Stairway to Heaven: Rock Climbing in Greece
With such a craggy and mountainous country (80% in total), Greece may just be the ideal climbing spot on earth. And we’re not just being homers. Greece is dominated by mountains and rocky outcrops all over the show. Up and down the country the various mountain ranges traverse it like a spine. And on either side you get what con only be described as heaven on earth; beaches, nature and all the sun you can hope for. As far as climbing holidays go, you could do far worse (I’m thinking somewhere really cold, like Switzerland). And that’s before you get to the food and the affordability of it all. Mix it in with the Greek geniality and hospitality and it’s immediately apparent you’ve got yourself a climbing holiday. The only problem would be choosing what spot to land on.
Take the Pindus mountain range for instance. Running down the spine of Greece, it is the longest. This is the legendary abode of the 12 Olympian Gods of ancient Greece. In the 1930’s the routes were first opened and ever since they have been game for anyone with the right stuff. At 2,917m height, Mytikas, the highest peak, is no jog in the park. With 90 different routes up the mountain, Olympus may just be the hardest climb. Try Skolio, Stavraites and Stefani on for size. These peaks are testy.
In Crete, the climbing gets mythological, too. There are several gorges and ravines all interspersed within the White Mountain range. We’re talking massive caves and hanging cliff faces. And all this in Zeus’s home. This is the legendary birthplace of the mighty Zeus, so the story goes. Inside Cave Psychro, a fine climbing sector, you’ll find evidence of the cult of the Minoans inside. This is the Dikti sector and it will blow you away. The village of Therissos, near the gorge is good for beginners, while the Kleisoura gorge is anything but. The Agia Paraskevi cave is also mesmerizing, while the Plakias cliff faces will jolt you out of your slumber. Some fine swimming opps are to be had there, too. The Dikti sector has many nooks and crannies, with varying degrees of difficulty.
And then you have Kalimnos island; the undisputed belle of the ball. This small island offers nearly 3,000 routes on its craggy limestone terrain. With varying degrees of difficulty ranging from 5A to 9A, it is the place to learn or be challeneged. The sheer abundance and quality have turned this island into the rock climbing center in Europe in almost no time. Factor in the idyllic setting, with pristine beaches, low tourism numbers and the always enthusiastic Greek locals and you’ve got yourself a holiday and a half.
Honourable mentions must go out to Pelion mountain range, the Taygetos and Parnassos. All in the mainland and highly attractive due to their assorted amenities, like skiing centres or points of historical and archaeological importance; Greece should be your numero uno choice for deliberately putting your life in danger in search of thrills.