9 Great European Whitewater Kayaking Destinations

Reading an in-flight magazine en route to a kayaking trip overseas, is rarely inspirational, especially when you consider the price of beer and a sandwich, but there is one page that has always sparked my interest. Now that a number of low coast airlines allow the intrepid whitewater kayaking explorer to travel with kayak in tow, the destination map can often open new horizons…

Morocco

When: May
Why: One of the most adventurous whitewater, or indeed, surf kayaking, destinations that are accessible on budget airlines. Morocco can offer whitewater rivers of an easy grade in stunning locations within a country with a very different culture. Levels can vary but there are plenty of other adventures to be had without a kayak and surf can be found on the west coast, making this a popular destination with surfers and kayak surfers alike. This destination requires a little more planning and could be the ideal introduction into expedition whitewater kayaking.
Airports: Marrakesh but Casablanca is also an option.

Corsica

When: April
Why: Rugged mountains, early season sunshine and the promise of classic, steep granite whitewater kayaking runs make Corsica a popular destination for many whitewater kayakers looking for challenging waters. With many steep creeks and its own independent culture, there are lots to do. Rivers like the Travo and Taravo will leave you grinning and the rugged nature of the island give an air of wilderness that is hard to come by in other European destinations. Corsica also offers some truly stunning paddling for those looking for some sun-soaked sea kayaking too!
Airport: direct to Ajaccio or flight to Nice followed by a ferry.

Portugal

When: December through to January
Why: Great food, proximity to amazing kayak surfing and granite creeks bursting with top-notch whitewater kayaking action make this an attractive place to celebrate the New Year. This destination is rain dependent but hides some excellent whitewater rivers with some fantastic granite rapids and some impressive loss of gradient. With plenty of other alternative activities when the levels are on the low side, this could be the perfect destination to sneak some whitewater kayaking in under pressure from the family or the other half!
Airport: Porto

Austria

When: July-Mid-August
Why: Big and bouncy, fast and technical, grade 2-6 whitewater, Austria has it all in a relatively small space. Some of the Swiss Inn gorges, along with great little runs like the Risbach and Loisach rivers over the border into Germany are all within striking distance in a day if you base yourself in or around the Landeck area or Ötztal.
Airports: Innsbruck is closest, but flights tend to be more regular and cheaper to Munich, just a couple of hours drive away.

Slovenia

When: May-July
Why: A stunning, relatively quiet, relaxed and inexpensive whitewater kayaking destination that’s been growing steadily in popularity in recent years. Some of the grade 2 sections of the Socca River, the main destination for whitewater kayakers withing Slovenia, offer panoramic mountain views, as do some of its interesting little grade 2/3 tributaries. There is also the odd gorge section thrown in if you’d like to push yourself.
Airport: Ljubljana is only a couple of hours away.

Pyrenees, France

When: Last week of April into May
Why: Often neglected, the Pyrenees offer a wide range of rivers away from the crowds with the potential for some excellent wild camping. The whitewater rivers range from grade 2 to grade 6 with high volume runs to steep creeking. You also have the benefit of two cultures and two climates with both the French and Spanish sides offering their own unique experience.
Airport: Good rivers can be accessed within an hour and a half from Toulouse airport.

The French Alps

When: Late May- July
Why: An incredibly popular whitewater kayaking playground with rivers to suit every level, and a great mix of big volume and steeper and more technical. There are so many whitewater rivers in the vast area that you could return for many years and still find new things. If you really want to push yourself, levels are much higher earlier in the season, and decrease towards the end as the snowpack dwindles.
Airports: A few hours drive from either Lyon or Turin.

Italy and Switzerland

When: May into the first two weeks of June
Why: Fantastic rapids on smooth granite in close proximity to fine pizza and pasta have attracted whitewater kayakers to the region in ever increasing numbers. Classics such as the Gronda, Sorba, Sermenza and Verzasca will erase any pain that an extended period in duty-free can cause and large quantities of Italian wine will cancel out any regrets on missed whisky offers. Head away from the mountains to the Italian coastline
Airports: Milan or Turin

Greece

When: April – May
Why: Greece’s whitewater kayaking rivers are not widely known about, but the country is home to some stunning and remote rivers that offer both world class whitewater kayaking adventures and, for those who want it, a wilderness kayaking exploration experience.
Airport: Athens