Many people know Nepal as the destination for trekking. After all, it is home to eight of the world’s tallest mountains. But this small, land-locked nation squeezed between India and China also offers some of the world’s best watersports. White-water rafting, kayaking and canyoning (lowering oneself down a waterfall backwards) are all thriving activities in Nepal. So, where are the best places to check out these sports?
Look up almost any list of ‘top 10 places in the world to go white-water rafting’ and Nepal’s Sun Kosi River features. This river runs through eastern Nepal, from a couple of hours outside Kathmandu all the way down to the plains bordering India, and organized trips last nine-ten days. The water sparkles silver with ground up mineral deposits, the landscape evolves from high hills to lush jungle to flat plains as you travel, and there are numerous white-sand beaches to camp on along the way. A pivotal event is the massive grade 5 Hakapur rapid, daunting to anyone but the most experienced white-water paddler. (Fortunately, there is the option to walk around on the bank).
Rafting on the Bhote Kosi, a cold river that originates in Tibet that is excellent for single-day rafting and kayaking trips.
Many multi-day river trips in Nepal are run as combined rafting-kayaking trips, which is ideal for friends travelling together who may have different interests or experience. The Sun Kosi is also a great river for beginner-intermediate kayakers, because the first few days of the trip offer small rapids, building up to the grade 4s and 5s later on.
A highlight for expert kayakers, on the other hand, is the Marsyangi River, in central-western Nepal. It was once renowned as one of the best kayaking rivers in the world, but a dam built around 20 years ago has limited the paddle-able sections. It is a beloved river still though, because the water is a clear, pale blue, and the snow-capped Annapurna Himalayas provide a backdrop for much of the way. It is graded a difficult grade 4+, and trips can last three days.
Canyoning in Nepal offers descents from 60 metre waterfalls, sliding down slippery passages and jumping into waterholes surrounded by jungle. Canyoning spots tend to be far from roads or trails.
The Bhote Kosi River area, north-east of Kathmandu, is particularly good for canyoning trips. This area is best for those looking for height—45 metre and 60 metre waterfalls can be abseiled from here. Another popular spot is Jalberi, half-way between Kathmandu and Pokhara. The descents aren’t so high, but there is more variety, with numerous slides and cliff jumps.
Conditions for all of these water sports vary enormously depending on the season. Nepal’s monsoon lasts from June to September. Water levels are higher post-monsoon (October-December) and temperatures comfortable. Rivers such as the Sun Kosi or Bhote Kosi are best paddled post-monsoon. However, some rivers are good year-round. For example, the Trisuli River never gets very low. Don’t forget to explore the festivals that occur in Nepal during the year, you will not be disappointed.
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