This paper discusses a higher-order sliding-mode-observer design for estimating reactivity in a nuclear research reactor. The nonlinear model of the Pakistan Research Reactor-1 (PARR-1) has been tuned and validated with experimental data. This model is then used for higher-order sliding-mode-observer-based reactivity estimation. In thermal reactors, reactivity is a very important reactor variable, as it determines the change of output power variation and is the main variable being manipulated for reactor power control. Linear observers have been used in the past to estimate reactivity, but the bandwidth is limited, and performance gets degraded as the operating point is changed. A nonlinear observer can efficiently address this problem. In this paper a robust higher-order sliding-mode observer is employed to estimate this variable. The higher-order sliding-mode observer is efficient and has the main advantage of reduced chattering. The estimators predict this variable with the measurement of neutron flux only. The estimated value is in close agreement with the theoretically calculated value.