Looking for something just a bit more extreme than a dip in the pool or paddle in the sea? Why not try your hand at whitewater rafting, a beginner-friendly way to get your adrenaline pumping that can be enjoyed internationally.
Before jumping in it’s important to recognise that there are dangers involved. A grade 5 or 6 river will generally include substantive drops, hazardous rocks and rapids that are incredibly difficult to navigate. Such runs are best left to veterans. However, grade 1-2 runs are well within the grasp of a beginner and, this being an addictive sport, successfully traversing a grade 3 or 4 is a reasonable target for those with moderate experience.
Although many of the best spots for rafting are to be found in the Americas, Europe is also home to some choice spots, here we look at some of our favourites:
The Rhine River, Switzerland
Known as a sedate land of cuckoo clocks, chocolate and private bank accounts, Switzerland is also home to some of the world’s best rafting conditions. The Vorderrhein is one of two river sources to the mighty Rhine and begins at Toma Lake, near Andermatt in Graubunden.
The Vorderrhein’s gorge between Ilanz and Reichenau is one of the most beautiful river stretches in Switzerland, and is sometimes known as the “Swiss Grand Canyon” thanks to its steep chalk walls and massive gravel hills. These unique natural features have also created an enviable water system with numerous rock towers, swells and break offs.
This area is replant with facilities for raft rental and instruction and is a great location for beginners to try their hand. For those who prefer to stay on dry land Graubunden is home to great walking, cycling and climbing facilities.
Noce River, Italy
The Noce River has received no shortage of recognition for its fantastic conditions for river sports. Indeed, acclaimed title ‘National Geographic’ placed it ninth in its top 10 rivers for whitewater rafting – the only European river to make the cut. Similar praise has come from ‘Lonely Planet’, who confirmed that it is perhaps Europe’s best river for thrill seekers.
So just what is it about the Noce River?
It rises near the Corno dei Tre Signori in the Ortles-Cevedale Mountains and runs to the Noce Bianco. Across this long, winding route are a myriad of challenges – from fast-flowing rapids to fast corners and steep drop offs. Not all of these are for the faint hearted or inexperienced, so do check out a local guide before you depart. Whatever your level there are options to get involved and to soak up the stunning forestry and mountain scenery from a raft.
Una River, Bosnia & Herzegovina
While Croatia has been enjoying a ‘moment’ for the past few summers, travellers would do well to look further along the Adriatic coast to Bosnia and Herzegovina. Not only does the country enjoy a balmy Mediterranean climate, but it is modernising rapidly. Recently it attracted the third highest rate of tourism growth internationally, and it is worth heading to this, relatively, undiscovered country before it hits the big time.
Bosnia has, however, long been known as a great place to go rafting. The Una river, which straddles the border with Croatia is home to the majestic Strbacki Buk waterfalls and is fenced in by lush, dense forests. The water is known for being glass clear and is ideally suited to swimming in the warmer months. Certainly rafting here will offer some great opportunities for relaxation and soaking up some rays before getting on with the tough task of paddling.
Farnebofjarden Park is a fantastic location for a family rafting or canoeing trip. It sits on the Dalalven River and covers over 10,000 hectares of lush forest, lakes and streams. Nature is plentiful here, with elk, beaver, otter, bear and lynx all found locally.
While the routes above are typified by rapids and strong currents, Farnebofjarden is a great place to take things easy and to gently drift with the current. Given the number of waterways, visitors are invited to explore the area by boat and really get to grips with everything the stunning biodiversity on offer.