Kayaking has become an increasingly popular way to explore the world. Whether you’re a seasoned kayaker or just starting out, you’ll find yourself equally as captivated and challenged by the diverse and full-throttle rivers that can take you to far-flung places and show you the world’s beauty in an entirely new way.

From roaring rapids bumbling through bustling cities and small towns, to floating down peaceful tributaries, there’s a kayaking route and a river for everyone.

What makes a river great for kayaking
Kayaking is about more than just fun and excitement. It requires an appreciation for the surrounding environment and an understanding of the safety and technical requirements which make a river great for kayaking.


Safety should always be at the forefront of kayaking and the environment should be taken into account. When experiencing rivers and rapids, it is best to become informed about the environment and the river’s conditions before you start. Map out the routes, take notice of potential obstacles, be aware of weather and any changes that may happen.

River difficulty

The difficulty level of a river will affect the type of kayaking you want to do. From beginner to advanced, some rivers are sparser and smoother and are better for those new to kayaking, while rougher rivers exist at higher levels and require experience, confidence and expertise.

Trading rapids 

Kayaking can be exhilarating and exciting, along with being mildly daunting and full of surprises. It’s important to know the difference between what is considered a ‘good’ rapid and a ‘bad’ one, as this will affect your overall kayaking experience and how comfortable you feel.

River environments

An important consideration when planning a kayaking trip is the surrounding environment of the river. You’ll need to make sure that you don’t have any restrictions on the environment, as this will affect where and when you can go.

Top 10 rivers for kayaking

Below is a list of the top 10 rivers for kayaking, each offering different terrains and levels of difficulty, with something to suit everyone.

  1. The Grand Canyon in the USA:
    The Grand Canyon is the culmination of over 6 million years of river-carved steep walls, visible from afar and the perfect spot for a kayaking adventure. Rapids, winding waterfalls and sliding rapids can be found on both the Upper and Lower sections of the Colorado River.

  2. The White Nile in Uganda:
    The White Nile is Uganda’s pride and joy. From a few gentle rapids to full-throttle roars and steep drops, the White Nile is surely the ultimate thrill ride.

  3. Zanskar River in India:
    The Zanskar River is the lifeline of the locals in the Himalayas, stretching over 150 km and featuring thundering rapids and rolling waves. It’s a must-visit if you want to experience an unforgettable high-altitude adventure.

  4. Yukon River in Canada:
    The Yukon River is a high-level, long-distance river with lots of rapids. It goes through Alaska and Canada, widening and contracting as it goes. It’s a great spot for kayakers of all levels looking for an unforgettable journey.

  5. Missouri River in the USA:
    The Missouri River boasts stunning vistas, offering an adventure of a lifetime. Sections of the Missouri River such as the Holter and Hauser Dam options are great for experienced paddlers, with Class III, Class IV and Class V rapids.

  6. Jalcomulco in Mexico:
    Jalcomulco, a small town nestled among lush jungle hills in Mexico, offers two exciting rivers to kayak down – the Jalcomulco and Rio Zacapu. From Class IV rapids and river gorges to calm, placid backwaters, you can enjoy it all here.

  7. Franklin River in Australia:
    The Franklin River is best known for its world-class rapids and its majestic beauty. This river is an ideal kayaking route for experienced kayakers, offering pristine rain forests and Class IV rapids to challenge and excite.

  8. Trishuli River in Nepal:
    The Trishuli River is a challenging class-III river, perfect for first-timers. The Trishuli is the best option if you are a beginner look for a relaxed introduction to river-based kayaking.

  9. Noce River in Italy:
    The Noce River has some of the most thrilling rapids in all of Europe, running through the heart of the Dolomite Mountains in Italy. It’s known as one of the most beautiful rivers in the world and is a great destination for kayakers and paddlers of all levels.

  10. Rangitata River in New Zealand:
    The Rangitata River is one of the most memorable kayaking routes in the world. It has wide, flat water that beginners can enjoy and is also characterized by rolling rapids and exciting drops for experienced paddlers.

If you’re looking for an amazing and memorable kayaking experience, then you’re sure to find it on one of the world’s most beautiful rivers. With a little bit of research and preparation, you’ll be able to find the best route for you and your level of experience. Get out there and enjoy the adventure of a lifetime!