The idea of paddle boarding tourism tends to lead us to flat, transparent waters in tranquil and tropical locations, or else to glass-like lakes with beautiful surroundings. The idea, more or less, tends to be to find calm, manageable water in a pretty location, such that you can enjoy a perfectly tranquil experience. This is certainly a great way to go about it, but it also tends to leave out one entire type of body of water that can be surprisingly terrific for experienced SUP veterans: rivers!
While some rivers of course flow too quickly or have too many hazards in them, there are plenty of others that are either relatively still or which drift by lazily enough to support paddle boarding. And around Europe, some of these rivers just happen to be in beautiful and fascinating places.
Ljubljanica River – Slovenia
Located in Slovenia, which is perhaps the most underrated of European countries for beauty, the Ljubljanica winds through the southern part of the country, and even through the capital city of Ljubljana. It’s a calm river with a great deal of historical and cultural significance, from stone age remnants discovered by archaeologists to summer concerts on the river still held in present day. Knowing this makes it all the more charming to try SUP on the river, with the biggest thrill being paddling through the Old Town district of Ljubljana. There aren’t too many urban SUP experiences quite as pretty.
Guadalquivir River – Spain
Spain in general is actually seen as an excellent place for SUP, thanks to its seemingly endless coastal paradises. The Mediterranean coast is a clear draw, and the beaches of the Canary Islands are also very appealing. Spain also has high-end river paddle boarding however, most notably on the Guadalquivir. This is one of the longest rivers in Spain, and at various points passes by Roman ruins, open country, and the town of Cordoba. You may even be able to paddle right under the famously lovely Roman Bridge of Cordoba.
River Thames – England
Of the rivers listed here, the Thames in England is the only one that’s actually known for sport. Various sailing competitions take place on the river, and the annual “Boat Race” between Oxford and Cambridge rowing teams is big enough to grab the nation’s attention and even inspire a holiday-like atmosphere full of fans and bettors. Looking at the UK’s bookmaking platforms come summer, you’ll actually find official odds for this particular race. The river is not quite as well known for SUP, but it is an option, provided you’re safe about the powerful currents that exist at parts of the Thames. Provided a safe approach though, paddling by London can be quite an experience.
Amstel River – Netherlands
Netherlands almost seems too easy to point out, because it’s famous for its pretty, flat, and easily navigated canals. The Telegraph’s travel section has even pointed to the canals as an opportunity to go paddle boarding and see Holland as you’ve never seen it before. However, the Amstel River is also a lovely place for SUP, which means you basically have a few terrific options in and around the city of Amsterdam.
Nestos River – Greece
The Nestos River winds through northern Greece, east of Thessaloniki and not far from the Bulgarian border. In fact the river actually starts in Bulgaria before winding down all the way to the Aegean Sea. You won’t want to follow it all the way there, but much of the expanse of the river in Greece is breathtakingly beautiful, winding through green surroundings with medium-sized but striking mountains in the distance. The river is mostly calm, and if you’re any kind of history buff, the ride can be almost enchanting when you consider the age of your surroundings and the ancient civilizations that undoubtedly used the river themselves.