With over 800kilometresof coastline, 300+ days of sunshine a year, fascinating historical cities, two national parks, and the best tapas in the world, Andalucía really is a dream holiday destination. Throw world-class climbing into the mix, and - well, what more could you want?
You may already have heard of El Chorro in the Málaga province of Andalucía. However, if you’re looking to get a little more off-the-beaten-track, or to combine climbing with cultural activities and plethora of other sports, it’s the crags in the provinces of Granada and Jaén that you should visit.
In these two provinces, you’ll find thousands of unpolished, world-class quality routes in close proximity to one another, known almost exclusively to the locals. The style is mostly limestone sport climbing – think crimps, technical faces and slight overhangs – but the more adventurous can also find some fantastic multi-pitches and trad climbing in the Sierra Nevada range and Las Alcandoras.
Starting by the coast, los Vados (near the town of Motril) is one of the best climbing areas in the Granada province. This crag is home to over 500 sport and mixed multi-pitch routes, located on both sides of a scenic limestone canyon so you can chase the sun or shade depending on the season. Grades range from 4a to 8b+.
The style in los Vados is mainly technical face climbing on crimps and side-pulls, with plenty of friction climbing. We particularly recommend the multi-pitch climbs, which are said to be some of the best in the region! There are 3 sectors developed specifically for beginners, with super high quality routes between 30 and 40m long, grades 4 to 6b.
Los Vados is a pretty good choice all year round: the canyon stays cool in the summer heat and mostly dry on the rare ‘bad weather’ days - and it’s only a short stroll to the beach for a post-climb beer or swim. Note that there are some access restrictions for Pared de la Virgen between the 15th November and 15th June, but there still remains plenty to climb :)
Heading north, you should stop at Los Cahorros in the Monachil valley, just a 15 minute drive from Granada city centre. This scenic Dolomite canyon with its waterfalls and hanging bridges is home to one of the oldest crags in Spain. Here you’ll find over 350 single-pitch sport climbs, and a few multi-pitch routes between 5a and 8c. Don’t worry if the grades seem stiff: the routes are graded according to a local grading system, which is basically a more sandbagged version of the French one.
Northeast of Granada you’ll find Cogollos, a good sized crag offering almost 120 single-pitch routes, mostly in the 7th and 8th grade. As the crag is south facing, it’s a great place for winter or cooler days. The rock is perfect orange limestone with crimps, pockets and tufas, and lots of variety between sectors. You’ll also find some good bouldering in the area, so bring a crash pad!
Finally, Moclin is a crag situated about a 35 minute drive away from the city centre, offering around 140 single pitch sport routes in the 6th to 8th grades divided into 6 sectors. You’ll find both a slabby area, with some fantastic technical routes, and an overhanging area with plenty of holes, granting it the name of ‘Gruyère’.
Climbing in the Sierra Nevada Range
If you enjoy trad, summer mountaineering, or ice climbing then we recommend taking a trip to the Sierra Nevada range. In summer, it’s the perfect place to escape the heat: you can find some fun trad climbs up the granite walls of El Veleta, the highest peak in the range at 3,396m. There’s also many mixed alpine climbs on the Mulhacen, Veleta and Alcazaba.
In winter, the Sierra Nevada range becomes a mixed alpine climbing paradise, and a great place to ice climb, ski or snow-shoe. There are many friendly local guides who would be happy to show you the ropes if you are new to any of these sports - find out how to get in touch below.
If you prefer landing on crash pads to clipping draws, then there’s a few bouldering spots in the Granada area that are worth a visit.
Nivar is a relatively new bouldering area, located in the neighbouring village to Cogollos. You’ll find many limestone blocs in this area, starting in the easy grades and stretching - well, as hard as you can climb! As the area is still under development, there’s lots to explore and try in all grades, and the opportunity to make some first ascents (if you are keen). Bring a brush!
The nearby sport crag, Cogollos, is also home to some limestone boulders and well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Finally, Andalusia’s biggest and best bouldering area, Villanueva del Rosario, is located about an hour’s drive from Granada.
Rock Climbing near Jaén
If you feel like exploring a different region, then head to the city of Jaén (about an hour’s drive north of Granada). Known as one of the olive oil capitals of Europe, this city has a rich history, and a beautiful castle offering some of the most quintessentially Andalusian views.
Reguchillo, located just minutes from the city centre, is considered one of the best little-known sports crags in Spain, offering over 400 fantastic quality single-pitch limestone sport routes 4a to 8c. Since the parking is at the bottom of the hill, the lower sections can get a little busy (and polished), but walking just a few minutes to the further sectors guarantees you a quiet spot. Reguchillo is a sun trap and protected from the prevailing winds, making it a great winter spot but unclimbable once the temperature reaches 15 celsius.
Near Jaén, you’ll find Otiñar, a huge limestone cave with steep routes in the 7s and 8s that have attracted the likes of Adam Ondra and Jakob Schubert. The climbing is extremely physical, navigating tufas and stalactites - a great place if you’re looking for a project.
At the edge of the Otiñar valley you’ll also find las Alcandoras, a set of Southwestern facing limestone walls up to 200m tall. These walls offer the best trad climbing in southern Spain, with fantastic views of the surrounding landscape, including the stunning peaks of Sierra Nevada.
While there’s more than enough rock in Granada to climb every day of your trip if you wanted to, even the pros need some rest! One of the advantages of climbing in the Granada province is that there are plenty of other cultural and sporty activities to keep you occupied when you can’t get on the rock.
‘Active’ rest days
First thing’s first, you can practice basically any sport you can think of in Granada: from hiking to canyoning, and water sports on the coast. The region is perfect for mountain biking and cycling, and in winter you can ski, snow-shoe or ice climb in the Sierra Nevada range. The hosts at Solana de Granada (see below) will happily put you in touch with the necessary guides or gear rental services.
Granada is one of the most beautiful cities in Spain and a popular holiday destination among non-climbers. Here you can enjoy live music performances (especially Flamenco), visit Moroccan and Andalusian craft shops, explore cultural sites, eat tapas at one of the many bars - the list goes on…
In Granada, tapas typically are smaller versions of full meals that you get for free with your drink. ‘Going for tapas’ is a true attraction here, and people come from far and wide to enjoy these delicious traditional dishes with their ‘cervezas’.
Granada city centre is well worth a visit for some tapas and culture.
If you’re interested in some culture, the impressive Alhambra — a medieval Arabic palace and UNESCO world heritage site — is certainly worth a visit. The old quarters of Granada, such as Sacromonte and Albaicin, are a great place for a leisurely stroll with their caves and old houses, and provide incredible views of the city. If you’re interested, guided tours of these areas are available.
South of Granada city, you’ll find the Alpujarras, a very agricultural area set high in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Alpujarras are known for their incredible nature and stunning ‘white villages’ — definitely worth a visit if you have the time.
You can also relax in hot springs, explore plenty of other historical sites (including Jaen), take a nature tour, chill on the beach, and much much more!
If you’re a hardcore climber, it’s definitely best to come betweenNovember and March, when the conditions are absolutely perfect! With temperatures between 12 to 18 degreesCelsius, you’ll be able to climb in a t-shirt and belay in a sweater.
If you want to combine climbing with more of a holiday vibe, then come from September - October or April-June. Temperatures are higher so you can go for a swim, enjoy dinner outside, but you still have good conditions to climb in the shadier crags.
It’s possible to climb a bit in early june to mid july, in the morning or late evenings, but at this point you’ll want to keep things very laid back :)
Granada is still a relatively unknown climbing area, which means the crags are never crowded and also not too polished. Please remember to clean your shoes before getting on the rock and brush your routes after climbing, so we can keep it that way!
As with all climbing areas, it's important to follow Leave No Trace principles. Stick to existing paths as much as possible, and bring everything out with you that you brought in. Bonus points for picking up trash that other people left behind :)
Finally, in certain areas — such as Los Vados — there are access restrictions during bird nesting season. Please respect these, and if in any doubt, as a local climber or guide for additional information.
You can fly straight to Granada airport, or fly to Malaga where you can take a bus to Granada (approximately 1h30).
For those travelling by train, there is a small station in Granada with connections to other local towns and cities.
Renting a car is probably the most convenient way to get around, and will give you access to huge number of crags within 60 minutes from the city. Car rental can be found both at Granada airport and train station.
For those on a budget, you can get from Granada to Solana de Granada (the local Climbing House, see below) quite easily by bus (approx. 40 minutes). From here, certain crags are accessible on foot (such as Cogullos or Nivar for bouldering).
Where to stay?
Solana de Granada - Climbing and Outdoor sports hostel
Solana de Granada is a cosyhostel based in a beautifully converted traditionalAndalusianhouse, just 30 minutes by car from Granada city centre. Solana was opened in 2019 with the aim of providing a fun, comfortable and welcoming basecamp for anyone wanting to enjoy the numerous outdoor activities the region has to offer.
Above: the main house at Solana de Granada, with the 'El Patio' crag behind and awesome views!
Below: The sunny terrace at Solana, the ideal breakfast spot and space to relax.
If you’re a climber, it’s pretty much paradise: the closest crag is, well, right in the garden, and the incredible Cogollos sectors are just a 5-15 minute walk from the front door. You don’t need a car to get some great climbing in — in fact, you can practically belay out of bed!
However, if you are happy to drive, you’ll find many more crags just 10 to 60 minutes from the hostel, each one with their own unique rock type, climbing style, incredible scenery, landscape and views.
As outlined above, you also have many possibilities to practice other outdoor sports in the region: hiking trails leave right out the front door, you can mountain bike, go canyoning, and practice water sports at the coast, ski, alpine climb, the list goes on…
Aside from the myriad of sport opportunities, the best thing about Solana is the homely vibe. There’s a large terrace and garden with hammocks, a pool, barbecue and firepit — and a cosy living room with board games and a hostel guitar.
It’s the sort of place where you can expect to prepare a meal together, share a good conversation over dinner, or join a group jam sesh on the hostel guitar in the evening (all totally optional, of course!). There’s also some nice bars and restaurants in the village just a 3 minute walk away, where you can enjoy a live music performance, cheap breakfast, or dinner when you’re too exhausted from the day’s activities to cook :)