abound in the small country of Croatia, yet whitewater rafting is a relatively new outdoor pursuit here. And while adventure seekers have found their way to the Class IV Dobra River for more than a decade, it’s the Una River on the border of Croatia and Bosnia that might take “best” title for its take-your-breath-away beauty. The river caters to all experience levels, but the most exciting and technical rafting begins just downstream from Strbacki Buk Waterfall, one of the highest in this part of Europe, before flowing through Una National Park. More family-friendly stretches of the Una River offer smaller rapids but don’t skimp on the unspoiled beauty and nature. Rapid rating: Class I-IV

Where to find the best whitewater rafting in Europe | Neretva River - Bosnia
Neretva River Rafting in Bosnia | Photo by James Rodger 

7) Neretva River, Bosnia & Herzegovina

The Neretva River flows for 140 miles through Herzegovina and Bosnia before passing through Croatia where it ultimately reaches the Adriatic Sea. Near the city of Konjic in northern Herzegovina, however, the Upper Neretva’s signature emerald waters offer some of the most exciting whitewater rafting in Europe. Boasting both adrenaline-inducing moments and relaxing stretches for paddlers to cliff jump, swim and drink in the canyon’s pristine natural beauty, the Neretva is considered one of the top 1-day adventures in the region. Rapid rating: Class II-IV

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