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Whitewater Rafting in Spain

Hello,
I am looking for recommendations for the best places to whitewater raft in Spain. We are hoping to travel there next summer ( I can't imagine not being able to travel again). Places/areas we are considering to visit are: Granada, Sevilla, Toledo, Madrid, Barcelona, Costa Brava, and possibly the Basque region. We are going to kayak in Costa Brava and hike in Granada but we are not sure where to go rafting.

Thank you in advance for any suggestions. Stay safe and healthy! Hopefully we will all be traveling to beautiful, new adventures soon!
Ann

Posted by
2664 posts

The Picos de Europa area seems to be geared for outdoors enthusiasts. A quick search returned three rafting companies; rafting en Asturias, Rafting in Cantabria, and raftingelsella in Cangas.

Posted by
1864 posts

For extreme sports like white water rafting, the best place by far are the wild and rugged Pyrenees Mountains. I'd recommend basing yourselves Huesca or Jaca, which can be reached from Zaragoza (on the AVE line from Barcelona-Madrid). There are many white water rafting/adventure companies based in that part of northern Spain.

edit to add: jaimeelsabio also makes a good recommendation of los Picos de Europa mountains, which are west of the Pyrenees, in the Asturias region.

Posted by
951 posts

I didn't explore it but I did take notice while there.
The rafting I saw in the Picos, near Congas de Onis, didn't look as adventurous as I would like. So when searching, you might want to also consider class of rapid and season. [Obviously], rivers run higher in the late Spring to mid-summer, so its usually more fun then. Sometimes more water means fewer rapids (bc the water rises above rocks that create the rapids) but fast flow, and sometimes it means bigger rapids bc boulders and rocks get covered just right by the water and create, well, rapids. Rafting companies will take you if at all feasible, which means that even if the river isn't running at a fun level, they will still take you for a float in August.
So if it were me, I would look at reviews of what water level is most fun on that section of river, and how high the water is likely to be when you are there ("cfs" or cubic feet per second) and with that, look at the class of rapid. You can get a sense of class by looking at youtube. You probably want class 3, maybe 4.
Back to rivers in Spain, the other one I saw was in the Pyrenees, near Riglos (we were driving between Loarre and Pamplona). The rafting there looked better than in the Picos. But if it were me I would Google "class X rafting Spain" and see what comes up

Posted by
2942 posts

Slightly off topic, but make sure that what you consider “class 3 rapids” is the same as the local definition of the same. I knew what a class 3 rapid was after living near the Salmon River in Idaho for years. Then I moved to the Midwest and was feeling a little anxious about a canoe trip that friends had planned on a river with “class 2 and 3 rapids.” I arrived at the river, only to find that the Minnesota version of rapid classification was quite different than the Idaho version. I enjoyed a quiet canoe down the river that had occasional spots where it moved faster..........

Posted by
29 posts

Thank you everyone for all the info. I think I have narrowed it down to Aiguestortes or Sierra Nevada National Parks. Both look amazing. Yes, I will research the class rating. I have only rafted one other time, it was a class 4-5 in Maine. Sierra Nevada would fit into our schedule better since we plan on staying in Granada for a few days. If we decide to go to the Pyrenees we will have to rearrange our itinerary.

Thank you, Ann

Posted by
1864 posts

Hi Ann, if it were up to me I'd opt for Aigüestortes National Park with a home base in Vielha in a heartbeat, one of the top 3 National Parks in Spain and all but unknown to foreign tourists. Though it is not easy to get to and you would have to make a significant diversion from your original itinerary. If Sierra Nevada National Park checks all your boxes, then that may be the best choice for you, especially from a logistical sense.

Posted by
29 posts

Hi Carlos, yes it looks beautiful. It looks like Lordes, France airport is only 2 1/2 hours drive to Aiguestortes Park. I am wondering if we could fly into Lordes then drive to the park?
Our first draft itinerary is/was:
* Fly into Madrid (rent a car) drive to Sevilla
* Sevilla stay in this area 3-4 nights do a day trip to Cordoba
* Drive to Granada stay for 2 nights
* Drive to Toledo, see the sites in and around the Madrid area for 3 nights
* Return the car take the AVE train to Barcelona, stay in Barcelona for 4 nights, see the sites in and around Barcelona and day trip to Costa Brava

BUT now we want to add Aiguestortes Park to raft and we would even like to add the Basque area specifically San Sebestian and Bayonne.

SOOOOO many places to see and just not enough time.

ALL suggestions on itinerary are welcome!

Thank you!!!! :)

Posted by
1864 posts

Hi Ann, if that is the case then I would seriously consider dropping Madrid and Southern Spain all together, especially with how suffocatingly hot it can be during the summer time.

I would recommend you fly in to Barcelona, rent a car and do a little roadtrip through northern Spain, which will be much more pleasant climate-wise during the summer months. From Barcelona you head north along the Costa Brava, then head west across the Pyrenees, and end up exploring the Basque Country, flying out of Bilbao. Here would be some potential stops including overnights, that I would recommend for a 2-3 week trip.

Start Barcelona
Girona - overnight
Costa Brava
Empúries Ancient Greek Ruins
Besalu
Ribes de Freser - overnight
Vall de Nuria
Puigcerdà
La Seu d'Urgell - overnight
Espot
Vielha - multi-day base
Aigüestortes National Park
Vall de Boi
Vall de Aran
Jaca - overnight
Loarre Castle
Sos del Rey Católico
Pamplona - overnight
Olite Castle
San Sebastian - overnight
Bayonne
Basque coastal drive
Bilbao - overnight
End Bilbao

As you can see, with a car, you can visit many interesting and unique places in northern Spain, in a relatively focused area, without the need to zigzag across the entire country of Spain. Travel less, see more ;-)

Posted by
29 posts

This sounds fantastic! However, we are going with our cousins and their hearts are set on the south of Spain and Madrid. I am the one trying to add the north to our trip. I have been to Italy and France twice because they just couldn't be done in one trip. I believe Spain is going to be the same. Perhaps I should not set my sights so high and just do the south this trip. Following Rick Steves' advice that you need to believe you will return to that country again one day. Maybe instead of rafting we can just kayak and hike in the south. It is a good thing we are use to the heat, we live in south Florida! ;)

Posted by
1864 posts

their hearts are set on the south of Spain and Madrid

I can't argue with that ;-)

Posted by
261 posts

Needless to say, summer is not the best time for whitewater. So in addition to what others, particularly Jessica (who appears to be a ww paddler...) have suggested, look into the flows/ratings for the summer, and whether or not the flow is controlled by releases from a dam. A dam release flow is going to be more reliable and less impacted by a dry season. As other have noted, the Pyrenees is probably your best option. The whitewater events in the '92 olympics were held in La Seu d'Urgell, and world-class whitewater freeestyle events are often held there (in Summer). And as other s have noted, class ratings may vary. Partly by regional standards, the differences are due to the ratings being a mushy matrix of risk and skill. The difficulty may be from high flow volumes (e.g. western US) or tight, rock filled rapids requiring skill to navigate (eg eastern US). And, many rafting companies slightly inflate the difficulty of a run, or rate it in terms of a single or a few rapids that are not indicative of the entire run. You might find a run with continuous class III rapids more entertaining than one with a few class IVs separated by flatwater.
Addendum: I recall seeing some rafts on interesting, class III or so whitewater in July, 2016 enroute from Barcelona to Sos del Rey Católico. It was the Rio Gállego near Huesca, and we passed by the dam that controls it., so it should have good flow in Summer.

Posted by
16769 posts

Perhaps your friends would be flexible about the itinerary if they took a look at actual, day-by-day, historical weather statistics for places like Seville during recent summers. That data is available on the website timeanddate.com. I'd recommend looking at the last 5 years.