Thailand has been well known to climbers for many years thanks to its stunning rock and tropical paradise locations. There are lots of wonderful climbing areas spread throughout the country, and there is definitely a lot more to Thai climbing than Tonsai and Railay alone. Climbing aside, Thailand is very popular with travellers and holidaymakers, being the most visited country in South East Asia. While some places can get overcrowded, what shines through is the warmth and kindness of the Thai people, who remain incredibly welcoming. We made our way into Thailand overland from Malaysia, and traveled up through the country before crossing the border into Laos. The climbing areas below will be discussed in the order we visited them, of course there are many other areas in Thailand we didn’t visit. We chose the areas we did based on the quality, quantity and location of the routes and we thought all of the areas we visited were really good.
Malaysia sits in a beautiful part of the world, with the country split between two areas, one on the Malay peninsula and the other on the island of Borneo. Malaysia is well known for its delicious cuisine and being one of the most culturally diverse countries in South East Asia. Rock climbing in Malaysia has been established for some time, with historical routes going back several decades. We chose Malaysia as the starting point for our trip to South East Asia, the country has a lot going for it and the climbing is high quality. As the next leg of our journey would take us northwards to Thailand, we spent all of our time in Peninsular Malaysia. Malaysian Borneo is famous for its mountains and is home to Mount Kinabalu, the countries highest mountain at 4,095 meters. However, the peninsular contains the greatest density of sport routes as well as many mountains of its own, with several over 2,000 meters.
Most climbers won’t have considered Belgium as a destination for climbing, and many of those who have a vague idea of Belgian climbing won’t appreciate how good it actually is. There are many crags in southern Belgium and Freyr is the crown jewel, with several impressive walls close to the river and overlooking a chateau. Those who do know of Freyr will also know of the crags fierce reputation, nothing here comes easy. If you can climb a certain grade in Freyr, then you can climb it anywhere and although the routes are hard the rock is superb. Belgium is also famous for good beer, chocolate, waffles and fries, which is really a winning combination for us!
Luxembourg is an interesting small country that sits landlocked between France, Germany and Belgium. In the east of the country is a village called Berdorf, which is home to some superb sandstone sport climbing. Berdorf could reasonably claim to be one of the best known crags of its type, owing its reputation to its quality. The crag is set in a beautiful forest, which is itself in the European National Protection Zone, due to the quality and abundance of rare plants in the area. The environment at Berdorf is very special and it should go without saying that climbers must treat it with the utmost respect.
Sweden is a great country for outdoor enthusiasts, boasting over 97,500 lakes and a whopping 27.9 million hectares of natural forest. For climbers, Sweden is often overshadowed by its more mountainous neighbour, Norway. However, Sweden has many superb crags of its own, as well as having the benefit of being much less touristy than Norway. As part of our road trip in Scandinavia, we spent 3 weeks in Sweden and thoroughly enjoyed it. Sweden and Norway have many similarities and differences, they are both wonderful countries that complement each other well.
We were fortunate enough to spend 7 weeks in Norway, enjoying a stunning road trip and sampling many of Norways best climbing areas. We drove up Sweden to arrive in Northern Norway in peak climbing season, starting with Lofoten. After visiting more crags further north, we made the long and beautiful journey down the west coast of the country. The crags will be described in the order we visited them, so depending on where you plan to climb in Norway it might be worth starting from the bottom of the article. The country is full of mountains, fjords, rivers and crags – we only visited a small selection of what’s on offer, even on our relatively long trip.
We had long wanted to visit Uzbekistan, a country with a fascinating history and beautiful cities. We also really wanted to do some climbing in Uzbekistan, but for a number of reasons it never happened. The two main factors were the very hot weather (over 35°C) and the fact we got severe food poisoning only a few days into the trip. We felt totally wiped out and couldn’t really face the effort of trying to find any crags, let alone climb on them! At the moment there isn’t really any developed climbing in Uzbekistan at all. However, there are definitely plenty of mountains and canyons in certain parts of the country and it is surely possible for climbing to be developed.
Kazakhstan is a vast country with an equally vast amount of things to see and do. Kazakhstan is actually the world’s largest landlocked country and the ninth largest overall. Despite all of this, Kazakhstan doesn’t receive many visitors, particularly from western tourists. We spent just under 3 weeks in Kazakhstan and had a great time. Of course, it would have been impossible to see much of the country in that time, so our recommendations in this article will be focused around the Almaty region. Kazakhstan’s other regions have a lot to offer as well, but a combination of the landscape and transport links make Almaty the obvious place to start.
Armenia is a real gem of a country, with a landscape that took us completely by surprise. Amazingly, the average elevation of Armenia is 1,792 meters above sea level, making it the 11th highest average elevation in the world. The country’s highest point is 4,090 meters and no point is below 390 meters. Anyone who loves mountains and being in nature is in for an absolute treat, Armenia is covered in stunning scenery and impressive geographical features.
Azerbaijan is an incredibly diverse country, often touted as having 9 out of 11 different climatic zones. When travelling through the country the variety is remarkable. In Lankaran, tea and citrus fruits are grown in the lush green landscape. By comparison the Abşeron Peninsular is a semi-arid climate with dry sandy soil and very little rainfall. For climbers Azerbaijan is still quite unknown and we found very little information about the climbing here before our visit. Climbing aside we wanted to visit as the country looked both beautiful and interesting. We made contact with some local climbers before we arrived and we were very lucky to meet some others on our first day in Azerbaijan. Their help and information made this article possible. Climbing in Azerbaijan is still developing as a sport, but we were very pleasantly surprised by the quality of some of the routes here.