Top 5 Rafting Trips in Nepal

When you think of Nepal, the first thing that probably springs to mind is Mt. Everest, the Himalaya, and trekking. Well, have you ever thought about it as a rafting destination?

In fact, Nepal is one of the best places in the world for whitewater rafting, which isn't that surprisingly when you consider they have some of the tallest mountains in the world. It truly is an adventurer's paradise.

The best thing is, anyone can do it - you don't have to be a pro to paddle in Nepal. With over 6000 rivers flowing through the country, there are plenty of choices. So which ones are the best? Here are our top 5 picks!

Sun Kosi - The River of Gold

Duration - 8 days Rafting on the Sun Kosi (Video credit: Maila Gurung)

Listed as one of the top ten rivers in the world by National Geographic, the Sun Kosi has to be on everyone's bucket list: eight days of whitewater rafting, the most pristine white sandy beaches that could beat even the most exotic beach holiday, Hindu temples, jungles, wildlife, local villages, waterfalls and stunning scenery.

Sun Kosi River
Hakapur, the largest rapid
Sun Kosi River
Whitewater on the Sun Kosi
Sun Kosi River
Hakapur rapid
Sun Kosi River
One of many sandy beaches
The above photos were taken by Maila Gurung.

This trip is great for novice or intermediate paddlers wanting to try an expedition but who haven't had as much experience in the past. If you can only pick one trip to do in Nepal, it has to be this one. There is nothing better than paddling during the day, enjoying campfires and BBQs at night, setting up camp and traveling on the following morning. It really is a very special way to travel.

Karnali - The Wild West

Duration - 10 days

Karnali river by Alex Treadway
(Photo credit: Alex Treadway)

This is one that you need to paddle quick. With hydropower becoming an increasingly popular way to create electricity in Nepal, many of the rivers are under threat, including the Karnali. A dam will soon change this river forever, so if you want to paddle this amazing river, we recommend you do it sooner rather than later. Take a look at our detailed itinerary for this trip.

Karnali River rafting
Stopped along the river side
Karnali River rafting
Crashing through rapids
Karnali River rafting
An evening camp
Karnali River rafting
Morning camp
The above photos were taken by Alex Treadway.

The first four days of this trip are the most exciting with big Grade IV rapids. The river then levels out and it's a nice float trip from then on. Famous for fishing and incredible gold gorges, if you're extremely lucky you might even catch a glimpse of the endangered fresh water dolphins that make the end of the Karnali river their home. Keep in mind that this river is more remote than some of the others, and getting there can be half the adventure!

Tamur - The Jewel in the East

Duration - 11 days Kayaking expedition on the Tamur from 2014 (Video credit: Maila Gurung)

For those looking for an all round more hardcore adventure, then it has to be the Tamur. This trip combines a Himalayan trek with what has been described by raft guides as some of the best whitewater in the world. The trip starts with three days trekking through the Himalaya with views of Everest, Makalu and Kanchenjunga, and a 3000m high pass.

Tamur River
Enjoying a quieter section of the river
Tamur River
Traditional bridges connecting remote villages
Tamur River
Some of the best whitewater in the world
Tamur River
Impressive gorges, beautiful scenery
The above photos were taken by Maila Gurung.

A highlight is the camp at Gufal Pokhari, a stunning lake with incredible views. Then you reach the river where the adventure has only just begun! The rafting starts with the two biggest rapids of the whole river. Nothing like a gentle warm up! There are non stop Class IV rapids pretty much for the entire journey (over 130 of them packed into 120km!). Adrenaline junkies only, please!

Trisuli

Duration - 1 day Rafting on the Trisuli River (Video credit: Maila Gurung)

If you don't have time for one of the classic multi-day trips, then the Trisuli could be just what you need. Many people use this river as an alternative method from getting from Kathmandu to Pokhara. Why sit on a bus for 8 hours when you can raft half of it! This river offers some great big volume rapids, which are bouncy, splashy, fun and safe. It also offers great spots for swimming, cliff jumps and cheeky monkeys!

Trisuli River
A happy groups of kayakers enjoying Nepali rivers
Trisuli River
Rafters getting ready for a cliff jump
Trisuli River
A perfect spot for lunch
Trisuli River
Rafting in the monsoon - big water, lush valleys
The above photos were taken by Maila Gurung.

This river is suited to all abilities and ages and is the most popular river in Nepal. On Saturdays, the river is packed with local tourists enjoying the river which is always a lot of fun. This river packs a punch during the monsoon months!

Kali Gandaki

Duration - 3 days

Kayaking the Kali Gandaki (Video credit: Michael Cross)

If you are short on time but looking for something more than a day-trip, then it has to be the Kali Gandaki, which starts from the Lakeside town of Pokhara. The Kali Gandaki is a 2-night / 3-day trip which gives you a small taste of a river expedition in Nepal.

Kali Gandaki River
Gear raft with the Annapurnas in the background
Kali Gandaki River
Hold on! Big brother Rapid!
Kali Gandaki River
Incredible views of the Himalaya as you paddle
Kali Gandaki River
Wild camping
The above photos were taken by Maila Gurung.

As you can see, no matter what time restraints you have there is a trip for you. Whether you are a beginner or a pro, looking for adventure or a relaxing trip, Nepal is most definitely the place to come for your white water rafting holiday. The best time of year for any of these trips is September to November, or April to June.

(This content and some of the photos were put together in part with the help of GRG Adventure Kayaking.)