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  • Writer's pictureMatt Carter

Rock Climbing in Kalymnos

The island of Kalymnos in Greece is a rock climbers' paradise -- thousands of routes for climbers at every level, beautiful beaches, delicious fresh food and incredibly friendly locals. The island used to be a sponge-diving mecca, but has now become known for its amazing rock climbing. There's little to no tourism on the island besides the rock climbers who are all over the place, making you feel right at home.

The rock is high quality limestone with a variety of routes, grades, and types (slab, overhung, technical and pumpy). Routes are long - between 30 to 40 metres - with several multi-pitch route areas. There's no bouldering or trad climbing on the island, it's strictly sport.

There are around 3,000 routes ranging from 5.4 to 5.14d (with hundreds more routes still to be developed). The routes are well equipped with high quality stainless steel hardware. Don't worry about needing to bring a stick clip, the bolts start low to the ground and are frequently spaced every meter or so. Most routes can be completed with a 70m rope, but I'd bring an 80m rope to ensure that you can climb some of the longer routes.

Do yourself a favor and bring extra climbing shoes -- limestone is abrasive and the different styles of climbing (slab v. cave climbing) will likely necessitate using both neutral and aggressive shoes depending on the terrain you're on. Sport climbers aren't always going to wear a helmet, but you should consider bringing and wearing one -- and if you rent a moped you can save the extra charge for a helmet rental!

The gear I used for the trip included:

The Kalymnos Rock Climbing Guidebook is also well worth packing -- the book, which is locally created, comes with a code to download an app with all the information on the routes so that you don't have to carry the book around with you. There are several climbing stores on the island that sell the book along with anything you may have forgotten to pack or need to replace while there.

You can climb in Kalymnos anytime of year, but the more ideal time would be either Spring or Autumn when it's not too hot and when all the accomodation spots are available (winter is their down-season). I visited in late Spring, early Summer this year and preferred to climb in the early morning before the sun became too hot to make the climbs enjoyable. But many folks on the island climb all throughout the day, and you can find afternoon-shaded cliffs or cliffs protected from the rain and wind.

A typical day in Kalymnos was climbing from 7AM til noon, breaking for an enormous lunch of Mediterranean fare, napping on the beach and swimming in the sea til dinner.

While almost every tourist on the island is a climber, it's a great place for anyone to relax by the beach or a pool and super kid-friendly. Most hotels on the island allow anyone to use their pools. And a fun day activity is to hike parts of the 100km Kalymnos Trail , which connects mountain tops with beaches, archaeological sites and caves with amazing views throughout.

The best way to get to Kalymnos is via ferry, because their local airport diverts flights at the first sign of wind back to Athens. You can fly into either Athens or Kos, both of which are international airports, or take a domestic flight from Athens to Kos, and then a ferry to Kalymnos. You'll arrive in the port of Pothia, where you can rent either a car or moped, or take a taxi to your hotel. Since most of the climbs are located in the western part of the island, most climbers stay in the town of Masouri, which is twenty minutes from Pothia; here there are lots of accommodation options and restaurants, but you can also choose to stay in quieter surrounding areas.

There's no camping available on the island, but there are really affordable accomodation options, including hotels, airbnbs and short-term apartment rentals.

While some of the crags are within walking distance from hotels, I'd recommend renting a car or moped, both of which are super affordable (cars being around $25 euros per day, mopeds being around $8 - 15 euros per day), to ensure that you can get to all the crags you want. All the approaches are really simple, ranging from 5 to 45 minutes, many of which include wild goats (so don't leave your food out!).

If you somehow run out of climbs in Kalymnos, or just want a change of pace, you can take a short boat ride to the nearby island Telendos for more great climbing and most of the area's multi-pitch routes.

Remember to stop by the local stores and support the community by bringing back gifts of delicious honey and their unique sponges for your friends and family. Enjoy climbing in Kalymnos and don't forget to stop and smell the sage, oregano and thyme around you!

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