If you’ve spent the last year at your local climbing gym and are ready (or preparing) to make the transition from the indoor wall to the rock face then this is for you. There are locations around the globe, like Mount Everest, that have become meccas for the adventure climber. Rock climbing requires incredible amounts of both physical and mental strength. It demands endurance, agility and balance at the highest of levels. It’s one of the most challenging athletic pursuits. But it’s also one of the most rewarding because of stunning views and a range of easy to challenging routes.
Here is a list of our picks for the best rock-climbing places in the world (with a few from the US thrown in for good measure).
Yosemite National Park, California
El Capitan, also an insane BASE jumping location, is possibly the most famous location for camping thousands of feet in the air. Climbs up the giant summit can last days. The largest monolith of granite in the world, El Capitan has several designated climbing routes, the majority of which are considered highly challenging and dangerous. If you’re a slightly less experienced climber, then you might try Half Dome which has the rewarding views with a bit less risk. That said, several people each year do lose their life attempting this climb.
This is the ultimate alpine rock-climbing destination. Steep granite spires range from 1,000 to 5,000 feet high, and approaches are long. Most climbers come between early November and late February, because this is the driest period. As for the quality of the rock, the golden granite in Fitz Roy’s North pillar or on Pier Giorgio or on Poincenot is fantastic.
Acadia National Park, Maine
One of the most popular destinations for rock climbing on the East Coast, Acadia National Park features multiple spots to indulge in the sport, with options ranging from beginner routes up to 5.12s (tougher). Many even offer lovely sea views. The rock here is primarily pink granite, which is grippy and good for friction climbing. Numerous schools in Bar Harbor offer classes, guided climbs, and equipment rentals.
Railay Beach, Krabi, Thailand
Railay (aka Rei Lei) is a small peninsula between the cities of Krabi and Ao Nang that’s accessible only by boat due to the sheer, craggy limestone cliffs that cut off mainland access. These dramatic cliffs over a sparkling blue sea make this place a climber’s paradise. With thousands of routes to choose from, there’s something for climbers and boulderers of all levels, including those who prefer the security of bolted routes. It certainly doesn’t hurt to know you have the warm waves to catch your fall.
Kalymnos Island, Greece
Kalymnos is hands down one of the greatest sport climbing destinations in the world. Closely bolted and safely routed, the cliff faces have a ton of variety, including pockets, vertical grips, and moderate angles. Climbers range in age and expertise, with plenty of veterans who are happy to help out newbies. There’s even an annual Kalymnos Climbing Festival with a lineup of top male and female athletes showing off their stuff.
Skaha Bluffs, Canada
A favorite of Canadian sport climbers, Skaha Bluffs has tons of crags. And tons of crags means tons of variety for your climbs. Most edges are offer super-crisp holds, and while most climbs are straight-up vertical, there are plenty of shifts in angle to suit everyone’s tastes. Though the bluffs were once challenging to get to, local climbers and businesses fundraised enough to finally get a paved road and some parking lots put in, so you’ll no longer wear yourself out just getting to the climb.
El Sendero Luminoso, Mexico
This entirely vertical 1,750-foot tall climb “requires thin, technical face-climbing above hundreds of feet of exposure,” according to Rock and Ice Magazine. In other words, it’s extremely ardous. Yet, in an astonishing feat, Alex Honnold free-soloed El Sendero Luminoso’s “big-wall” route in just three hours, which, according to Outside Online, typically takes climbers at least two days to conquer.
Costa Blanca, Spain
Spain is beloved by climbers all around the world because it just has so. much. rock. And Costa Blanca is a favorite for its gorgeous limestone cliffs over white sand beaches and the Mediterranean. You’ll find every kind of climbing terrain, including sea cliffs, mountain ridges, sunny crags, and canyon walks. The variety makes for some of the most beautiful geological architecture you’ll ever see.
Shawangunks, New Paltz, New York
Aka “The Gunks,” this destination is favored by climbers all over the world for its easy access to tough vertical cliffs that are as challenging as they look. There are plenty of overhangs and sharp angles to test your skills, scattered with quartz pebbles and deep fissures for a fun variety of holds. There are not many bolted sport climbs, but rather some of the best easy-to-moderate traditional routes in the country. If you go in the fall, you’ll get some crisp weather and stunning views of the foliage.
Wharepapa South, New Zealand
What Wharepapa lacks in cell reception, malls, or even gas stations, it more than makes up for in spectacular rock climbing. And with gorgeous weather practically all year round, you can enjoy over 800 routes and some of the most incredible crags you’ve ever seen anytime you like. Get ready for a beautiful, quiet day of you and the rock.