Editor’s note: As a lifelong kayaker, I’ve often said that paddling is all about getting access to places you couldn’t reach otherwise: deep box canyons, a single peaceful eddy in the middle of a turbulent boulder garden, remote stretches of river, views from the lip of a waterfall.
A few years ago, however, while in Patagonia, I tried canyoning or “canyoneering” and realized that this was yet another — perhaps even more accessible way. Canyoning is essentially traversing a river canyon or steep creek minus a kayak. Teams use a mix of climbing techniques and equipment, then swim, climb, rappel, scramble, and sometimes jump to descend the terrain. Over the last year, MatadorU alumnus and full-time photographer Rui Romao has traveled to epic gorges in Spain and his native Portugal to bring these 12 views into canyons that few people ever get to see.