Kalymnos: the “Queen” of Rock Climbing
Good News

Kalymnos: the “Queen” of Rock Climbing

Climbing magazine makes tribute to Kalymnos, the famous “island of the sponge divers”, which is according to the popular magazine the top destination in the world for climbing.

The American photographer and climbing athlete Julie Ellison travels to photograph the best places for rock climbing in the world. This time she visited Kalymnos and published her travelogue. Julie started climbing in Alabama more than a decade ago and is now living out her dream of van life with her dog and boyfriend. As the Editor of Climbing magazine, Julie thrives on creating high-quality, inspirational stories and photos for climbers of all disciplines.

Read segments of the tribute to the Greek island:

It was the perfect escape. Six thousand, three hundred twenty-four miles from the doldrums of my cubicle was paradise, and I was going. Twelve days of dreamy limestone caves, glorious cuisine, and a sun-kissed coastline—the holy trinity of travel for climbers—awaited me on the Greek island of Kalymnos. I must be the luckiest person on the planet.

Stepping onto the tarmac at the Kalymnos airport and breathing in my first gulp of non-recirculated air since leaving Denver 30 hours before, I felt the Mediterranean give me a warm and slightly sweaty hug. I wanted to sit in one place and let the buzz from the constant motion of travel subside.

A gentle wind rose off the water below while I searched for holds hidden behind bulging tufas.Laughter echoed off the cave’s walls. We were in the Grande Grotta, an image of which you’ve undoubtedly seen if you’ve seen anything about climbing in Kalymnos. It’s a dramatic cavern where arching rock overhead meets sloping ground underneath, and the empty space between forms a perfectly shaped human eye. Look through that eye and a mesa-topped island called Telendos makes its stand in the middle of the Aegean Sea. The image is classic to the point of cliche, but there’s a reason it’s become so intertwined with the identity of the whole island. It’s the quintessential setting: Gangly tufas drip down toward the ground and pinch-perfect pipes line steeper than steep walls, creating enduro routes that climb high above a cerulean sea.

Kalymnos is the ultimate vacation spot for climbers, and I do mean vacation. Endless beaches, fresh bread with olive oil, limestone, and liters of cold Mythos beer sweating from the temperature difference of the sweet golden liquid inside and the muggy warmth outside. Even the grades are considered “vacation grades,” meaning they’re a bit soft so you feel just as satisfied by your climbing day as you do from your plate of moussaka, a fried casserole of eggplant, potato, and minced meat.

Despite the endless sunshine and carefree lifestyle, there’s an undercurrent of turmoil in the country, and this 42-square-mile island is no exception. Following the 2008 implosion of Wall Street, economic chaos took hold of Greece in 2009 when the Greek government stated it had been misreporting its budget deficit figures for years. With the financial markets already struggling to recover, global lenders were hesitant to give the country money, sending them toward bankruptcy. Greece received billions of euros in three bailouts over the next five years, but it’s been a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.