Why settle for exploring a new country from the ground when you can gain a whole new perspective from up high? Climbing adventures can transform an ordinary trip into an opportunity to learn new skills, push your limits, and feel that sweet rush of accomplishment. Whether you’ve never been on a rope before, are a pro at sending hard routes, or just want to stand on top of a really tall peak, incorporating rock climbing adventures into your time abroad is guaranteed to be a memorable experience.
No matter where you’re interested in traveling, chances are there’s climbing nearby. With steep limestone crags in Spain, alpine peaks in Patagonia, and pumpy tufa climbing in Greece, each climbing destination is as unique as the culture and people that surround it. If your goal is to spend as much time outside ignoring the pull of gravity, your options for rock climbing trips are nearly endless.
Thailand is a traveler’s dream for all sorts of outdoor adventures, and this Southeast Asian country has climbing in spades. Be ready to scoot up limestone cliffs above the Andaman sea at Railey and Tonsai beaches, or head inland to central Thailand for tower climbing and bouldering. When you need to give your fingers a break, go underwater for a scuba excursion on Koh Tao island or organize a trekking tour near Chiang Mai.
It’s difficult to talk about climbing without mentioning Nepal, home to the world’s tallest mountain. While scaling Everest is too ambitious for most travelers, there are many other mountain climbing expeditions for novice and experienced climbers to get a taste of the alpine environment. Trekking to Everest base camp is a popular option, while other excursions allow you to explore the Annapurna range. On your rest day, take a ride in a tandem paraglider above Pokhara or undertake a quest for the best momos in Kathmandu.
If standing on top of a summit is more your style, Tanzania boasts the tallest peak in Africa. Thousands of visitors tackle the Mt. Kilimanjaro climb every year, and while it is less technical than other alpine climbs, getting to the top is still a serious undertaking. Luckily, there’s a lot to see in the country after your Kilimanjaro climb tours; rest your tired feet while on safari in the Ngorongoro crater or snorkeling off the coast of Zanzibar.
Once you’ve decided on a location, it’s time to make your rock climbing vacations a reality. No more gazing wistfully at photos online of snow-capped peaks or splitter sandstone cracks, it’s time to hit the road and feel the earth under your fingertips!
Most climbing adventures take place as part of a guided adventure program. These programs have organized itineraries that include climbing along with a bunch of other adrenaline-inducing activities like rafting, trekking, ziplining, and snorkeling. Traveling in small groups with a leader ensures that you’ll never have to worry too much about logistics, and you’ll also have the chance to try out a range of new activities.
Other options include choosing just one specific climbing objective, such as trekking to Everest base camp or summiting Mt. Fuji. These programs still offer the security of traveling with a guide, but will likely be a bit more intense. Who said mountain climbing trips are for sissies?! You’ll get to know your fellow participants quite well as the oxygen begins to thin, and they’ll make for a great cheering section as the climbing gets more difficult.
One final option for travelers who are going alone is to find a local climbing school or guiding service. In some popular areas for rock climbing tours, guides take out all types of climbers, from beginner to advanced, and will supply you with all the equipment you need. This can be especially useful if you’re climbing in an area you’re unfamiliar with, and it also saves you from dragging your 70 meter rope halfway around the world!
You can easily participate in rock climbing trips at any time of the year, as long as you consider the climate and seasons in your chosen location. Remember that seasons in the southern hemisphere are reversed, and equatorial countries have consistent temperatures year round. Also, if you’ll be experiencing a lot of elevation change or will be climbing at high altitudes, be sure to research temperatures; it can get quite cold, even during the summer months.
Advice for Climbing Adventures
Climbing in a new location can be an incredible experience, especially when discovering new landscapes, rock types, and techniques. Yet, as every good climber knows, there’s always more to learn.
One of the best ways to ensure a good trip is to be prepared. Before you leave home, think about what skills would be useful to learn. If you’re a beginner climber, go to a local climbing gym and learn how to tie in, belay a friend, and see what it feels like to climb up a wall. If you’re already an experienced lead climber, take a self-rescue class to boost your emergency management skills.
Once you’ve arrived at your destination, make sure you know your limits. The grading system for routes is notoriously inconsistent, so it’s important to research potential routes and talk to locals. They’ll be able to tell you if the 5.10 route you’re eyeing requires extra draws or if the anchors are sketchy. Likewise, if you’re just starting out, be patient with your progress. Amazing rock climbers aren’t born overnight, and you’ll probably require extra rest if your muscles aren’t accustomed to gripping rock consistently.
If you choose to arrange a session with a guiding service on your own, do your research and make sure the company has a good safety record. Climbing can be a dangerous sport, so it’s important to ensure your guide is knowledgeable and the gear you’re using is dependable.
Speaking of gear, what you’ll need to bring for your climbing adventures depends on what kind of climbing you’ll be doing. If you’re traveling with a group and only plan to do a couple days of climbing, you likely won’t need to pack anything special and everything will be provided by the program. If you’ll be doing a lot of climbing, plan to pack at least the essentials: a harness, climbing shoes, and a belay device.
Benefits & Challenges
For some, the thought of hanging off the side of a cliff is terrifying. Yet after giving it a try, many people discover the fear is edged out by exhilaration and a feeling of accomplishment. Climbing is a great way to expand your comfort zone and push past your perceived limits. There’s nothing quite like the rush of overcoming your fears. Seeing the world from a new angle is just an added bonus!
Climbing is also a great way to experience the outdoors. Many travel programs that include a climbing component spend a significant amount of time outside, which is proven to decrease stress and enhance feelings of well-being. Not only will traveling to a new country expand your worldview, but you’ll come away from the experience with a new understanding of your own limits, too.
One thing to remember is that rock climbing trips are physically and mentally challenging, and it’s normal to feel tired after a day on the rock. Whether you’re out for an afternoon or a week-long excursion, be kind to your body. Make sure you’re fully hydrated, pack adequate snacks, and protect yourself from the elements. Taking care of yourself now equals more climbing time later!
Rock climbing adventures can be the experience of a lifetime, and once you’ve tried it, climbing might just become your new favorite hobby. While it’s easy to focus solely on the rock, take time to explore your surroundings, learn about the culture, and talk with locals. You’ll return home with callused hands and a deeper understanding of the world around you.