Skip to Content

Top 5 Best Whitewater Adventures in the World

Top 5 Best Whitewater Adventures in the World

Strap on your helmet and secure your life jacket — these are the 5 most exhilarating and challenging whitewater adventures you’ll ever experience. Novices to whitewater kayaking and rafting, please note: these whitewater adventures are not for you! Put these Class III and up rapids on your bucket list and get in some major practice. You’ll need it before you attempt this monster runs:

Top 5 Best Whitewater Adventures in the World:

Tuolumne River, California, USA

Tuolumne River : Best Whitewater Adventures in the World
Photo: nwrafting

The Cherry Creek section of the Tuolumne River is probably the most challenging whitewater adventure in the United States. It’s 9 miles of Class V+ rapids with an average gradient of 110 feet per mile — and one section where you’ll drop 200 feet in the space of one short mile.

For a slightly less intense and longer run down this classic California river, put in at Meral’s Pool and travel 18 miles of Class IV rapids to Ward’s Ferry. The Tuolumne is located in the heart of the Sierra Nevadas, in some of California’s most beautiful mountain landscapes.

Whitewater season is especially long and welcoming here — any time between March and October you’re guaranteed a heart-stopping run through equally amazing scenery.

Sun Kosi River, Nepal

Sun Kosi River : Best Whitewater Adventures in the World
photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sun Kosi means “River of Gold,” and this mighty river fed by Himalayan glaciers is pure gold for adventure travelers. From your put-in at Dolalghat in central Nepal to your take-out almost 170 miles downriver at Chatra Gorge, you’ll navigate long stretches of Class V rapids through narrow gorges and mountain canyons.

Mix in great overnight camping on pristine white sand beaches, views of the legendary Himalayas, and a final stretch through tropical jungle filled with wildlife and you’ve got stories to last a lifetime. It takes about 10 days to complete the Sun Kosi River run, and it’s only accessible to commercial tours between September and January.

The rest of the year glacial melt triples the size of the river and makes it completely unrunnable.

Magpie River, Ontario, Canada

West Magpie Expedition with Boreal River on the West Magpie River
Watch this video on YouTube.

The Magpie River whitewater adventure is a challenge before you even get to the river. The only way to reach this remote region deep in the pine and spruce forests of eastern Quebec is by landing a floatplane on the chilly blue waters of Magpie Lake.

The fun starts almost as soon as you hit the water and continues as the river cuts its way through granite gorges and nearly endless sections of Class III and IV rapids.

If you’ve got time to take a look at the shoreline, you’ll likely see black bears, wolves, moose, and osprey. And at night, there are spectacular views of the Northern Lights. The 8-day run culminates in wild Class V rapids just downriver from Magpie Falls.

The best time to make this incredible river run is August through September — and make it soon, because this is currently an unprotected region and the local power company has long-term plans to dam it up.

Zambezi River, Zimbabwe/Zambia

Looking for an unforgettable one-day river run?

Most whitewater aficionados agree — there’s no better single-day run in the world than Batoka Gorge, at the foot of Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River. With 23 rapids in a compact 15-mile run, the treacherous Zambezi provides a lot of thrills packed into one thoroughly wet and wild day.

You’ll get a feel for the adrenaline rush of this trip just from the names of the Class IV and V rapids: “Gnashing Jaws of Death,” “Devil’s Toilet Bowl,” or “Commercial Suicide.”

Oh – and don’t forget the last section of this thrilling run. It’s called “Oblivion,” and only about a quarter of all rafters make it through here without flipping.

Primetime for running the Zambezi is July through mid-February when the water is low. An especially heavy rainy season may close the river entirely during April and May.

Rio Futaleufú, Chile

Rio Futaleufú, Chile : Best Whitewater Adventures in the World
Photo: jsouyris

Class V rapids in the daylight, showers, flush toilets, and gourmet meals at night — if this sounds like your version of paradise, head to the Rio Futaleufú in the Patagonian region of Chile. This brilliant turquoise river is fed by Andean glaciers, and it gets its striking color from the high mineral content of the mountain runoff.

Running the river by kayak or raft can be a full or half-day adventure — but there’s lots more to do here, with beautiful hiking trails, ziplining, horseback riding, and rock climbing all within close proximity to your whitewater destination.

Located in the middle of some of the world’s most spectacular scenery, the Rio Futaleufú is currently under consideration for a hydroelectric dam, so if you want to experience this amazing river, make your plans sooner rather than later.

Lock In Your Travel Now
Looking for Extra Travel Perks?
My favorite travel companion is The Platinum Card® from American Express, which gives me lounge access, Uber credits, upgrades, and plenty of other travel perks. If you want to find out the best travel rewards credit card for you, consider using CardMatch to instantly get matched to a travel rewards credit card that meets your travel needs.
Booking Flights

Use Skyscanner to book the cheapest flight possible. Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine as you can find flights around the globe and from every airline possible. You'll be in great shape to get the best price possible.

You must grab a free trial or join Scott's Cheap Flights Premium to get cheap flight alerts directly to your email inbox. My favorite cheap flight alert was 25,000 Delta SkyMiles to London non-stop.

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It's a low cost way to ensure your travel plans go smooth no matter what's thrown at it. Use World Nomads to find the best policy for your travel schedule.
Book Your Accommodation
In order to capture the widest selection of properties and the best price, use Booking.com as they have the cheapest rates for guesthouses, hotels, luxury condos, B&Bs and so much more.
Want More Destination Ideas Direct to Your Inbox?
Be sure to join the ViaTravelers Newsletter for expert tips, tricks and inspiration for your next travel journey!