rock climber in Huaraz peru

So you want to find out the best rock climbing towns in South America?

That’s great! But where to go? The continent is huge, diverse and exotic!

Climbing towns are little slices of heaven which serve as bases to get supplies, plan your adventures, and meet other climbers from around the world!

But we’re making it a little easier for you.

After a year of collective travel through the best climbing SA has to offer, we’ve compiled a list for you of the top climbing towns in South America.

We took into account the following five criteria:

Quality of climbing within one day of the city

The climbing that is being taken into account is what is accessible within a day of the city.

The climbing community, or the number of other climbers in the area

How many other climbers are there? We all love meeting like minded people from around the world and if you’re looking for a partner this is important as well.

Amenities, hostels, gear hire, grocery stores, etc…

Not much description needed here. Pretty much the quality of amenities in the city, how geared is it towards travelers/climbers?

Rest day activities

Unfortunately we can’t climb everyday, so this will help you get some ideas on what to do on those days when your arms are aching.

Ease to arrive at the town itself and ease to get to the climbing

Things in South America are not always as accessible as what we’re used to. This takes into account the relative cost of travel, time and ease to get to the town itself and the surrounding climbing.

Well now that’s all sorted, let’s get to it!

And for the lazy:

#6: Cuenca, Azuay Ecuador:

colonial building near city square of cuenca

  • Quality of Climbing: 3/5
  • Climbing Community: 2/5
  • Amenities: 4/5
  • Rest Day Activities: 4/5
  • Ease of Access: 2/5
  • Score: 15/25

Starting off our count, we have Cuenca Ecuador coming in at number six.

A popular tourist destination for travelers and expats alike, it’s easy to see why.

It is a beautiful city, a postcard image of Spanish colonialism architecture. Walking through the streets you’ll feel like you’re not in Ecuador at all.

Cuenca boasts at least seven different climbing areas within a day’s commute of the city.

Topos can be found here, and there is also a very well put together guide book available for purchase.

rock climbing at Cojiambo near Cuenca Ecuador
Cojiambo, Only a few hours from Cuenca

The climbing community here is very small, though there is a small gym in town for you to go to meet the local community.

Since Cuenca is in many regards a tourist town, it has all the amenities you should expect: hostels/hotels, grocery stores.

In a addition there is a small climbing store in town as well if you need to get some gear.

Where to Stay In Cuenca

There are no shortages of places to stay in Cuenca. The majority of the guest houses are located in the old section of the city near the town square.

It is a small city and easily walkable. In addition transport is easy so you don’t have to worry too much about getting around once you arrive.

How to Get To Cuenca

Mariscal Lamar International Airport has daily flights from Quito or other international destinations.

If you’re not coming by plane, bus is the other option.

Cuenca is a transport hub for the region, so it is easy to find bus rides from any where in Ecuador or beyond.

#5 El Chalten, Santa Cruz Argentina:

the fitz roy at sunset near el chalten

  • Quality of Climbing: 5/5
  • Climbing Community: 5/5
  • Amenities: 3/5
  • Rest Day Activities: 3/5
  • Ease of Access: 2/5
  • Score: 18/25

Coming in at number five we have El Chaten.

Chalten is considered by many to be one of the best trad/alpine destinations in the world. So why is it only coming in at number five you might ask?

As the title of this article suggests, we are taking into account not only the quality of the climbing itself, but also the town.

The climbing is spectacular, with a lifetime of perfect granite spires for every level of climber out there.

In addition to the trad, there is also an abundance of sport climbing and very high quality granite bouldering sometimes only a few minutes from the city.

For that reason Chalten receives a perfect 5/5 for the climbing.

There seem to be two types of travelers in Chalten. Israelis on their post army travel, or trad purists.

Both groups of people are very friendly and fun to talk with.

If you’re traveling solo it is a great town to meet people. Stop by some of the great bouldering outside of town and you’ll be making friends in no time.

The town of Chalten itself isn’t very impressive.

The explosion of popularity of the town in the past decade or so has created a surge of quickly thrown together buildings and streets which seem to lead to nowhere and are sometimes partially finished.

The internet connection here is slow and most places only accept cash.

This wouldn’t be a problem if there was more than one ATM in town, which constantly runs out of money in the high season. Come stocked up on cash.

There are, however, an abundance of shops with gear for hire for whatever activities you are looking to do.

In addition to the climbing, there are some great rest day activities around, the most popular of these is trekking to Laguna de Los Tres to see some stunning views of the Fitz Roy or Laguna Torre to get a view of the Cerro Torre.

How To Get To El Chalten

El Chalten is not an easy place to get to. It is in the South of Patagonia, so flying is the only reasonable option to get down there (though bus is possible) and flights are not cheap.

From the Calafate Airport you can get a bus to Chalten.

During peak season busses do fill up or sometimes charge exorbitant prices for the rides.

Where to Stay in El Chalten

There are a ton of places to stay in El Chalten. For budget options, your absolute best value for your money are the Rancho Grande or the Hostel Kaiken.

Both have dorm rooms for under $15 have excellent locations and great amenities.

If you’re looking for a private room, Hosteria El Paraiso is an excellent options. The Cabañas Cerro Torre offer private cabins, which would  be a great choice for couples.

If you’re looking to brave the Patagonian elements and camp, El Refugio is probably the most popular for climbers.

Go here for more information on the climbing in Argentina: “3 Top Climbing Destinations in Argentina”.

#4: Suesca, Cundinamarca Colombia:

rock climbing suesca colombia

  • Quality of Climbing: 4/5
  • Climbing Community: 5/5
  • Amenities: 3/5
  • Rest Day Activities: 3/5
  • Ease of Access: 4/5
  • Score: 19/25

Number four we have Suesca. One of Colombia’s premier climbing destinations.

Forget what you might have heard about Colombia. It’s an amazing country to visit and has made immense strides since the dark days of the drug cartels.

It is a must visit for all travelers.

Suesca is a town located about an hours bus ride from the capital and largest city in Colombia: Bogota.

It a small town with a lot of great climbing nearby. It has hundreds of limestone routes whose topos can be found here, the closest only being a few minutes walk from the edge of town.

In addition to the rocks of Suesca, there are numerous other climbing areas around Suesca such as Macheta or Zipaquira, both of which are accessible by bus or car, but are a little more difficult to find.

For a more information on Suesca’s climbing see: “Ultimate Suesca Climbing Guide – Everything You Need To Know“.

rocks of suesca colombia

The climbing community of Suesca is wonderful. It is a great place to meet local Colombian climbers who are some of the friendliest people in the world.

The town of Suesca is about a 5-10min walk from the climbing. Here you can find everything that you need. Suesca also has its own Monodedo store where you can stock up on all of your camping/climbing gear needs.

Where to Stay Around Suesca

There are a few hostels in town which cater directly to the climbing community, which makes it is easy to find other climbers.

Suesca is definitely a place where you can just show up and have a good chance of finding a partner.

El Nomada is probably the most popular for climbers.

They have three different dorm rooms with extremely comfortable beds, a camping area, crash pads, wifi and good communal spaces.

I’ve stayed at El Nomada 3 or 4 times, I think I’ve gotten some of the best nights sleep of my life there!

If you’re looking for a private room, Hostal Caminos de Suesca is the place to go. They are located on the main strip next to all the restaurantes and entrance to the climbing.

My favorite place I’ve stayed in Suesca Hostal Torre Alta.

Located about a 10min walk from the entrance to the climbing, Torre Alta has super comfortable dorm beds and private rooms available, an very well designed living space, and great amenities.

It is also super quiet and tranquilo, perfect for relaxing after day of climbing.

rock climbing suesca with train tracks below

Suesca has some, but not a lot, of things to do on your rest days.

There are some good mountain biking and hiking trails around. The town itself offers a few restaurants and pubs too, but these are also limited.

The weather around Suesca can be wet and cold, so sometimes you’ll just end up staying inside and drinking some Colombian coffee and practicing your Spanish with the locals.

Which isn’t too bad if you ask me.

How to Get To Suesca

A great thing about Suesca is that it is relatively easy and cheap to get to once you’re in Bogota.

El Dorado Airport is an international travel hub, with daily flights to the US, Canada, Europe and the rest of Latin America.

From the airport, it is easy to arrive at Suesca by public transport.

It will take about 3hrs on bus to get to Suesca from El Dorado, and will cost under $5.

For detailed information how to arrive at Suesca on bus see: Rock Climbing Guide – Suesca

#3: Santiago, Chile:

  • Quality of Climbing: 3/5
  • Climbing Community: 3/5
  • Amenities: 5/5
  • Rest Day Activities: 5/5
  • Ease of Access: 4/5
  • Score: 20/25

Santiago is the capital and largest city in Chile and is the only major metropolitan area to make the list, which makes it sort of the black sheep of the group. But what it lacks in quaintness it makes up for in beauty, culture and style.

Santiago has numerous climbing destinations very close to the city. The most popular is Las Chilcas, which is about an hour’s bus ride from the city.

In addition to Las Chilcas, there is a ton of climbing in the Cayon del Maipo to the southeast.

Detailed topos to all these areas can be found here.

Santiago has a devout climbing community. You will find the local crags such as Las Chicas full on weekends (or sometimes even during the week!).

Chileans are ridiculously friendly. Though you won’t have any idea what they’re saying when they’re speaking Spanish (what’s a gil culiado?).

rock climbing el canjon del maipo
La Mina of the Cajon del Maipo

There are also numerous gyms in the city if you are looking for somewhere to meet climbers or train on wet days. Chileans are very friendly and a lot speak English.

Santiago has probably both the best selection of climbing gear and the lowest prices in all of South America. If you need supplies it is the place to go.

Being a major metropolitan city, it has just about everything else you might be looking for.

In addition to great amenities, Santiago has a lot of non-climbing related activities you might expect from a metropolitan city.

As far as day trips go, the Cajon del Maipo is very pretty and boasts numerous activities including horseback riding and whitewater river rafting. There are numerous wineries and Valparaiso is popular as well.

Where to Stay in Santiago

There are not shortages of places to stay in Santiago.

For your first time in Santiago, I’d suggest staying around the Centro District. It will serve as a good location to launch your adventures and explore the city.

Barrio Brasil is another good option. It an old neighborhood with lots of 18th century architecture,  still centrally located

How to Get To Santiago

Santiago Airport has international flights to most places in Latin American and beyond.

It has one of the best metro and bus systems in South America too, and all all of the aforementioned climbing areas are accessible by public transport.

For more information on the climbing in Chile, inducing topos and howe to arrive at these areas see: “Top 3 Places to Climb in Chile”.

#2: Huaraz, Ancash Peru:

rock climber seen in hatun machay peru

  • Quality of Climbing: 5/5
  • Climbing Community: 5/5
  • Amenities: 4/5
  • Rest Day Activities: 5/5
  • Ease of Access: 3/5
  • Score: 22/25

Nestled high in the Andes Mountain range we find the town of Huaraz.

At first, the town itself isn’t much to look at, but it has a strange sense of charm about it that after a few days you’ll be feeling yourself.

This city has access to some of the best climbing in South America.

Just take a look at the nearly 400 page guidebook to see for yourself some of the climbing the area has to offer.

The closest area is Los Olivos, a nice crag right on the outskirts of the city, easily accessible by bus.

From there it only gets better with sport climbing areas such as Inka Wakanka, world class Hatun Machay, and alpine areas such as La Esfinge.

Hatun Machay Peru At Sunset

Huaraz also has a vibrant climbing community. It is without a doubt the climbing capital of Peru, and people from around the world flock here to face the challenges of the high mountains.

It is easy to find other climbers if you wish, but also just as easy to head off to a crag and not see another person all day.

I would suggest heading to Los Olivos if you’re alone and looking for someone to climb with. There are also a few small gyms in town.

Huaraz has a strong ‘adventure’ tourism market it is serving. For this reason there are many guiding services and shops to buy or rent gear.

Additionally, Huaraz is the largest town in Ancash, so it serves as the economic hub of the area.

At the markets you will find everything that you need. El Mercado Central is an experience in itself. Just go downstairs to look at the piles of shaved cuys if you doubt me.

When you’re feeling like doing something other than climbing, Huaraz has no shortage of restaurants, bars and even a few clubs if you’re so inclined.

It is also one of the trekking capitals of South America (and arguably the world), acting as a hub for some very popular activities such as the Santa Cruz Trek, Huayhuash Trek and Laguna 69.

Where to Stay in Huaraz

For climbers and budget travelers, the most popular place in town to stay is the Monkeywasi Climbing Hostel. It is the place to go if you’re looking to meet local climbers and get beta on the area’s climbing.

A good middle of the road option is the La Casa De Maruja BB. It’s little bit nicer than Monkeywasi, and has a great location.

If you’re looking to stay at somewhere a bit nicer, La Aurora has incredibly comfortable private rooms and just about the best location you could ask for in town.

trecking near huaraz peru

How To Get To Huaraz

To get to Huaraz, you’ll first need to pass through Lima. Luckly Lima is one of South America’s largest transportation hubs, and is one of the cheapest places to fly to in the county.

Once in Lima, take a bus from Cruz del Sur, Movil Bus or one of the other many options available.

Depending on traffic, expect the bus ride to take 8-10hrs.

This is pretty short by South American standards, and the roads are in pretty good condition.

#1: Bariloche, Rio Negro Argentina:

    • Quality of Climbing: 5/5
    • Climbing Community: 4/5
    • Amenities: 4/5
    • Rest Day Activities: 5/5
    • Ease of Access: 5/5
  • Score: 23/25

Coming in at number one on our list we have the beautiful Bavarian themed town of Bariloche!

This town has it all! Mountains, water, a ton of shops and pubs, and most importantly, climbing.

Bariloche has access to a lifetime of climbing. World class sport climbing? Check. Trad Climbing? Check. Alpine? Yup that too. Some areas, such as the Piedras Blancas crag, is only a half hour or so from the city.

But what Bariloche really does is act as a base camp to get all the gear and supplies needed for adventures to nearby areas such as: The Frey, Cochamo, Valle Encantado, or Piedra Parada (location of Petzl’s 2012 rock trip), to name a few.

Each of the areas just mentioned is a world class climbing destination in itself. Trust me, you could spend your entire life in this town and only scratch the surface.

refugio frey Argentina
The Refugio Frey

Bariloche has a strong climbing community  well fueled by the vast amounts of perfect rock. There is also a bouldering gym in town as well if you’re looking to train.

A few of the sport climbing areas such as Piedras Blancas or Piedra Parada in particular would be a great stop if you’re looking find other local climbers.

Argentinians can sometimes come off as rude, but it’s almost always all in good fun. You’ll be drinking maté in no time.

sunset at piedra parada Argentina
Piedra Parada is only a few hour’s bus ride away

Bariloche has great amenities as well. Plenty of budget hostels and hotels all the way up to 5 star resorts. There are also a number of climbing shops where you can buy and rent gear if needed.

The only reason it doesn’t get a 5/5 in this category is because the gear prices in Argentina are exorbitantly expensive.

I would only suggest buying gear here (Argentina that is) if absolutely necessary.

In addition to the climbing Bariloche is an extremely popular tourist destination in itself. As you would expect, there are plenty of things to do when you’re feeling like taking it easy.

Where to Stay in Bariloche

Being a major tourist destination, Bariloche has no shortage of accommodations at just about any price point imaginable.

By far the most popular place to stay in Bariloche is around the Centro Civico, or the main town square.

Here you’ll be just a few minutes walk from the cities best restaurants and shops.

If you’re looking for a bit more piece and quiet, the Jardin Botanico neighborhood is a solid option.

Not to mention that will put you only a few minutes walk from the city’s climbing gym!

How To Get To Bariloche 

Bariloche Airport is located only about 10 minutes outside of the city, hand has regular flights to Buenos Aires any beyond.

In addition, it is was to arrive at Bariloche by bus, as it is a major transportation hub.

Traveling soon? Don’t forget to purchase travel insurance for South America to protect you against illness, injury, and theft. This is a super important thing to have on hand. I use and recommend World Nomads Travel Insurance and you can get your custom quote here:

So There You Have It

There you have it.

The best climbing towns in South America.

Did you find this useful for planning your trip?

(If so)

Help get the word out, and share this article!

Climb on.

For more reading like this see: “Rock Climbing Colombia – The Internet’s Most Ridiculously Guide” and “El Potrero Chico: A Totally Awesome Guide [2019 Update]“.

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4 Comments

  1. Heading on a long trip to South America next year. I’m gonna explore the rock climbing scene over there. Your article is on point! I’ll add some trekking in between the destinations and I’ll have the perfect travel adventure ever! Thanks man.

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