Our office is closed on May 29. Download a FREE itinerary or book your adventure online today!

World’s Best River Trips for 2023 – our Top 10!

By: Seth Heald

Other Posts by this Author

January 27, 2023 | Adventure Experts

True to the roots of MT Sobek we are busy gearing up for an amazing year of world-class river trips! Help us celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sobek, a company famous for 40 first descents in the world’s most renowned whitewater rafting destinations (see the end of this blog for a list). We’ve utilized those 50 years of experience to curate the very best for you, join our team of experts in 2023 on the World’s 10 Best River Trips for 2023!

Here are our top 10 picks for the 2023 season.


  1. Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho, US
  2. Alsek River, Alaska, US
  3. Colorado River through Cataract Canyon River Rafting, Utah, US
  4. Hulahula River Rafting, Alaska, US 
  5. Zambezi River Rafting Adventure – Zambia, Africa 
  6. Zanskar River Rafting Tour – Northern India 
  7. Lower Owyhee River Rafting Tour – Oregon
  8. Tatshenshini River Rafting, Alaska, US
  9. Rioni River Rafting Adventure Tour – Republic of Georgia
  10. 2024 Sneak Preview!

1. Rafting the Middle Fork of the Salmon River – Idaho, US

We’re biased, but we have to agree with the Whitewater Guidebook. They rank the Middle Fork of the Salmon as the world’s #1 Multi-Day Rafting trip, even topping the Grand Canyon: “the quintessential multi-day rafting trip that has it all: hot springs, world-class trout fishing, jaw-dropping scenery, abundant wildlife, great hiking, and nearly continuous whitewater for its 100 miles. It’s a river trip that has something for everyone.”

A group of MT Sobek guests rafting on the Middle River in Idaho.

A Middle Fork of the Salmon River rafting experience with MT Sobek’s expert guides fosters an incredible team spirit and camaraderie. Whether you’re traveling solo, as a couple, as a family group, with friends, or even co-workers you’ll soon become part of the Middle Fork crew, ready to share the thrills and spills of river rafting together—and there is lots of laughter to be had. Click here to treat yourself for 7-days this summer on the best rafting trip in the world!

2. Rafting Alsek River – Alaska, US

Want to float past icebergs and glaciers through some of the most pristine wilderness in the world? If so, this is the best Alaskan river rafting adventure for you. You’ll tackle Class II-IV rapids as you raft 160 miles from Kluane National Park in Canada’s Yukon to Alaska’s amazing Glacier Bay National Park.

MT Sobek group rafting the Alsek River in Alaska.

It’s a mesmerizing ride that lets you experience the raw nature of the north. It also includes an exciting helicopter portage over thundering Turnback Canyon. With raw nature on display at every bend, this is a unique river trip for thrill-seekers, through one of the last great frontiers. Read more about our epic Alsek adventure here.

3. Colorado River through Cataract Canyon River Rafting – Utah

This trip is simply amazing and encompasses the wildest part of the Colorado River as it swells to its largest uninterrupted flow through Canyonlands National Park before reaching Lake Powell. An undammed flow means mother nature delivers us diversity, with two distinct rafting seasons in Cataract Canyon. Spring brings long sunny days with blooming cactus flowers and thrill-seekers get to experience North America’s largest rapids.

MT Sobek rafting group on the Colorado River through Cataract Canyon.

Our fall trips typically offer the best weather, giant sandbar camps with cozy campfires, and more beginner-friendly water flows. In either season, enjoy guided rafting and sightseeing or self-directed stand-up paddle boarding and kayaking on long, flatwater sections with side hikes to Ancestral Puebloan Ruins and Pictographs. After the confluence with the Green River, hold on as we crest legendary class III-IV (V at high water) desert whitewater. Camp and dine comfortably each night on sandy beaches beneath desert skies and towering red sandstone cliffs. Sunset Magazine gave Cataract Canyon a travel award for West’s best rafting, click here to come see why.

4. Hulahula River Rafting – Alaska, US

The long bush plane flight to the put-in is a bigger adventure than most Alaskan visitors have. There is more, way more in store for you on the Hulahula. You guessed it, MT Sobek pioneered this quintessential arctic river trip which runs through the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alaska.

MT Sobek rafters on the Hulahula River in Alaska.

From its headwaters in the Brooks Range, the river flows through tundra and a breathtaking canyon on its way to the Beaufort Sea. Amazing wildlife viewing opportunities in this vast wilderness include porcupine caribou, musk oxen, grizzlies, and a variety of coastal birds. Experience the wonders of this swift-flowing river as you raft almost 100 miles on thrilling Class III-IV whitewater–perfect for paddling enthusiasts–and enjoy hiking and camping on a pure Arctic wilderness trip.

5. Zambezi River Rafting Adventure – Zambia, Africa 

The thundering Zambezi River is home to some of the most exhilarating Class III-IV rapids in the world! MT Sobek is legendary on the Zambezi, after first rafting it in the early 1980s. On this trip, a local team with top MT Sobek guide Mandela van Eeden leads you down 40 miles through the Batoka Gorge.

MT Sobek group rafting on the Zambezi River in Africa.

If rafting the infamous Zambezi isn’t enough to excite you, we’ve included a 2-day canoe safari to view wildlife, a sunset cruise, and a dip in the Devil’s Pool, which laps over the edge of UNESCO-listed Victoria Falls. It’s an amazing combination of activities in the heart of Zambia. There is still time to sign up for this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

6. Zanskar River Rafting Tour – Northern India

Check that bucket list and help us celebrate MT Sobek’s first descent of the Zanskar River in 1979! ‘The Grand Canyon of the Himalayas’ is where a pristine river canyon snakes through towering mountains. Traveling west from Leh (11,483 feet), feel the Tibetan spirit of the Ladakh region. Roam Buddhist monasteries and gompas, bustling markets, ancient palaces, and remote villages in the embrace of the Himalayas.

Three groups of people rafting down the Zanskar River in the Himalayan Mountains.

At the Stod River, begin a multi-day river adventure down the remote Zanskar River Gorge. Paddle Class III and IV rapids through narrow passages, flanked by sky-high mountain walls, all the way to the fork of the Indus River. Experience Ladakh’s warm hospitality and rest at riverside camps under starry night skies. Check availability here.

7. Lower Owyhee River Rafting Tour – Oregon

For a magical few weeks each Spring, the right water levels allow us to enter into one of North America’s most spectacular, but lesser-known gorges. The snowpack looks great so far this year, so come join us in Oregon’s desert canyon with a perfect blend of exciting whitewater, varied scenery, hiking, hot springs, and relaxation. The Owyhee River’s whitewater is as diverse as the flora and fauna that adorns the remote canyon hillsides.

The beautiful Owyhee River in Oregon

Its close proximity to the Malheur Bird Refuge lends this trip to some of the most diverse birding, not to mention bighorn sheep and wild mustangs! Raft through dramatic multi-colored canyons, where sheer rock faces, up to 1,000 feet high, tower above the river. Hike to remote hot springs, Pruitt’s Castle, homestead cabins, and the Chalk Basin, and take in views of Native American petroglyphs over 8,000 years old. Explore 65 miles of the pristine Owyhee Canyonlands on this early spring trip.

8. Tatshenshini River Rafting – Alaska, US

Looking for an expedition into the wild, but without the wild whitewater? The Tatshenshini is a true classic that begins in the snow-clad mountains of the Yukon and meanders past sweeping glaciers to the sea. Sobek led the first descent of this 136-mile run where you’ll pass through the largest concentration of grizzly bears in North America, plus bald eagles and wildflower-speckled Alaskan tundra.

Woman rafting with MT Sobek group on the Tatshenshini River in Alaska.

Float past large, calving glaciers as the ‘Tat’ joins the Alsek River for its final 50 miles to our take-out in Dry Bay, part of Glacier Bay National Park. Join this epic adventure, on easy rapids navigated by expert guides and day hikes through dazzling wilderness, that gratifies the soul.

9. Rioni River Rafting Adventure Tour – Republic of Georgia

Can’t see yourself camping, no matter how “comfortable”? On our Rioni Rafting trip, you will stay in hotels and guesthouses, with no camping! Blending the beautiful landscapes and sparkling rivers of the Caucasus Mountains with legendary Georgian hospitality, this special adventure is nothing short of a true quest.

Group of people rafting down the Rioni River in the Republic of Georgia

Take in the intriguing history of this crossroads of Europe and Asia, admire the magnificent Orthodox churches and monasteries, and savor the delicious wines and cuisine. Get your adrenaline boost over six days of Class III+ rafting on four different rivers, and visit many attractions in between, from Stalin’s birthplace and Vardzia caves to the old towns of Kutaisi and Tbilisi. We have only one departure this year and it is over the July 4th weekend.

10. 2024 Sneak Preview: The Rio Grande River Expedition – Texas’s Big Bend National Park

We are busy scouting, interviewing, and working out the tiny details for more well-crafted paddling trips to epic destinations. If you enjoy the warm winter sunshine and quick getaways to the true wild west wilderness, this one should be on your list next year.

A Boquillas Canyon trip takes you past the small village of Boquillas, Mexico, and into the dramatic canyon that has cut its way along the east side of Big Bend National Park. A hiker’s dream, with miles of remote side canyons and overland hikes, plus a few small rapids keep it exciting Filled with rich human history ranging from Spaniards to Apaches to the rugged settlers of the present-day, we might be on to something big in the bend! 

Sobek’s First Descents

Africa: Zambezi River (Zambia/Zimbabwe), Gabba-Birbir-Baro system (Ethiopia), Awash River (Ethiopia), Omo River (Ethiopia), Blue Nile, whitewater section Mahajamba (Madagascar), Betsiboka (Madagascar), Kunene (Angola/Namibia), Tana (Kenya), Kilombero (Tanzania), Ruaha (Tanzania), Luangwa (Zambia), Shira (Malawi), Kafue (Zambia)

Asia: Euphrates (Turkey), Coruh (Turkey), Great Bend of the Yangtze (China), Indus (Pakistan), Alas (Sumatra), Ayung (Bali), Sala Sadang (Sulawesi), Yarkand (China), Hunza-Gilgit (Pakistan), Zanskar (India), Kayan (Borneo), Boh (Borneo), Dar Jung Guo (China), Biritingi (Sumatra), Kunar (Pakistan), Swat (Pakistan), Ghizar (Pakistan), Tons (India), Yamuna (India)

Europe: Reisa Elva (Norway), Alta Elva (Norway/Finland)

North America: Upper Youghiogheny (Pennsylvania), Tatshenshini (Yukon/Alaska), New River Gorge (West Virginia), Kennicott/Nizina/Chitina (Alaska), Kongakut (Alaska), Hulahula (Alaska), Canning (Alaska), Tsirku (Alaska), Tkobe (Alaska), Chilkat (Alaska), Six-Mile (Alaska), Eau Claire (Quebec)

Oceania: Bulolo-Watut-Markham system (Papua New Guinea), Tsau-Jimi-Yuat system (Papua New Guinea), Wahgi-Tua system (Papua New Guinea), Motu (New Zealand), Mohaka (New Zealand), Clarence (New Zealand), Hast (New Zealand), Tasman (New Zealand)

South America & the Caribbean: Manso (Argentina/Chile), Bio-Bio (Chile), Roosevelt (Brazil), Baker (Chile), Toa (Cuba), Quijos (Ecuador), Aguarico (Ecuador), Sereno (Chile), Apurimac (Peru), Tambopata (Peru)