Climbing Destination Kalymnos Greece: I usually come home from a vacation thinking, “That was fun, beautiful, and relaxing, but there are so many other places I want to see and explore.” This wasn’t the case with Kalymnos. Instead, I returned thinking, “How can I restructure my life, work remotely, and move there permanently?” Of course, I settled back into my normal life and haven’t figured out how to answer that question (yet!), but I can say, without hesitation, that Kalymnos is my favorite place on Earth so far and I will absolutely be going back there.
For a little back story, my husband and I went there for our Honeymoon in August 2012. We hopped around the Greek Islands and ended up in Kalymnos for a week. I think if we could do it again, we may have skipped the other islands altogether and spent our whole two weeks on Kalymnos. The other islands were amazing, but Kalymnos had everything we wanted, including steep route climbing on tufas and stalactites. Our days went something like this: rise early, climb, late lunch, afternoon swim, nap/read/veg, dinner, sleep, repeat. For us, it was the perfect balance of activity and relaxation.
If you’re planning a trip, I cannot recommend this place highly enough, so here are my suggestions and some info that might come in handy:
The island belongs to the Dodecanese Islands and boasts an area of just 52 square miles. Kalymnos has a rich history in sponge diving, but more recently has become known for its unique rock climbing. The major climbing villages are Myrties, Masouri, and Aremos, but there are also smaller villages with crags in their backyards, including Panormos, Arginonta, Skalia, and Emporios.
How To Get There
We flew into Athens, took a flight to the nearby island of Kos, spent a few days there, and then took a short ferry ride to Kalymnos. You can also fly directly from Athens to Kalymnos, but it was more expensive and we wanted to check out Kos anyway. You can find very detailed instructions and options here.
How To Get Around
You’ll need to rent a car or scooter to get around the island. The roads are hilly, narrow, and windy, so you’ll have to exercise some confidence if you opt for a scooter. You’ll likely rent in Pothia, the main harbor town, and be staying on the other end of the island in Myrties, Masouri, or Aremos, so depending on how much luggage you have, you may need to choose a car over a scooter. We rented a car and yes, it was the less adventurous choice, but it was more convenient and made sense for us. We paid about $30 (USD) per day for the car.
Where To Climb
There’s so much beautiful climbing and a variety of styles! You can find slab climbs and pocket faces, but the most prevalent and novel for us was the 3-dimensional, overhanging tufa climbing. We got this guidebook as a wedding gift from Cate and her husband and it was perfect. A must-have for your trip. There are so many amazing crags, but the one you have to visit is the Grande Grotta, located just behind the Hotel Philoxenia in the town of Armes. We didn’t get to deep water solo on this trip but talk to people around town and you can easily find someone with a boat to take you out.
There’s been some recent talk of loose bolts around Kalymnos, but we didn’t experience this. Just in case, do some research and check out this article before you go.
When To Go
Spring and fall are really the best conditions for climbing, but what you gain in amazing conditions you’ll lose in more crowded crags. We went in the high heat of summer and it was really HOT. We could only climb in the shade, but on the upside, the crags were empty and after getting good and sweaty we could take a swim in the cool Aegean Sea. Also consider if there’s a climbing festival going on, like The North Face Kalymnos Climbing Festival, taking place October 10-13, 2013.
Where To Sleep
We stayed at the Hotel Philoxenia in Armeos, which had beautiful views, crags right behind it, and was reasonably priced. The only downside was that the rooms didn’t have kitchenettes, so we always had to eat out. Next, we moved on to a small studio in the town of Myrties. Sadly, this place has no internet presence and I can’t remember the name, but it was perfect. It was run by an old Greek couple, who I like to think of as our surrogate grandparents during our stay. They spoke no English so we communicated with them through their teenage granddaughter.
They lived on the bottom floor and had 4 apartment-style studios above, each with its own entrance, balcony, and small kitchen. It was everything we needed and only $25 per night!
Where To Eat
Try Katerina’s in Arginonta. Again, they have no internet presence, but it was arguably the best Greek food we had on the entire trip. Otherwise, we mostly ate at various restaurants around Masouri.
Rest day activities: There are so many fun things to do, it was almost hard to choose. We ended up scuba diving for our first time through the Kalymnos Diving Club. Our instructor, Michael, was super patient, and fun, and made us feel safe. We also got up to some rooftop yoga, visited the valley and fishing village of Vathy, and took a quick boat ride to Telendos, a small island off of the main island. Here we found a few restaurants and yes, our first nude beach (I promise, you won’t regret it). Pothia, the main harbor town, also has shopping, restaurants, and some beautiful old architecture. And of course, hanging on the beach is always an option.
For tons of information check out www.climbkalymnos.com.
Climb on… in Kalymnos!