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how to : March 2014


Himalayan Whitewater



With big mountains, big rivers and even bigger adventures, Nepal has become a popular destination for whitewater paddlers who gravitate to its gorgeous multi-day river trips like bears to a honeypot. If you’re looking for somewhere a little different, a step up in adventure from your usual club trip to the Alps, or similar then it could be just what you’re looking for.


how to : March 2014


epal is home to some of the best multi-day, big volume whitewater in the world. It’s a destination location that has kick started the passion for exploration and expeditions for many budding whitewater kayakers. Its combination of diverse culture, great whitewater and not to mention paddling in the shadows of some of the highest mountains in the world is a heady mix. Nepal, with out a doubt, is a world class paddling location and, as we’re about to explain, organising your own Himalayan adventure really isn’t that hard. So here’s the CKUK guide to plan your ultimate Himalayan river trip!

“Known as the ‘River of Gold’ this is a very popular from A to B. An absolute minimum I would recommend is three

vary in price. As a guide you can get

weeks. If you are lucky enough to have time and opportunity then

a suitable private room for as little $8

five or six weeks is ideal to give you more time to explore and

no problem.

adventure further a field. Stay any longer and I promise you, you may never leave, some people don’t!



Kathmandu Guest House

There are many airlines that fly to Nepal now. But whether they will

take your boat is a different matter. Depending on your intended trip

This is a top end guesthouse for

hiring a god quality kayak in Nepal has been made easier over the years

travellers looking for a bit more luxury.

river for multi-day trips, sandy beaches, cascading waterfalls, jungle corridors, big, but friendly, whitewater, this trip has everything you need for that perfect Himalayan adventure.”

through various outfitters. You want to fly into Kathmandu Tribhuvan Airport and from here it is a short journey to Thamel the tourist district.

Holy Lodge


Air India

One of the fantastic things about Nepal is that it really has a great

Jet Airways

Prince House Guesthouse

range of whitewater, from grade 2, perfect to sharpen skills and


A small but quiet guesthouse a private

learn on, to remote grade 5 multi expeditions. It is one of the first,


room can be $10 a night.

and logistically easiest, locations where whitewater paddlers can

Turkish Air Northfield Guesthouse

get to experience the joys of multi-day paddling. Not to mention


world then Nepal could certainly seem a bit of a culture shock. This

There are two main hangouts for kayakers in Nepal, Kathmandu

a host of rooms for any traveller rooms

however is all part of the experience, and the main paddler hang

and Pokhara. Both have everything you need to refresh and

start at around $20.

outs, such as Pokhara and the Thamel area of Kathmandu have all

energize before heading back out on the river.

having a wealth of culture, people and breathtaking natural beauty If you have never travelled outside of Europe, or the western

the requirements and comforts you should need to get you adjusted.


A paddler friendly hostel with simple rooms.


Right on the main drag of Thamel with

Upon arrival in Kathmandu your best bet is to head straight to the tourist district of Thamel. It’s home to many hotels, restaurants,



rafting/adventure/trekking companies and many, many outdoor

There are nice selections of rivers that

Getting from place to place can be very time consuming in Nepal,

clothing and equipment shops. From here you can settle in, find

can be completed setting out from

for a variety of reasons. The roads and traffic do not make travel

your feet and arrange buses to Pokhara or taxis to your intended

Kathmandu. Some can be done fairy

quick or as efficient in Nepal compared to what you are used to.

river. He many rafting outfitters have a wealth of experience and

quickly, others lend themselves to

This can mean that it takes you a day to get between rivers, at the

they can organise most logistics for you if required, for a price.

perfectly to the adventure of a longer

very least. So your time can easily be soaked up in simply getting

As for accommodation there are many to chose from and all

multi-day trip.

BHOTE KOSI This has a range of grade 4/5 whitewater making it ideal for a paddler warming up for some of the more remote whitewater. This run is all roadside, allowing you to pick and choose what rapids you tackle. The Lower Bhote Kosi is a touch more mellow and flows out into the Sun Kosi.

BALEHPI KHOLA A real gem, slightly lower volume than the nearby Bhote Kosi, but all with read and run whitewater. Grade 3 /4 can easily be done in an afternoon.

SUN KOSI Known as the ‘River of Gold’ this is a very popular river for multi-day trips, sandy beaches, cascading waterfalls, jungle corridors, big, but friendly, whitewater, this trip has everything you need for that perfect Himalayan adventure. We think that enjoying the nine-day run from Dolghat to Chatra is one of Nepal’s absolute classic river trips. u


how to : March 2014

“One of the fantastic things about Nepal is that it really has a great range of whitewater, from grade 2 to remote grade 5 multi expeditions.”


Pokhara is a seven-hour bus ride from Kathmandu, or a short


internal plane flight. With its mellow vibe, lakeside location

A fun run, and very popular with commercial rafting companies over

and close proximity to, in our opinion, some of the best rivers

two nights on the river. Sadly some of the classic sections were lost

in he country, Pokhara is a great hangout spot for any paddler.

to a hydro project some years ago, but it is still a fun, if shortened,

Although considerably smaller than Kathmandu Pokhara still

multi-day, either with raft support or with loaded kayaks. The Kali’s

has a plethora of guesthouses and restaurants to keep you

almost jungle like scenery leads you through some fun whitewater,

smiling, and ideal for a pre, or post, chill out. The main drag

with a few bigger rapids thrown in to keep you on your toes.


call, although it can get surprisingly chilly in some of the gorges. A

The currency in Nepal is rupees, although big purchases, such as

pair of board-shorts & thermal leggings combined with a lighter-

bills for hotels can be paid in US dollars. You can change sterling

weight long-sleeved cag is a good compromise.

very easily in to rupees in Kathmandu or Pokhara.



The visa application is very simple for Nepal; you will need a

The best season for kayakers is from September through to

passport that has more than six-months left before it’s expiry date.

December. With October being the busiest season. Whilst the

The visa can be done online, or upon arrival. Remember to take

rivers are still runnable in December things can cool off in the

two passport photos with you when you travel, in fact take lots with

valleys. Springtime can also offer some good paddling, from

you as they come in handy for rafting and trekking permits too.

around Feb to May time, but the choice of rivers is more limited.



The beauty of Nepal is that you can pick up pretty much anything

By now you’ll hopefully be hooked on the idea of your own

you need in Kathmandu, for very little cost. In a nutshell all you

personal Himalayan adventure and will be surfing the net and

really need is your paddling kit, and a medical kit (even these could

dreaming of big, fluffy waves. Now is an ideal time to begin

be bought in-country if needed). The rest is no problem. By the

thinking about and planning your trip and if you do find yourself

river a pair of long trousers and a light down jacket is perfect for

paddling under the shadows of those magnificent mountains we

the evenings and mornings. On the water a shortie can be a good

promise you you’ll return again and again. Namaste!


is known as Lakeside, which, as it’s name suggests, overlooks lots of the classic whitewater runs, and if you want to stay close


to town, you can even spend a day running laps on the Upper

This is many a visiting paddler’s favourite run, and can be paddled

Seti, 30-minutes outside of Pokhara. Again all the major outdoor

over two days, either camping or and staying in riverside teahouses.

adventure companies have offices in Pokhara and there’s even a

You could even hire yourself a taxi driver to stay with you, as the

great kayak shop!

river comes close to a road in many places, so you can call time

Pokhara Lake. From Pokhara you can arrange logistics for your


whenever you’ve had enough. This is another run that’s suffered from


a hydro project, but it still boasts more quality whitewater than most


European rivers can shake a stick at. If you want to push things a

Grade 3 /4 of boulder garden whitewater, an ideal section for a rest

little harder then venturing upstream to Ngadi means you will find

day, as it’s local to Pokhara.

steeper, more committing, whitewater to slate your thirst.



A truly beautiful run, that flows along the trekking route in to

This can be done in one long day, or split in to a two-day run. The first

the Annapurna Mountain range. The upper sections require a

sections of whitewater are fast and committing grade 4/5. However it

day’s walk in, with porters carrying your boats. There are plenty

soon flattens out for the remaining paddle to the take out.

of tea houses along the way if you wish to break it up and stay over on the hike, and if you want to break he run in to two parts.


The Modi can be paddled from various places. The higher up

Your best bet is to arrange a taxi, and you can hire a taxi from

sections from New Bridge reach a continuous grade 5,whilst

most rafting outfitters, or just find one in the street and negotiate,

further downstream, past Landruk; it tapers off to grade 4. If you

to follow you along a river. A good alternative is to join the

are looking for something a little less full on then the Lower Modi

commercial rafting trips, leaving you to enjoy the whitewater with

holds some enjoyable grade ¾. All the way down to the Kali

an empty kayak. Do bear in mind though that this can take some

Gandaki confluence.

last minute planning as outfitters keep things pretty flexible.

FURTHER READING A pre-trip essential purchase for anyone thinking of paddling in Nepal is Whitewater Nepal 3rd Edition) by Pete Knowles & Daz Clarkson-King. Order your copy from

Ross has been writing for CKUK for many years now. He has paddled extensively in Nepal, Europe, North America, Morocco and New Zealand. Ross is a Level 5 Coach and runs his own whitewater kayak coaching company, New Wave Coaching. He runs trips to Nepal, Europe and Scotland.

New Wave Nepal  
New Wave Nepal  

Read about planning your Nepal trip, featured in Canoe Kayak Magazine, written by New Wave Creator Ross Montandon