There are numerous fine rivers in Nepal which offer excellent
rafting or canoeing. You can glide on calm jade water with a
magnificence of scenery all bout or rush through roaring white
rapids, in the care of expel river men employed by government
authorized agencies. One can opt for a day of river running or
The Karnali is a gem, combining a lowland trek with some of
the prettiest canyons and jungle scenery available in Nepal.
Most experienced river people who have boated the Karnali find
it one of the best all-round river trips they've ever done. In
high water, the Karnali is a serious commitment, combining
huge, though fairly straightforward, rapids with a seriously
remote location. At low water the Karnali is still a fantastic
trip. The rapids become smaller, but the steeper gradient and
constricted channel of the Karnali keep it interesting.
Being the longest and largest river in all of Nepal, the
Karnali drains a huge and well-developed catchments. Spring
snow-melts can drive the river up dramatically in a matter of
hours - as the river rises the difficulty increases
exponentially. The river flows through some steep and
constricted canyons where the rapids are close together,
giving little opportunity to correct for potential mistakes.
Pick your company carefully.
The trip starts with a long but interesting bus ride over to
the remote far west of Nepal. If you're allergic to bus rides,
it's possible to fly to Nepalganj and cut the bus transport
down to about five hours on the way over, and two hours on the
way back. From the frontier town of Surkhet there is a lovely
two day trek through lowland Sal forests to the village of
Sauli. From Sauli it's 180km to the next road access at
Chisopani, on the northern border of the Royal Bardia National
The river section takes about seven days, giving plenty of
time to explore some of the side canyons and waterfalls which
come into the river valley. Better-run trips also include a
lay over day, where the expedition stays at the same camp site
for two nights. The combination of long bus rides and trekking
puts some people off, but anyone who has ever done the trip
invariably raves about it. Finish with a visit to the Royal
Bardia National Park at the end for an unbeatable combination.
This is the longest river trip offered in Nepal, traversing
270km through the beautiful Mahabharat Range on it's
meandering way from the put in at Dolalghat to the take out at
Chatara, far down on the Genetic Plain. Its quite an
experience to begin a river trip just three hours out of
Kathmandu, barely 60km from the Tibetan border, and end the
trip looking down the hot, dusty gun barrel of the north
Indian plain just nine or 10 days later. Because it's one of
the easiest trips to organize logistically, it's also one of
the least expensive for the days you spend on a river.
The Sun Kosi starts off fairly relaxed, with class 2 and small
class 3 rapids to warm up on during the first couple of days.
Savvy guides will take this opportunity to get the teams
working together with precision, as on the third day the
rapids become more powerful and frequent, and those on high
water trips find themselves astonished at just how big a wave
in a river can get. While the lower sections of large volume
rivers are usually rather flat, the Sun Kosi reserves some of
its biggest and best rapids for the last days. At the right
flow it's an incredible combination of white water, scenery,
villages, and truly quiet and introspective evenings along
what many people consider to be one of the world's 10 classic
Just out of Kathmandu, the Trisuli is where the bulk of the
commercial trips operate due to the easy access. Without a
doubt this is the cheapest trip available in Nepal - if you
sign onto a $20 a day raft trip, this is where you'll end up,
and it's no wonder.
What makes the Trisuli so cheap is also what makes it one of
the least desirable rafting trips in the country. The easy
access is provided by the Prithvi Hwy, which is the only
highway connecting Kathmandu and India, and it runs right
alongside the river. During most flows the rapids are
straightforward and spread well apart. The large number of
companies operating on the river drives the prices down, but
it also detracts considerably from the experience of the trip.
Beaches are often heavily used and abused, with garbage,
toilet paper and fire pits well assimilated into the sand.
This, combined with the noise and pollution of the highway,
makes the Trisuli a less than ideal rafting experience.
It's not all bad news though.
During the monsoon months the Trisuli changes character
completely as huge run-offs make the river swell and shear
like an immense ribbon of churning ocean. There are fewer
companies running at this time of the year, and the garbage
and excrement of the past season is well on it's way to
Bangladesh as topsoil.
The best white water is found on the section between Baireni
and Mugling, and trips on the Trisuli can be combined with
trips to Pokhara or Chitwan.
The Kali Gandaki is an excellent alternative to the Trisuli,
as there is no road alongside, and the scenery, villages, and
temples all combine to make it a great trip.
The rapids on the Kali Gandaki are much more technical and
continuous than on the Trisuli (class 3 to 4 depending on the
flows), and in high water it's no place to be unless you are
an accomplished kayaker experienced in avoiding big holes. At
medium and lower flows, it's a fun and challenging river with
rapids keeping you busy for three full days.
Being one of the holiest rivers in Nepal, every river junction
on the Kali Gandaki is dotted with cremation sites and
aboveground burial mounds. If you've been wondering whats
under that pile of rocks, we recommend against exploring. Due
to the recent construction of a dam at the confluence with the
Andhi Khola, what was once a four to five day trip has now
become a three day trip, starting at Baglung and taking out at
the dam site. At very high flows it will probably be possible
to run the full five day trip to Ramdhighat by just portaging
the dam site. This option would add some great white water and
you could visit the wonderful derelict palace at Ranighat,
which is slowly being taken over by the surrounding jungle.
It's a fantastic place to stop and have a look around.
If you are able to raft to Ramdhighat on the Siddhartha Hwy
between Pokhara and Sunauli, you could continue on to the
confluence with the Trisuli at Devghat. This adds another
130km and three or four more days. The lower section below
Ramdhighat doesn't have much white water, but it is seldom
rafted and offers a very isolated area with lots of wildlife.
The Seti is an excellent two-day trip in an isolated area,
with beautiful jungle and plenty of easy rapids. Beware of
companies who market this as a hot white-water trip. While
it's a beautiful river valley well worth rafting, it's not a
The logical starting point is Damauli on the
Kathmandu-Pokhara (Prithvi) Hwy between Mugling and Pokhara.
This would give you 32km of rafting to the confluence with the
Trisuli River. This is an excellent trip for
It is possible to raft a higher section, starting at Dule
Gouda, which would add another 30km, but considering the
quality of the rapids it probably isn't worth it. Beware if
you decide to try the upper section of the river as it
disappears underground above Dule Gouda! Perhaps this is what
they refer to as class 6.
Just three hours from Kathmandu, the Bhote Kosi is one of the
best two-day raft trips to be found anywhere in the world. The
Bhote is one of the most recently opened rivers in Nepal, and
represents the forefront of river rafting.
The Bhote Kosi is the steepest river rafted in Nepal -
technical and totally committing. With a gradient of 80 feet
per mile (24m per 1.6km), it's a full eight times as steep as
the Sun Kosi, which it feeds farther downstream. The rapids
are steep and continuous class 4, with a lot of Continuous
class 3 in between.
The normal run is from approximately Hwy Km 95 (above Barabise)
to the dam at Lamosangu. The river has been kayaked above this
point, but a raft trip here would not be recreational. At high
flows several of the rapids become solid class 5, and
consequences for mistakes on the entire river will become
This river is one of the most fun
things you can do right out of Kathmandu and a great way to
get an adrenaline fix during the low water months, but it
should only be attempted with a company who has a lot of
experience on the Bhote Kosi, and is running the absolute best
safety equipment and guides.
Sun Kosi River
Not to be confused with the Bhote Kosi which finishes at
Lamosangu, the upper Sun Kosi is a fun 20km stretch of easy
class 2 water and beautiful scenery. From Khadichour to
Dolighat the river is crystal blue, with brilliant beaches on
which to picnic. A great place for a short family trip.
The Marsyangdi is one of the best whitewater runs in the
world. The trip starts with a class 5 bus ride from Dumre to
Besisahar, which is a good opportunity to steel your nerves
and awaken your fight-or-flight responses. If you make it to
Besisahar intact, you're in for a beautiful trek up to the
village of Ngadi. with great views of the Manaslu and the
Annapurnas ahead of you the whole time. The scenery is
From Ngadi downstream to the end of the trip at Bimalnagar,
it's pretty much solid white water. Rapids are steep,
technical, and consecutive, making the Marsyangdi a serious
undertakine. Like the Bhote Kosi successful navigation of the
Marsyangdi is dependent on companies having previous
experience on the river, and using the absolute best guides
and equipment. Rafts must be self bailing, and should be
running with a minimum of weight and gear on board.
Professional safety kayakers should be considered a standard
safety measure on this river.
For people looking for a six to seven day trip with lots of
demanding white water and great mountain scenery, the
Marsyangdi is hard to beat.