Exploring Greece: Climbing in Kyparissi

We thought Leonidio was an undiscovered Greek climbing paradise, where we would have all the crags practically to ourselves the majority of the time, feeling ever so smug about how well we did to “discover” this place before anyone else…

…how wrong we were! Leonidio is absolutely teeming with climbers. They’re everywhere. Whenever you see a non-Greek person walking down the street of this tiny town, you can be nearly 100% positive it is a climber. And incidentally, I would say you can be around 70% positive they are German.

I guess it was a little foolish to dream of this mythical place, given we first found out about Leonidio from a huge feature in a popular climbing magazine…but there is a sleepy little village nearby which really is a little bit like that.

Kyparissi

Kyparissi was somewhere we first heard of from our friends Phil and Andy, who are here from London travelling in their own self-built campervan. They were planning to take the one-and-a-half-hour trip over to avoid the masses of climbers that were likely to swarm upon Leonidio for the Easter holidays, and we decided to tag along.

Kyparissi from above
Kyparissi from above

Now, when I say this village is sleepy, I mean it. I haven’t seen many places like this, especially given it’s on the seaside in a country frequented by holidaymakers. There is one supermarket. It’s open from 8.30 to 1.30pm, and then reopens again at 5pm until 8pm. That’s a 3.5 hour lunch break! There is also another shop that sells some fruit and veggies (none in the supermarket, which is more like an off licence really), and some other bits and bobs. Not a huge selection. And a bakery, which seems to be open a lot of the time, but doesn’t take card. We were foolish enough to drive over here with practically no cash to our names, and it is unclear where the nearest cash machine is. Perhaps back in Leonidio. Everything here seems to be happening in slow-motion…

But the place is gorgeous! We are living (in our van) on a small beach which rarely sees many visitors and wake up every morning to sunshine dancing on the crystal clear sea surface. I’ve been for a swim, but the water temperature is still pretty bracing. The beach, consisting of little pebbles rather than sand, is quite nice to do a bit of yoga on or simply to lie around in the sun, reading.

The climbing….

There are a few crags around, of hugely varying difficulty. During a rest day we walked up to one called Babala, which is famous across Europe as one of the best hard climbing crags. It’s mostly 8a’s and above. The walk-in was 45 mins without backpacks and it felt like a little bit of a workout in its own right!

"Thanks George"
“Thanks George” at Watermill

But then there are easily reachable crags full of medium, or even lower grade stuff. The first one we went to, Kastraki, didn’t have anything harder than a 7a and the walk-in was 5 mins. The grading and bolting were both friendly like in South East Asia.

Watermill is one we have been back to a couple of times, also within 5 mins from the car park. The boys are working on an 8a. I am definitively not. But there is a nice 30-metre long 7a called Thanks George (pictured above) which I have been playing around on, and quite a few things around that grade. Most of the routes are slightly-to-very overhanging and full of tufas, requiring some weird body positions and a bit of endurance.

If there was a bit more to the town itself, I dare say we would prefer this place to Leonidio. But I think next time we come here we will be better prepared – with food, cash, and fewer dirty clothes! For now, it is back to Leonidio to deal with our mountain of laundry and get a better selection of supplies…oh, and to witness the Orthodox Easter celebrations!

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