The best whitewaters in Spain: where can I find them?
With the cold weather that does not seem to arrive and the longing for adventures still present after returning to work, there is nothing better than looking for the whitewater rivers to refresh the body and the mind.
Water adventure activities, such as rafting, hydrospeed or canoeing in open waters (open kayak), are perfect to unleash some adrenaline; although they require some learning or mastery of the technique, especially in the more technical sections.
In the Iberian Peninsula we have rivers for all tastes and descents of all levels of difficulty. But, if you are reading this, it is because your preference is the risk.
Discover the fastest waters in Spain and get ready to enjoy water sports with the selection of rivers that we offer.
The rafting court is in the Pyrenees, and the king is Noguera Pallaresa. A river with name and surname, birthplace of this sport in Spain. Considered by many as one of the best rivers for the practice of aquatic activities in Europe.
Open kayak or rafting in Noguera Pallaresa is embarking on a unique adventure, with steps of different levels of difficulty (up to a rapid IV grade) and the incredible landscape of the Pyrenees of Lérida to our delight.
The complete commercial route covers about 52 kilometers and goes from Llavorsí to Figuereta. It can be done in about 7 hours (lunch break included), which gives an idea of the speed of this river. If it seems too much, you can make the descent of the stretch from Llavorsí to Rialp, of 14 kilometers. It is one of the most exciting and fun routes, and is classified as grade III (intermediate level).
The more experienced, however, prefer to take the crossing in a higher section of the river. From Alos d’Isil to the dam of Borén, the descent is very technical and powerful (level IV-V); therefore, it is only recommended to experienced canoeists.
This river, whose source is in the Natural Park of Ordesa and Monte Perdido, is considered the most extreme of Spain, with steps that reach grade IV +.
As there is no dam along its route, the descent is only possible during the spring months, when the accumulation of snow in the Natural Park occurs. The thaw, together with the strong slope that the river accumulates, makes the waters run fast and brave during these months.
The main section is between Torla and Broto, and has about 7 kilometers. In addition to exciting, it is a very beautiful route, nestled between spectacular canyons and a typical alpine vegetation.
The descent is only suitable for people of legal age, with good physical condition and, of course, good level of swimming. In addition, it is advisable that the boats of the crew are accompanied by a guide and safety kayak.
Located in the Aragonese Pyrenees, Gállego River is one of the most attractive for rafting and canoeing. In it we find sections that go from level II to IV, especially during the thaw, when there is greater flow.
One of the most challenging stretches from Sabiñánigo to Murillo de Gállego, past the gorge of the Mallos de Riglos. But you do not have to do so much here to enjoy a good descent.
Following the classic route, which starts at the dam of La Peña and reaches Murillo (a good 12 kilometers), you will have a great rafting route on Gállego river. This is a section of grade III, in which you can find some steps of grade IV, where you have to put all your attention to stay in the course.
The best, however, is the landscape; with the impressive views of the Mallos de Riglos watching your journey.
Another of the great Pyrenean rivers is Ésera. Born in the Posets Maladeta Natural Park and collecting the water coming from the melting of the highest areas of the mountain range. As it occurs with its country rivers, the landscape that crosses it is enviable, and the descent, full of excitement.
The section that descends runs between the towns of Campo and Santa Liestra, for about 11 kilometers. Until the course of Sirga, the route is for the whole family (grade II-III), easy but also very entertaining. You will cross some small rapids and backwater areas where it’s possible to rest and have a dip.
From this point, however, things gets more interesting. Las Pirámides gorge is a section characterized by large blocks of stone that emerge from the river, forcing you to use your best skills as a paddler to get around them. Here, the level of descent goes up to grade IV; although you will not have problems to overcome it accompanied by a good guide.
In the Roncal valley we find another of the most beautiful descents of the Pyrenees. The river Esca, from the town of Burgui (in Navarra) to Sigüés (in Zaragoza) offers a grade IV route with good rapids and canyoning.
It is the only decline of this graduation in Navarra, and usually takes place in spring, during the thaw. The landscape, in addition, is completely unique. Once passed the town of Salvatierra, the river enters the Foz de Burgui, an abrupt gorge carved by the river that serves as home to many birds of prey.
The emotion is assured throughout the descent, with mythical steps such as Adolfo’s Rulo, until you reach the picnic area next to the river in the town of Sigüés.
The river Ebro presents several valid sections for the descent on its way through the provinces of Cantabria and Burgos.
Due to the different levels of difficulty of these sections, the Ebro is suitable for people with more or less experience, and for the practice of very diverse water sports. One of the most exciting and fun activities you can do is a route of river SUP in Upper Ebro, in Cantabria.
In Burgos, things change. The river crosses here an impressive canyon, as it passes through the Natural Space of Hoces del Ebro and Rudrón, which it’s amazing, not only to an incredible landscape, but also to powerful rapids and technical steps.
The section from Orbaneja del Castillo to Quintanilla-Escalada is the most complex route. The rapids that you will have to face reach level IV, although you will pass through some quiet areas where you can catch your breath. Starting from Quintanilla, the descent is again quieter, suitable for all levels, although not any less spectacular.
One of the mythical rivers of Picos de Europa is the Cares one. Although it is mostly known for the beautiful hiking trail that runs through its throat, the truth is that this river is also perfect for practicing the descent of whitewaters.
Although the Cares River is born in León, most of its route runs through Asturias, and that is where the best sections for its descent are found. In Arenas de Cabrales the most exciting part begins. It is a section of 8 kilometers of level III-IV, with crystal clear waters, constant rapids and a lot of unevenness areas. This section is perfect for rafting.
A little further down, in Niserias, the simple section begins; the best for a canoe route on the river Cares. It has rapids, although not so intense, and with good areas to rest and enjoy the spectacular beauty that surrounds you. The route has about 10 kilometers and ends in Panes, just where the Cares joins the Deva River.
The most powerful river in Galicia is the Deza, a tributary of the Ulla River of just 50 kilometers in length. In its descent we find steps of degree IV and, even, some of degree V; so only those who already have enough experience can do it.
Another aspect to take into account is that you can only descend in high rainy season, so it is barely practicable a couple of months a year, usually during the winter.
Apart from that, the truth is that it is a unique river full of surprises. The section that descends goes from Bascuas to Cira, a few meters from its mouth on the Ulla river. It has 8 kilometers and during the same one crosses an area of autochthonous forest, with alders, willows and ash trees.
The narrowness of its channel and the rocks that stand in the way, forces you to maneuver continuously and will keep you in focus to jump the several obstacles. A river, in short, that promises an exhausting but exciting day.
Moving away from the north, we also find rivers with good flow that offer exciting descents. One of them is the Tagus, especially in its high section.
Although in its birth, in Teruel, this river takes little water, shortly after receives the waters of the Hoz Seca and begins to increase its flow. One of the most interesting aspects of this river is the transparency of its waters, which allow the bottom to be seen even in the deepest pools, 10 meters below.
As for the descent, those who have no experience can start on the stretch from Taravilla to Peñalén, in Guadalajara. There are 7 kilometers of medium-low difficulty route (grade II); although in some points, if there is a flow, it can reach grade III. This stretch of rafting in Alto Tajo is perfect for a descent without any risks but full of excitement.
If you want something rougher, a bit further up, from Peralejos de las Truchas to Taravilla, you have an 8-kilometer descent in which steps of grade III + are found. And if you’re already an expert, in Zaorejas, 30 kilometers downstream from Taravilla, there is a grade IV pass known as El Infranqueable. There it goes.
HOCES DEL JÚCAR
Júcar river crosses the province of Cuenca leaving in its wake impressive places, such as those of the Hoces del Júcar, which make navigating through it a truly interesting activity.
If you have no experience in rowing, you can go on the canoeing tour on the Júcar River, which runs from Villalba de la Sierra to almost the province’s capital. It is an easy section, of level II, about 5 kilometers long. The rapids here are soft and there is no shortage of pools to have a dip and even a small river beach where you can rest.
Upstream from Villalba, however, there is a different route that goes through Júcar canyons, only suitable for experienced canoeists. It is a short but intense section, medium-high level (grade III-IV), which runs between vertical walls of just a couple of meters wide.
Two kilometers of authentic emotion concentrated.
In case you thought otherwise, in Andalucía there are also options to enjoy rafting and canoeing with great excitement.
Guadalfeo River, in the province of Granada, has the highest level in the entire Autonomous Community, with steps that reach grade III-IV. It is an advanced level descent that can be done in spring or winter, since it needs rains or snowmelt coming from Sierra Nevada snows.
The complete descent crosses Alpujarras from Cortijo del Granaillo to the dam of Rules. There are 11 kilometers of route that can be divided into two parts. The first part, up to the Roman bridge of Órgiva, is the quietest (not boring at all). This stretch of rafting on the Guadalfeo river is perfect to get started in the activity and to have a great time.
From the Órgiva bridge, the descent becomes more active, with numerous obstacles that must be avoided fast enough. This section requires more effort and have a good coordination with your group if you do it in rafting.
The river feeds both the fisherman and the canoeist, although in a different sense. The fisherman fills his stomach; the canoeist, the spirit. The risk lovers look for the brave rivers because they know that their waters, white and fast, have the perfect strength to cause tachycardia. Which, at times, is worth it. Especially when they crave adventure.
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