There’s no rush like that of being on top of speeding whitewater; feeling the rapid waves assaulting the kayak, shaking and trembling in the aggressive waters below.
Most experienced kayakers are always on the lookout for fresh, exciting new spots to really challenge their abilities. So, whether you’re a practiced pro or a beginner looking to learn the ropes, we’re sure you’ll find your next travel destination somewhere on this essential kayak list!
First off, let’s take a look at what whitewater actually is:
The technical definition of whitewater is:
Water formed in a rapid, where the gradient of a lake or similar body is steep enough to generate significant turbulence. Air is trapped in the water, forming a drastically unstable current that begins to froth.
Put simply, this means that water traveling steeply downhill is more likely to pick up a LOT of speed, generating an ongoing rapid. The speed of the water along with the generated waves (and release of air) makes it look as if the surface is white!
Now, whitewater is VERY dangerous -, especially to beginners. If you’re new to kayaking, make sure to read our beginners guide to kayaking.
Now that we’ve covered the basics – let’s get right into it. Here are the best whitewater destinations for kayakers in the world:
Sjoa River, Norway
Norway is known for its vast valleys, elegant scenery and incredible views – but Jotunheimen mountains hold a well-contained secret: the Sjoa River.
The raging waters flow eastward in an intimidating rapid, making it an exciting destination for kayaking in Norway. It’s important to come prepared, though – the waters can be incredibly dangerous, especially to inexperienced or beginner kayakers.
Before you head out, make sure you really have the basics of whitewater kayaking down, and pack appropriately!
Inn River, Austria
Another truly gorgeous European destination, Austria boasts millions of tourists every year – though few are aware of the hidden beauty at the Inn River.
Don’t let the name fool you, as you won’t find hospitality here! The waters are endlessly aggressive, proving to be a challenge for even the most experienced rafters. If you’re looking for a rewarding kayak experience in Europe, look no further that the prestigious Inn River.
You can’t expect it to be easy, so we strongly recommend that you take your best whitewater gear with you!
Welsh National White Water Centre, UK
Maybe you’re a beginner when it comes to navigating the treacherous whitewater of the world – if you’re looking to get a feel for the sport, you might not need to travel any further than Wales.
The Welsh National White Water Centre is a perfect, controlled environment that comes with its own set of difficulties. Whilst there certainly are some challenging routes for visitors to attempt, there are plenty of learning opportunities too!
You’ll need to book in advance, but don’t worry: it’s well worth the visit.
Kaituna River, New Zealand
One of the most difficult kayak trips in the world, Kaituna River boasts a large stretch of violent white warder for you to test your skills on. Be careful, though, as there’s plenty of debris to throw you off your game!
The 45km stretch of river weaves effortlessly through the dense woodlands of NZ, forcing you to be on high alert as you tumble through the waves.
The journey will almost certainly pay off. Cliff valleys and waterfalls aren’t just an obstacle; they make for some great photo ops too!
Nile River, Zambia
The Nile River has a reputation, though perhaps not for kayakers! The dangerous stretch of water is known for being home to an abundance of dangerous African wildlife, so don’t let your guard down!
The large body of flowing water contains many hidden hazards, from rocks and trees to the remains of kayaks gone by. To make sure that you’re safe, protected and really at the top of your game, brush up on things to avoid when kayaking.
Mae Taeng River, Thailand
Thailand is a wondrous place; miles on miles of drop-dead views, set to the backdrop of peaceful mountains reaching out into the horizon. One such mountain range, the Daen Lao Range, marks the start of the Mae Taeng River.
The large, inviting river attracts plenty of eager kayakers, providing easy stretches for newbies to practice on, as well as tight, rock-strewn valleys that even the professionals might have a hard time with.
Thailand, being an island nation, also has a plethora of beaches perfect for diving. So, if you’re hoping to combine the two activities into one trip, make sure to bring the best kayak for snorkelling!
Grand Canyon, Arizona
The Grand Canyon has a reputation for being dry, so most people don’t realise the potential it holds for a whitewater adventure in the USA.
Whilst at first glance the route might look easy, don’t let yourself be fooled. The waters may look stiller than most, with no rocks or trees in sight, but the river runs directly through the formidable canyons. Prepare yourself for sharp bends and concealed obstructions hidden in the sandy cliffs of Arizona.
Here are some helpful tips on how to turn your kayak – it’s better to be safe than sorry!
The Alsek, Alaska
The snow-capped mountains and free-roaming glaciers of Alaska are an iconic part of the state’s iconic imagery, and perhaps what makes the Alsek one of the best whitewater destinations for kayakers.
Widely cited as being an essential destination, it’s a long stretch of water that hides countless adventures for both beginners and practiced kayakers to test their skills.
Watch out for stray ice sheets; they can be hard to spot in the frothy river waters and can EASILY capsize your boat!
We know that kayaking can become an insatiable hobby, with many thrill-seekers like you always on the lookout for the next challenge. Here are a few more of the best places to kayak, great for beginners and seasoned boatsmen alike.