The Best White-Water Rafting Destinations In Europe

White water rafting is an extreme sport that is popular in many areas around the world.
White water rafting is an extreme sport that is popular in many areas around the world.

White-water rafting is an outdoor recreational activity which involves navigating rough waters using an inflatable raft. In some sections of rivers, rafting is an extreme sport which can turn out fatal. People wishing to enjoy this exhilarating sport should know the difficulty of each run. The rapids have different grades from I to V ranging from lowest to toughest. Adrenaline junkies take rough waters compared to families involved in white-water rafting. Rafting competitions occur at the world level with coordination from the International Rafting Federation. Europe has several world-renowned destinations for white-water rafting. The best times to undertake the activity is from May to October.

Sjoa River, Norway

Sjoa River is in Norway arising from Lake Gjende and drains into River Gudbrandsdalslagen. The river has a rapid rating of Class II-IV. Several companies offer rafting and other activities at the river, which attracts tourists from the whole of Europe. Sjoa accommodates all levels of rafting and welcomes first-timers, families, and experienced paddlers. The most renowned trip on the river is through Heidal on middle Sjoa covering a length of about 10 miles. This trip goes through popular rapids but avoids the expert-rated ones. It is impossible to raft in some parts of River Sjoa with the local rafting providers considering them “death traps.” Other highlights on Sjoa River include chutes, canyons, and camping on beaches among other activities making it a busy region. The area has refined local services combining sauna and hearty food after the rafting activity for warmth.

Noce River, Italy

Noce River runs through Val di Sole; a valley also referred to as the Valley of the Sun, in North Italy. The river has a rapid rating of Class III-V. The National Geographic recognizes Noce River as among the top ten white-water rafting destinations in the world. The rafting areas have a stunning background comprising the Dolomites mountain range. The navigable waters in Noce River run for more than 16 miles and cater for all types of paddlers with less-experienced ones using the stretches between Piano and Dimaro or from Fucine to Mezzana. The area has various activities apart from white-water rafting including cycling, skiing, and mountain climbing. Noce River reaches its highest level between May and September, making this the best time to visit. Noce River has several rafting centers which provide equipment and gears to visitors. The Rafting Center Val di Sole, an affiliate of the Italian Rafting Federation, is an official rafting school with qualified guides.

Inn River, Austria

The Inn River is a tributary of Danube River and runs through Austria, Switzerland, and Germany with a length of 322 miles. Originating in Switzerland from Lake Lughino, Inn River gathers more speed through the Swiss Alps and enters Austria. The Tyrol region in Austria where the river passes through caters for white-water rafters of all levels. Inn River has a rapid rating of Class III-V with two main sections. The stretch through Landeck Gorge is about 5 miles long with the first 1.2 miles being Class V and the rest is Class IV+. The Imst Gorge provides white-waters of Class III+ running for between 8.7 to 10.6 miles. The best rafting time is from June to August in Austria’s summer season.

Una River, Croatia

Una River serves as a natural border between Croatia and Bosnia and flows through Una National Park. The river has a rapid rating of Class I-IV with exciting rafting beginning just below Strbacki Buk Waterfall, which has a height of 59 feet. The best time for white-water rafting is from April to October. Una River accepts rafters of all experiences with calm sections for children and families. The rafting center at Bihac has guides who provide the necessary equipment and help visitors to choose from three different routes based on adventure levels. The region has stunning beauty with unspoiled nature.

Rhine River, Switzerland

Rhine River flows through Central and Western Europe and drains into the North Sea with a length of about 760 miles. Switzerland is a popular skiing destination and a prime haven for white-water rafting. Rhine River’s portion in Switzerland is in Graubunden, and the river has a rapid rating of Class III-IV with trips from May to October. The Vorderrhein Gorge is a favorite section offering ten miles of rafting waters with views of the Alpine scenery. Rhine River does not provide a challenge to experienced rafters. However, the river is perfect for daring first-timers and those with intermediate experience.

Tara River, Montenegro

The largest portion of Tara River flows through Montenegro with a length of about 64 miles. The river is 89 miles in length with the remaining portion in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tara River has a rapid rating of Class III-IV. Tara River Gorge is in Durmitor National Park and enjoys protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. More adventurous rafters frequent a steep section running between Brstanovica and Scepan Polje, 11 miles long. This stretch has 21 splashy rapids, waterfalls, and beautiful scenery. Popular rafting packages at Tara River include Family Outdoor Adventure, One Day High Rafting Adventure, Splashdown Scouts, and Three Day Ultimate Rafting Experience.

Neretva River, Bosnia and Herzegovina

The Neretva River flows through Bosnia and Herzegovina and heads down to Croatia before draining into the Adriatic Sea with a length of 140 miles. The river has a rapid rating of Class II-IV. Upper Neretva River is an excellent destination for white-water rafting. Some trips start at Glavaticevo and end at Konjic Bridge, a distance of about 12.4 miles in length. The best rafting season is from May to October. Visitors enjoy deep canyon walls and crystal clear water. Other activities enjoyed at the river include diving, swimming, and sun-bathing.


White-water rafting is one of the most dangerous sports, particularly if the safety precautions are disregarded. As a result of the precautions that have become part of the sports, fatalities are now a rare occurrence and it is estimated that fatalities range between 0.55% and 0.86% for every 100,000 people. Similarly, injuries as a result of rafting are low and typical injuries associated with the sport include overuse injuries, traumatic stress, and submersion. There are numerous safety regulations that cover both commercial and do-it-yourself rafting and range from mandatory wearing of life jackets, throwable floatation equipment, whistles, to certification outfitters. All rafters are advised to discuss the safety measures with the commercial rafting operators before signing up for a trip.


More in Travel