A Guide to Rock Climbing and Slow Travel in Kalymnos, Greece
Kalymnos is no doubt a climber's paradise thanks to its rocky terrain and incredible stalactite and tufa formations, but I think what makes it really stand out as a holiday destination is how it lends itself well to slow travel. The landscape, the people, the food… the list just goes on and on. Whether you’re a seasoned climber looking for fresh routes or just someone craving for that much needed R&R sans the crowds, Kalymnos just might be your dream destination.
SPORT CLIMBING IN KALYMNOS
Climbers would be delighted to experience slab, steep, overhang, and tufa climbing in this wonderful island, as well as a wide range of grades from 2a to 9b. With over 100 sectors and 3000 routes, a lifetime just might not be enough to exhaust the climbing possibilities out there.
BEGINNERS: WHERE TO CLIMB
As soon as we settled in, we headed out to grab the amazeballs Kalymnos Climbing Guidebook from the Acropolis Studio shop in Masouri square. They sell for 40 euros everywhere in the island, and 3 euros from each sale will go to the Kalymnos Rescue Team. By purchasing the book, you’re not only getting your hands on one of the most detailed guides in the planet — you’re also helping to make sport climbing a fun and safe activity for everyone.
While Kalymnos has a massive variety of grades and rock formations for your level and liking, beginners would particularly love Arginonta Valley and Sympleglades.
Arginonta Valley. This sector’s got several 5's and 6's, with a fairly easy 5-minute uphill walk to the sector. Its north orientation allows for a pleasant climb away from the harsh afternoon sun from 12:30 pm onwards.
Sympleglades. This is another beginner-friendly sector and is definitely one of my faves! It's a 10- to 15-minute uphill walk with moderate difficulty, but once there you'll be rewarded by amazing views and a vast area with a variety of rock formations and grades. I love the fact that this climbing sector gets an even amount of sun and shade. It's also family-friendly as the little ones have lots of space to play and roam around on flat terrain.
Some routes can also get as long as 30 meters, so a pair of belay glasses can help you avoid belayer's neck. You can get yours from your local sports shop, at a climber's store in Kalymnos, or online from Amazon. We bought this pair, which came with a protective zipped bag with a carabiner, a cleaning cloth, a strap, and extra screws. Absolutely a game changer.
Planning on winging it in Kalymnos as a newbie? No problem. Climbing classes for small groups come aplenty in Kalymnos, just ask! You can contact Tania Matsuka, a certified climbing instructor, by phone at +30 6987586251 or by email at email@example.com.
You can easily spend a month in this island without running out of routes to climb, but non-climbers would be delighted to know that Kalymnos is more than just its quality routes. It offers good food, amazing landscapes, and warm people. You also don’t get droves of tourists with selfie sticks. Instead, you'll find adventurers with their backpacks armed with a ready smile as well as friendly locals who are willing to share their love for their island with you. This is the kind of travel that truly warms the heart and fuels the soul. Whether or not you enjoy sport climbing, Kalymnos can be a great place to relax, get immersed in the local life, and take things slow. Here are just some non-climbing activities you can enjoy in the island:
Take a dip in its turquoise waters
Head over to the Argoninta or Masouri beaches and take a dip in the crystal clear waters of the Aegean Sea.
See the whole island by car
The most surprising leg of our trip was when we traversed the whole island by car one afternoon and saw the contrasting features of Kalymnos’s west (Greek-facing) and the east (Turkey-facing) sides. Go through Vathy and do a quick stop at its quaint harbour, then head up all the way to Platanos and Metochi through zigzag roads to Arginonta.
I also highly recommend exploring the northern part of the island through Skalia, Palionisos, and Emporios on a car or a motorcycle. There are several places where you can stop for photos along the way as well as small bars to grab a beer or a freddo cappuccino, a strong variant of the iced coffee as we know it.
Visit Telendos Island
If you'd like to get deeper into the island life, take the boat from Myrties to the nearby Telendos Island (it takes about 10 minutes) where you can explore more climbing routes and laidback beaches.
Eat and drink
What I enjoyed as much as climbing is the amazingly cheap and insanely delicious food that this place has to offer! My boyfriend and I agreed that one of the best restaurants (and perhaps the best!) we've ever been to is in Kalymnos!
Aegean Tavern in Myrties. This unassuming family-run restaurant gets the top spot on our list. Sumptuous dishes fit for kings for a price you’d be more than willing to pay. If I should go back to Kalymnos for one and only one thing, it’s got to be Aegean Tavern’s homemade bread! Paired with Greek olives and a dash of olive oil, it trumps all the other panaderías I've been in! We’ve tried several of their chef's specials: pork tenderloin (tender and flavorful), oven-baked lamb (melts-in-your-mouth goodness), and tuna steak with fig sauce (perfectly cooked tuna on a mildly sweet sauce). To top it all off, they also serve their guests with a complimentary dessert, usually a bowl of Loukomades, or honey balls. They taste a lot like profiteroles and fried donuts. Served with this nutty ice cream and spoonfuls of honey, it's out-of-this-world delicious. The amazing sunset views from the terrace are, of course, just the cherry on top. (main course price range: 8-12 euros)
Panos Restaurant (Myrties). A slightly cheaper alternative to The Aegean Tavern, this restaurant also offers great value for money with a hip ambience. We especially loved the chicken souvlaki served with pita bread, tzatziki (yogurt sauce with cucumber, onions, garlic, and spices), curry rice, and a small serving of salad. (main course price range: 8-12 euros)
Fatolitis Bar (Masouri). Definitely a popular hangout spot before and after a day out climbing, Fatolitis Bar is all about big portions. I had a proper English breakfast before tackling some climbing routes and found myself well-prepared for the batalla. (beers price range: 2 to 3.50 euros; breakfast: 5 to 10 euros)
Kamaki Café (Masouri). This café's difficult to miss with its inviting and spacious terrace. We had our breakfast here on our last day on the island and got our gourmet breakfast paired with traditional Greek coffee kaimaki poured from a traditional coffee pot called briki. (breakfast price range: 8 to 10 euros)
Stelios Maria Restaurant (Masouri). This restaurant offers great seaside views and a breakfast fit for champions. Our favorite was the creamy and delectable Greek yogurt topped with honey and fruit. Yum! (breakfast price range: 5 to 10 euros)
Ilias Tavern (Palionisos). Since we came in the thick of the Easter holiday celebrations in Kalymnos, many restaurants (like Ilias Tavern) were either closed or served only light snacks. Anyway, we still enjoyed our meal with the perfect views of the sea and the mountains. It's also one of the most famous restaurants on the island and definitely worth a visit.
WHERE TO STAY
Afroditi Hotel. If you're looking for great value for money, Afroditi Hotel's got you covered. We stayed here for 4 days and was accommodated beyond expectations by the lovely staff! Our ferry from Athens arrived at the Pothia port at 4 AM and we found our room keys at the reception with a sweet welcome note. Although the bathroom was basic, we were happy to go back to our rooms with clean towels and freshly made beds every day.
Masouri Blu Hotel. If you're willing to splurge for stunning views and ultimate relaxation, then Masouri Blu Boutique Hotel's for you. It enjoys a premium beachfront location in Masouri and is a short walk from restaurants and stores.
WHEN TO GO
For climbing. High season's July-August, so expect huge crowds. It's best to go on shoulder months like April-May and September-October to avoid queues in the climbing sectors and if you prefer a cooler temperature. Bring along a jacket as it can get cold at night and when climbing in the shade.
For swimming. Anytime between June and October's best for enjoying Kalymnos's beaches. April-May's temperate overall, but the water might be too cold for swimming (though I've seen some brave souls take a dip after climbing).
Motorcycle. You'll not run out of motorcycle rental shops in Kalymnos, as it's practically the most practical way to get around the island. If you're in Masouri, head over to Mike's Bikes and rent a motorcycle for 12 euros a day.
Car. For bigger groups or for those without a valid motorcycle license, you can rent a car for 34 euros a day.
Taxi. Although a far less popular option for everyday sightseeing, taxis come in handy for pickups and dropoffs to and from the airport or port.
HOW TO GET TO KALYMNOS FROM ATHENS
There are several ways you can reach Kalymnos.
By air. You can fly to Athens and either (1) take a local flight to Kalymnos or (2) take a local flight to Kos then take a ferry to Kalymnos from Kos's Mastihari port. You can book your Kos-Kalymnos ferry tickets at the port on arrival.
By ferry. Alternatively, you can also book a ferry from Athens to Kalymnos, which takes about half a day. We went for this option and actually quite enjoyed the extended travel. Ferry companies offer a variety of accommodation options, including room with bunk beds or airplane seats. as well as a range of amenities such as snack bars, restaurants, toilets, and shower rooms. We used Let’s Ferry to book our tickets ahead of time.
Things you should know before your trip
Drinking water. Tap water in Kalymnos is not potable. While there are plenty of small supermarkets that sell them between 50 cents to 1 euro, we suggest refilling your bottles (for free) in stations labelled "Temak".
Insurance. If you're doing some rock climbing, be sure to get insured. You can get a policy specifically for adventure sports at your local mountaineering/climbing club or through an insurance company like World Nomads.
Important numbers. Kalymnos has a rescue team with professionally-trained volunteers (support them by donating via www.kalymnosrescueteam.org) to aid in your safe practice of the sport. It's also important to keep these emergency numbers on hand (Hospital: +30 22430 22166, 22430 23025; Police: +30 22430 22100; Universal Emergency Number: 112).
Bathroom facilities. You can't throw tissue paper on the toilet (definitely nice to know!)
Interactions. The locals are genuinely friendly and they get out of their way to help you. They're also very proud of their island and won't mind sharing a story or two.
Laundry service. There are self-service laundry shops on the island, so you don't have to worry about packing more clothes than you can carry.
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