The Karnali River, Nepal

The Karnali River, Nepal

The Karnali is Nepal’s longest and mightiest river and a classic Himalayan river expedition. The Karnali’s headwaters come off Mount Kailas in Tibet, the center of the universe for both Buddhists and Hindus, and then slice through the Himalayas in a series of magnificent isolated gorges and forest. The Karnali river flows uninhibited through a sparsely populated region in the west of the country.  This is an incredible trip, a brilliant mix of excitement, adrenaline and safety, beauty and adventure. This departure is a joint venture with an Indian partner, so we can expect the pleasure and insight of a mixed group of Americans and Indians on the trip.

On this weeklong, 100+ mile trip we encounter some incredible white water with nerve racking rapids such as Gods House, Juicer and Jailhouse, just to name a few. On the flats you can let go of your fear of falling out of your raft. Just relax and look around to see one of the last places in Nepal with old growth forest and maybe even spot some wildlife. The Karnali also supports some of the finest fish habitat with giant catfish and Golden Masheer prowling the depths. All this also comes with pristine beaches for camping and miles of beautiful scenery.

The trip also includes two days at Bardia National Park including an elephant-back wildlife outing, with the possibility of tiger and rhino sightings.

If you love whitewater and wilderness this is the trip for you. From just $2350 it is certainly great value for your money!


Day 01:  Arrive Kathmandu

Airport meeting and transfer to our hotel in the bustling and colorful Thamel district of Kathmandu.  Pre-trip meeting at the hotel at 630 PM, preceding a lively welcome dinner.

Thamel area hotel, D only

Day 02:  Nepalganj and Bardia

After breakfast we head to the airport for an early hour-long flight to Nepalganj, taking in amazing Himalayan views along the way.  In Nepaleganj we will meet up with the Indian members of our group arriving by overnight train from Delhi and with the Nepali rafting team. It’s about two hours to our lodge in Bardia National Park from there. If we’re in early enough we will enjoy the first of our wildlife viewing excursions in the park.

Bardia Eco Lodge or similar, all meals

Day 03:  Bardia National Park

Bardia National Park, the largest and most undisturbed park in the lowland region of Terai, is known for its abundance of wilderness. Initially a royal hunting reserve, it was later granted the status of a national park. The purpose was to preserve the ecosystem of the region including all wild species. The park encompasses approximate 300 sq km of sal forests and riverine grasslands. High elephant grass and dense forests provide home to plenty of animals.

We set out on an early morning elephant safari (1 hr) and then a full day walking tour within the sanctuary. We spend the day up close and personal with the game as we venture on foot looking for wildlife. We return to the lodge by evening in time for an evening cultural program of local Tharu dances.

Bardia Eco Lodge is an eco-friendly and carbon-neutral wildlife lodge located in a beautiful riverside setting in Bardia National Park in Nepal, very close to the park entrance. It provides an environmentally sympathetic and sustainable destination for tourists, which also benefits the local community.

Bardia Eco Lodge or similar, all meals

Days 4: To the river

It’s about a 7 hour drive from Bardia to the put-in spot on the Karnali. We inted to arrive there in the afternoon in time to float less than an hour down to our first campsite on the river.

Camp, all meals

Days 5 – 10: Rafting down the Karnali

This is truly a great experience in whitewater. For the first part of the trip the river challenges our team efforts as we take on some demanding rapids Like Gods House, Juicer and Flip and Strip, while passing through stunning gorges and dense jungle that creep down to the river side.  You have an option of paddle or oar boat depending on how involved you want to be.

Camping on the Karnali trip is awesome. The massive floods of the monsoon deposit huge tracks of pure white sand, creating great beaches to camp on. Occasionally we might get visited by a local villager out hunting. Village kids also wander down to take a peep at the colorful rafts and safety kayaks and the people who are on them! We will have a lay-over day on the trip, depending on weather and such, which will give us some time to get into some beach volley ball action or go for a hike and explore a small village higher up. Maybe you would like to try your hand at kayaking by asking one of our friendly safety kayakers for a lesson. Or just relax with a great book and take in the sun and replenish the energy stocks!

Lots of whitewater and some great gorges to float and paddle through makes the Karnali one of the top 10 multi-day white water trips in Asia or even the world.

Reaching the confluence of the Seti river means that we’re past the major rapids on the Karnali. The lower section of the river is home to fresh water dolphins, marsh mugger crocodiles and gaurials, the giant fish eating crocodiles with the long, graceful jaws, so there is are some good chances of spotting wildlife.

Camp, all meals

Day 11, To Kathmandu

After a short day on the river, we take out and enjoy a simple meal at a local spot. From there it is a two hour drive to Nepalganj where we’ll catch our return flight to Kathmandu. Dinner in Kathmandu is on your own, with many restaurants to choose from.

Hotel in Thamel area, BF & L only

Day 12, Kathmandu

Our day starts with a half-day tour of old Kathmandu, focusing on the main temples of the city. These are:

Swayambhunath The temple is colloquially known as the ‘monkey temple’, after the large tribe of garrulous monkey which guard the hill, amusing visitors and devotees with their tricks, including sliding gracefully down the long double banisters of the main stairway. The soaring central stupa is topped by an aureate block featuring the watchful eyes of Buddha. Set around the base is the continuous series of prayer wheels that pilgrims, circumambulating the stupa, spin as they pass by.

Pashupatinath This is Nepal’s pre-eminent Hindu temple and one of the most significant Shiv temples on the subcontinent. As the Bagmati is a holy river, Pashupatinath has become a popular place to be cremated – the ghats (river steps) immediately in front of the temple are reserved for the cremation of royality, while those in a little further south are for the commoners!

Bodhnath Another site with a religious bent is the huge stupa of Bodhnath, which is the largest in the country and among the largest in the world. It’s also the centre for Nepal’s considerable population of Tibetans. Late afternoon is a good time to visit. This is when prayer services are held and the locals turn out to walk around the stupa (if you wan to join in, remember to walk in a clockwise direction). Surrounding Bodhnath are a number of monasteries, but be discreet and respectful if you intent visiting them.

The afternoon is free to enjoy more of the temples and shops, bars and restaurants of this vibrant town. Shopping is particularly tempting, with wonderful jewelry, fabrics, Buddhist religious art and handicrafts. We cap off the day with a farewell dinner where we can reminisce about our amazing river trip and talk about the next great one.

Thamel Hotel, BF & D

Day 13, Depart

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for your trip home or next Nepal adventure.

BF only


September to December