Rafting in the Imster Schlucht canyon, © Tirol Werbung/Peter Neusser
Rafting in the Imster Schlucht canyon, © Tirol Werbung/Peter Neusser

Rafting & Kayaking in Tirol

Thundering rivers, spectacular landscapes, clear water and mighty rapids make Tirol one of the best locations for whitewater sports. The region is home to numerous rafting and kayaking centres organising adrenaline-pumping adventures on the water.

There are few mountain activities as spectacular as rafting and kayaking. The feeling of sitting inside an inflatable boat as you are buffeted from all sides by tall waves and ride the rapids at high speed is one that participants will never forget. And one of the best parts of rafting is that, just like in other situations, it is all about teamwork. In the summer months, Tirol is one of the top hotspots in the Alps for rafting and kayaking thanks to its many rivers with sections of whitewater catering for everyone from beginners to experts.

The Imster Schlucht canyon, for example, is one of the most popular places in Europe for rafting, while the challenging Ötztaler Ache river has hosted world and European championships on numerous occasions. There are also plenty of more accessible options for beginners and families, such as the Drau river and the Tiroler Ache river. In Tirol there are around 30 centres with officially certified guides offering rafting and kayak excursions ranging from taster courses for those new to the sport to extreme adventures with sections of wildwater up to grade IV on the six-level international scale.

Visitors wishing to take part in a rafting or kayaking course must be able to swim, be up for an adventure – and, of course, not mind getting wet! Apart from swimwear, all other equipment (wetsuit and helmet) is provided by the organisers. Adventures often last several hours, with a shuttle transfer back to the starting point provided. Those who wish to try rafting or kayaking without the help of a guide should inform themselves carefully about the local rules and regulations. Some rivers, such as the Ötztaler Ache, are not open to private rafters and kayakers. Many others have specific times when only groups with a guide are allowed onto the water.

1 · Imster Schlucht: One of the Most Popular Rafting Spots in Europe

© AREA 47

For rafting enthusiasts, the section of the Inn river between the Imster Schlucht canyon and the village of Roppen is quite simply the number one wildwater sports location in Tirol. Indeed, this area is considered one of the top rafting destinations anywhere in Europe. Conditions on the water are not for the faint-hearted: thundering rapids, tall waves and plenty of rocks. The fast-flowing nature of the water on this part of the Inn makes it ideal for whitewater sports such as rafting and kayaking. Most of the trips offered by local rafting centres lead along the 14km stretch of river to the village of Haiming, which is accessible from May until mid-October and is also suitable for beginners.

2 · Ötztaler Ache: Where the Pros Do Battle

Rafting trip on the Ötztaler Ache river, © Area 47

The lower part of the Ötztaler Ache river is without a doubt one of the top spots in Tirol for rafting and kayaking. This section between the villages of Oetz and Haiming in the Inn Valley is considered one of the most challenging in Europe. Between May and September, visitors to Tirol can emulate the pros by taking part in rafting trips featuring sections of whitewater rated up to IV on the six-level international scale. Each group is accompanied by two experienced guides. Visitors wishing to take on this 14km rollercoaster ride should already have some whitewater experience. Passages such as the "Waldschlucht" and the legendary "Boa Constructa" are pretty intense and relentless.

3 · Sanna: Short, Intense and Not for the Faint-Hearted

The Sanna, © wasser-c-raft

The Sanna is a short river that flows into the larger Inn river in Landeck. With its rocky passages, steep cascades and technical sections it is a challenge for rafters of all abilities. Despite its relatively low water level, this 6km stretch is much more difficult to negotiate than the infamous Imster Schlucht canyon. Complex cruxes with names such as "Schiefes Eck" and "Pianer Schwall" are so tough that guides at the local rafting centres take time to show rafters these sections from the banks of the river before heading out onto the water. The whitewater is rated IV on the six-level international scale and is only suitable for experienced rafters.

4 · Großache/Tiroler Ache: Wild Adventures in the Entlochklamm

Rafting in Kaiserwinkl Region, © TVB Kaiserwinkl - SportundNatur.com

Beginners looking for a good place to experience their first rafting adventure will enjoy the section of the Tiroler Ache river between Kirchdorf in Tirol and the village of Schleching over the border in Bavaria. Starting in Kirchdorf in the idyllic Hagertal Valley, rafters pass the village nach Kössen and the rolling hills of the Kaiserwinkl. The river then continues over the German border to Schleching, through the wild Klobensteinschlucht and Entlochklamm canyons with their steep rock walls and smugglers' trail. Every now and then there are sandbanks where rafters can stop for a picnic. Rafting on the Tiroler Ache is a great activity for all the family.

5 · Tösener Schlucht: Full Power Ahead

Rafting Tösener Schlucht, © TVB Tiroler Oberland - Kurt Kirschner

The upper section of the Inn, the main river in Tirol traversing the region from west to east, is ideal for whitewater enthusiasts and presents a wide range of challenges for experienced rafters and kayakers. This 17km stretch begins in the village of Pfunds in the Tirolean Oberland, leads through the Tösener Schlucht canyon and ends in Prutz. Strong rapids, excellent waves and churning whitewater holes with names such as "Helga", "Flipper" and "Dani" demand skill and precision, though there are also some easier sections to relax and enjoy the landscape. For many rafting and kayak enthusiasts the best time to hit the river is when the hydroelectric power station upstream releases a huge barrage of water in the morning, creating higher water levels than during the rest of the day. Rafting trips through the canyon take around three hours and are also open to beginners. Shorter rafting adventures on the Inn river are also available.

6 · Lech: Rafting in Europe's Last Wild River Landscape

Rafting on the Lech river, © Robert Eder

Rafting adventures in the Lechtal Nature Park are a special experience in what is the last wild river landscape in Europe. At the heart of the Lechtal Valley lies the Lech river with its ever-changing sections of challenging whitewater and relaxing passages. Rafting trips start in Häselgehr and head down-river for anywhere between 12 and 32 kilometres. The wildwater sections are rated only II on the six-level international scale, making them suitable for beginners and children. Half-day and full-day adventures are available. The day trips include a hearty BBQ lunch on the banks of the river.

7 · Isel: Wildwater from the National Park Glaciers

Rafting on the East Tirol, © TVB Osttirol

Rafting on the Isel river means taking on the power of nature in East Tirol. The Isel is the largest river in the region and is fed by meltwater from glaciers in the Hohe Tauern National Park. The main rafting section begins in Matrei, where the water becomes more challenging as the Tauernbach river meets the Isel. The rafting is anywhere from gentle and easy all the wy up to wildwater level VI. Rafters can make their way down to the Lienz, the largest town in East Tirol, with the season normally lasting from 15 May until 30 September. Thanks to the meltwater from the Tauern glaciers the river always has plenty of water, even in the driest summer months.

8 · Ziller: Rafting Fun for Everyone in Calm Waters

Rafting in the Zillertal Valley, © Zillertal Tourismus / Christoph Johann

Where the Zemm meets the Ziller the action begins! Rafting in the Zillertal Valley is an ideal activity for all ages, including children. The area of water between Mayrhofen and Hippach, around six kilometres in length, is easy to negotiate but has a few challenging sections for those in search of adrenaline. Experienced guides are on hand to make sure everyone stays safe and has fun. No previous experience is required. Guided rafting adventues are on offer from Monday to Friday between May and October.

More water sports

How did you like this article?

Want to receive an answer? If so, please get in touch using the contact form.

Go up

Is your inbox in need of a holiday?

Then subscribe to our weekly newsletter full of exclusive holiday tips from Tirol!