Kalymnos - Off The Beaten Track Destination Guide

© Chris Craggs

Kalymnos has got to be the world's best known sport climbing destination and with good reason - friendly locals, glorious weather, a picturesque Aegean island setting and of course the truly fantastic set of routes, approaching 3000 climbs at the last count and many of them are of impeccable quality. Climbers from all over the world now visit the place and its reputation has grown into a 'must visit' venue. There are many fantastic harder climbs but there is also a remarkable assemblage of high quality climbs at more amenable grades of around say 6b and below.

40 scooters under Arhi  © Chris Craggs
40 scooters under Arhi

Of course inevitably paradise has its darker side, roll up here in the two prime seasons - May and October - and you will be sharing cliffs, and often not with just a couple of teams, occasionally some crags don't have a spare route to go at as dozens (and dozens) of climbers jostle to get on a line! Also, some of the best climbs have become worn and polished as they see so much action in the high season, with convoys of hopefuls waiting for their turn. This is especially true of the cliffs that can be reached by walking from Massouri - the main centre of accommodation.

Before we first visited the place eight years ago, my one big reservation was the number of people we might encounter - and it was a fear that proved to be well founded. The problem is compounded when it is hot, as shade can be at a bit of a premium. In the end we used the simple tactic of avoiding the cliffs with the most scooters parked at the bottom - try again tomorrow - and move onto somewhere different, returning when things are quieter.

We have found a solution that is simple enough - being free agents (i.e. effectively retired) we avoid the really busy times, by coming in March/April and November, that way it is possible to enjoy the place without tripping over hoards of other people. There are few direct flights (to Kos - the usual stepping stone for Kalymnos) out of the season, but coming via a change in Athens is no big deal and offers the option of flying straight into Kalymnos with the small Bombardier aircraft operated by Aegean Airlines - a really great way to arrive.

Linaria Beach  © Chris Craggs
Linaria Beach
© Chris Craggs

But what if you are obliged to come in the high season but don't enjoy crowds? Fortunately there are now enough cliffs that it is usually possible to escape the worst of the melée. If you are really determined to get on the classics of (say) Grande Grotta, Panorama or Arginonta, you will have to bite the bullet and form an orderly queue. Having done over 1500 ascents on Kalymnos and nearby Telendos we have a found a few out of the way places that are usually quieter than the main honeypots. Not all of them are of the highest quality but of course that is at least part of the reason that they tend to be quieter. So if you fancy somewhere a bit different here are a few ideas you might not have considered.

These cliffs will need wheels of one sort or another to access - a bicycle for the tough, a scooter, hire car, bus or thumb being the other options. The locals are pretty good at picking up hitch hikers - it doesn't harm to offer them a few Euros (the bus fare you would have spent) for their trouble, though they usually refuse it.

Emborios Area The most distant of all the cliffs on the island - a good 20 minute scooter ride from Massouri, plus a steep 20 minute walk-in. There are around 70 routes here with a decent spread of grades though not too much below 6a. Much of the rock is pretty sharp due to the lack of traffic. On the far left the recently developed Olive Tree has some good and very well bolted pitches and the 50m corner of Francois Guillot (5c) should not be missed.

Enjoying the more remote climbing at Styx  © Chris Craggs
Enjoying the more remote climbing at Styx

Skalia A neglected face between the quite popular Skalia Pillar and the really popular Ghost Kitchen with a great set of long face climbs. There are only a dozen or so routes here, but they are all long, or really long (up to 18 clips) and the outward views are superb.

Andy on Double Salchow (6c) Skalia Balcony

Galatiani Area Out to the right of and below the spectacular Calcite Cave/Galatianl crag is a fine grey slab with a dozen worthwhile climbs and again with great views. The approach scramble is a bit of a pain - there is a path of sorts but it is rough and not well marked. The rock is excellent and the views are superb. The stand out routes are probably Eiruhr (5c) and Dilldabbe (5c) both offering devious climbing on great rock.

Arginonta Skyline High above Arginonta is a white ribbon of rock on the skyline - hence the name. The walk-in is quite long which helps keep the crowds away, though the path is reasonable. There are two crags, the slabbier wall of Ovolando which looks a bit scrappy but climbs well, and the clean white wall of Little Verdon with its great rock.

Sea Breeze Area This one is a real enigma, a superb set of routes, on great rock and only minutes from the road. For reasons I can't understand, the place is almost always quiet - with 80 routes to go at including many really long pitches it remains possibly my favourite venue on the whole of Kalymnos. Arhi to the left and Arginonta to the right can be packed out but you can still have this place pretty much to yourself - weird!

Looking down the rugged rock of Selene (5b) Sea Breeze

Je T'aime Well off the beaten track, a couple of smaller cliffs set near the high point of the road across the island, enough to knock a couple of degrees off the temperature if it is getting too hot. There are quite a few easier climbs here including amongst others Dirty Harry - a 30m 3c! Some of the rock on these two cliffs is a little blocky and flakey so some care is required - especially if there are beginners in the team.

Myrties Area Local ex-pat Frenchman Claude Idoux has converted this neglected area almost single-handed by a spectacular show of hard work - the last guidebook had three routes here - the new one has over 80, many of fantastic quality. Unlike the other crags in this list, Trois Ilots in particular can get busy, check out the number of scooters on the upper ring road parking before you commit to the walk-in - as you can't see the crag from here.

The great panorama from Trois Ilots, climber on Les Pros se Tatent (6a+)  © Chris Craggs
The great panorama from Trois Ilots, climber on Les Pros se Tatent (6a+)

Telendos North Face Most teams on a two week holiday on Kalymnos make at least one trip over to climb on Telendos - the ferry ride and rocky landing spot adds a touch of spice to a great day. Irox and Lambda are the two most popular destinations here and they can get very busy - the fact you can't see how busy it is until you arrive is a bit tricky - it isn't unheard of for 150 people to be shipped in on a busy morning! Eros sits high above Irox and the addition of some fine long face routes has made it well worth a visit. It gets shade soon after midday which can be a bonus.

Andy on Ninja (6b) Eros  © Chris Craggs
Andy on Ninja (6b) Eros

Other crags worth a look and likely to be even quieter than the ones already listed are: Dodoni, Rocklands, St George, St Photis, Princess Canyon and Snow White and all are detailed in the Rockfax Kalymnos App as are all those already listed.

Homeward bound  © Chris Craggs
Homeward bound
© Chris Craggs

Read our original, comprehensive destination guide to the island here.

Kalymnos Rockfax Cover  © Rockfax

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Kalymnos from ROCKFAX

This Rockfax guidebook covers all the climbing in the usual Rockfax style - huge photo-topos, big maps, inspiring action photos and bang up-to-date as well. It is an update of the Kalymnos app version which has been available for a year and is available in print and app format.

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9 May, 2016
Well they won't be quiet for long, Chris. Not now...
9 May, 2016
I think the place is pretty busy at the moment after a very slow start to the season - I guess the article might help spread the masses out just a little bit, Chris
10 May, 2016
I have been keeping that one to myself - don't want it getting too popular :-) Chris
10 May, 2016
@Chris - ever looked when the sun comes round at sea breeze? not a good idea in the hotter months ... and yes there's still some more sectors to be found beyond the list that are quiet;_) and will stay that way till another list gets out;-).
10 May, 2016
Does anyone know how much of the Rockfax Kalymnos app which costs £14.99 is contributed towards the local Kalymnos bolt fund?
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