With more than 3,400 different climbing routes on its limestone cliffs, the small Greek island of Kalymnos is a must-visit destination for Explorers who like to tie in.


  • Swim at Arginonta Beach
  • Hike up to Grande Grotto – even if you’re not a strong enough climber to take on a 7a (23) it’s worth a visit.
  • Eat fresh seafood at a beachside restaurant in Myrties.

Climbers Welcome!

Pre-climbing days, the main industry on Kalymnos was sea sponges, but since the 1980s the sponge population has been hammered by disease. In the late 90s, climbers discovered the island, and the tourism season expanded from summertime holidaymakers to nearly year-round climbing, with spring and autumn the peak rock-climbing times.


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere, greece, sign, villa


This likely explains why climbers are so welcomed here. Climbing areas and individual routes are clearly marked. Local cafes sponsor bolting, and even the supermarkets stock climbing guidebooks, along with locally made energy bars. Coming from Australia, it’s quite a different vibe… It’s almost like the local government views having a world-class natural attraction as being good for business.


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere


My rationale for visiting Kalymnos was only partly climbing though; it was also partly the realisation that an Airbnb apartment overlooking the Aegean Sea was cheaper than continuing to rent an increasingly mouldy Sydney apartment as winter set in.

My partner Peter and I had a longer trip to Europe planned, during which we would be putting our belongings into storage anyway. So we decided to leave a couple of weeks earlier and spend the first half of June working remotely from Kalymnos.

This gave us plenty of time to explore the climbing and discover some of the other attractions of Kalymnos. But first…

Climbing in Kalymnos


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere, greece, person, climbing


I won’t attempt to detail the different climbing areas here – there are plenty of comprehensive resources, including the guidebook, available for that. But the key points are;


  • There are climbs for all abilities. Even beginners will be spoilt for choice. You definitely don’t need to be a hardcore climbing expert to have a great trip here.
  • It’s mostly single-pitch sport routes, on well-bolted limestone. There are also quite a few sport multi-pitches, beginning at just grade 5c (or 17 in Australian grades).
  • Lots of the single pitch routes are quite long (more than 30m), so an 80m rope is considered ideal for Kalymnos. Having said that, I came with a 60m rope and didn’t feel like it held me back too much. I was careful to knot the end though.*
  • There’s a Kalymnos Climbing Facebook group (possibly more than one) where you can find a belay buddy if you turn up alone or your partner ditches you for the beach.
  • Peak times are spring and autumn, but you can climb year-round. Summer is hot, but loads of crags are shady until around midday.
  • You can easily find accommodation within walking distance to loads of crags, particularly around Myrties or Masouri on the west side of the island.
  • Even for non-climbers, a hike up to Grande Grotto could be worthwhile. It’s probably the most famous – and certainly the most photographed – climbing crag on the island. A vast cavern of overhung climbing routes, with epic views out to the ocean.

Read more: Rock Climbing Slang And How To Use It (Word Beta)


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere, person, mountaintop, climbing

Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere, greece, island, climbing, person

Beaches in Kalymnos

The clear, calm Aegean Sea is another major drawcard of the island. There are beaches dotted around the island, usually with restaurants or bars offering sunbeds and shady umbrellas. My favourite was Arginonta Beach, with crystal clear water and white pebbles at the end of a long inlet, with views of the cliffs on either side.


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere, greece, village, island, water


Other beaches, including Pirates Beach or Vathy, offer kayak hire. If you’re feeling more adventurous, the dive centre offers scuba, snorkeling, and boat trips to see dolphins. The water’s warm enough for swimming from around June to October (or year-round if you want to channel your inner Wim Hof).


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere, island, water, greece

Via Ferrata –Extreme Hiking Above the Villages


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere, person, climbing, cliff, greece


Via ferrata means ‘iron route’ in Italian, they feature steel cables bolted into the rock that you can clip into and follow for a lengthy traverse along a cliff. There’s a single via ferrata route in Kalymnos with views of the towns, ocean, and the neighboring island, Telendos.

Apparently, there’s an easy 70m rock climb to reach the start of the cables, but the scrambling was so easy I didn’t even notice the bolts had begun until we were 20m from the cable. For via ferrata you’ll need a harness, helmet, and a specific ferrata safety line.


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere

Hiking Trails in Kalymnos (Including a 100km Route!)

The island has in excess of 100km of hiking trails. I know this because there was a guidebook in every shop for the ten-day, 100km Kalymnos Trail. The landscape is stark and striking with rugged hills overlooking the blue-green sea.


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere, greece, island, water, rocks


However, I can’t help but feel that, spectacular as it is, the scenery would get a bit monotonous by day ten. The whole island is also not much more than 100 square kilometres. The terrain can be a bit rough too. It’s steep, the hills are covered in spiky, prickly scrub, and there are a few wasps around that, turns out, can get quite aggressive if you accidentally stand on a little cluster of them.

Undertaking even just a day-long hike makes you feel you’ve earned your beers that night!

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

Other Sights Worth Seeing in Kalymnos and Its Surrounds

There are caves with stalactite and stalagmite formations to explore, and if you’re feeling a bit culturally inclined, old monasteries and ruins.


Kalymnos – A Climbing Haven in the Greek Isles, Wendy Bruere, greece, island, flowers, rocks

Where to Stay

Staying at Masouri or Myrties will have you close to beaches, restaurants, and bars, and walking distance to some of the island’s best rock climbing areas.

Need to Know Before You Go


Getting Around

To get around most people seem to rent scooters. Apparently lots of rental places deem licenses optional, but best to make sure you know how to drive one regardless. Peter and I played it safe and rented an ATV (all-terrain vehicle), which felt a bit like hooning around on a ride-on mower.

Drinking Water

Unlike most of Greece, the tap water on Kalymnos is not drinkable and is too salty to just be boiled first. There are free water stations in the towns where you can fill up water bottles. Definitely BYO.

Even though bottled water is relatively cheap, there isn’t anywhere to recycle the bottles on Kalymnos, so reducing plastic waste where possible is ideal.


Essential Gear

  • Personal climbing kit – harness, climbing shoes, helmet.
  • Climbing rope – ideally 70 or 80m as some of the routes are more than 30m (but I found plenty to do with a 60m)
  • 14 quickdraws would be ideal for the length of some of the routes
  • Sturdy approach shoes or hiking shoes. Even though walk-ins to the climbs are generally short, they can be steep and the terrain is rough

How To Get There

There are flights or an overnight ferry available from Athens. The neighbouring island Kos has more regular flights from other European cities, so lots of people seem to fly there and then take the short ferry ride to Kalymnos.