Kalymnos or “how to climb the Aegean”
If you consider yourself a climber, no matter where on this planet, Kalymnos and its abundant high-quality climbs need to be visited at least once in your life. Perfect rocks, well protected routes, abundant sun, beaches and clear water… that and a lot more is Kalymnos/Telendos in the Greak Aegean, just off the coast of Turkey.
Here’s a little how to, from travelling there to what are the best spots…
How to get to Kalymnos (Google Maps with locations)
There are several option to get there. The most favourable and fastest one is via plane and ferry, the alternative via car and ferry is not to be recommended, cost and timewise.
- Plane to Kos Airport and ferry to Kalymnos:
The airport in Kos is connected to all major EU cities, mostly with one flight per day with one of the holiday carriers (TUI, Airberlin, etc.). Flight-times are normally as such that you can catch one of the last ferries from Kos (Mastichari harbour) to Kalmynos (Pothia harbour).
The ferry ticket can be bought at Mastichari harbor directly, either the slow or the fast one, just take the one available, although the slow takes more than twice as long.
- Plane to Kalymnos Airport (not to be recommended):
The problem with this approach is that it is only available via Greek airlines from Athens. The schedules are chronically unreliiable, as is the service itself (they once forgot to deliver fuel to Kalymnos and we barely managed to fly to Kos to refuel and of course nearly missed our plane home in Athens). From the airport in Kalymnos take one of the cabs and drive to Myrties center in case you didn’t book a hotel yet, there should be plenty of opportunities (unless it’s October, more see “Where to stay”).
Where to stay
Two options in general: Kalymnos or Telendos.
What’s the difference? Well, worlds are the difference. Kalymnos is noisy, used to have its hey-day in the 80ties, lacking a certain style, or any for that matter (before you object: I’m talking about Myrties mainly). The main place to stay on Kalymnos and the closest to most of the sectors is Myrties. An alternative is Arginonta, with a very limited selection of flats and everything only close to the main street. Another is Emporios at the north coast of Kalymnos, but very far from most of the sectors. However the north is currently under development and new sectors keep popping up. Also the road to Palionisos Bay is very close, which could be an advantage if you like chilling at the by far nicest beach on Kalymnos.
If you plan to combine climbing and swimming you need to consider Telendos. Reachable only via boat from Myrties harbor. Telendos is the small sister Island, that used to be connected to Kalymnos until the 6th century when several earthquakes obviously separated the two. The many early christian buildings (baths, churches, etc.) on Telendos still tell a lot about the common history. As of today less than 70 people live on Telendos, and only during summer/autumn. In winter the island is practically empty. This said, the island still is still feeling in a lot of ways like the 6th century island. No streets, no cars, just a bunch of restaurants across the coast and some very narrow walkways behind the waterfront. The rest is massive rock, blue sea, and quiet suroundings. And good food of course.
So this explains what you need to consider if you pounder where to stay. Civilization vs. quietness, fast access to the climbing sectors vs. an additional 30-45 minutes every morning, depending on where you stay on Telendos and if the ferries are on time (they never are, well, we are on Greek Maybe Time anyhow) and of course the 2€ one way vs. none of them.
Potential places in the order I prefer them:
- OTR (On the Rocks) | Telendos
A nice bar and restaurant run by George and Poppi Trikilis.
It is the place we usually stay, because it is far away from the “busy” places near the main jetty and it has a really nice access to the sea, so jumping in in the morning before heading over to Kalymnos is easily possible. They have 3 rooms, 2 with an ordinary double bed and a 3rd with a double bed and a bunk bed for 4 people or a family. They rent out at 50€ excluding breakfast. Breakfast is an additional 10€ but don’t expect breakfast before 9am. So if you are an early riser, try having breakfast in one of the restaurants close to the main jetty.
Do not forget to check George’s website for availability.
Website | Tripadvisor | Booking.com
- Rita’s | Telendos
Although called Rita’s the restaurant’s soul is her husband Yannis or at least the very visible member of the family, always out in front of the restaurant taking care of the clients. Their rental studios are basically right next to the main jetty, just a 100m to the right. If that’s ok for you, as during the day and until 9pm it means more or less heavy amount of foottraffic is passing right under your window or just in front of your room if you are on the ground floor, than that’s a nice alternative.
Website | Tripadvisor | Booking.com
- Hotel Porto Potha | Telendos
This is the only professional place, meaning the only real hotel on Telendos. Although just about 2 dozend rooms it is even a bit further away from any trouble than OTR and is the only property on Telendos that has a (salt-water) pool.
Website | Tripadvisor | Booking.com
I would not recommend to stay on Kalymnos (Myrthies or Massouri), we might have just had bad luck, or a bad day, but when we tried it we were greeted by an army of cockroaches. If you need to stay there because Telendos is booked out, try the following:
- Elena Village | Massouri
The place has been redone and refurbished since we were last on Kalymnos.
Looks pretty decent now. Downside: as nearly all of the hotels on Kalymnos it is directly facing the street and in Kalymnos there is only one street. As scooters are the preferred method to get around, be prepared for some noise. As I said: quietness = Telendos, noise = Kalymnos. Upside though: really fast at the climbing sectors and for most of the Massouri sectors just hike up the hill behind the hotel.
Website | Tripadvisor | Booking.com
Where to eat
In general the food on Kalymnos and Telendos is good to very decent, but after a week it can get pretty boring, try to stick with restaurants where you see what they offer = fresh fish or fresh kalamari. Chicken is almost never fresh, neither is tuna or any game fish. Hare and goat is mostly fresh, depending on the location. On Telendos simply ask the owners what was the catch of the day and let them show you, they are usually very accomodating and love to tell you the story around the catch. With Kalamari you can seldom go wrong, same applies to Moussaka, although the tastes vary widely between the different family recipies. The one in Arginonta is especially delicious, the same is true for the taverna in Palionissos which is by far the best on Kalymnos.
On Kalymnos just try the most popular ones, either the ones on the main street in Massouri, or one of our favorites, the one in Arginontas, on the left side next the beach before the village ends (right opposite to the sharp right turn that would take you on the new street to Vathi). Our biggest favorite is the small taverna on the left side of the fjord of Palionissos. Amazing view, the best in the Dodecanes and great food, plus the best beach on Kalymnos or Telendos.
Where to climb and swim
The best places to combine swimming and climbing are PALIONISSOS and KASTELLI and of course the Telendian Sectors behind IROX. All the other sectors require more effort to either get from the rocks to the beaches or vice versa. In general always check http://climbkalymnos.com/ first before you head out for the rocks. Updated route lists and most recent infos on the cracks are up within days. The most reliable source for any climber.
PALIONISSOS is a relatively new sector in the north-west of Kalymnos. It used to be a remote beach with just 2 houses and now in 2013 there is already a score of them an a real settlement evolving. Can’t say I like this development, but it was bound to happen, especially as this is by far the most serene place on Kalymnos. Forget Vathy (really ugly) and go here instead. An impressive fjord and an amazingly clear and formerly also calm pebble beach. This year it was already pretty crowded and some idiot set up a kind of shed right behind the beach selling crap and tourist food. But that’s obviously the way everything goes on Kalymnos. Everything beautiful is hammered into pieces.
Formerly you could not really reach that part of the island, but with sufficient money from the EU pouring in, the Kalymnians build a sweet road with amazing views that winds through the rocks. The rock there is amazingly sharp. The routes either slabs (the easy ones) or stiff face climbing to the left, barely overhanging. The quality is as usual with new sectors a bit sketchy, but gets better every year. The rock itself is perfect: sharp, really sharp and with a great grip. Also make sure you check the bolts on the top. Usually it’s 2 plus rings, but make sure they are not loose. This place is perfect on a cooler day, as it is virtually in the sun the whole day. We also have been there in late summer and it was ok, if you go easy and take enough water with you. The approach takes 20min and I would not recommend it with kids (also because the sector is new and the occasional rock comes down). For beginners particularly the right side is rewarding. Additional information can be found here (Climb Kalymnos) or here (30feethigh.tumblr)…
A lot has been written about KASTELLI elsewhere, so here just the VIP details:
- Sharp and very well protected rock
- Just above the sea and with a nice sea access a bit right from the sector (below the chapel)
- Often crowded in the early morning or late afternoon, it’s the chill-down sector on Kalymnos
- No hard routes but some gems in the 6th grade after a long day
- Short routes, none is above 20m really, although some claim to be
- Easy and secure parking next to the street, and easy access (10min walk along a well defined pass (take the right way if you want to climb, the left if you are planning for a bath)
- Ok for children
- One thing to watch out for: The owners (2 Kalymnian shepherds) are selling the ground around Kastelli. So there is the opportunity that the access might no longer be possible in the future.
This is something for the special taste. Possible in the evening or early in the morning, and only at quiet days. If it is too windy the sea reaches up to the 10 lower routes, which are in my view the best in the sector. As with KASTELLI in DOLPHIN BAY there are no hard routes and the 6th French grade is dominant here, but nevertheless a good sector to cool down or to warm up in the morning.
- The upper routes are all a bit chossy, but with nice little overhangs and some sweet moves over them. The lower routes are a bit polished by the sea at the bottom and the first bolts are placed a bit higher, so the sea doesn’t reach them.
- For the belayer there is always the risk of a “freak”-wave and the ground from which you belay is less than optimal in the first 10 routes or so. For all others it’s 100% safe.
- Nothing for kids as the access is precarious (if you fancy a walk down a steep gully with everything but stable footing) or requires abseiling skills, if you take the route that I would recommend. Who wants to sprain his ankle as a warm up…
- Oh and if you think taking a dive should be easy as it is so close to the sea forget it. When we were there you would have been crushed on the rocks by the waves.
- You’ll see DOLPHIN BAY from the street right before and after the bend after the KASTELLI parking ground. Simply park at the street, but make sure your scooter doesn’t block the road. Alternatively use the KASTELLI parking lot.
For us one of the most sentimental spots on Kalymnos. This was the first spot we visited 8 or so years ago. The setting is pretty impressive high above Myrthies and Massouri with a stunning view of Telendoes through the two gates that form the sector.
- The rock is very sharp on the first routes on the left side and gets a bit more pollished towards the right. The routes are amazing, despite being pollished.
- The best routes are the ones at the beginning of the left sector. Much higher, exposed and simply amazing climbing than the rest. However none of the routes is “hard” (the hardest is a 7a). The sector normally gets empty when the sun comes in on the left (and better side) at around 1pm.
- The bolts are mostly replaced and the spacing is more than ok if you are used to Bavarian standards, as usual on Kalymnos.
- The routes are relatively close together the father you get to the back of the left sector, so beware if there are too many people in the sector and some routes share the same lower-offs.
- It’s perfect for children due to the protected nature of the middle ground in between the two walls.
- One downside though, when there is no sun on the rocks, the wind channeled by the two walls creates a relatively cold environment even on hot days. So bring warm sweaters in any case, even in August.
- Do not leave food unprotected, as the goats are usually roaming the sector in droves.
- The access is a bit tricky and has changed a lot in recent years. Take the main road out of Myrthies towards Kamari. When you enter Kamari take the first road (barely visible) on the left and keep right at the next possibility (it’s not really a crossroad). Continue the way up until you hit a big massive steel gate. Nowadays you need to park your scooter in front of the big steel gate. Walk up the concrete path to a sharp right turn where you see a goat-fence with an improvised door. Enter here and follow the blue markers. Make sure you ALWAYS close the door behind you! And make sure you have one of the lighter or stronger scooters, otherwise you will push your scooter up the slope to the gate!
The fabled (at least 6 years ago) sector on Telendos and the starting point for making Telendos a 2nd Kalymnos. Initially set up by Urs Odermatt and Peter Keller, the sector was just the beginning of a sector explosion that started around 6 years ago. Nowadays IROX is still a popular destination, although there is abundant room and new sectors right around the corner. The good thing about Irox is that you can easily combine climbing and a quick plunge into the cristal clear Mediteranean! So bring your swimsuit. I shouldn’t say much about this one either, as it’s already a classic:
- Freaking amazing tuffa climbs with Magma 6b+ as one of my favourites. One of the best mid-grade tuffa climbs on the island. Sustained exposed, technical, a bit slippery already due to its popularity, but still…
- The overhanging routes on the left side are also amazing for any aspiring hard-core 8a specialist. Particularly Irox 8a+ (musical), although I just managed until the middle of the roof, but already that was fantastic. The much easier Helvetx 6c+ (musical) offers equal enjoyment at a much more moderate level, but check out the exit, it’s a bit “uncommon”… Kyprios Angel 7a (musical) is tough for the grade in my view, but also one of the musts.
- Even if you do not want to do the harder routes, there is plenty of French 6th and 5th grade to be had and all worth it, even the 2 star routes will be rewarding compared to 3 star routes in other climbing areas.
- Best call George Trikilis a day or so before you want to go there. He or his captain will drive you there, mostly early in the morning around 9am and pick you up at 5pm again. Of course there is always the option to walk!
The newest and the sector farthest away from the settlement on Telendos. Again the work of Urs Odermatt, this time I think with Markus Leippold (for more info check the Klettern magazine issue July/August 2012). But the most impressive sector. Route length average is 40m, so bring an 80m rope or stay at home. A detailed review from myself can be found here: 30feethigh.tumblr.com.
- The access is a bit tricky and requires endurance. Either you walk there from the landing spot on Irox (45min, don’t believe the 25min in the guide book), or straight from Telendos village (120min +). The third alternative is to ask one of the captains to drop you off on the cliffs below LAMBDA, but there will be no path, just a 30min scrambling up extremely sharp and chossy rock. All approaches are not recommended for kids, AT ALL! I personally tried all the approaches and recommend the 2nd one. Not the fastest, but the safest.
- The rock is beautiful, extremely sharp and the routes are massive. 40m is the norm. Some are even longer, so don’t even bother coming there with a 70m rope.
- Protection is a bit tricky. As the sector is as far from civilization as you can get on Telendos, some of the lower offs and some of the bolts are loose. Nearly on any of the routes. So bring a wrench!!! and be a gentleman or a lady and use it to protect those coming after you!
- And don’t go there at the end of your Kalymnian adventure, unless you are one of the freaks. You need power for those routes and stamina. Not the best choice for your last day on the island (unless your name is A. Megos).
Just above the little village with the same name are several of the best climbing sectors on Kalymnos. It is divided in currently 5 subsectors. All with consistently great rock and very varied climbing.
- The access again is nothing for kids. It starts at the left side of the road after you have taken the sharp right turn just before leaving the village of Arginontas towards Vathy. After 250m park the scooter on the left or right side of the road and scramble up the iron holds rammed into the rock (formerly just a rope) and a bit further above use the fixed rope. After that it is just 5min walk up the visible track to the rocks.
- The sector starts with the Firewall, and already the first 3 routes are amazing. Wall climbing with sharp pockets, a few side-holds and techy moves culminating in the amazing Firewall (7b+ musical). I guess a few new ones have been set up afaik in the meantime, check ClimbKalymnos for details.
- A 70m rope is sufficient and do not go there after 1pm. The sun is scorching this sector in particular! On a positive note though that means that after 1pm you are completely alone and the easy routes are possible at least.
- By the way, the view of the Arginonta fjord is always breathtaking!
For me the absolute best on Kalymnos. For two reasons: One of the longest access walks (the times in the guidebook are complete bullshit, if you make it below an hour you are lucky). Absolutely isolated, long drive, and always blessed with a massive wind that starts around noon.
- Nothing for kids again, scrambling up a precarious slope for about an hour. Not a parents dream!
- 80m rope required, minimum. Some of the routes easily reach that if you do want to top them in one go and at least 25 quickdraws.
- The rock is pristine, sharp, massively sharp, perfect quality, absolutely fascinating movements and a view over the whole valley of Vathy.
- There are now dozends of new routes up there since we last visited the wall, especially around the left side of the face.
- The routes Dasy (6b, musical, 61m), Anemone (6b+ ***, 63m), Iris (6a+, musical, 37m), Orchid (6b, musical, 37m) and Ibiscus (6b+ ***, 72m) are definitely some of the best in that grade on Kalymnos. It is just a very good mix of technical and powerfull wall and dihedral climbing all very sustained, that gets you into a trance like state.
- As a bonus you can take a plunge in the Vathy fjord just 10min scooter drive from the parking spot.
That’s it regarding my favorites on Kalymnos. I left out the classical spots high above Masouri and Armeos as I simply don’t like their setting and because they are usually much more crowded than the above mentioned. But in the end it’s all personal style. The hardest routes are in other locations than the ones described here. Follow these instructions for a relaxed holiday between the sea and the rock. Hardmovers, please look elsewhere (climbkalymnos.com).
- BD athlete Adrian Baxter sport climbing in Kalymnos, Greece, from Black Diamond Equipment
- The North Face Kalymnos climbing festival 2012, from STORY.teller COLLECTIVE
- Climbing Video – Fun de Chichunne 8a, Kalymnos, from Alexander Baxter