A rock climbing holiday is an adrenaline-charged experience that can be as adventurous as you want it to be. timeoutdoors’ Travel Editor Tom Le Bas describes the different options available.
Rock climbing has become hugely popular over the past decade or so, and there is an exciting range of tailor-made holidays out there catering to all levels of expertise, and all kinds of climbing courses from novice to advanced level. You can pit your wits against some of the world's most dramatic rock walls, from the Peak District to the Alps, the High Atlas and beyond.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Most holidays are in a group format, but private guides are also an option - more expensive, of course. Guides will be highly experienced and will possess an intimate knowledge of any particular climb: you'll be in safe hands.
Many climbing packages involve 3-7 days in the Alps, Pyrenees or Spanish costas/sierras, with some longer-range trips to places such as Thailand (spectacular climbing on the sheer limestone outcrops in the Andaman Sea, familiar to anyone who has seen The Man with the Golden Gun). There are numerous locally-based climbing schools and specialist operators in all of these places. Accommodation will be inclusive of the price in most cases.
In terms of activity breaks, several UK companies run organised day-trips (sometimes 2-3 days) to climbing hotspots such as Stanage Edge in the Peak District or Almscliff in Yorkshire, which are very popular. They generally involve some form of tuition and can be tailor-made to suit your needs. Most companies also offer packages for school groups. Coastal climbs are popular on the south coast in Dorset, Cornwall and South Wales. There are 'taster' courses for complete novices, and longer sessions on lead climbing and multi-pitch climbing for more advanced climbers. Most will include some abseiling, and perhaps some bouldering too.
Equipment is usually provided, although some companies recommend you bring your own shoes, helmet and harness. Seasoned climbers often prefer to bring their own climbing shoes regardless. Make sure you have proper insurance, as standard policies don't tend to cover adventure sports.
WHERE TO GO
The most popular climbing holiday destinations include various parts of the Alps, the Pyrenees, Provence, the Costa Brava and Costa Blanca, Andalucia and Mallorca: the industry is notably well developed in Switzerland and Spain and the variety is huge. Spain is especially well suited to winter climbing. The southern Alps around Lake Garda in Italy is growing in popularity, while Portugal is an emerging climbing destination with some exciting walls northwest of Lisbon and along the Algarve coast.
Further afield, the Atlas mountains of Morocco as well as Norway, Corsica, Croatia, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Thailand (see above) are very much on hardcore climbers' bucket lists. If you have a serious climbing habit, the sky's the limit, really - Yosemite National Park, Kyrgyzstan, Indonesia, Nepal and Peru all offer amazing experiences for the intrepid. And of course, a climbing trip can be combined with some trekking - these are some of the world's most remote and beautiful places, after all.
For organised activity breaks in the UK, the Peak District and Yorkshire, as well as North Wales, lead the way. The Dorset coast south of Swanage, around Weymouth (Portland), plus spots in Cornwall and Pembroke are the premier places for coastal sport climbing.
Read more about climbing locations in our Popular Destinations highlights, below.
From the gritstone of Lower Wharfedale to the limestone of Malham and beyond, Yorkshire offers a hugely varied range of climbing challenges.
Some of the best rock climbing anywhere on Earth can be found in the dramatic mountains of central Switzerland.
The Peak District is without doubt one of top rock climbing destinations in Europe.
Sign up now & get the latest event updates in your Inbox every week!
The best treks from around the world, plus activity trips in Europe.
How to make running fun!
The ultra and endurance issue - walks, runs, rides, open water swimming and more.
The summer's best rides - and a feature on Global Cycle to Work Day on May 10th.
Challenges and events for all activities as the month starts with a Bank Holiday weekend.