Datça is a beautiful seaside town in the South-West of Turkey, on a large peninsular of the same name. Situated in the Aegean Sea, Datça is only a stones throw away from the Greek island Kalymnos, which is famous worldwide for its climbing. We spent three months of 2021 climbing in Geyikbayiri, Turkey’s most famous climbing area. We regretted not visiting Datça, but we are fortunate enough to make the return to Turkey and spend some time in this wonderful place.
The location of Datça is perfect, the area is quiet with lots of untouched, pristine coastline and beautiful forests. The area is renowned for pine honey, which is delicious and testament to the quality of the forests in the area. You are never far from the sea and there’s always a quiet, secluded spot to swim and enjoy the clear water. The supply of rock is seemingly endless and hints at how big the area will be in the future.
The official guidebook has been made free to download as PDF, which you can find on ‘theCrag’ here.
When choosing what time of year to visit Datça there are several things to consider. For most people, who visit between October and March, the biggest consideration will be wind and rain. Ultimately, autumn and spring are the best seasons, as with most Mediterranean climates. Summer will be extremely hot, and winter can be harsher than you think. During our stay of one month, between January and February, the weather never stopped us from climbing, instead it dictated which sectors you would visit. This will be discussed more below. There is an amount of luck involved with winter weather, which was sometimes perfect and other times challenging. Pack a big coat, hat & gloves and all will be well.
The premier area of Datça is Can Baba, a sector at the massive crag known as ‘Indian Man’. Can Baba is a massive cave dripping with tufas and aesthetic lines. This is by far the most popular sector and understandably so. However, there are lots of other great sectors in the area that shouldn’t be missed either. The climbing at Can Baba gets going at around 7b, with the majority of routes being pumpy tufa masterpieces. There are a few sixth grade routes, of high quality, that are still worth the trip for climbers not ready for the caves harder offerings. The scale of the cave is really impressive and the whole area oozes quality.
The first routes in Can Baba were bolted in 2013, making it a recent and magnificent discovery for climbers. Now, some 9 years on, the crag is still not climbed out with some routes still awaiting a first ascent and the potential to bolt some new lines and extensions. With so much amazing rock here it has never been necessary to squeeze routes in and the crags are all the better for it.
Can Baba has an almost 50/50 split of sun and shade throughout the day, depending on what part of the cave you are in. The left half of the cave comes into the shade at around midday and the right side at around 2pm depending on the time of the year. This makes Can Baba a good option for warmer weather, when the tufas are all dry and the days are longer. During the winter months the tufas are prone to seepage, with some routes being consistently wet. However, with the right weather, it is a good winter sun trap, with lots of great routes staying permanently dry.
Uzak Zürafa is the sector immediately to the left of Can Baba and they essentially function as one continuous sector. Uzak Zürafa catches the northerly wind but has the benefit of the morning sun. The climbing is completely different to Can Baba and is predominately technical and vertical. Uzak Zürafa is sometimes described as having Siurana style climbing. The two sectors complement each other perfectly with the differing styles of climbing and a good spread of grades. You could belay someone on a 6b, walk 50 meters to Can Baba and then belay someone on an 8b, making it perfect for teams of people with different abilities.
Uzak Zürafa is also a perfect crag to visit after bad weather. We frequently climbed here after a few days of heavy rain the crag was always bone dry, much to our surprise. The lack of tufas at this sector mean nothing seeps and you can climb throughout the winter.
Shaman is just around the corner from Uzak Zürafa, separated by a hundred meters of lower quality vegetated rock with no routes. When you arrive at Shaman you will be greeted by around 20 routes, some of which have extensions or multi-pitch variants going to the top of the crag. The climbing here is more crimpy wall climbs and sneaky slabs. The rock is great quality and the sector is among the best in Datça.
During our time here, I was fortunate enough to be involved in the first ascent of a multi-pitch route. For my small role in this enormous task, I helped with cleaning the route for a day, then belayed and climbed during the first ascent. The route is total quality and just goes to show how many more amazing multi-pitch routes are waiting to be developed in Datça. You can read more about the route and the main equipper here.
Shaman gets sun for most of the day and generally dries very quickly after rain. However, the sector is not sheltered from the wind like Papinosaure, so is best suited for cold but still days. Shaman has lots of potential for new routes, both single and multi-pitch.
Papinosaure is the sector around the corner, left of Shaman. There are less routes here and nothing special about the sector in general. The reason Papinosaure is worthy of a mention is because it is the most sheltered sector at ‘Indian Man’ by a large margin. If the weather is very cold and windy, this sector will be the most pleasant area on the whole crag to climb. It is worth considering that other sectors around Datça are also sheltered, but Papinosaure is the best at this crag.
Domuzbükü is a small sector with only around 15 routes. However the rock quality is very good and the routes are highly enjoyable. The crag is in the shade for most of the day, but stayed dry all through winter. The approach is short and with routes of around 20-25 meters, it is the perfect crag for a quick hit, to get a clutch of good routes done in a half day.
The Karain cave is small cave with around 15 routes on good quality rock. The cave is in the same valley as the major crags in Datça but is on the other side of a small river. The routes inside the cave are tufa climbs, which also seep in the winter months. There are also several routes on the walls either side of the cave which give good quality climbing on compact rock that is usually dry.
The sector is definitely worth visiting and gets much less attention than its bigger neighbour Can Baba, making Karain a good option for busy weekends. The crag faces west so is in the shade for the first half of the day. In winter the afternoon sun gives perfect conditions. After climbing, continue along the dirt road for around 7km to find ‘Pembe Çakil Koyu’ a beautiful beach, with a trail along the coast to some amazing secluded bays that are perfect for swimming.
Balik is a small south facing crag with good quality rock. The routes here are around 15 meters long and very steep, suiting the boulderer or more powerful climber. This is the opposite to the majority of routes in the area that are long endurance climbs. There are around 18 routes here, mostly in the mid and high sevens. However, there is also a small crag around the corner with some six grade routes.
Sucuk is a similar style of crag to its neighbour Balik, except Sucuk is north facing. There are around 20 routes here and they are roughly 25 meters long. The big advantage over Balik is that this crag has far less tufas. Despite being north facing, we found this actually makes Sucuk a better crag for climbing in the winter season as the routes are almost always dry and don’t suffer from seepage. Providing the weather isn’t windy, it’s perfectly pleasant to climb here on a winters day and there are several classic routes to choose ranging from 6a to 8c.
L’Oeil Du Cyclope
This cave is an obvious feature visible from the road heading towards Can Baba. With a reasonably long approach, the sector is always quiet and peaceful. On the walk in there are several nice crags that have never been developed, with the potential for lots of good routes. As you reach the cave you will also see another cave, peaking around the corner and dripping with massive tufas. This other cave is surely destined to be a fantastic crag in the future.
Currently L’Oeil Du Cyclope is really a crag for the harder climber, with routes in the 8a-8c range that look truly phenomenal. There are four routes under 7a, which are the lower halves of the harder routes to an anchor halfway up the cave. These are good but nothing special, the crag is worth visiting regardless just to see how amazing some of the unclimbed rock is.
The Canyon is one of Datça’s gems, hidden away on secluded stretch of coastline with some amazing crags. The 8km dirt track that takes you there is entertaining in its own right and gives you an appreciation of just how remote this part of the peninsular is.
One of the best crags in Canyon is Les Frouzes, a stunning crag around 70 meters high and with some amazing tufa formations. Like all tufas in winter, the routes are often wet. The canyon will be fantastic in the summer to escape the heat as the walls of the canyon are narrow. Some sectors are in the shade all day and others for over half the day. Les Frouzes would definitely be one of the most popular crags in Datça if it wasn’t for its remote location, it is a fantastic crag.
Deeper still into the canyon is Icefall, a crag with only 4 routes but also some awesome tufa and flowstone formations. Icefall is in a narrow slot canyon which has been worn away by water over time. Now the left side of the canyon has amazing tufa adventures over 40 meters long in a surreal setting. No matter how warm places outside are it will always be cool in here, which shouldn’t be surprising given the name of the crag!
Rest day activities
On Saturday there is a local market in the town where you can pick up local, fresh produce for a very affordable price. Datça is the nicest town on the peninsular, with beautiful local shops, boutiques, trendy coffee shops and patisseries.
There are also several ‘Datça’ branded shops in the town which sells a wide variety of local products such as the famous pine honey, organic nut butters, herbs & spices, sun dried tomatoes and olive oil – to name a few!
One of Datça’s greatest assets is the coastline, perhaps one of the most beautiful and unspoilt in all of Turkey. Vast amounts of the coast are inaccessible by car, with travel by foot or boat the only way to get there. There are also many beaches only accessible by dirt roads which are always quiet. You won’t have to travel far in Datça to find a stunning beach.
The water is extremely clean and there are lots of fish and interesting things to see, so pack your snorkel. Even in January and February the water was warm enough for a swim of at least of 20 minutes, without a wetsuit. Being so close to the sea and going for a post climb swim is one of the most enjoyable things about staying in Datça
Knidos Ancient city
The ancient city of Knidos is over 2,000 years old and is set in a beautiful location, right at the tip of the Datça peninsular. Knidos has two bays, one on the Mediterranean and one on the Aegean. The ruins are around 45 minutes drive from Datça town and the road there passes the turning for the main climbing sectors, making it a shorter drive if you leave from the crag. Knidos is a stunning place, both for its history and its location, it is definitely worth the journey to see.
Not far from the centre of Datça and right next to the sea, is a natural thermal lake. The water is warm but not hot, reputed to be around 28 degrees. The water is clean and the lake is a good size for swimming. It is best to think of it as a heated outdoor pool, rather than a hot spring. The temperature is great for swimming but less so for bathing. There is a park nearby with an outdoor gym and a nice cafe that overlooks the lake. It is a pleasant way to spend an afternoon in Datça. You can find the lake by searching for ‘Datça Göl Evi Beach Cafe’ on Google maps.
Climbing in Datça is still in its infancy, with only around 300 routes currently developed. What makes the area so impressive is that the climbing is already amazing and this is only the start of what Datça has to offer. Having spent a long time in Geyikbayiri, a well established climbing area, it is easy to imagine it felt like Datça does now 20 years ago. Perhaps in 20 years time Datça will have the amount of routes and popularity that Geyikbayiri does now. When considering a visit to either location, each option is a good one. However, Datça currently offers the tranquility and freshness that can often be lacking at areas with so many amazing routes.
Relevant links and resources
Official Datça Climbing Guidebook