Climbing trips are one of the perks of the sport: You get to go to beautiful destinations, nosh on new terrain, and hang out with friends.
Sometimes the hardest part can be choosing where to go. I mean, 8a.nu lists over 3,000 crags around the world.
Well, my friend, let me offer a heuristic: Plan your 2019 travels around The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe!
Each festival offers “climbing and…” a little something extra:
Climbing and… neon Lyrca and fresh terry headbands. Check!
Climbing and… developing lines in a post-communist country. Check!!
Climbing and… partying with 700 other people in one of the most stunning places on earth. Check!!!
( 👉And if you want to keep the party going across the pond, here are the coolest climbing festivals in North America in 2019!)
I’m not saying only go to climbing festivals…
But I am saying you might want to put your credit card on ice now because it will be hard not to sign up for the lot.
Without further adieu, read on for The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe.
La Sportiva Rjukan Icefestival
Ice climbing reigns supreme in the Norwegian town of Rjukan, which boasts 170 waterfalls (frozen in winter, of course).
This festival is packed with learning workshops covering topics such as an introduction to randonee skiing (or as the Norweigans would say, “topptur”), avalanche awareness, steep skiing technique, alpine climbing and winter aid climbing, drytooling, and much, much more.
- Date: February 7 – 9.
- Cost: Varies by activity.
- Food: Available in town.
- Accommodation: Stay in town.
- What to Bring: Ice climbing equipment.
- How to Get There: The closest major airport is in Oslo. Car is easiest, or you can take a bus (~4.5 hours).
Ísklifurfestival ÍSALP (Ísalp‘s Ice Climbing Festival) – Iceland
The Icelandic Alpine Club‘s annual event visits popular and remote ice climbing spots across the country. In 2020 they are headed to Westfjords, a large peninsula in the northwestern part of the country.
In 2019, they climbed at Breiðdalur and Berufjörður in the east, which ÍSALP described as “the least explored quarter of Iceland.” These festivals offer the opportunity to climb classic lines and forge new ones.
- Date: February 7 – 9.
- Cost: Information coming soon.
- Food: Breakfast and Dinner offered by hut. Bring additional food.
- Accommodation: Mountain hut.
- What to Bring: Mountaineering equipment.
- How to Get There: Reykjavík–Keflavík Airport is the main international and domestic hub in the country.
Turkish Highline Carnival – Turkey
Though not exclusively a climbing festival, the 8th International Highline Meeting takes place in Geyikbayiri, one of the premiere locales in the Mediterranean (over 1,300 climbing routes ranging from 5a to 8c+).
The festival is 8 days long and will be rigged up with 20 highlines from 15 to 160+ meters long (60 meters higher than last year!). All of the lines are within walking distance of the camps; Once you get yourself to Geyik all you have to do is step out the door of your dorm (or tent, or guesthouse) and you’ll be mere minutes from climbing.
Remember: Bring a costume — it’s a CARNIVAL after all!
General Info and FAQ
Video from 2019
- Date: February 22 – 29
- Cost: Suggested donation of 25 EUR / 29 USD.
Food: The closest village, Akdamlar, has several markets to stock up on produce, meat, and other foods. Hitchhiking is commonly practiced here.
- Accommodation: There are plenty of campsites and bungalows for rent. I’ve personally stayed at the Flying Goat and would recommend them. JoSiTo and Rido Camp are other popular options. Wild camping is strictly forbidden.
- What to Bring: A rack of 12 to 15 quickdraws and a 80m rope.
- How to Get There: There are cheap flights to Antalya. Transfers from the airport can be arranged with the camps. Car rentals are cheap at the airport. More information here.
Prilep Boulder Fest – Macedonia
Tucked away in the south of Macedonia, Prilep is the fourth largest city in the country (with just over 70,000 inhabitants). The Boulder Fest itself is entering its ninth year, and the event has grown in attendance as has the number of new lines.
Complete with a new guidebook, feast on over 400 projects (or go about setting new ones). The area is quickly becoming one of the premiere bouldering destinations and was one of the sites for the Petzl RocTrip through Eastern Europe in 2014. Expect crimpy holds on sharp granite.
Facebook Page (2018)
(Waiting on updated information for 2020!)
- Date: ??
- Cost: 5 EUR / 5.75 USD
- Accommodation: Camping or stay in town.
- What to Bring: A crash pad!
- How to Get There: Skopje is the closest major city (about 130km away). You can take a bus or train to Prilep.
Paklenica International Climbers Meeting – Croatia
Paklenica is considered one of the top European climbing destinations. With over 600 routes the limestone cliffs of the Velebit Mountain range offer routes from 40m single pitch to big wall up to 350m long.
Heading into its 21st year, this festival features unique challenges including the Big Wall Speed Climbing (on Friday), a Kid’s Speed competition (on Saturday), the “From Dawn to Dusk” climbing marathon, and the Paklenica Film Festival (on Saturday), an amateur films showing about, what else, climbing.
Need a rest day? There are over 150 km of hiking and trail running paths.
Facebook Page (no info yet)
- Date: May 1 – 3.
- Cost: You may want to consider a 3- or 5-Day pass: $12 (€10.70) and $18 (€16), respectively. See the full price list for the park here.
- Accommodation: A variety of camps are available in the area.
- What to Bring: A rack of 12 to 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
- How to Get There: Located about 46 km/ 28.5 mi from Zadar.
Albanian Climbing Festival – Albania
Help develop climbing in Albania!
Albania is a small mountainous coastal country lying on the Adriadic Sea, north of Greece and south of Montenegro and Kosovo. Climbing is young here and this festival — celebrating its fourth iteration — was started to develop the community and showcase the country’s potential. For perspective, the first climbing gym in the country was opened in 2012 and according to the article, “Five years ago, one could have counted nearly every rock-climbing-Albanian on two hands.” Things are changing.
The festival moves around in order to show off the best that Albania has to offer from locales like Gjipe, Përmet and Bovilla. Many of these places are remote, have stunning natural beauty, and limited economic investment for the villages. Through the promotion of adventure tourism, the organizers hope to empower small local businesses and communities.
Climbing routes range in difficulty from 5a – 8b+, from single pitch (12 – 35m) to big walls. All the money from the festival fee goes to equip new routes. And for your money you will get a guidebook, swag, yoga, and a party on the beach.
The area is on notice by the pros: Adam Ondra climbed here in 2018 (and bolted the Balkan’s hardest route, The Dream, 9b), which Seb Bouin sent just before Christmas of last year.
- Date: May 8 – 10.
- Cost: €25 / $29.
- Food: Bring your own.
- Accommodation: Camping on the beach!
- What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope .
- How to Get There: Tirana has an international airport. Take a bus to the festival.
King of Kanzi – Austria
This Lake Faak festival is all about celebrating the joy of climbing in some sweet, sweet spandex style and flashy terry headbands. A nod to history, the 5th edition celebrates the Lycra tights and colourful outfits worn by the early climbers in the area in the ’80’s.
These crags offer over 300 routes, which means you’ll get to sample plenty during the 8 hour climbing marathon as you try and earn as many points as you can. Kings and Queens will be crowned at the evening party, and awards will be given to the team with the most routes complete and team with the hardest route (among other awards). Of course, the place is buzzing with the one question on everyone’s mind: Who will win the “Golden Lycra Award”?!?!? (The trophy for the best outfit.)
Other features include: A talk with Thomas Huber and other pro climbers, workshops, crag cleanup, acro yoga, via ferrata hiking, bouldering, and slacklining.
Information about the location
- Date: May 21 – May 24
- Cost: €89 / $99 (all-inclusive ticket)
- Food: Grocery stores in the area but they close at 6.50pm.
- Accommodation: Hotels and apartments in the area.
- What to Bring: A rack of 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
- How to Get There: The closest airports are in Salzburg and Ljubljana (just over the border). Hire a car as crags are spread out.
Integrowanie Przez Wspinanie (Integration Through Climbing) – Poland
Poland’s biggest climbing festival is entering its 5th year and takes place in the Będkowska Valley, less than 20km north-west of Kraków. The setting is fantastic, simply wake up at the campground and walk 100m down the road to start climbing. There are dozens of crags and hundreds of routes all within a 30 minute walk.
At the festival you’ll find workshops for beginners and advanced climbers, extreme rope games, climbing competitions, mountain running, and a focus on activities for children this year. There’s a great guidebook you can pick up at the E-Pamir Mountain Shop in Krakow or use the super helpful online topo repo, Portal Górski.
More information on climbing in Poland can be found here and here
- Date: May 22 – 24.
- Cost: €21 / $24.
- Food: Eat at the campground or bring your own.
- Accommodation: Camping at Brandysówka. I’ve personally stayed here before and loved it.
- What to Bring: A rack of 10 – 15 quickdraws and a 60m rope.
- How to Get There: Closest airports are Kraków and Katowice. 20-30 minutes by car from Kraków, about an hour by bus.
Dolorock Climbingfestival – Italy
2020 will mark the eighth year for the event organized by the Alta Pusteria climbing club, Gamatzn. The festival takes place in the Höhlenstein Valley, which combines natural beauty and rock climbing history as the area has been under development since the 1980s. The location sits near the famous Three Peaks (Tre Cime), some of the most photographed mountains in the world.
The Redpoint Fight is a competition for fun and personal challenge. Climbers are awarded points for their five hardest routes, based on criteria such as on-sighting, flashing and redpointing. There are four categories for competitors: Youth (under 18, F+M); Professionals (F+M); 50+; Amateurs, with awards for each. Yoga, kids climbing, dancing and talks round out the festivities.
Grades here range from 3 to 8c+ and consist of slab, flat wall and overhang climbing. The length of routes vary between 8 and 35 meters.
- Date: May 22 – 24.
- Cost: €30 / $33.
- Food: Restaurants nearby.
- Accommodation: Free camping.
- What to Bring: A rack of 10 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
- How to Get There: Closest airports are Innsbruck to the north, Venice and Verona to the south. Plenty of transport options listed here.
Pecka Rock Climbing Festival – Bosnia and Herzegovina
May is reserved for the oldest sports climbing festival in B&H. Held at the largest collection of rock routes in the country, Pecka features “a kingdom of the pockets” and fantastic local food. This is a combo event, teaming up with the Forest Party, the Forest Cinema, and the Pecka Outdoor Festival.
Enjoy more than 120 routes from 5a to 8b, with lengths between 15 and 35 meters. For the low price of 15 EUR, receive a printed guidebook and a Pecka Rock Climbing shirt. The event organizers like to keep things simple: “Come, climb and have fun!”
Facebook Event (2019)
- Date: May 17 – 18.
- Cost: €15 / $17.
- Food: Not provided. There is a shop ~5km away, on the way to the camp. Possible to buy local goods like bread, kajmak, eggs, rakija and meals in the village (5 minutes walking from the campsite).
- Accommodation: A camping place is reserved with your registration. There is no electricity (but you can charge devices in the village).
- What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope.
- How to Get There: Fly into Zagreb and rent a car. You can get a bus from Sarajevo. More details on the event website.
Oukaimeden Boulderfest – Morocco
Perched in the High Atlas Mountains, savor clean air and nearly 800 problems in the 7th edition of the Oukaimeden Boulderfest.
Boulderers have been coming for years, and organizing a semi-regular event, but the last few years have crystalized into a full-on festival which now includes a competition, in what is probably the world’s highest bouldering field.
Get ready for fingery movements on generally solid sandstone, and plenty of opportunities for FAs all in the thin air of 2,700m above sea level. The price of admission includes entrance to the competition, lunch, dinner, and live music on Saturday night.
Note that by going you can help make a positive impact, as part of the aim, according to the organizers, is to “help stimulate economic and social development as well as promote climbing in Morocco and encourage local Moroccan boulderers and climbers.”
- Date: May 31.
- Cost: €25 / $28.
- Accommodation: Stay at Club Alpine Francais (approx. €14 / $16 per night) or Chalet Mostapha.
- What to Bring: Crash pads (also for rent), sun protection, warm clothes, tape.
- How to Get There: Fly into Marrakech (RAK) and the village of Oukaimeden is about a 1.5 hour drive from the city. You can also take public transport.
Ulassai Climbing Festival – Italy
Climb, eat, drink, and be merry like-and with!-a local.
Featuring over 700 bolted routes minutes from downtown, the Sardinian town combines quality limestone, old world charm, and meaningful connections to traditional life in the area.
The festival is organized by the same fine folks who run the Nannai Climbing Home and the Climbing Ulassai Association, who have an expressed interest in connecting with and supporting the local economy.
Join during the first weekend in June to find the whole town on board for climbing, mountain biking, highline, yoga, singing, dancing, eating and drinking, all centered around a big campsite in the middle of the village.
Facebook Event (2019)
- Date: May 31 – June 2 (2019).
- Cost: €15 / $17.
- Accommodation: Camping or stay at Nannai Climbing Home.
- What to Bring: 70 or 80m rope (many routes are up to 35m).
- How to Get There: Find detailed information here.
Ikaria Bouldering & Climbing Festival
Ikaria is limestone perfection budding out of a cerulean North Agean sea. The island is gifted by the gods with over 300 bouldering problems among 9 sectors and 120 sport routes dashed about 5 crags.
The slivered parcel, sits closer to Izmir than Athens, and is renowned for its tranquility and summer-long festivities. Argyro Papathanasiou, a strong Greek climber who has been visiting the island for over 13 years, describes the place as a “vibrating with its own particular energy.”
2020 will mark the second ever festival. Last year featured a climbing competition, not enough Icariotissa beer or Karimalis wine, live music late into the night, a pool party, and visiting athletes, Said Belhaj, Cris Daniil and Victor Sebros. If you’re looking to extend your stay or need a rest day activity, there is ample nature walks and surfing at Mesakti beach.
Development began in 2012 thanks to Evaggelos Kastanias, but it seems they may have only scratched the surface of this Mediterranean gem.
- Date: June 6 – 8.
- Cost: ??
- Accommodation: A variety of hotels can be found here.
- What to Bring:
- How to Get There: By airplane, 40 minutes from Athens airport. By boat, 6.5 hrs from Piraeus port.
Women’s Trad Festival (WTF) – UK
Last year tickets sold out in 180 seconds, or faster than Glastonbury, according to event organizers.
Heading into their 4th year, the festival aims to promote participation in climbing and encourage a community of support. Their stated aims are: To help beginners transition from indoor to outdoor climbing; facilitate women in outdoor leadership; and to create a network of female climbers
In 2018, they had 200 participants from as young as 8 to over 60 years old. Everyone is welcome, even if you’ve never climbed before!
- Date: July 24 – 26.
- Cost: Varies. Ticket ballot opens on March 15.
- Accommodation: Information coming soon (location changes each year).
- What to Bring: Trad rack (if you have it).
- How to Get There: Information coming soon (location changes each year).
Women’s Bouldering Festival in Fontainebleau – France
2018 marked the first year for this festival at the world’s premier bouldering destination, and 2019 brought over 120 participants to the festival.
The event has the expressed mission to, “be a platform that allows female climbers to meet likeminded individuals in our sport” and to promote the idea of sustainable recreation.
The festival feature workshops on route-setting (by setters on the French National team!), forest conservation, morning yoga and afternoon parkour sessions, evening talks, and a focus on mentorship. And of course, best-in-class climbing. Attendees last year included the likes of Caroline Sinno, who has done multiple 8B (V13) ascents, and Alice Hafer, a former Blokfest champion.
- Date: Information coming soon.
- Cost: €75 / $88.
- Route-Setting Workshop: €50 / $59.
- Accommodation: Camping (price included in cost of ticket).
- What to Bring: Crashpad, yoga mat, camping gear.
- How to Get There: Only 55.5 km/34.5 miles from Paris. Take a train or rent a car.
Herculane Climbing Open – Romania
Herculane was a Petzl Rock Trip 2014 stop which has put this crag on the world stage. It’s still off-the-beaten track but good enough climbing for Adam Ondra to visit in 2018, and free the first 9a in Romania.
In other words, if you’re looking for high-quality climbing (Cerna Valley has hosted the National Rock Climbing Championship) and economical value, all without the hordes, you’ve found your place. 2020 will offer up the 19th edition of this festival with three days of climbing and 30 designated routes for the competition. Movies, yoga, and celebration are in store for the off-wall hours.
Event Website (2019)
Facebook Event (2019)
- Date: Information coming soon (September 19 – 22 in 2019).
- Cost: €17 – 32 / $19 – 35 (depending on when you buy).
- Food: Herculane has a market with local organic produce. Restaurants around.
- Accommodation: Multiple hotels and camping available.
- What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope (can get by with 60m).
- How to Get There: Timisoara (180 km/112 mi away) is the closest major city and features an airport and train station.
Drill & Chill Climbing And Highlining Festival – Bosnia and Herzegovina
Who knew Bosnia and Herzegovina had such a strong climbing culture?! This marks the second festival from B&H on the list.
Join in to make your mark (literally) with ten days of bolting, climbing, and highlining. Organized by Climbing club Extreme Banja Luka, they set out to “playfully combat the status quo.” If you like to travel and climb off the beaten paths, Bosnia and Herzegovina offers a diverse landscape of forested mountains and an abundance of untamed limestone
Last year the festival focused on the development of the Tijesno canyon, which is nestled in alpine terrain and offers a plethora of multi-pitch climbing. Over 500 people attended, including Adam Ondra.
Please note: Be aware of anti-government tension in Banja Luka as protests have swelled to over 40,000 people at times. It won’t stop me from attending, but something to consider.
- Date: September 4 – 13.
- Cost: 5 days package: 30 EUR / 34.50 USD. 6+ day package: 50 EUR / 57 USD (climbing guide and t-shirt included in price).
- Food: Nightly dinner for 3 EUR/3.50 USD.
- Accommodation: The camp includes electricity, water, shower, toilets. Basic private accommodation can be arranged. Village house option.
- What to Bring: Everything you need for bolting.
- How to Get There: Fly to Zagreb or Split then take a bus to Banja Luka. More travel details on event website.
Kalymnos International Climbing Festival – Greece
The Gods shine bright on this rock climbing Adonis of crag and sea.
(Just don’t piss off Poseidon or he’ll blow you straight back to Troy — where the climbing isn’t quite as nice.)
Today, the island has over 3,400 sport routes on Mediterranean limestone. The majority of the routes are single pitch, around 20 to 30m, with some 3-5 pitch climbs as well. You won’t be able to cover it all during the three day festival, naturally. Like laying eyes on Helen, you may find yourself drooling uncontrollably… at the anchors staring out at the breathtaking blue Aegean.
The festival features a Climbing Rally, clinics, the chance to chat with pros, deep water soloing, traditional Greek dancing lessons and, of course, parties.
In the words of Rock and Ice, “The search for climbing paradise ends at the greek isle of Kalymnos” (Feb 2001).
New guidebook (2019)
- Date: Information coming soon (October 5 – 7 in 2018).
- Cost: Information coming soon.
- Accommodation: A variety of hotels and guesthouses are available in each village.
- What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope
- How to Get There: Easiest to fly to Kos (via Athens) then take a ferry over.
Reiff Climbing Festival – UK
Perched in the North West Highlands of Scotland this festival offers some of the best scenery and landscapes in the UK — plus pure dead brilliant climbing!
Organized by Hamlet Mountaineering, they cater to all your Scottish needs: Salt water, clean lines and a pub two minutes on from the campsite. Workshops are offered for those who want to improve their skills or deepen your understanding (and appreciation) of the sport you love with the “Geology for Climbers” talk. Want some evening entertainment? Rope up in your Highland dress for the Saturday night Ceilidh with accordion accompaniment.
Other activities include a half-marathon, kayaking and yoga. Gie it laldy!
- Date: October 9 – 11.
- Cost: £15 / $19 (just for registration).
- Food: Grocery shop in Achiltibuie.
- Add-Ons: Workshops range from £30 – £90 / 38.50 – 115.50 USD.
- Accommodation: Camping.
- What to Bring: Ask the organizers for what you’ll need in your trad rack. There are top ropes set up for beginners.
- How to Get There: Details can be found here.
San Vito Climbing Festival – Italy
Four days in Mediterranean sun. In November? Yes, please. The tenth edition just wrapped up, for what has become a hallmark event in Sicily, Italy and around Europe. The festival features big names, big sponsors, and big crowds (hundreds of people attend) in this idyllic setting of beach, history, and climbing.
Activities include the “Baby speed climb” (for 6-10 year olds) and the main draw, the “Crazy Idea Boulder Event” where competitors can go against national athletes. For non-climbers there is mountain biking, trail running, slacklining (including a 160m line), stunning beaches, and the opportunity to test new gear, in addition to film screenings, live music, and social hours. Of course, if you want more climbing there are over 600 routes in the area.
Facebook Page (English)
- Date: Information coming soon (November 1 – 4 in 2018).
- Cost: 25 EUR / 29 USD (covers camping for 3 nights and t-shirt).
- Crazy Idea Boulder Contest Participation Cost: 25 EUR/29 USD.
- Accommodation: Timbuktu Hostel. Camping at El Bahira, La Pineta. A whole list of options on the website.
- What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15 quickdraws and a 70m rope
- How to Get There: Cheap flights to Palermo. Rent a car or take a bus to San Vito.
Leonidio Climbing Festival – Greece
Can you name the three most popular crags in Europe for 2018?
If 8a.nu’s Tick List is the be-all-end-all, we have 1) Frankenjura, 2) Kalymnos, and rounding in to form, 3) Leonidio (which saw more ascents in 2018 than the beloved Rodellar, Arco and Railay Beach combined).
Just three hours south of Athens, Leonidio is sheltered along the Peloponnese coastline and surrounded by red and grey cliffs that keep temperatures warm and wind down, making it an idyllic winter climbing destination.
The festival itself is only entering its fourth year, yet attendance skyrocketed with over 700 participants in 2018. Come to enjoy more than 1,000 routes from single pitch to multi-pitch up to 250m high, ranging from 5a to 9a.
You can also steep yourself in history by visiting the Unesco World Heritage sites of Mycenae and Tiryns, which are just over an hour away.
New Climbing Guide
- Date: Information coming soon (November 1 – 4 in 2018).
- Cost: Free!
- Food: 2 small supermarkets in town, many bakeries, bodegas, and plenty of restaurants.
- Accommodation: A comprehensive list can be found on the Climb Leonidio website.
- What to Bring: A rack of 12 – 15+ quickdraws and an 80m rope (you can get by with 60m).
- How to Get There: The best option is to fly to Athens and then rent a car. There are options to take a bus.
May the Stoke Shine Brightly on Your 2020!
Hopefully you found the list useful (and even signed up for one or two!).
If you have been to one of these events or are planning on attending, I’d be keen to hear about your experience.
Any festivals that we missed?
Please note: The aim wasn’t to be comprehensive, but rather to focus on interesting festivals. I was hoping for more ice climbing and from places like Scandinavia, Ukraine, Poland, the Baltics, Macedonia, Bulgaria, etc. And nothing for Spain? Really?!
If you have any festivals to add, please share them in the comments and I’ll add them to the list.
Find yourself in the U.S.? 👉👉 Here are the coolest climbing festivals in North America in 2019.
Feature photo source: airFreshing Outdoor & Bergsportmagazin