As the rock climbing hotspots of Western Europe begin to suffer from overcrowding, whispers of the potential of Croatian limestone are reaching our ears...
Croatia is closest Balkan country to Western Europe and also happens to be the one with the most developed rock climbing scene. As a result, a number of more adventurous climbers from around the world have started to travel to Croatia in search of pristine rock, sea views and quiet crags. They are seldom disappointed!
Croatia’s mountainous relief means that the country is sprinkled with high-quality rock climbing crags, more often than not situated against incredibly scenic backdrops. The country has a rich history of climbing dating back to the late 1930s, but it's only following the end of the conflicts, in the 1990s, that sport climbing really took off. As a result, a lot of the crags are new, safely bolted, and boast a huge array of unpolished routes (bar some of the classics). There's bouldering, sport, trad and multi-pitch to choose from; delicious food (and local wines) to try; friendly locals to meet; and a rich history and culture to discover. What are you waiting for?
The following guide will focus on rock climbing in the Dalmatia region of Croatia. You can find out more about climbing in the rest of the country by purchasing Boris Cujik's sport climbing in Croatia guidebook.
Rock climbing in Central Dalmatia
With its sea-facing cliffs, wild bays and sunny climate, Central Dalmatia offers the perfect combination of sport and relaxation. You can spend the morning climbing at quiet seaside crags, followed by a delicious seafood lunch, and afternoon hiking, exploring historical sites (Split boasts the best preserved Roman palace in Europe) or just relaxing on heavenly beaches.
Dalmatia may currently be better known for its water sports and touristic opportunities - but the region has the potential to become Croatia’s primary climbing hotspot and find its place on the European climbing map in the coming years.
The text below gives a brief overview of some of the best crags around the city of Spilt, Omis (a little further south) and the island of Hvar. However, there’s plenty more to discover and explore! A good place to start is to join our Croatia Climb & Sail experience for a guided trip...
Climbing in Croatia means getting to experience beautiful seascapes like this one © Antonio Cambise
Rock Climbing on Hvar
Hvar is often listed among the top Dalmatian islands to visit - and with good reason. Its mild climate, beautiful landscapes, scenic towns and pleasant beaches make it a popular holiday destination year-round, and there’s some excellent climbing too!
Hvar can be reached by ferry from the mainland. It’s worth planning to stay for a few days so you can take your time to explore and make the most of the sumptuous climbing on offer.
Šuplja Stina is a beautiful limestone crag located near Hvar town, perfect for those looking to combine climbing with time spent enjoying the sea. The crags are south-facing (get there early in summer or opt for deep water solo!) and situated practically on the water - a small corner of Thailand to be found in Europe. Currently there are around 120 routes graded 5a to 8a, which range from 10 to 40m long and are safely equipped with stainless steel bolts. Deep water solo enthusiasts can find a long traverse situated right above the water.
As Šuplja Stina is located on privately owned land you will have to pay an entrance fee of 60kn (about 8 euro). This gives you access to a topo of the routes, all of the climbing, toilet facilities, and even a wine cellar selling wines produced by Miro (the landowner).
There is also a beautiful hike up to a monastery located in a cave and a via ferrata up Mount Kantun nearby. While in the area, you should visit the Plenković winery which produces one of the best Croatian wines.
Summer is the best season to visit Croatia if you're looking to combine climbing with some holiday time spent enjoying the sea. If you're looking for the best sending conditions, then visit in spring or fall © Antonio Cambise
Velika Stinia near the town of Starigrad is one of the most extensive climbing areas in the Dalmatia region. The climbing is spread across two sectors in a limestone canyon (one roadside, one beachside) with the best climbing overlooking one of the island’s most beautiful beaches. Together, the sectors offer sport routes from 5a to 8a+ and a variety of different climbing styles ranging from tufa-filled overhangs to delicate grey slabs.
Aside from the climbing, the area’s main attractions include the scenery (which is totally out-of-this-world) and two beachfront restaurants perfect for re-fuelling after a long day at the crag. You’ll find various routes in the sun/ shade depending on the time of day.
Pristine limestone, pine forests and seaside crags - welcome to climbing in Croatia © Matt Groom
Pandolovica is a newer crag located near the village of Milna, about 15 minutes from the coastal road. The area is well worth a visit for its sea views and high-quality interesting routes: you’ll find climbs of a range of different styles graded 4c to 7c, 10 to 25m long. As the crag is southwest facing, it’s recommended you head there first thing in the morning during the summer - the belays may be shady, but the routes are not!
You’ll find a pleasant campsite overlooking the bay nearby and excellent restaurants serving local cuisine.
Croatia is known for its picturesque harbour towns, good foods and wines © Matt Groom
Rock Climbing on the Dalmatia coast
Omiš is a small town at the mouth of the Cetina River, approximately 25km south of Split. A quiet haven in winter, as the weather warms the town is besieged by tourists looking to make the most of the sandy beaches, local sporting opportunities (rafting, canyoning, hiking etc.) and quaint Venetian-style old town.
The sheer limestone canyons and cliffs surrounding Omiš also make this a true climber’s paradise, with over 200 routes of an incredible quality and beautiful sea views. The variety of the climbing makes this area particularly attractive: you’ll find 14 sectors boasting everything from slabs to overhangs, single-pitch sport routes to multi-pitches up to 300m long.
The sectors generally have short approaches and are located quite close to one another, making it possible to visit multiple crags over the course of the day. Climbing is possible year round.
About a 20 minute drive from Split, you’ll find Perun, a beautiful new crag near the village of Podstana. At the time of writing, Perun boasts just over 30 single pitch slabby to vertical limestone routes, with grades ranging from 5a to 7c, and pitch lengths between 20 and 30m long. The views out over the bay and Split are truly fantastic - but beware, the crag is south-facing so best avoided on hot sunny days!
Climbing in the sun, right over the sea - it doesn't get much better than this! © Antonio Cambise
When to visit?
The autumn and spring months are best for climbing as many of the crags are south facing. If you’d like a bit of a more laid-back holiday combining climbing and time enjoying the sea, the summer months are possible (but avoid south-facing crags during the hottest hours of the day!)
How to get around?
The best option as a climber is to rent a car, allowing you the freedom to explore the area (and other parts of the country, if you have the time). Ferries will bring you to Hvar, Brac and other islands.
If you want to experience the area from a different view point, then hire a sailboat and explore the seaside crags. Why not join our Croatia Climb & Sail trip where guide and skipper Icio can show you the best spots?
You can fly straight to Split from most major European airports.
Renting a car is probably the best option for getting around when going climbing in Croatia. it's sometimes possible to sail to the crag too © Matt Groom
Where to stay?
There are a number of different accommodation options, ranging from campsites to apartments for hire (or a boat, if you join our Croatia Climb & Sail trip). Cliff Base on Hvar is a great option for climbers: there’s a mountain hut just 10 seconds away from the climbing and the owner also rents out apartments in the area.
Rest day activities
Dalmatia is a popular summer holiday destination meaning that there are many activities to keep you occupied on rest days.
For a more ‘active’ rest day you can choose to scuba dive, sail, sea kayak, river raft (in Omiš), mountain bike, hike, or via ferrata. If you’re looking for something a bit more laid-back, you can always relax on one of the region’s beautiful beaches, visit historical sites, or enjoy a relaxed lunch overlooking the sea.
There's plenty to keep you occupied on rest days in Croatia, from other sporty activities to relaxing on the beach © Matt Groom
The ‘Croatia’ rock climbing guidebook by Boris Čujić is a great place to get more detailed information on the crags. There is also a blog where you can find out more about various climbing areas and access some route topos.
When you visit a new climbing area, make sure to buy the local guide - preferably from a local climbing shop if you can! © Matt Groom
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A huge thank you to Icio and Marina, local partners for our Croatia Climb & Sail trip, for giving us this information!
Check out Matt Groom's vlog below for a taster of what this trip is all about!
Cover photo © Matt Groom