Picture monumental limestone walls against a backdrop of a sparkling blue sea—that, in essence, is Kalymnos, Greece. Located in the southeastern Dodecanese Sea, close to Turkey, Kalymnos is small but bursting with personality and rock climbing.
As an island, Kalymnos can only be reached by ferry (from Athens or nearby Kos) or by plane. The island consists of several cities/towns, with more amenities available the closer to the island’s port you are. Most climbers tend to stay in the town of Masouri, but wherever you stay, there will be plenty of restaurants, bars, climbing stores, and crags within walking distance.
As a sport climbing haven, the routes are very long and generally filled with all kinds of tufas. Rock climbing began in Kalymnos in the mid-nineties, and has become a mainstay on the island—even the goats are used to it, and will snatch lunch from your hand without shame or fear.
Put this destination at the top of your list, and savor your time here.
Specific description of climbing style
Long, tufa filled sport climbing. Overhangs are plentiful here.
The most popular time to visit Kalymnos is between spring and fall.
November and December have the heaviest rain, and due to the porous nature of the limestone, it can take several weeks to months for the rock to fully dry after a heavy storm. How long it actually takes depends on the severity of the rainstorms and the strength of the winds.
However, temperatures are more or less climbable all year, and some winters are drier than others. Going to Kalymnos for the holidays isn’t unheard of, but much of Kalymnos shuts down between November and March, so coming in the off season would make it more difficult to find amenities.
Climbing grade range
With thousands of routes, most between 5.7 and 5.13, there’s plenty for everyone. There are quite a few 5.14s, and it’s only a matter of a time until a 5.15 is established.
Kalymnos grades have been known to be soft. That said, many of the climbs have been downgraded by one or two letter grades in the past several years, so the grading is probably closer to standard by now.
Experience with tufas—how to stem in-between them and cop clever knee-bars—will help the mammoth routes feel not quite as pumpy. If you happen to arrive before the routes have completely dried off, you might have to learn how to navigate around and/or use dripping tufas, but it’s all part of the process.
Top climbs in the area
- Masouri (5.10b/6a), Arhi: Climbing in Kalymnos started in Arhi, so come here to appreciate what was going through the minds of the first bolters as they began unlocking the potential of this place. Masouri climbs an interesting, technical corner for over 120 feet.
- Trela (5.11d/7a), Grande Grotta/Panorama: The area of this route, which translates to “big cave” is the iconic crag of Kalymnos. It is truly a gigantic cave, and this route is a good introduction to the steeper routes on the opposite side of where it is located. Trela climbs up through pockets and big tufas on vertical to slightly overhanging terrain.
- Morgan (5.12c/7b+), Sikati Cave: Sikati Cave is less of a cave than a giant hole in the ground, and will probably be one of the most unique crags you’ve ever visited. This line climbs one of the many steep and sustained lines in the cave with classic full body Kalymnos tufa pulling throughout.
- Aegialis (5.12d/7c), Grande Grotta: Another Grande Grotta offering! The guidebook calls this the most photographed route in the world. When watching someone climb up successive tufa systems at the edge of the cave against the backdrop of the bright blue Aegean Sea, it’s easy to see why.
- Marci Marc (5.13a/7c+), Odyssey: An incredible journey through pumpy climbing interspersed with several cruxes to the top. The last one is the hardest, so save your energy!
Best local spots
There are simply too many amazing restaurants and snack bars in Kalymnos to choose just one. You can’t go wrong with delicious, homemade Greek cuisine, so the best thing to do is to try new places and get to know the owners and proprietors of the places you visit.
Kalymnians are happy with the invasion of international rock climbers that happens every season, and it’s always a good idea to get to know the local community of a place you visit. Make sure to try some freshly caught seafood.
Where to stay
The only lodging available in Kalymnos is rented studio apartments. No camping is allowed on the island, and no hostels exist.
Most climbers choose to stay in Masouri for its proximity to the most popular and famous climbing areas, but you could stay almost anywhere in Kalymnos and be in walking distance to stellar climbing. Masouri has more than enough mini-markets and climbing shops to keep you equipped with everything you need, and is only several miles from an actual supermarket that has a bigger selection with slightly lower prices.
For more solitude, head further into the island and try to find somewhere to stay in Skalia or Emporios. Pothia, the capital and port city of the island, has the most restaurants, bars, shops, cafes, and stores of the entire island. If you stay in Masouri, you don’t need to rent a motorbike every day, but having one does give you complete freedom to go anywhere you want for about 10 euros per day.
Best kept secret
Don’t get stuck in the brief stretch of road between Masouri and Grande Grotta—take the time to explore the entire island.
There are castles, and all kinds of hidden beautiful viewpoints to see. Do a motorbike tour of the island on a rest day at least once, and make a pit stop at Rina Beach in Vathi to have lunch at Aigaio Pelages.
Bring an 80-meter rope if you can. A 70-meter would be enough, but is the absolute minimum to fully enjoy the potential of this spot.
Now to you
These destination guides are only made possible through the feedback from climbers like yourself. Are we missing some beta? Have anything extra to share? Leave your feedback in the comments below.
Have your own destination beta? Submit a destination today.
Explore MoreRelated articles you'll love
Our 40+ most popular articles ever
Today’s Best Rock Climbing Gear Deals
200+ rock climbing videos
A Tale of 10,000 Crags: Guide for How (and Where) to Climb in Spain
The Mexpedition: Exploring Mexico’s Climbing Potential
Climbing Destination Guide: Datca, Turkey
How to Maximize Your Time on Rock When Traveling Alone
Climbing Destination Guide: Bishop, California
All climbing destination guides
Rock Climbing Gear Guide: Sport Climbing Essentials
Lead Climbing: Clipping Strategies, Techniques, and Safety Tips
Van Life: Essential Gear for Dirtbagging on the Road
How to Convert a Cargo Van into the Ultimate Climber’s Camper
Free eBooks for rock climbing training, technique, and more