Spain: the land of Don Quixote, paella, tapas…and sunbaked limestone. Spain abounds in some of the best limestone rock climbing the world has to offer. From easy multi-pitch adventure routes to some of the hardest sport climbs in the world, the Iberian Peninsula has it all. But one unique thing that Spain can also offer the traveling rock climber is some of the best winter rock climbing in the Northern Hemisphere. From November through March, head to the South of Spain to bask in Mediterranean sunshine for your respite from the winter climbing doldrums.
Two of the top Southern Spanish rock climbing destinations for traveling climbers are in the hills of El Chorro, and by the sparkling Med in the Costa Blanca region. Each offers a multitude of limestone options for climbers of all ability levels.
Situation in the pastoral hills North of Malaga, El Chorro is known to the non-climbing world for it’s famous “Camino del Ray”, a pathway built along the limestone cliffs with jaw dropping exposure. For climbers, El Chorro is one of Spain’s most notable rock climbing destinations with soaring limestone walls reminiscent of Italy’s Dolomites.
The climbing is a mix of single pitch sport climbs and long multi pitch adventures up to 8+ pitches in length. The main area of El Chorro is located on a large limestone escarpment above a historic hydroelectric project. In addition, there are numerous other excellent crags in the surrounding hills. The climbs tend to be vertical or just off vertical with a few overhanging crags for those looking for the steep pump.
El Chorro has something for everyone with plenty of climbs below French grade 5+ (5.9 YDS) to keep the beginner sport climber busy. Those looking for hard steep climbs wont be disappointed either endless climbs in the 7a and above range including quite a few hard multi pitches. There’s also a number of “adventure climbs” in the 5.10 range that require a small rack.
Other than the tourists coming through for the day to walk the “kings road”, El Chorro is a friendly and relatively quiet place with just a few restaurants, a bar, a climbers hostel and some Spanish villas for rent strewn throughout hillsides. Camping is available if you have a camper van or are willing to pitch a tent at one of the hostels. Dispersed camping is not allowed as most of the area is a protected park.
About a 6-hour drive to the Northeast from El Chorro is the massive beach resort region of the Costa Blanca. Most people will come here from July through September to stay in high rise apartments and lounge on crowded beaches, but from October through the winter the beach resorts are mostly empty and the climbing temperatures are perfect. The limestone climbing is somewhat more diverse than El Chorro with single pitch sport climbs mixed in with long multi pitch traditional adventures. This is a place you can climb next to a luxury vacation villa high above the med one day and be pulling hard moves tucked away in a remote country valley the next.
While the climbing areas here are well spread out, most of the climbing is centered around the old fishing village turned high-rise beach resort town of Calpe. Right in Calpe you cant miss the Penon de Ifach which towers above the harbor. The Penon is actually larger than the well-known rock of Gibraltor further to the South and was used my ancient mariners as a major navigational landmark. And it harbors a multitude of great climbs, some of which require traditional gear.
The Costa Blanca has probably the largest selection of winter rock climbs in Spain and a great place to base for a week or more. Camping is a bit challenging in this area, but you can find places to pay for a spot to park your rig. Much better is the selection on vacation rentals which can be quite affordable in the off-season. Rest day activities include exploring Roman ruins or just lounging by the sea.
Traveling through Spain can be quite affordable. Rental cars can be impossibly cheap, sometimes no more than $12 per day. Groceries and restaurants are also very cheap compared to US resorts. To get to El Chorro or Valencia, it’s cheapest and perhaps easiest to just fly into Madrid and then rent a car there. But you can also fly into, or take a high speed train, to Valencia for Costa Blanca or to Malaga for El Chorro.
When you’re fighting the winter doldrums and looking for some high quality limestone climbing, think Spain!
Check out our guided Spain Rock Climbing.