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Siurana, Catalonia

The tiny, ancient village of Siurana sits on top of a flattened hill. On all sides, sheer cliffs drop like fortress walls in reverse and it is one of the most remarkable locations I have ever seen. It’s no wonder would-be conquerors had such a tough go of it; Siurana was the last Muslim enclave in Catalonia, only falling to the Christians in the 12th century.

The story goes, when climbers discovered the place in the late 70s, the village was about to go extinct with a mere 8 or 9 inhabitants. What a gem they discovered! Fast forward, this is now one of the world’s premiere climbing spots. With thousands of climbers and tourists every year, the village is far from extinction.

siurana rock climbing
The Roman iglesia de Santa Maria on the edge of the village, with the Siurana River below. Photo by candibj licenced under CC BY 2.0

A place for climbing history nerds

I visited most of the major crags in Spain, however Siurana, with its magical atmosphere and rich climbing history, left the biggest impression on me.

Perhaps I have an itch for places from classic climbing movies. That gives Siurana a leg up as it’s on the old school side; the technical routes on slight overhangs have no mercy for sloppy footwork—just like the routes you’ll see in those erstwhile favorites of mine, the Masters of Stone. Crimps, pockets and body positioning are the name of the game here, though you can also find some short steep powerful routes and occasional tufas. Siurana is the place to be if you enjoy interesting lines that will force you to be a better, smarter, and humbler climber.

The more than 60 sectors and 1,500+ routes are enough to keep you busy for a lifetime (if your surname is not Ondra). While the grades are not super stiff, you will rarely find an easy tick. If you do, count on a downgrade in the next guidebook. Be aware that most of the sectors are south facing with few places for shade when the sun gets strong, which makes it a good winter spot and a very sunny summer area (not recommended). With great conditions, beware of the holidays (especially Easter and Labor Day) when it can be impossible to find parking. During these days or packed weekends, you can escape to Arboli, Montsant or many other crags nearby that offer equally amazing climbs.

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