This post you will find everything you need to organise a climbing trip on Kalymnos. Read on to find out a little bit about the history and geography of Kalymnos, how to get to the climbing areas, Masouri, where you can stay and enjoy some specialties. Importantly, I discuss information about climbing, the best times to visit, the range and variety of climbing available and a few words about safety.
A few words about the island
If you climb a little and you have done some climbing trips, it is very likely that you have heard of Kalymnos. This magnificent island of the Dodecanese in the Aegean Sea has many assets for both novice and experienced climbers. Kalymnos has the particularity of being very rocky, with limestone cliffs. The island is very dry for most of the year (May to November) and has little vegetation.
The island’s reputation and economic activity developed rapidly from the middle of the 19th century onward thanks to sponge fishing. These were almost completely eradicated by an epidemic of rare violence in 1986. The island lives economically from a small seaside tourism (2 months in the year) and since now about fifteen years of tourism related to climbing (6 to 7 months per year).
If the archaeological aspect is not very interesting (Rhodes is not far away for that!), Greek culture and the friendliness of its inhabitants are omnipresent. The culinary aspects make it possible to discover a beautiful facet of it!
Climbing trip logistics
Kalymnos is organized to welcome climbers from April to November. The majority of the island’s equipped cliffs are concentrated is in the western part of the island between Masouri and Arginonta.
It is along the main street of Masouri that you will find all the logistical aspects for your stay: accommodation, restaurants, grocery stores, bars, scooter or car rental and 7 climbing shops!
THE WAY TO MASOURI
There’s an airport on Kalymnos but I wouldn’t recommend it, flights can be cancelled or delayed due to wind and prices are generally not very attractive. A better option is to fly to Kos, (Hipocratos international airport). Travel from Kos airport to Mastichiari, you can take a taxi (15/18 €) or the bus (2.5 €) in 10/20 minutes. It is a small village from where ferries (7 €) leave for Kalymnos, the journey takes 30 to 45 minutes and you arrive in Pothia, the main city/port of Kalymnos, situated on the eastern side of the island. On arrival there will be taxis at the port available to take you to Masouri (15/18 € and approximately 15 minutes).
If you decide to rent a car for your stay, it could be smart to rent it in Pothia.
It’s also possible to arrive on Kalymnos by boat from Athens, it takes 12 hours and approximately 50 € per person.
The cliffs are situated on the western side of the island. The most convenient place to stay is Masouri and adjoining villages, Myrties and Armeos. Accommodation consists mainly of studios for 2 or 3 people with prices starting at around 20€. It is possible to rent a house and there are also some hotels.It’s easy to access many cliffs on foot from Masouri, Armeos or Myrties. However renting a scooter will offer you the freedom to visit a number of other crags and explore the island.
The tap water
You will notice quickly, the tap water is salty! Although unpleasant it won’t kill you. It’s fine for brushing your teeth and cooking pasta, you don’t need to add salt. You would probably forget it when you will make your first tea or coffee and it will be the last time as well.
The filter stations
For drinking water, you can buy bottles, or do as the locals do and fill your bottle (for free) at one of the two filter stations. The stations are roadside look like a giant white water dispenser (the size of a small truck), one is located in Masouri in front of the Ambiance bar and the other is in Myrties.
There are also two natural fountains in Masouri. If you have difficulty locating the stations or the fountains, ask a local and they will happily point you in the right direction. If you stay for a long period it might be interesting to buy a small tank of 10-15 litres.
DINNING AND GROCERIES
Restaurants and local dishes
There is no shortage of excellent food in Kalymnos, there are many restaurants conveniently located in Masouri, but a good tip is to venture little bit further to Armeos or Myrties (less than a kilometer) where you can discover a number of very good restaurants. In general you will find a wide variety of dishes and flavours. Like many Greek Islands, fish is in the spotlight, for fresh fish and an authentically Greek experience visit La Kouzina by the Sea in Myrties and take up an order of flaming Saganaki (fried cheese in Greek alcohol).
Kalymnos has a number of local specialities, Mououri is a traditional Kalymnian dish made from goat and typically eaten at Easter. You can find Mououri year round at Tsopanakos restaurant, in Armeos. At Tsopanakos you will also find excellent goats cheese all produced from their own goats. Mermizeli is another must try speciality – it is a typical Kalymnian salad, generally copious and full of flavour. You are in Greece so don’t forget to try mousaka, tzaziki, vine leaves (dolmades), spinach pie and briam (baked vegetables) which is a good vegetarian or vegan option. Try La Kambouza for fantastic Pizza and Tiramisu if you fancy something a little different – owned and run by an italian, so you know it’s good.
Coffee and breakfast
Coffee is life, great coffee and good vibes can be found at Wooden ROOTS and Monster Café. For a sit down breakfast visit Ethereal or Sofrano, these and many shops will also offer takeaway spinach and cheese pies for a cheap breakfast on the go. Fany Market (in Armeos next to Monster Café) offers a range of delicious homemade bread and spinach pies/desserts.
If you are a wine lover, the Greeks produce very good wine. I’m not talking about the “homemade” wine in the pitcher! They have some terrific grape varieties such as Malagousia or Assyrtiko (white wine), Agiorgitiko or Xinomavro (red wine) which deserve to be discovered. Stop by Azul for a classy but relaxed evening of wine, cocktails and food. The small establishment boasts a beautiful setup and welcoming staff.
Preparing your own meals is an option, most studios provide basic cooking utensils. There are several grocery stores along Masouri Street with reasonable prices. There is a larger supermarket, AB Market a few kilometers outside Masouri (in Elies) which is well stocked.
If you forget or lose equipment, there are plenty of climbing shops, 7 to be accurate! Each shop sells specific brands. The prices are ok, even better than your country sometimes, depending on where you are from! They have the essentials of climbing equipment and too many inessentials (clothes) but it’s only my opinion!
The climbing shops also rent shoes for about 5 Euro per day as well as all other equipment that you need for climbing (quickdraws, belay device, helmets and harnesses). They do not rent ropes! If you find yourself on the island without a rope or equipment I do have a few I can rent, get in touch and I will see what I can do.
There are many places to rent scooters or cars in Masouri, it’s also possible to rent bicycles.
If you rent a car or a scooter you will have to go to Elies to fill your tank. Don’t try to find a petrol station in the west part of the island, it doesn’t exist.
Kalymnos is a great place for a family vacation, if you have young children. Don’t wait until they become autonomous to come! There is wonderful childcare in Armeos, just below Grande Grotta sector, at Monster Café. This is a professional setup where you can rest assured that your children are safe and having fun. The service is managed by a fantastic German couple, Saskia and Josen. They also have some of the best coffee and breakfast on the island and the view is awesome, stop by (with or without kids) and check the place out.
There are a lot of souvenir shops. You will find easily sponge shops, sponge fishing was the traditional activity of Kalymnos and contributes to its reputation.
Wooden ROOTS is one of the nicest shops that provides local products and is manage by Sevasti, a friendly Kalymnian woman. Here you can find organic products, honey, olive oil, herbs, nuts and other tasty treats from their family farm. Stop by and enjoy a coffee, glass of wine or other aperitif before or after climbing in a relaxing and welcoming environment.
Your climbing trip brings you here and you’re not going to be disappointed! The last 2019 topo lists 3500 routes found at 66 sectors and 144 sub-sectors. There are new routes and sectors being developed constantly and probably 300 – 400 more since the last guidebooks publication! If you are interested in visiting some of the newest routes you can purchase a list at Glaros Bar (about 5 EURO), the money goes towards bolting costs.
You can buy a guidebook in almost any shop in Masouri and most cafes and restaurants have their own copy for quick referencing. There are two different editions, one edited by Aris Theodoropoulos & Katie Roussos and the other by Rockfax. The first one is my preference because it gives the exact length of each route, which is a vital aspect of safety, but both are good guidebooks.
The ethics of equipping routes is to set a bolt every 2.5/3 meters. The most common grade is 6a (5.10a) with more than 1000 routes at that grade. There is a large quantity of 7’s (5.12) as well as 5’s (5.8-5.9). So it’s safe to say whatever grade you climb, even at complete beginner level you will find something amazing to climb!
The concentration of routes is mainly between Masouri and Arginonta, but it’s very interesting to go further. Visit the likes of Ghost Kitchen, Secret Garden and Gerakios for some epic climbs that you won’t find in the Grande Grotta.
From May to November the temperatures on Kalymnos are typically 20 degrees Celsius and above. This means it is most sensible and comfortable to climb in the shade. Most people find it’s not pleasant to climb in the sun! Sweating and climbing don’t really go well together and you are likely to discover that hot feet expanding into tight shoes is torture.
The island’s cliffs have two main orientations making it possible to climb in the morning and the afternoon, however 80% of the cliffs are in the shade in the morning. So at peak seasons, if you sleep in you are likely to find yourself in crowded areas in the afternoon, usually Arginonta Valley and Summer Time (still both are excellent crags worth visiting).
When to come for your climbing trip
The best time to visit Kalymnos for climbing are the months of May and October and most people plan their climbing trips during these months so it does get a bit busy. April and November are my favorite months on the island, the island is quieter, it has just woken up or is preparing to hibernate. It is possible to have a little more rain than between June and October but it is rarely abundant and dries very quickly!
Kalymnos benefits from Northerly winds, called Meltemi by the locals and there is often wind. So, contrary to what one might think, it is quite possible to climb in summer (July and August). The wind makes it possible to climb to a very good level. June and September are two intermediate months with fewer people. It can be useful to consider that non climbing tourists tend to visit the island during July and August.
You can’t miss the small island in front of Masouri: Telendos. It is a perfect place to go for a day of climbing, there are shaded areas in the morning and afternoon. Regular shuttle ferries take you across the 1 kilometer straight (3 Euro). It is possible to walk from the small port on Telendos to all climbing sectors, between 40 minutes (Miltiadis) and 1.5 hours (Lambda), it’s a beautiful walk but beware of doing this in the summer sun. There are almost no trees outside of the village.
A good option is to get one of the shuttles to drop you off near Irox Sector (5 Euro per person, minimum 6 people) the boat will pull up along the rocks allowing you to hop off. You can then walk back along to the port via the marked trail in the early evening shade. There are nice restaurants like Rita or On The Rock to have mezze and beers before taking your boat to return to Kalymnos (every half an hour up to 11 pm).
Deep water solo
For something a little bit different during your climbing trip and entirely refreshing in the warm weather, go for Deep Water Solo in Vathy. There is one main route named “Socratic Swimming Lesson”, the climbing is a 350-meters long traverse, with no point being higher than 2 meters above the water. The majority of the traverse is graded at about 5, with a nice crux of about 6a+ and if you make it to the furthest sections you can attempt a friendly 7a+.
It is easy and safe to get on and off the route at practically any point making it a friendly and fun activity. The only caution is to look out for sea urchins which can easily be avoided. The start of the route is located at the right of the port just beside the showers and below a popular cliff jumping point. Make sure you have the ability and the energy to make the 250 meter swim back to the port!
Nearby Vathy is a unique cave, rent a kayak from Waternative at the port and travel out. Warm up on the left hand side of the cave with a pleasant juggy 5+, there are two 6a’s on the right side of the cave, a 7b in the middle and a challenging 7b traverse from the left hand side of the cave. Take some time to snorkel around the cave and see what you can spot.
Several multi-pitches are equipped throughout the island, some of them are worth a visit and give a remarkable point of view. Three Ilots sector and the south face of Telendos have a number of interesting multi pitches. Three stripes in Spartacus sector is a great first route for discovering multi pitch climbing, graded 5c+ max, with a walking descent, some scrambling required.
Let's talk about limestone
The quality of limestone, is excellent. To put it simply, there are two “types” of limestone on the island: grey and others (red, orange, yellow and white). Grey corresponds to a limestone that is found on vertical profiles or slabs. This limestone has weathered and over time (millions of years) it has been modified to give a protective layer that is grey in color. White, yellow, orange and red limestone are found in overhanging profiles that are protected from rain, and form exciting and fun things to climb, like tufas.
Why talk about humidity? The two “types” of limestone do not react in the same way to ambient humidity (called hygrometry or relative humidity). The grey limestone is insensitive to it while the other absorbs quantities depending on the ambient humidity and this considerably modifies the grip; more humidity means less grip. You can obtain information about relative humidity on some weather sites (this one for example) that will allow you to choose your sector more appropriately. For example areas such as Spartan wall, Kalydna, Secret Garden with a relative humidity of more than 80% (see 70%) are frankly not pleasant to climb.
A safety update
The quality of the equipment is excellent. For several years, the openers have been using a very resistant stainless steel alloy (316L). However as in any outdoor climbing area bolts can sometimes be corroded, you must therefore be careful when climbing.
You are in a natural environment, loose rock can fall, holds can break and goats roam all over the cliffs above you. This means it is important for you and your belayer to wear a helmet at all times!
The main accident that occurs time and time again in Kalymnos occurs when climbers forget to tie a knot at the end of the rope! The routes are mostly long (more than 30 meters) and it is possible that you do not have an 80-meter rope. With your 60-meter rope on a 35-meter route, it doesn’t work! So it is imperative to know the length of your rope, check the topo for the length of the route you would like to climb and always have a knot at the end of the rope (a double fisherman is perfect), even with an 80 meter rope (there are 42 meter routes)!
The main accident overall is mistakes with the climbing knot (80% of accidents around the world) so do not neglect double checking with yourself and your partner just before you start climbing.
Using an Assisted Braking Device (Click Up, Revo, Smart, Mega Jul and my nemesis the GriGri) is a necessity in case the belayer is unable to belay because they are injured by a stone or anything else that falls on them. In that case with an assisted belay device, the climber will be not on free solo!
In case of problems call 112. The Rescue Team, volunteers from the island will intervene to rescue you. They do an extraordinary job and operate on donations.
You need a climbing instructor
If all I have written above concerning safety is not totally clear for you, you can contact me to have a climbing session. I can provide a refresher if you haven’t climbed outside in a while or if you are new to climbing outdoors I can teach you everything you need to know to climb safely on the rock and enjoy your trip.
Maybe you would like to improve your rock climbing skill, discover or challenge yourself on the best routes at your grade on the island. I offer daily climbing sessions or 6-day climbing courses (beginner, intermediate & advanced) at any level from April to November. Visit my website to find out more, book sessions and courses or contact me for more information.
You have to manage some rest days during your climbing trip, these are the perfect times to discover the island or to do other activities.
It can be very pleasant, depending on the length of your stay, to visit other surrounding islands: Leros, Pserimos, Tilos, Patmos, Ikaria. My favorite is Nyssiros with its volcano and the beautiful village of Nikla.
Hiking on Kalymnos is incredible but not always easy with steep paths, difficult orientation in places and less often frequented. Best done in the cooler months as there are few trees for shade.
It is possible to go diving, there are 2 or 3 diving centers. The Kalymnos Diving Club manage by Dimitri and his wife Anna is really good. They offer a daily boat trip to swim with dolphins, bring you to deep water solo sector (described above) with an option to go to Pserimos, a small island next to Kalymnos, to have lunch.
In Vathy you can rent a kayak at Waternative to visit some harder to access beaches.