When thinking about climbing destinations Crete is most likely not on the top of anybodies list. This was also the case with me. But when a family trip went that way I found out that the island offers some great climbing. I found out the island is so much more than the party island it is known for.
Since the main objective of this trip wasn’t climbing I won’t be able to offer you the depth that I have in my other climbing posts. On the other hand, I had a hard time finding up to date info about climbing on Crete. So then why not write this?
Traveling to Crete
Most common is flying into Heraklion, but there are also ferries going from Athens. There are many direct flights going from many places in Europe during tourist season. After that it’s hard to find a flight. I think it’s similar to Kalymnos, so when you plan to go between early April and the end of October, you’ll be fine.
Where to stay
I completely underestimated the size of the island before I arrived there. I thought we could easily drive to some of the crags and have a fun day at the rock. I was very wrong. The island is very mountainous and driving 100 km can take up to two or even three hours.
If you plan to go to Crete for climbing I suggest that you don’t set up a base camp, unless you want to focus on one specific crag. If you want to see what the island has to offer, in terms of climbing, it’s best to find accommodation close by a crag and then move to the next camp close to that crag.
Crete also has a few campsites if you’re looking for a camping experience. I’ve seen quite a few camper vans driving around from people all over Europe, if you have the time this can be a great way to travel around too. On top of all that I’ve seen people wild camping close to the crags. I believe it’s not allowed officially, but I heard from locals it’s not enforced unless you’re camping close to an actual campground.
As I said, planning a climbing trip to Crete can be hard since developed crags are scattered around the island. The community isn’t very big, so up to date guides and bolted crags are not always there. Befriending local climbers will probably give you the best up to date info on routes.
I bought the Crete climbing guide from 2009, it’s not the best guide I’ve seen but it has all the necessary information about the routes. Biggest crag in this guide is Agiofárango, this is also where I did my climbs. Nice thing about the crag is the shade, it’s a narrow gorge with climbing on both sides. The gorge ends at the sea where you can cool of or enjoy some deep water solo. I did a traverse, hardest moves being nothing over 5b (french). I had a lot of fun doing that, but I can imagine that others want to try harder stuff. Climbing upwards might bring that extra thrill.
The largest site isn’t in the guide I bought. It’s called Kapetananiá and a guide for just this crag is also sold. Some of the climbing is also in the Climb Greece guide. I bought my book from outdoor shop Mountain Club. A nice shop with hiking and climbing gear.
Crags (Writen by Jim Lawyer)
By far the most extensive sport climbing is Aggiofarrango . Very pretty area, in a remote bay, with sport climbs in all grades. Good sun/shade alternatives. Limestone, some tufa. Great place for the family to enjoy a beach while you climb.
Kapetaniana is a limestone high-mountain choice, but I wasn’t super impressed with this area. It’s supposed to be good, and it’s at elevation, so it’s cooler.
Another choice is Agio Ioannis, a conglomerate area (in a limestone matrix) directly on the ocean. We only did a couple routes, but pretty cool. Very sunny though, and a bit of a hike (although a beautiful hike). Scariest drive of my life (but safe) getting to here.
Plakias is a really cool wall, right on the beach, but not much in the easy grades. Vertical limestone, unique. Wall faces northwest, so shady. Great place for the family to enjoy the beach while you climb.
Tersanas Cave is an amazing limestone cave riddled with tufa, the Grande Grotta of Crete. It is VERY close to Balos Beach, one of the top ten beaches on the planet. Nothing easy, though. Possibly one 6b warmup, then 7a+ and up. Bit of a hike. Friggin’ stellar!
If you have an 80 m rope, bring it. There are so many routes that I would’ve loved to try, but where all around 37 meters long, best not to risk that with a 70 m rope. The guide I have offers great information on the amount of draws you need. Often with these long climbs you need 10 to 14 of them. I believe most anchors have a snapper or carabiner for easy lowering.
If you are familiar with nuts and cams then this island might be for you. There is a lot of undeveloped rock on the island that seems worth your time. The guide I have offer a few easy trad multi pitches.
If you don’t want to bring gear or if you don’t have gear, there is a shop that rents out gear.
Bring your partner! I managed to find two amazing local guys who were willing to take me out climbing, but it was so hard to find someone. Also with the travel time it makes things hard to meet up with other climbers. However if you do have the time and you are willing to hang around for a bit you might be able to persuade the small groups to take you in. Agiofárago did seem to come to life in the afternoon.
If you’re a beginner you might also want to go climbing with a guide. There are a few out on the island that are easy to find online. I’ve been in touch with Cretan Adventures who was very helpful in offering information about climbing sites. The website seems a bit outdated but he said he’s still active.
What else to do
I really don’t understand how this island became a well known party island. It’s so rugged, so mountainous that I would love to explore this land on foot. Highest peak on Crete is a staggering 2456 meters high and is covered in snow often. So enough hiking opportunities for the adventurous explorer.
Many tourists means that tours are offered in many places. Most popular are tours to beaches and canyons. We did a tour to Preveli Gorge, where we hiked up through a sweetwater river that flows year round. Most popular tour is to the Samaria Gorge. Since we weren’t up for the long hike down we took a boat to the end of the gorge and hiked up until we didn’t feel like going any further and then came back down again.
The island is full with old buildings and monasteries, if you’re into history this might be your thing. It’s not my interest, so this is all I can tell you.
I believe diving tours are also offered often as are sailing tours. Again, no experience so this is how far my knowledge goes.
Climb Greece guide – https://climbgreece.com/guidebook/
Outdoor shop – https://mountainclub.gr/
Gear rental – https://www.enjoy-crete.com/services/rock-climbing/
Cretan adventures – http://www.cretanadventures.gr/en/act_rock_climbing.html
Hiking in Crete – https://www.discoveronfoot.com/walking-in-crete/mountains-of-crete/