The Most Popular Rock Climbing Spots Worldwide

The absolute best rock climbing spot in the world is debatable, of course. Some prefer sport climbing on perfect tufas with breathtaking sea views. Others climbers will swear that perfectly smooth granite walls in picturesque forest landscape are tops. Bouldering nerds will attest that slapping perfect sandstone slopers is the only way to go. So it stands to reason that when asking climbers from different disciplines about their favorite spots, their answers will vary. However, if you tally up the favorites from all areas of the sport, you’ll end up with the list we have here — a selection of best rock climbing spots in the world.

Greece

Kalymnos

RECOMMENDED FOR SPORT CLIMBERS, SEA AND SUN LOVERS
Amazing limestone with routes for every skill level
Sea, sun, and Mediterranean food
Did I mention amazing limestone?
Can get crowded during peak season
Popular routes are polished

Is there anything better than a perfect overhang, scattered with beautifully sculptured tufas, hiding all kinds of sport climbing trickery, like knee bars, deep drop knees, heel hooks and toe hooks? If you share my vision of a perfect sport climbing route, Kalymnos is the ‘X’ on your treasure map. If you don’t share my vision, climb there anyways! The area is full of hidden climbing treasures. Kalymnos’ pumpy overhanging mega pitches are the island’s main dish, and its 3,400+ routes, ranging from slabs to roofs, are plenty to satiate any climber’s.

When you’re not climbing, a Mediterranean diet of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables will feed your body, while beautiful scenery, sun and sea will feed your soul. The word on the street there is that the climbing grades will feed your ego too…

Kalymnos’ Aegean setting and its dry, Mediterranean climate makes climbing possible throughout the year. Autumn is the best and most popular season for climbing, with October being the month where the number of climbers peaks, so keep that in mind when planning your trip. If you choose to go in October, you may want to avoid Odyssey, Grande Grotta, Arhi and Spartacus, as they are the most popular and most crowded spots.

Though Kalymnos is small, it offers everything you need should you choose to stay for a couple of days or extended periods. Most climbers choose the villages of Armeos, Masouri and Myrties as their base. From here, you can easily access all climbing spots by either scooter or foot. The island also has a number of hotels and studio rentals, bars and restaurants, and most importantly, climbing gear shops and guiding services. Be aware, there were few reported cases of burglary, so it is better to take your valuables (money, passports, etc.) with you when you go climbing.

With well-bolted crags and a wide variety of grades, the climbing in Kalymnos is accessible for climbers of all abilities. Even though we climbed nearly every day of our trip, we weren’t able to visit all of the crags we had outlined.

by Emily Cole - Avid sport climber, founding member of Crux Crush

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Kalymnos climbing...

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Kalymnos - good to know

Skill level

Amateur to pro, 4a to 9a (5.5 to 5.14d)

Getting there

Fly to Kos, then take the ferry to Kalymnos, or fly to Athens, then fly directly to Kalymnost

More info Learn more here
Getting around

Rent a scooter

Guidebook

Kalymnos Climbing Guidebook or climbing app

Climbers' bar

Fatolitis Snack Bar

Visit

Kalymnos climbing festival

Rest day activities

Snorkeling, scuba diving, hiking, cycling, cave exploring, relaxing on the beach

France

Fontainebleau

TOP CHOICE FOR BOULDERERS AND WANNA-BE BOULDERERS
Incredible sandstone
The world's mecca for bouldering
Child friendly
If you plan it right, you'll never climb the same boulder twice
Popular sectors can get crowded
Quite condition dependent, can get slippery during hot weather

When I first entered the forest of Fontainebleau, just 90km south of Paris, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning! I was stunned by all of the perfectly smooth sandstone boulders, and their incredible shapes, colors, and crazy “elephant skin” texture. I kept wondering how on Earth nature could have made this place? The best conclusion I could surmise was that the stone was here for a purpose: it was made to be conquered by climbers. Indeed, climbers divined the boulders’ some time ago.

Ever since the late 19th century, alpinists from Paris would climb Font’s boulder problems in succession (i.e., what we call bouldering circuits today) to prepare for bigger walls they intended to climb on future expeditions. This pastime later took off on its own and evolved into what we today call “bouldering” — arguably the most popular discipline of rock climbing. Even the grading scale used in bouldering is called the “Font scale.”

Fontainebleau (or simply Font or Bleau) is huge. The forest spreads out to over 900 square kilometers, with more than 100 bouldering areas and more than 30,000 registered boulder problems to test your skills. Most of the sectors are easily accessible, with short walks on flat terrain, and soft and sandy landings (check Cul de Chien sector!). My friends who have kids love to take their toddlers to Font, they can play in the sand while their parents crush boulders problems.

Font’s specialty are slopers — the area has the most perfect examples you’ll find anywhere. The climbing is tricky and technical, with some close to none-existent footholds in places. I believe anyone’s footwork will benefit from a trip to Font!

Another Font specialty is its color-coded circuits — the legacy of Parisian alpinists. There’s a circuit for every level, yellow circuits are for inexperienced climbers; orange, blue and red circuits for intermediate climbers; the white and black circuits are reserved for experts. Font is a must for every serious boulderer. Even if bouldering isn’t your cup of tea, Font could change your mind. It happened to me.

Font sandstone is simply the best in the world. Add history, unlimited potential and its proximity to Paris, and soon you realize it’s hard to find reasons not to visit.

by Perica Levatic, 57hours founder, rock climber, and speed champion

Fontainebleau 201...

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Fontainebleau - good to know

Best season

Go in spring and autumn for the best grip, summers can get hot, but due to the vast amount boulders there’s always shade somewhere

Getting around

It’s good to have a car due to the size of the forest. Some sectors are accessible by public transport

Accommodations

The are several camping sites, three hotels and a lot of Airbnbs in Fontainebleau and Gîtes, all of which are full of French character 

More info here
Skill level

From amateur to professional. Note that even easy boulders can be quite tricky to climb. Apparently Adam Ondra, the world's best, fell off a 6A boulder!

Exhaustive online databases

https://bleau.info/ and https://boulderfont.info/

Guidebooks

Because of Font’s size, there are lots of guidebooks: circuit guides, off-circuit guides, and a mixture of both

Guidebook reviews here
Rest day activities
  • Visit Paris
  • Visit Château de Fontainebleau
  • Disneyland Paris if you travel with kids
  • Guided hiking tours through the beautiful forests, rent a bike and ride around, or even go for a carriage ride for a unique European experience
Indoor climbing for rainy days

Karma 

South Africa

Rocklands

TOP CHOICE FOR LOVERS OF ATHLETIC BOULDERING AND FAR-OFF PLACES
Bouldering paradise in a stunning desert landscape
An escape from the summer heat of the northern hemisphere
Almost unlimited potential for development
There’s also some sport and trad climbing too
Not suitable for beginners
Limited internet connection
Not very child friendly
Good rest day activities are hard to get to

Rocklands is a bouldering area three hours north of the oldest South African city, Cape Town. Miles and miles of perfect red and orange sandstone boulders are spread throughout the desert of the Cederberg Wilderness area.

If Fontainebleau is the birthplace of bouldering, Rocklands is its modern-day grandkid. The two areas complement each other perfectly. While Font is all about mastering the peculiar dance between bad and terrible holds, Rocklands is about steep athletic climbing, pulling hard, cutting loose, dynoing, campusing, locking off…all the fun stuff that’s part of modern bouldering! While I absolutely love Font, I go there with modest expectations, due to its particular style of climbing which is hard to learn anywhere else. The climbing in Rocklands, on the other hand, is more similar to what we climbers do on a regular basis at the gym. In Rocklands, I expect to send my hardest, which, I believe, is a reasonable expectation for anyone. 

Legends of bouldering Todd Skinner, Scott Milton, and the one and only Fred Nicole discovered the huge potential of the area in 1996. Two years later Klem Loskot, another old school legend of the sport, quickly took up their excitement. In very little time, Rocklands became one of the top bouldering destinations in the world.

Bouldering is concentrated in three main areas: Pakhuis, Agterpakhuis and Wupperthal Commanage, though, new areas are developed almost every season. There are some sport and trad climbing spots as well. Even if it is not nearly as known as bouldering, I’ve heard of people traveling there being motivated solely by rope action. What adds to Rockland’s appeal is that it’s in the southern hemisphere, providing a perfect escape from the northern hemisphere’s summer heat. By the way, Fred Nicole still frequents Rocklands, alongside with many new climbing superstars. Opportunities for selfies with famous climbers always abound!

Rocklands is cool because it's wild. You get amazing climbing far away from civilization on perfect red rock.

by Jernej Kruder, bouldering overall world cup winner 2018 & world vice champion 2014 (www.instagram.com/kruderjernej/). Jernej is sponsored by Ocun, Scarpa and Vibram.

Rocklands - Bould...

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Rocklands - good to know

Skill level

Intermediate to professional (V6/7A to V16/8C+)

Getting there

Fly to Cape Town, rent a car, then drive about 3 hours

Season

South African winter: June to September

Accommodations

There are several guesthouses and a campsite. Book months ahead, lodgings fill up fast!

Leave no trace

While this holds for every place you visit, Rocklands bouldering is located within the protected Cederberg Wilderness Area. Pack out all thrash and respect nature

Climbing permits

Some areas require a climbing permit, so check the guidebook for details. Get it from Traveller's rest, de Pakhuys camping or online

Additional info Learn more here
Rest day activities

Close to the area there are activities such as hiking and wine tasting, while driving for a few hours drive can take you to an enjoyable safari in Namibia or surfing on ocean waves from the coast

Guidebook

Rocklands Bouldering Guidebook by Scott Noy or 27crags App

Thailand

Tonsai and Railay

RECOMMENDED FOR CHILLED, LAID BACK, BACKPACKER SPORT CLIMBING ENTHUSIASTS
It’s a paradise for sport climbing in an exotic environment
There’s excellent multi-pitch climbing and some bouldering
Amenities are a stone’s throw away from climbing (beach and a bar)
It’s affordable!
Easy to find a partner if you’re alone
Heat and humidity
Rusty bolts on some routes
Mosquitos

No matter how serious I am about climbing, I find that a laid-back style suits me best. Endless morning coffees, late arrivals, short approaches, napping between climbs, doing a few climbs, finishing early to go to a beach or a bar…you get the picture? Now, imagine a breathtaking beach in an exotic location.

There’s perfect, overhanging walls directly above this sandy beach, and a bar directly below, full of fellow climbers. Can you imagine a better location for a relaxed climbing holiday? I can’t. This ‘beach’ that I just described is really two climbing spots near Krabi in Thailand: Tonsai and Railay. During the climbing season, these two areas are transformed into a friendly community of like-minded climbers and hippies from all over the world.

In Tonsai and Railay, camaraderie and ease sum up the way of life when visiting. If traveling solo, finding a climbing partner is as easy as it gets, just show up at the bar. There are also plenty of climbing courses, guides, and rent-a-partners. The specialty (besides feeling like you’re climbing in paradise) is 3D climbing on stalactites. Lots of fun! For an unforgettable experience, I recommend one of the breathtaking multi-pitches on Thaiwand Wall.

Since Tonsai and Railay are popular tourist destinations, finding accommodation that suits your needs will not be an issue. The most typical type of arrangements are bungalows, though, the region has it all, from camping sites to hotel resorts. Decide if you would rather be closer to Railay or Tonsai and start planning from there. To add to the appeal, once there, you’ll find most everything quite affordable. Though, due to the areas’ popularity, prices are steadily rising, so I’d recommend going there sooner than later. Climbing in this exotic location comes with a higher price tag, though, due to logistics, so check out our tips below to prepare better.

Tonsai is one of the only places on this planet where you can find an amazing tropical beach mixed in with world class climbing. It is literally one of a kind place that every climber needs to experience!

by Jacob Bushmaker, traveler and climber, author of the Tonsai Climbing – The Ridiculously Excellent Guide

Climbing Tonsai T...

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Tonsai and Railay - good to know

Skill level

Beginner to advanced (up to 8c/5.14b)

Terrain

Most routes are overhanging on pocketed limestone with many stalactites. It is possible to find some slab climbing

Getting there

Fly to Phuket or Krabi (better option), take the bus to Ao Nang, from there a boat takes you to Tonsai or Railay

Season

November to March (high-season) and April to October (low season). Expect queues in popular routes during high season!

Rest day activities

Besides climbing there are plenty of other activities like yoga, snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, slacklining…

Access

Some crags are only accessible by boat or during low tide, check the tide-forecast

Guidebook

The Pocket Guide by Sirichai Pongsopon

Animals

Exotic animals abound, like monkeys, scorpions, snakes, and lizards. Check cracks for possible guests if you are climbing some less traveled routes

A word on mosquitoes

Stock up on mosquito coils and sprays in Ao Nang. Mosquitos abound, beware of tiger mosquitoes, as they can transmit dengue fever. They are generally active only just before sunrise and after sunset

Gear

Climbing accessories such as chalk and tape can be expensive, so bring some with you to save money. Also, a large rope pad is very handy as sand gets everywhere

Bolts

Check the condition of bolts and slings before you clip them! Due to the areas’ proximity to the ocean, many routes need re-bolting with expensive top-quality titanium bolts. If you can, donate to the re-bolting efforts at local climbing shops

Water

It’s not drinkable. Buy bottled water

British Columbia, Canada

Squamish

RECOMMENDED FOR ALL AROUND CLIMBERS WITH A TASTE FOR GRANITE
Perfect granite climbing at Vancouver’s doorstep
Classic crack lines of all grades
Has it all, from boulders, single and multipitches, trad and sport climbing.
Approaches and descends are usually very easy
Frequent rainfalls
Crack climbing is tricky if you are not used to it

If I had to describe Squamish in a few words, I’d say: adventure at your doorstep. Only one hour north of Vancouver, Squamish has it all. There’s intimidating, big walls, world-class single pitch and bouldering, with both trad and sport climbing on offer.

Few places have so many world-class routes between grades and climbing disciplines. Because of this and such easy access to so many crags, I find Squamish to be a truly unique place. The climbing is on the finest slick granite, which means plenty splitter cracks. There are classic crack lines of all grades — from 5.8 to 5.14. If you don’t have prior experience with crack climbing, be prepared to learn from the hard way. I have seen (and experienced first-hand!) climbers falling off cracks that are way below their usual sport climbing level. Finally, I have to mention the rain. It can be rainy in Squamish, but there has to be something, right? Otherwise it would just be too perfect.

Squamish’s most prominent climbing feature is the Chief, a mighty 700m granite wall that looms over the town. The easiest way up is only 5.9, but the route requires some efficiency to complete it before nightfall. I advocate starting with some of the smaller walls, like the Apron, to get a feel for the climbing and so you practice moving quickly. There’s also easier routes up the Chief, and they’re quite popular, so I recommend an early start to avoid getting stuck in traffic.

For single pitch, I’d recommend Smoke Bluffs, Murrain Park, and Leviticus, ordered with respect to the increasing level of difficulty. The forest below the Chief is littered with boulders. Even if Squamish is not primarily known as a bouldering area, don’t be fooled, bouldering in Squamish truly is world-class, as evidenced by frequent visits of world’s best boulderers. It is worth mentioning the two gems of the area that attract world’s climbing elite: Cobra crack (5.14b), one of the hardest crack climbs in the world, and Dreamcatcher (5.14d), the most esthetic sport climbing line as far as I am concerned, first ascended by the legendary Chris Sharma.

Squamish is just the perfect climber’s destination. There is amazing sport climbing, bouldering, alpine climbing, single pitch crack climbing and multi pitch traditional climbing. It really got it all.

by Jase Wilson, adventurer, traveler, photographer, and a Squamish local

Calculus Crack cl...

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Squamish - good to know

Terrain

Bouldering, trad, multi-pitch, and sport climbing on slick granite of all grades. From beginner to pro (5.8/5a to 5.14d/9a)

Season

From May to September. Summer months can get hot and are better for relaxed climbing

Getting there

Fly to Vancouver and drive north for 1 hour. You can reach Squamish by public transport or hitch-hiking. Having a car is probably best

Accommodation

A cheap basic campsite is just below the climbing area (there are no showers). It’s possible to rent apartments around the Squamish area, or stay in Vancouver and travel north

Guidebooks

Squamish Select by Marc Bourdon for single and miulti-pitch climbing. Also Squamish Bouldering also by Marc Bourdon

Bars and restaurants

Zephyr Café for a good coffee, tea and cake with fellow climbers; The Watershed for sit-down dining

Rest day activities

The place is famous for mountain biking and downhill riding (be careful with the latter option!). There are many beautiful hiking trails, via ferrata, as well as options for kayaking, kitesurfing, sailing, and canoeing

Rainy day climbing

Try Cheakamus Canyon which is a 20 minute drive from Squamish, or bail to Ground Up Climbing Centre for some indoor action

More information Learn more here

About the author

Jurica Levatic

Jurica Levatic

PhD, climbing nerd, 5.14 crusher, and big wall speed climber

Jurica got bitten by the climbing bug 15 years ago. Since then, there was hardly a week without him obsessing about a climbing project, new training plan, or visiting a new crag. He used his spare non-climbing time to earn a PhD in Computer Science and win the first ever ESA data-mining contest.

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