For a fun family adventure, we heartily recommend rafting on the Vorderrhein river near Flims Laax, an easy day trip from Zürich. This river is mild enough for families, but it does have class 3 rapids. So you need to raft with a guide who knows the river well and can keep you safe.
We did a half-day trip with Swiss River Adventures, rafting from Ilanz to Bonaduz, about 2 hours on the river. They provide an experienced river guide and all the equipment, including wetsuits and helmets. You only need to bring a swimsuit and a smile. The rafting company will give you all the important information you need to know, in English. But I’ll cover the basics here to get you started and give some tips based on our experience.
River rafting is a great choice for any summer day, even rainy days since you’re going to get wet anyway but stay warm in your wetsuit. My son said it was the most fun he had had in a long time – 5 stars! I hope you like it.
Note: Our trip was hosted by Swiss River Adventures.
Location: Ilanz, Graubünden Switzerland Meeting Point: Ilanz train station By car: park at , then 20 min train ride to meeting point in Ilanz 1hr20 mins from Zürich to Reichenau-Tamins train station By transit: meeting point at Ilanz train station Rafting trip: about 2hr on the water, about 22km Cost 2021: Half-day trip CHF 115/adult, CHF 75/child 10+ (more for full day trip with lunch) Family discount on Weds: CHF 70/parent, CHF 40/child 10+ Open: May to mid October Services: fee includes: equipment, guide, transport of personal belongings to takeout, apero after the trip Ages: 10+, should be able to swim, pregnant women cannot raft More info: swissriveradventures.ch
This river rafting trip is located in southeast Switzerland, near the LAAX-Flims area.
You float on a 22km section of the Vorderrhein river, the upper part of the Rhein river, from Ilanz to Bonaduz. This section of river includes class 3 rapids, which are mild enough for families, but best with a guide to ensure your safety.
Booking your trip
We did our rafting trip with Swiss River Adventures, who offers rafting, canyoning, and canoe trips on several rivers in Switzerland. Swiss River Adventures offers a variety of packages for the Vorderrhein river we did, all covering the same stretch of river, 22 km from Illanz to Bonaduz. We did the morning half-day trip, meeting at 9:35 and ending around 12:45. There is also an afternoon trip meeting at 14:35.
The full day trip stops half-way for a lunch break where they provide the BBQ and drinks, then rafts the rest of the river in the afternoon. You can also book this trip as an overnight, starting in the afternoon, rafting half-way, camping in tents on the river (they provide all the food and equipment except a sleeping bag), then finishing the river the next day.
We were really impressed with their rafting operation: well organized, clean, professional, super friendly. The owner is from New Zealand and all the guides speak English. We would raft again with them anytime.
If you have your heart set on a specific day, it’s best to book a week or more in advance. But if you are flexible, it’s often possible to book the day before. So if you have a free day, just call to see if they have open spots.
When to go
Rafting trips are usually possible from May through mid-October. They do rafting trips every day, even in the rain. In fact, this is a good choice for cloudy weather or a slight drizzle, since you’ll be wet anyway on the boat and warm in your neoprene suits. They don’t run in extremely heavy rain or when the river conditions are too dangerous.
What to wear & bring
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Swiss River Adventures provides a packing list with an exhaustive list. You don’t need much, but some tips…
On the boat, you will wear a full neoprene suit, with long sleeves and booties. You will get wet on the boat as water splashes from the rapids. But the suit keeps you warm. Underneath, you should wear your swimming suit and optionally a thin shirt made of moisture wicking material (not cotton) just to make it a bit more comfortable. At the Swiss River Adventures office, there are changing rooms so you don’t have to wear your swimsuit there.
You should bring a bag with a towel and dry clothes to change into after the trip. You can leave this bag in your car at the take out point. If you came by train, SRV will bring your bag to the take out point.
You wear a helmet on the boat, so you don’t need a hat. Most of your skin is covered, so you only need sunscreen on your face (especially your nose, mine was burnt). If you plan to wear glasses or sunglasses, best to bring a strap so you don’t lose them. Swiss River Adventures sells them for CHF 5 if you don’t have one.
You don’t need anything on boat. You don’t bring food, water or anything else. Just you and your paddle.
If you want to take pictures, you can bring your phone in a waterproof case with a neck strap. I wore mine around my neck and tucked it into my life vest when I wasn’t using it. Of course, you take your phone at your own risk and it’s possible you could lose it or the case leaks and damages your phone.
I also brought my GoPro. But you need both hands to paddle. So you can’t be holding the GoPro the whole time. It needs to be secured to something, like a chest mount or neck strap. Swiss River Adventures has two helmets with a GoPro mount. But it might not be there when you go. So maybe call ahead to see if they can reserve it for you.
Again, Swiss River Adventures will send you clear instructions. But in short… The meeting point is at the Ilanz train station. You meet your guide in front of the train station and you walk together to the Swiss River Adventures office, where you check in and get your equipment.
By train: Simply take a train to Ilanz, Bahnhof and meet your guide outside the station. Select a train that arrives at the meeting time in your instructions.
The rafting trip ends in Bonaduz, a short walk to the Reichenau-Tamins train station (as shown below), where you catch a train back to your starting point.
By car: It’s best to park your car at the takeout point in Bonaduz. So drive to Im Farsch, 7402 Bonaduz (GPS: 46°49’28.4″N 9°24’22.4″E). There is a big dirt parking lot next to the river. Pay the parking fee as you enter, you’ll need about 4.5 hrs. I suggest using the Easy Park mobile app so you can easily adjust your parking time.
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Then a 10 min walk to the Reichenau-Tamins train station (as shown above), where you can catch a train to the meeting point in Ilanz, Bahnhof.
On the water
All suited up and ready to go.
First instructions from your guide. Be a good guest by listening carefully and following what your boat captain tells you.
From the Swiss River Adventures office in Ilanz, it’s a short walk to the river. You step down a few rocks to get to the water.
Get in boat and into position for paddling.
So many pretty views of the mountains and Swiss countryside as you float down the river.
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Lots of fun action on the rapids.
You do some active paddling, following your guide’s instructions.
More mountain views.
Once you reach the “Swiss Grand Canyon,” the views are a more dramatic, with interesting rock formations on the canyon walls.
The takeout point is in Bonaduz, right next to the parking lot. Your guide will pull the boat to shore, then you all help carry the boat up to the trailer. Then you strip off the wetsuits and leave them at the washing station. If you sent a bag of clothes and belongings with the team, it will be waiting for you here. There is a small changing room and toilets.
They also provide an apéro with coffee, tea, and cookies, where you can chat with the other guests and guides before heading out. All done – one happy crew!
Thanks again to Swiss River Adventures for hosting our visit. We enjoyed this trip so much and hope to be back soon for another adventure.
See more water adventures in Switzerland