I love Europe. I know it’s expensive and Southeast Asia is so much more trendy these days, but there’s just something about the food and architecture that draws me to it again and again. On our first 6 month road trip through Europe we discovered some hidden gems that were perfect climbing destinations, especially for beginner climbers like us. Not only were these great rock climbing destinations, most of these places are great destinations in themselves. The towns were either really cute or the surrounding nature was worth visiting even without climbing.
If you are coming from the States, you will be amazed at how different climbing is in Europe. And by different, I mean numerous, popular, and accessible. There seems to be bolted walls everywhere and even the smallest towns have climbing stores making it easy to get beta. Plus, there are an abundance of cheap camping options typically very close to the crag. But for us, the best part is the food and drinks nearby after a fun day of climbing!
If we missed your favorite climbing destination in Europe be sure to let us know in the comments section below!
Best places in Italy for rock climbing
This is a cute town just north of Lake Garda (northeast of Milan and Lake Como) in the Province of Trento. It’s a climbers paradise with a dozen climbing stores lined up along the two cobblestone alleyways that make up this town. You will find inexpensive restaurants serving delicious pizza and huge servings of gelato. We happened to be there during a climbing competition, which was fun with vendors and events set up in the town square. There are many climbing areas near the town. Many of the climbing areas have maps at the wall showing the difficulty of the routes. It’s worth getting a climbing book at one of the many stores in town though. There are so many great routes in Arco however it is climbed a lot so popular walls can be quite polished.
I loved camping at Camping Zoo. It had an ecclectic mix of cultures, a huge pool for the kids (don’t forget a swim cap), and there is a great bouldering area and via ferrata directly across the street. It’s only a ten minute walk from the campground into town, making it a pleasant way to spend the evening after a hard day on the wall.
- It can get really hot here in summer though, so if you are looking to climb, it may be better to plan your trip here in the fall or spring.
- This entire region is lined with wineries and olive groves.
- The food is everything you’ve dreamed of when thinking of eating in Italy.
- Nearby Roverto has more climbing and eating options.
- If you make it here, you must drive another two hours to experience the Dolomites.
- If you are looking for a good warm up route, try Facile (5.7, 90 feet) (GPS to parking area: 45.8658,10.8972).
Dolomites, Sella Pass
The Dolomites might be the most beautiful mountains in the world. We had a wonderful time climbing here at Sella Pass. While there are many places to climb in the Dolomites, we chose here because it had a lot of easier level climbs.
Getting up to Sella Pass from the Plan de Gralba side can be tricky in an RV because the roads are very narrow and tour buses drive up and down the windy mountain roads. We literally got squeezed between another bus and the guard rail on the way up and then broke down at the top of this mountain. It was a Sunday so of course no one could come help us, but the silver lining was that we got to spend one night camped out under these magnificent mountains. It was so gorgeous I stayed up half the night watching the lightning dance over the mountain peak. The next day we did the smart thing and parked in the town of Selva Di Val Gardena below and took the inexpensive bus up to Sella Pass. This is a much easier way to visit the pass even if if you do have a small vehicle!
On the north side, Plan de Gralba, there were some parking areas that allowed overnight parking, but no campgrounds that I remember of right in town.
South of Sella Pass, Canazei, is a much bigger town and has more options for camping.
There are also wonderful hikes you can do from the pass and the best part is that there is a cute chateau/restaurant at the top of the mountain.
If you go to Italy, this place is a must do. While it is a bit more touristy than most of the other towns in this blog, the uniqueness of it makes it one of those places that you just have to experience for yourself.
We also loved the climbing area that is right by Camping LaSfinge campground. For climbers and hikers, you could easily spend multiple days here and the campground even offers free shuttle rides down to the Deiva Marina train station (which is how you’d get into the Cinque Terre). Not camping? Don’t worry. Camping LaSfinge also offers Bungalows to rent.
We have an entire blog on how to hike the Cinque Terre. The best part is that you can choose to hike just small portions of it or you can hike the whole thing.
Finalborgo, Finale Ligure
I really wish we had spent more time here. The town center is so cute and had incredible restaurants. Funny story…when we went there to eat after climbing, it was the start of siesta and so the restaurants were closing up and one had to turn us away, but the owner, who spoke no english, was a little old lady who chased us down the cobblestone street to give us her last piece of quiche because she felt so bad about turning us away. The kindness you encounter while traveling is mind-blowing!
We only climbed here one day but there are enough climbing areas nearby that you could easily spend a long week here and there is a lot to do within a few hours drive (like the Cinque Terre, Milan, and Nice). Unfortunately, I can’t remember the exact route we did, but the climbing store in town was super helpful and will point you in the direction based on your abilities. They also sell guide books which is very helpful in this area.
We camped near the beach at Camping Tahiti. It’s within walking distance of the beach and if you are looking for the Italian Rivierra vibe, you will definitely get it here since it seems to be a popuar vacation destination for many.
This would be a great place if not everyone in your family/group was a climber because they could easily hang out on the beach while you headed to the rock walls. Plus there are plenty of food and entertainment options close by.
Best places in France for rock climbing
Oh the Pyrenees! While it may not be the most epic climbing, it is the most epic ambiance. We can’t get enough of this region and for good reason…the food, the beauty, the people. It is incredible here and there are many options when it comes to towns to use as your home base. We loved Laruns (which hosts an incredible cheese festival in September) as well as Gavarnie (which has an urban sport climbing wall in the parking lot!). There are so many small climbing areas scattered around the Pyrenees and most of them aren’t on Mountain Project. Check Climbing Away or go to local climbing stores in the area to get guide books. When in doubt where to go, just ask locals who always seem eager to help (might be helpful to know a few phrases in French though).
There are a lot of campgrounds scattered through this area and most towns allow overnight parking if you are traveling in a camper van.
Best places in Spain for rock climbing
I'll admit these might not be the "best" places for climbing if you are looking for just the best climbs. Like I said earlier, for climbing destinations to make our list, they have to also have ambiance. Meaning, we need something else to draw us to the area besides just the climbing because you never know if you are going to plan a vacation and it happens to rain the entire week. There has to be more to the area than just climbing. Naturally, if you are looking for the best dirtbag, hard-ass climbing then you'll definitely want to go to Costa Blanca or El Chorro (both amazing Winter destinations). But if you want to climb while experiencing other parts of Spains's beauty, then you have to head to northern Spain.
This is a very general area. We've road tripped though here twice and discovered many hidden gems. You could spend months in the area between San Sebastian and Gijon and barely scratch the surface in climbing. We are especially fond of the area around Dima as we made wonderful friends here and the mountains are drop dead gorgeous. We also loved climbing in Urdiliz near Sopelana, mostly because it meant we got to surf and climb in the same day. I really liked the area of Galdamas and it had great mountain biking in the area, plus a cool restaurant to hang out at afterwards. There is also a beautiful climbing area called Ramales that was tucked into the mountains and was also a great spot to climb.
There are a lot of campgrounds and camper stops all over Spain. We just downloaded the camper stop app and had no trouble finding places to sleep overnight. Plus, they are very cheap!
Don't forget about all the Via Ferratas along the northern coast of Spain. I highly recommend bringing the right gear to experience one of these climb-hikes.
We stayed in Balaguer and I'll admit, it's not my first choice for climbing destinations. However, the climbing is REALLY good and if you fly into Barcelona and are heading to the Pyrenees, then this is a great place to spend a few days while you adjust to the time change. We enjoyed climbing Cubells and other areas around Camarasa and loved it. There is so much climbing that you really do need a climbing book here.
We chose to Airbnb while here so we didn't get to check out the camping. But there are camper stops in the area and many discrete places to boondock.
Best places in Germany for rock climbing
I don't think you'll ever hear someone tell you to visit the tiny town of Sonthofen, but it was one of my favorite places to visit in Germany. It is just south of the larger town of Kempten, which has a fabulous farmers market on Saturdays that you can't miss. It was the sport climbing at Kraftwand that brought us here and it didn't disappoint.
We mostly climbed at the area just east of Bad Hindelang and the views of the mountains and the houses dotting the lime green valleys are what made me fall in love with this area. I also loved that you climb right next to a field of cows and the cow bells. Go into the town of Sonthofen and get a climbing book at World of Outdoor in Sonthofen. There are also some great hikes in the valley just south of Bad Hindelang. Park near the church and follow the trails up the mountain to gorgeous waterfalls. Just ask a local and they'll point you in the right direction.
I hesitated to add this one because the actual Neuschwenstein castle that is here is very touristy and it was very expensive to camp here. Although I did love hiking above the castle since it was away from the crowds, there was one climb that was very easy with a nice overhung section that felt like climbing in a gym. We ended up at this climbing areas becasue of the climbing book that we bought in Sonthofen. I must warn you though, there were a lot of mosquitos here!
Campgrounds are expensive in this area and they are strict about not allowing free camping.
If you are a beginner climber, climbing in Sonthofen and Fussen are better than this spot. It's good to note that the bolting is spaced very far apart here, more than any other place we've climbed. I took some big falls here so naturally I'm not as much a fan of this area as the other two areas, however, there are so many routes, it's an iconic climbing destination, and there's such a wonderful culture of small towns around here that it's still a must-visit place for climbers.
I personally loved Camping Isand Bamberg. It's right on the canal, near town, had a huge brand new toilet block that blasted American pop music, and the little old lady at the front desk insisted on us ordering bread the night before.
Things to know about camping in Germany:
- Germans love to camp and the campgrounds were full of locals.
- Almost all the German campgrounds have restaurants on site.
- No campers kitchens though.
- You order your bread for breakfast from the reception the night before. It's very cheap.
- Camping can get expensive and there are not many areas to free camp.
- Showers are almost always free in Germany.
- Get your meat at the metzer.
- You can find beer and brats everywhere.
- The sausage wrapped pastries were so delicious!
- Bamburg is a little larger of a town with great architecture and a cathedral certainly worth stopping to see.
Best places in Switzerland for rock climbing
We loved, loved, loved this area. There is so much to do that I highly recommend you click over and read the blog that we have dedicated to this area. Climbing here in Switzerland is the antithesis of climbing in Frankenjura. It's almost too tightly bolted AKA great for new lead climbers. If you are a new climber or climbing with kids, climbing in Wilderswil is a great choice.
As the adventure capital of Europe, there are so many big walls and small crags to choose from. As always, I recommend hitting the local climbing store for beta on the best crag for you.
Free camping is technically not allowed in Switzerland (although we did find some discrete pulloffs just outside of town). We also stayed a few nights at a wonderful campground near Wilderswil.
Best places in Luxembourg for rock climbing
We stumbled upon this climbing area after hiking part of the Mullerthal trail. This is a great trail and fairly easy to backpack (or just do a long hike and camp like we did) because it passes through so many towns that you don't need to carry anything but a light backpack with water and a jacket. The rock formations on the trail are really cool and there's even one spot (it's optional) where you need flashlights in order to hike through the rocks. It was veeerrrry cool! And they sell the best burgers at Kimmes-Tossing Marco Campground for after your hike.
The best part of Luxembourg, however, was the rock climbing in Berdorf. Although it doesn't have very many beginner climbs, it's a pretty easy approach and one you will never forget. The sandstone rocks are nestled among a forest that reminds you of something you'd see in a fairytale.
We happened to be here on the day of a local festival and it was quite a wonderful expereince sharing in this event with locals.
There are many campgrounds in the area. Bring your own toilet paper though because no campgrounds here (or in the Netherlands) provide any.
Best places in the U.K. for rock climbing
Again, great ambiance. If you can get away from the busy areas by Windermere you will discover a gorgeous haven for rock climbing and some of the best scramble hikes we've been on. There is so much climbing in this area that you could easily spend a week here. U.K. Logbook has beta on the climbs, but again, there are so many that you probably want to grab a guidebook when you get there.
In my opinion, this wasn't the prettiest area to climb, but it was good climbing for beginners and there were quite a few classic 5.8 climbs. The Peak District, being a very popular climbing destination, certainly has harder areas to choose from too.
A guidebook would be very helpful here because the Peak District id a very large area with lots of different crags.
I loved the atmosphere of climbing here, it's very unique especially if you are coming from the States. The limestone pavement was cool to see and while the climbing in Malham Cove was too hard for us (easiest routes start at 5.12), it was fun to hike to Mulham Cove and walk the limestone above the cave (it's a famous scene from Harry Potter movies too). There was quite a bit of beginner friendly climbing in Gigglesick. There's also a sport crag above the town center of Settle town that also has some easier climbs.
There is lots of great climbing around Llanberis, Wales. We only climbed at the quarry, but there were many other crags nearby and the town is dirtbag heaven. You have to eat at Pete's Eats. Not the best food, but the climbing culture there is fantastic!
UK Camping & Tips
There is plenty of camping in the UK. You will never have trouble finding a campground or just a place to free camp discretely for the night.
While the U.K. has some fabulous spots for hiking and climbing, I must say that if you are adventuous and love hiking and climbing, I would start my Euopean explorations in France, Spain, Italy, and Switzerland first. There is just so much to explore just in these four areas! But if you do find yourself in the U.K. you definitely should hike in Snowdonia, Lake District, and Isle of Skye.
Best places in Croatia for rock climbing
There are many crags in Croatia, but this one is definitely the best because it has so many routes and in a huge range of levels, plus the approach to many is less than five minutes. It's at a national park so it does cost to climb here however evey route in the canyon is marked with numbers to identify them. It's pretty rad plus the beginning of the valley has amazing picnic areas making it great for groups or families.
There are auto camps nearby, although they aren't like the really nice campgrounds you will find in many other locations in Croatia. Check out our Croatia blog for more beta on that.
Best places in Norway for rock climbing
Norway is AMAZING if you love raw nature. We stumbled upon these two gems on our road trip through Norway. The climbing was clean with great holds and these two destinations are very close to campgrounds, towns with food, and a lifetime of hiking.
There are so many places to climb in Norway that I can't say these are the two best, but we had a great time at them.
My favorite place through was Stryn, Norway. A totally off-the-beaten path, but insanely gorgeous. We climbed here and camped here. Check out our Norway campground blog or Norway hiking blog for more beta.
Though it doesn't include every destination in this blog, this guidebook is a great overall book for finding great rock climbing in Europe!
- Guide To Tent Camping In Europe
- Arco, Italy: A Climber's Paradise
- How To Hike The Cinque Terre
- Outdoor Adventure Road Trip Through France
- Four Best Scramble Hikes In the UK
- 3 Reasons to Visit Interlaken and How To Do It Cheaply
What's your favorite climbing destination in Europe? Let us know in the comments section below!