Kayaking In Europe (Rivers, Lakes & Top 10 Destinations)

Fact Checked By James A Rockey | Post Updated On: November 30, 2022
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Some of the best destinations for sea kayaking in Europe are Ardeche, France, Bordeaux, France, Soca Valley, Slovenia, Noce, Italy, Tara Canyon, Bosnia, Zrmanja and Krupa rivers, Croatia, etc.

Key Takeaways

  • Ardeche, France consists of 30km Ardeche gorge in southeast France and it is the most popular kayaking destination in Europe
  • Paddling in Bordeaux involves kayaking from vineyard to vineyard and offers wine-tasting kayak style along the Dordogne, Gironde, or Garonne
  • The Soca is a 140-kilometer-long river and it is an Alpine river with an elevation of around 1,100 meters
  • Aosta Valley, Italy has the finest whitewater in the Italian Alps with rapids graded classes III to IV

Top 10 Kayaking Destinations in Europe (List)

1. Ardeche, France

2. Southern French Alps, France

3. Bordeaux, France

4. Normandy, France

5. Soca Valley, Slovenia

6. Noce, Italy

7. Aosta Valley, Italy

8. Tara Canyon, Bosnia

9. Zrmanja and Krupa rivers, Croatia

10. Lake Garda, Italy

When To Go To Enjoy These Attractions?

Kayaking in Europe features a bit of everything. Kayakers enjoy everything from wild whitewater to lovely lakes, and relaxed rivers to incredible coastlines. If you combine the infrastructure and people’s culture, and history, you can derive the perfect combination for more exceptional kayak holidays.

Kayakers find diversity is not just the type of kayaking, but also the style of holiday. An attractive tour everyone could imagine could be a cultural tour of Venice by kayak.

Alternatively, how about exploring the Arctic wilderness of Norway’s eye-catching Lofoten Islands?

Likewise, floating downstream through the French wine region of Bordeaux attracts many adrenaline junkies throughout the year. Kayaking with basking sharks in Ireland is a fun activity as well.

In order to narrow down your choice for the type of trip, the best European kayaking destinations are divided down into rivers, lakes, and sea sections. We’ve tried to incorporate a range that could include as many styles of European kayak holidays as possible.

If you are an experienced kayaker, you can expect some well-known destinations you’ve heard of, and hopefully some you will listen to for the first time.

So, are you ready to shake your paddle?

Best European Kayaking Destinations: Rivers

Kayaking in rivers often includes whitewater, but that is not the case always. Rapids are categorized from Class I to Class V. This category is compliant with the International Scale of River Difficulty. Class I and II are graded as the easiest and most suitable for novices, and V is the most difficult and is for veterans and experts only.

Our experts rate the following destinations as the best river for a Europe kayak holiday. Please note the list contains not only the whitewater spots but also options available for relaxing river breaks suitable for beginners and families.

Let’s get started!

Ardeche, France

This kayaking destination consists of the 30km Ardeche gorge in southeast France. It offers one of the most popular kayaking experiences in Europe. The canyon is no doubt strikingly beautiful. Kayakers find passing under the infamous Pont D’Arc is adventurous. The Port D’Arc is a massive natural stone bridge.

Complete beginners favor this spot very much. Rapids here are graded as class I to III rapids (dependent on water level). Therefore, kayaking adventure holidays in Ardeche Rapids and relaxation are suitable for beginners.

Beginners can kayak through the rapids most of the time easily. In the summer, the waters get warm. Moreover, families looking for lazy, sunny days on the river frequent Ardeche Rapids.

Several spots are good for a lunch break. You can have a swim around the places and enjoy the scenery. In the spring, water flow becomes even faster. If you are really up for the challenge, you can take on the full 60 km descent.

The descent smoothly crosses dams on fun canoe toboggans. There are lots of outfitters, allowing kayak renting and guided tours. This is a river exquisitely geared up for kayaking.

The guiding family here has 25 years of experience. Also, individual kayaking adventures absolutely favor Adventure Ardeche. So we propose it too. They also run kayaking clinics, catering for all levels of the kayaker (from beginner to advanced), and offer different kinds of activity breaks including kayaking as part of a more important holiday. They are a United Kingdom-based company formulated in France, providing excellent service.

Southern French Alps, France

While visiting France, you will encounter some of the best white water on the continent. It is in the Southern French Alps where you will get to see the most outstanding white water. Rivers such as the Bonne, Guil, Durance, Toulouse, and Ubaye all offer precisely challenging kayaking that is in the right conditions is appropriate for experts only.

The rivers are all quite close to each other and could be dominated on a single trip. This destination is perfect for European kayak holidays if you are an experienced kayaker. Many kayakers want to switch to different rivers while paddling. Moreover, this offers an excellent opportunity.

You can discover more on our guide to kayaking in the French Alps.

This is one of the best family canoeing holidays destination in France if you are more into canoeing than kayaking. 🙂

Bordeaux, France

Bordeaux is another of the major European kayaking destinations in France. Paddling in Bordeaux involves kayaking from vineyard to vineyard. Kayakers get to explore the beautiful wine region. You will like the wine-tasting kayak style along the Dordogne, Gironde, or Garonne.

These rivers are mostly calm, so you can often avoid what rapids there are. Outfitters can organize wine-tasting kayaking tours. Or, you can hire shops if you prefer to organize it yourself. This is the perfect way to travel to the Aquitaine region of France, an area of exceptional beauty and impressive wines.

Normandy, France

The final area in France we’ll be discussing…. The major kayaking in Normandy envelops the stunning Parc Naturel de Normandie-Maine. This is located on the Sarthe and Varenne rivers. There are one-day and multi-day kayaking tours offered, the rapids are graded class I to III, so more appropriate for beginners and families.

Soca Valley, Slovenia

The Soca is a 140-kilometer-long river that flows through western Slovenia and northern Italy, with its source emanating from the Julian Alps. This is particularly an Alpine river with an elevation of around 1,100 meters, smoothly passing by Slovenia’s highest peak, Triglav at 2,864 meters.

The dazzling bright green waters are prominent for kayaking. There are a variety of rapid grades, including some very tough class IV and V sections. With a selection of day and multi-day tours, this is easily one of the best European kayaking destinations. It is perfect for those looking for something with a bit of a bite.

Noce, Italy

Noce is world-renowned for European and World Championship events. The Noce is situated in the Brenta Dolomite Mountains of northern Italy. Supplied by melting glacial ice it floods wildly through the heart of the Val di Sole (Valley of the Sun). Conditions remain favorable in the spring.

In the upper reaches, you’ll be able to enjoy some delicious class III to IV rapids. However, as the river flows past the villages of Ossana to Caldes, you will encounter difficult class V white water. The Noce is definitely one of the best European kayaking destinations if you are looking for challenging rapids.

Aosta Valley, Italy

The Dora Baltea river that flows through the Aosta Valley has the finest whitewater in the Italian Alps. With rapids graded classes III to IV, they are difficult and require previous experience. Although there are some easier sections that beginners will find favorable.

Tara Canyon, Bosnia

Tara Canyon is the largest canyon in Europe. And, it is one of the 10 biggest in the world per se. It is unexpected that more people have not heard of Tara Canyon. Tara Canyon is recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Tara Canyon not only looks beautiful but also feels very clean – apparently, travelers drink the water straight from the river.

The rapids are graded from class III to V, so this keeps the kayaking experience enjoyable along the 25 km gorge. Tara Canyon is one of the best European kayaking spots if you want to kayak somewhere incredible that most people have not heard of.

Zrmanja And Krupa Rivers, Croatia

The warm, clear waters of the beautiful Zrmanja and Krupa rivers in Croatia offer an excellent opportunity for exploration. Undoubtedly, the rivers are one of the best European kayaking destinations. There are some light rapids that beginners can negotiate, but the main challenge is the stunning waterfalls and concealed pools that make for great kayaking.

Zrmanja Kayaking

To kayak the Zrmanja and Krupa, you can try Huck Finn Adventure Travel. Opportunities are available for both day trips and multi-day kayaking tours – you can also complement the adventure with some sea-kayaking.

Danube, Central Europe

Paddling through the course of the Danube is one of the most attractive European kayak holidays. It is the second-longest river in Europe! It passes through, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia, Moldova, and Ukraine.

No river in the world flows through these many countries!

Amazing, right?

As a way of exploring Europe, kayaking down the Danube offers a marvelous experience. Kayaking down the Danube River allows you to explore amazing cities such as Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, and Belgrade. Moreover, you will get to see many places of historical and cultural significance.

Outside of the urban areas, it goes through the stunning countryside including the famous Danube Delta.

Best European Kayaking Destinations: Lakes

If kayaking in freshwater doesn’t interest you, then check out the lakes below.

Kayaking in lakes is particularly favorable for beginners. It is because lakes are often safer than rivers or the sea, so it is a grand place for beginners to give it a try. In our opinion, these are the top lakes for Europe’s kayak holidays.

Lakelands, Ireland

You can’t but explore one of the most kayak-friendly countries in the world. Ireland is undoubtedly a treasure trove for kayakers. So, Ireland should be an excellent choice as one of the best European kayaking destinations.

The Lakelands of Co. Fermanagh present a marvelous amount of inland kayaking variety, with Lough Erne it’s an ultimate jewel.

Besides, there is an all-embracing system of canals running the length of Ireland connecting diverse waterways to the River Shannon.

Ireland, in reality, is a paddler’s glory; the hard thing with Ireland is thinning down where to go. So rent a car and drive to all the best spots.

Lake Garda, Italy

Well-known as a beautiful spot with homes for the affluent and famous Lake Garda is an exciting destination to kayak in Europe. It’s situated in northern Italy not too far from Milan.

Propel out onto the water first thing in the morning, before the lake is all alive, and you’ll realize the significance of pure tranquility. As the sun looms behind the mountains and the water softly laps around you, it’s difficult to picture a better spot for kayaking than this.

Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como is picturesque enough to attract Hollywood. Parts of the lake were used in Star Wars Attack of Clones. Jinx, as I am writing this on May the Fourth – Star Wars fan remember this day Star Wars day! It is roughly half the size of Lake Garda, but much quieter. The two lakes are beautiful.

You’ll be cruising enveloped by mountains, with charming towns and villages scattered around the edge. Heaven!

Loch Ness ‘Coast To Coast, Scotland

This lake offers an excellent opportunity to spot the Loch Ness Monster. But, you can go after the Caledonian Canal across Scotland. Recognized as one of the most significant waterways in the world, it connects Fort William in the southwest of Scotland with Inverness in the east.

On route, it flows through the Great Glen geological fault that comprises four lochs and continual dazzling scenery. The route stretches 60 miles long and takes about five days for complete exploration.


Is Kayaking Popular In Europe?

It’s becoming increasingly popular in Europe due to the increased number of rivers, lakes, and seas within its borders as well as its low-impact nature that reduces injuries compared with other sports like swimming or canoeing which are also very popular in the region.

There is evidence to suggest that kayaking is only popular in the US, Canada, and some European countries. In Europe, kayaking has not taken off in the same way as it has in North America.

Do I Need A License To Kayak In the UK?

In the UK, kayaking requires a license. There are certain types of kayaks and paddles that you need to be licensed for.

The most recent legislation to change the law is in 2004. Kayaking has been made a lot easier since then but some people still choose to get their license because they like the tradition of it and they are proud of their abilities.

Kayaking has long been a popular activity in the UK, especially with outdoor enthusiasts, who often choose to go out on open water when they want to cool off or enjoy nature. However, it is not easy to escape from the shoreline without a license or without knowing how to swim at all!

Can I Kayak In The Thames?

Yes! There are a few conditions that need to be met before you can go out and try this though such as safety precautions, regulations, etcetera.

There are many different situations where you might want to kayak in London. You may want to kayak down the Thames or visit the nearby river, for example.

In general, there is no law or regulation that prohibits you from kayaking in the Thames. However, your safety and well-being come first. If you’re not sure about what you’re doing, it’s best to avoid it and contact your local police force for advice first.

Where Can I Kayak In Milton Keynes?

Milton Keynes is a great place to kayak due to its many waterways. It also has good access to the River Great Ouse which flows through the city.

There are two places you can kayak in Milton Keynes: in the Grand Union Canal and on the River Great Ouse.

The Grand Union Canal is a popular place for kayaking in Milton Keynes, as it passes by some of the most picturesque parts of town and takes you under bridges, round bends, and along a valley before ending at The Latchmere Basin.

It’s only a five-minute walk from the town center and is surrounded by public parks and waterways.

It should be noted that also be careful of some of the larger water bodies such as the Grand Union Canal, which has a significant number of locks. These locks can sometimes create large waves or currents as they are raised or lowered.

Can You Kayak On Loch Lomond?

The answer: Yes, you can kayak on Loch Lomond!

Loch Lomond is the largest freshwater loch in Scotland, measuring approximately 20 kilometers long and 8 kilometers wide.

Bottom Line

Traditionally Europe may not be one of the world’s most popular kayaking destinations. But, Europe has plenty to offer for those who take the time to explore the continent. We discussed the top destinations for kayak lovers in this article.


  • https://www.seabookings.com/blog/best-kayaking-destinations-in-europe/
  • https://www.muchbetteradventures.com/magazine/20-of-the-best-kayaking-destinations-in-europe/
  • https://www.traveltourxp.com/10-great-european-kayaking-destinations/

Leave a Comment