This is the longest and largest river in Nepal, springing from the sacred mountain of Mount Kailash in Tibet. This trip combines 4 epic days of intense whitewater followed by a more gentle float where you can soak up all the mind-blowing scenery. Finishing at Bardia National Park, you can combine this trip with a few days in the park on safari looking for tigers.


  • Awesome whitewater in combination with gentle float trip
  • One of the most remote river trips in Nepal
  • Taking out at Bardia National Park, Nepal's largest jungle park
  • A 7 km gorge - basically one really long rapid!


Enjoying isolated and remote beaches at night, this journey truly is the trip of a lifetime. It gives you a taste of Nepal not many get to see. Away from the crowded trekking trails, it will just be you, the river and the occasional village that you pass.

Duration 13 days

Grade (Class) IV / IV+

Put in Dungeswar (20-hour drive or 1-hour flight from Kathmandu)
Take out Chisapani (15-hour drive or 40-min flight to Kathmandu)

Best season October to November, April to June

Best season

The very best time to run this river is mid-October through to the end of November, followed by April to June. In October, the river will be high after the monsoon rains making this a wild ride through Himalayan rapids. April will be a little quieter, but great for intermediate paddlers wanting to improve their skills. No matter what time of year you go, the gorges and surroundings will be beautiful and full of wildlife.

The above photos were taken by Maila Gurung.
Plan your trip to Nepal
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Experience required

For rafters, no previous experience is required. Your river guides will have all the experience you need and will give you a full safety briefing and instructions at the beginning to make sure you are comfortable with all the commands. Just make sure you bring your sense of adventure!

For kayakers, you will need to be a confident Grade IV boater. The first 4 days have some large, big volume Grade IV+ rapids. After day 4, the river flattens out and becomes much calmer, giving you time to soak up the scenery.

Getting there & away

This is one of the more remote river expeditions available in Nepal, which makes getting there all part of the fun! For the budget traveler, it is a 20-hour bus journey from Kathmandu, or the more preferred option is to catch a flight from Kathmandu to Nepaljung, where your rafting crew will meet you at the airport. It is then a shorter 5-hour drive to the put in.

Accommodation & meals

It is all about camping on the Karnali river! There are plenty of sandy beaches dotted the whole way down the river for you to camp on. Every day when you arrive, the tents will be set up and camp will be made for the night, and everything will be packed up again at the start of the next day. There will be no electricity or wifi along the route, so solar charges are recommended to keep your camera batteries charged. You can however get mobile signal for the majority of the trip.

For your meals, you will be pleasantly surprised at the astounding meals your raft guides can rustle up over gas stoves and open fires. All the food and kitchen travels down with the cargo raft. You can expect cooked breakfasts, salads, pastas, Dal Bhat (the local speciality), steaks, lasagna and curries to name a few!

The above photos were taken by Maila Gurung.

Detailed itinerary

Most itineraries are around 10 days. This is the suggested itinerary, supplied to us from GRG's Adventure Kayaking

Day 1: Welcome to Kathmandu!

The cityscape of Kathmandu and Boudhanath Stupa
The cityscape of Kathmandu and Boudhanath Stupa

As you fly into Kathmandu, you'll have beautiful views over the valley, the Himalaya, and of the terraced fields below. After going through customs, a representative will be waiting to guide you through the initial culture shock of Kathmandu’s narrow, winding streets and get you settled into your hotel. Once you've settled in, head out and visit one of Kathmandu's cultural highlights. In the evening, the tourist hub of Thamel is a good place to grab your first meal, with a variety of restaurants to chose from offering both Western and local Nepali dishes.

Day 2: Explore Kathmandu

Boudhanath Stupa
Boudhanath Stupa

Kathmandu has a special atmosphere during the early morning hours when the city is slowly coming to life yet not too chaotic. It's a great time to walk and explore the streets or have a chai overlooking one of the local courtyards or durbar squares. There are a number of ways you can spend the day given the many incredible sights around the Kathmandu Valley. Later in the evening, head out for dinner at one of the city's great eateries, or your specialist can arrange a home-cooked dinner with a local family.

Day 3

Those on a budget will leave in the afternoon from Kathmandu after loading the bus up and drive to Surkhet and spend the night in a hotel.

Day 4

If you opted for a flight, you will catch an early morning flight to Nepaljung and the gear bus will collect you from there. You will then continue the drive to the put-in point, where you will camp for the night.

Days 5-10

The day you have all been waiting for - the rafting begins! Although it does take a long time to get there, it is totally worth it. The next 6 days are full of adventure! Big, Himalayan rapids such as 'Jail House' and 'Gods House' will get your adrenaline pumping before you relax and float the rest of the way down the river.

Day 11

Your last day on the water. You will paddle to the take-out point at Chisopani, unload the gear for one last time and jump on the waiting bus/plane back to Kathmandu. Or, as you are in the area, you can spend a few chill-out days at Bardia National Park (see #5) looking for wild elephants, tigers, and freshwater dolphins before returning to Kathmandu. If you are flying, you will arrive back in the evening to Kathmandu.

Day 12

After a long 18-hour drive (or a quick half-hour flight depending on your budget), you will finally arrive in Kathmandu, ready for a good shower and a nap!

Day 13: Depart Kathmandu

Swayambhunath Temple
Swayambhunath Temple

Time to say farewell to Nepal. Enjoy your last moments in Kathmandu with breakfast in a café, a city stroll, and/or souvenir shopping. A representative will meet you at your hotel and drive you to the airport for your return flight home. It's good to be at the airport at least two hours prior to departure.


Map of Karnali Rafting & Kayaking - 13 Days
Map of Karnali Rafting & Kayaking - 13 Days