Top 10 places to visit and paddle (canoe, kayak, SUP) in Eastern Europe

10- Velenjsko Jezero, Slovenia (87 in the global 100 list)

This little lake in central Slovenia, near Velenje, is a popular recreation site, recognised as one of the country’s best natural swimming spots, with inflatable obstacle courses, beach volleyball and other activities that make it a hit with families. Anyone with an oar in hand can escape to the quieter treelined shores. Slovenian SUP racer Aljaz Pozes likes to chill here with his kids. 

9- Jelgava County, Latvia (77 in the global 100 list)

Latvia is a superb paddle destination for nature-lovers and beginners as well as those wanting to tackle a long distance trip. South of the capital Riga, the region around the smaller city of Jelgava is veined by two green and tranquil rivers, the Lielupe and Driksa, which feel ethereal when explored during a misty sunrise. 

8- River Tisza, Hungary (75 in the global 100 list)

With thousands of miles of waterways to tour, Hungary is a country of paddlers. While the Danube might be the longest and most famous of its many rivers, others such as the Tisza, which crosses the Great Hungarian Plain in the remote east, make for an off-radar adventure. It meanders through authentic villages and is most compelling upriver from the river’s main town of Szolnok. 

7- Epava Evangelia, Costinesti, Northern Dobruja, Romania (69 in the global 100 list)

Exploring the huge shipwrecked rust-bucket of an abandoned cargo ship, the MV Epava Evangelina, makes for an unusual paddling mission in the Black Sea. She ran aground in 1968, just off the beach resort of Costinesti. 

Romanian SUP athlete Carmina Hionia, who shared this destination with us, is among those to have paddled through a hole in the hull into the flooded interior. Definitely one of the quirkiest spots on the list, great for photos and adventurous paddlers who can steer their way through safely. 

6- Istrian peninsula, Croatia (62 in the global 100 list)

With gorgeous sunshine warming the cliffs, and sparkling clear water, Croatia’s Istrian peninsula is a delight for new paddlers wanting to hit the sea for the first time. The heart-shaped hunk of land juts into the Adriatic and is hugely popular with holidaymakers, but secret secluded spots are best found by the waterborne. Umag, a fun seaside town in the north of the peninsula, and Cape Kamejak, at the southern tip were recommended as two favourite spots of local SUP racer Aljaz Pozes, who claims “recovery is faster in this beautiful landscape.”

62- Istrian Peninsula, Croatia @aljazpozes #Paddle100 Canoe Kayak SUP

5- Ljubliana, Slovenia (47 in the global 100 list)

Another city that’s wonderful to discover from the water, the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana is sliced through by the river Ljubljanic. Wide emerald green waterways lined with willow trees weave through the centre, passing sights the castle, street cafes and candy-coloured architecture. Visitors can book unique urban SUP sightseeing tours that are fun for first-timers.

4- River Samos, Hungary (36 in the global 100 list)

Paddling through forests on the calm Szamos river in this rural area of eastern Hungary allowed outdoors enthusiast Attila Kovacs to reconnect with the “childlike joy and feeling of discovery” that comes from travelling to unfamiliar locations you haven’t seen on social media a thousand times before. It’s a romantic spot for easygoing paddlers to enjoy nature. The 258-mile long river crosses the border from Romania where it is known as the Somes, coursing through Transylvania and breaking into several branches on the Satu Mare plain. 

3- Lacul Tarnita, Transylvania, Romania (34 in the global 100 list)

Like a painting in green and blue, where vibrant forested hills careen down to the cobalt water’s edge, this gorgeous reservoir in the Cluj-Napoca area of Romania would be a hit with keen photographers, beginners and families seeking still, beautiful waters. Romanian SUP athlete Carmina Hionia picked this as a favourite spot. 

2- Kamchatka peninsula, Russia (24 in the global 100 list)

The world’s biggest country has limitless opportunities for trips, but one of the great adventures is sea kayaking the fringes of remote Kamchatka, a vast wilderness peninsula of volcanoes and hot springs far to the east in the north Pacific. Even beginners can join operations for tours where getting splashed by breaching orcas and sea-lions lumbering from the rocks is the norm. 

1- Soca and Koritnica, Slovenia (10 in the global 100 list)

Deep gullies in smooth white limestone, mint green water, forested banks and the mountainous backdrop of the Julian Alps make the River Soca and its tributary the River Koritnica set the scene for some of the most stunning paddling in Eastern Europe. 

Expert and progressing paddlers can tackle Grade 1 to Grade V rapids and the Koritnica’s 70-metre-deep Kluze Canyon, though even beginners can learn here too, on water that’s clean enough to fill your water bottle with. 

Multi-world champion Slovenian canoeist Nejc Znidarcic, recommended the Soca as his beloved local river; it’s where he trains and has won whitewater sprint events.

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