Nepal: The White Water Challenge

With only an inflatable rubber boat, helmet, paddle, and life vest separating you from 1000’s of gallons of rushing water, few experiences in Nepal can match the thrill and exhilaration of the sport of white water rafting. Whether you are a seasoned veteran with several jaunts under your belt, or an enthusiastic first-timer, Nepal’s many rivers offer a variety of challenging environments.

Rivers in Nepal are graded for difficulty with on an internationally recognized scale that ranges from Class-1 to Class-6. A grade of Class-1 signifies slow moving water without many obstacles. Most people can easily ride on a Class-1 river. During a ride on a Class 1 or 2 river, you flow along at a leisurely pace for the most part and you may run some small rapids. The degree of difficulty gets a bit tougher when you get to Class-3. If your goal is to go with the flow of a Class-4 river and higher it’s recommended that you raft with a professional guide. A Class-5 river is the toughest. You need to have some experience under your belt for these challenging rivers. On Class-5’s and 6’s you can expect a powerful flow of water, hard paddling, and there is a chance of the raft overturning. A Class 6 river is extremely difficult to ride on and is considered dangerous.

Of all the rivers in Nepal, the Karnali is considered to be one of the best white water rafting trips that can be done anywhere in the world. In what is considered the “far west” of Nepal — one of the most remote and least explored areas of the Himalayas — the area has only recently been opened to visitors from abroad. The Karnali descends through the Himalayas in the series of magnificent gorges. It is the longest and biggest river in Nepal. This trip combines some low-level trekking with some great rafting and as an added bonus; you get to lay your eyes upon some of the most stunning scenery ever created by Mother Nature. As this river goes through some steep and tight canyons, running the rapids can be difficult. Only raft with a reputable company who can provide top-notch equipment and professional assistance.

The best time to go rafting when travelling to Nepal is usually from September through November or from February through April.

A permit is needed to raft or kayak. Permits can be acquired at the Ministry of Tourism, in Kathmandu (located near the National Stadium). The cost is US$5. The MIT has a list of the rivers where rafting is allowed and the degree of difficulty relative to each. Check the tours links on for points-of-contact on reputable rafting companies.

Tour buses depart regularly from Katmandu to the Karnali by bus. The trip is a good 7 hours long. Pack accordingly and remember; always wear a life vest in the water.