rock climber using heel hook while climbing in thailand

Winter weather keeping you down?

 Check out this list of some of the world’s best winter climbing destinations to keep you focused on your stoke high!

We’ve compiled this selection of the world’s best destinations to climb in winter. From North America, Asia, the best Europe has to offer and beyond.  

Whether you want to just clip bolts and have fun or get scared on sketchy trad climbs, we have something for you!

If you’re looking for more information about any of the areas below then just follow the links for the most detailed guides to our favourite places to climb.

Best Winter Climbing Destinations Europe

Margalef, Spain

Best Month ~ November

Average Days with Precipitation ~ 4

Average Temps (High/Low) ~ 62 ° / 50°

Spain is well known for its world class sport climbing, with climbers flocking here throughout the winter months to train in beautiful surroundings, and near perfect conditions.  

Margalef is no different in this respect – although compared to many of Spain’s famous sport climbing crags it is a relative newbie.

If overhanging conglomerate limestone is your cup of tea, then Margalef will not disappoint.  Home to some of the world’s hardest sport climbs, it regularly sees visits from many of the top professionals.  

Don’t worry if you’re not climbing in the 5.14s though – there are also many quality lower grade routes scattered around the area.

This part of Catalonia makes for an amazing destination for climbers looking for winter sun.  You are not limited to only Margalef. Within half an hour’s drive there are the other world class climbing crags of Siurana and Montsant, as well as numerous smaller, less frequented crags.

The village itself is tiny, and whilst van camping is tolerated, there are now a couple of campsites to cater to other vagabond travellers.

For more reading on Margalef, check out our in depth guide

El Chorro, Spain

Best Month ~ March

Average Days with Precipitation~ 4

Average March Temps (High/Low) ~ 66° / 48°

One of the largest and most popular places for climbing in Andalucia, Spain.  

Known for its pocketed limestone sport climbing there is also a plethora of trad and multi pitch routes available here.  

The climbing is mainly vertical and face climbs but more overhanging routes can be found at a few crags.

Only 45mins from the city of Malaga, getting to El Chorro couldn’t be easier.  

Many climbers will rent a car at the airport.  This is a good option for a group wanting to explore some of the lesser known crags and have easy options for rest days.  Alternatively, plan ahead and take the train – once in El Chorro most crags are within walking distance.

Camping is possible, but as there is such a wide range of cheap accommodation in the village few bother with packing a tent.  

For more reading on El Chorro, check out our in depth guide

Best International Winter Climbing Destinations

El Potrero Chico, Mexico

Best Month ~ January

Average Days with Precipitation ~ 3

Temps (High/Low) ~ 66° / 43°

El Potrero Chico is one of the best places for multi pitch rock climbing.  Home to one of the longest bolted sport climbs in the world, Time Wave Zero, you’ll need to get up pretty early to manage this 23 pitch monster.  

If this sounds like too much work for a climbing trip, then just head to one of the many shorter, but quality routes that litter each side of the canyon.  

From one of the many great campsites you’ll never be more than a 10 to 15 minute walk away from the beginning of a ten pitch dream route.

The food and drink here is not only cheap but also delicious!  

Get your fill of tacos or burritos from one of the many vendors and wash it down with a margarita.  

For more reading on El Potrero Chico, check out our in depth guide

Waterval Boven, South Africa

Best Month ~ May

Average Days with Precipitation ~ 3

Temps (High/Low) ~ 70° / 47°

Our first mention of a climbing area in the  southern hemisphere, Waterval Boven’s winter begins in May, and this is the best time to visit.

For adventurous sport climbers South Africa is the place to visit.  Don’t think you’ll get any of the luxuries here that you’d expect from a sport climbing holiday in Kalymnos, but do expect awesome climbing!

The quartzite here is bright orange, perfectly formed and billions of years old!  

Most of the rock climbing is vertical or gently overhanging face climbs with crimps and edges being the order of the day.  Expect beautiful and varied routes in a stunning location, and whilst predominantly bolted, there are some tremendous trad lines.

Be sure to check out the Rocn Rope Climbers Lodge for accommodation at a reasonable price or try Tranquilitas Adventure Farm and camping for equipped chalets  or safari tents within walking distance of the crags.

For more reading on Waterval Boven, check out our in depth guide

Todra Gorge, Morocco 

Best Month ~ November

Average Days with Precipitation ~ 5

Temps (High/Low) ~ 65° / 52°

Another amazing limestone sport climbing destination, the Todra Gorge in Morocco can be climbed year round thanks to the gorges’ orientation and Morocco’s sunny climate.  

We think it makes one of the best options for climbing during the winter as you’ll get to climb these wonderful walls basking in the sun.

Never as busy as other destinations in this list, the Todra Gorge is a great place to visit if you like peace and tranquility on your climbing trips.  

Perfect for climbers of all levels, the gorge offers routes from 5.5 to 5.13b.  There are also accessible multi pitches starting at around 5.9 and even a short via Ferrata.

For gear, a 70 meter rope is generally fine, though always check in the guidebook and don’t forget to tie knots.  

We’d take 15 to 20 draws including some long slings to reduce drag and definitely take our helmets too – the goats and possibly herders that live on top of the cliffs have been known to knock off the occasional rock – be warned!

For more reading on the Todra Gorge, check out our in depth guide

Cochamo, Chile

Best Month ~ January

Average Days with Precipitation ~ 2

Temps (High/Low) ~ 68° / 52°

Heralded as the Yosemite of South America, the Cochamo valley is located in the Los Lagos region of Chile.  Home to over 200 routes, the majority being trad lines, there is also the potential here for many more.

Although, unlike Yosemite, you’re unlikely to find the same amount of tourists here, even with the recent boom in eco tourism in the area.  What you will find in a wild bunch of international climbing dirtbags and adventurers.

The granite cliffs that dominate the area rise out of the surrounding jungles, and by rock climbing to the top you can see over into Argentina and the Pacific Ocean.  

Not for the faint hearted, the Cochamo Valley is one of the worlds best adventure climbing spots – even just getting there can be an exciting experience! With no scheduled public transport you’ll need to rely on good planning, organisation and your wits!

For more reading on Cochamo check out our in depth guide

Best Cheap Winter Rock Climbing Destinations

Thakhek, Laos

Best Month ~ February

Average Days with Precipitation ~ 2

Temps (High/Low) ~ 87° / 62°

Climbing in Laos is a must for any climber visiting South East Asia, and the area just outside of the town of Thakhek is where the action happens.  

The Green Climbers Home is the centre of this climbing community, offering bungalows, tents and hammocks as well as food, guided climbing courses, a social atmosphere and plenty of Beerlao.

The climbing is one of the best, all on limestone, heavily laden with crazy tufa formations.  The main attraction for many is the roof area, including a giant 10 meter ceiling full of huecos and tufas offering climbs from 6B – 8A+ (french sport).

For fans of more technical face climbing, areas such as Burnout or recently developed Falang crags offer a great selection of quality routes.   

For more reading on Thakhek check out our in depth guide

Cat Ba, Vietnam

In Depth Review – Cat Ba

Best Month ~ March

Average Days with Precipitation ~ 4

Temps (High/Low) ~ 71° / 62°

Another Asian entry, Cat Ba is home to the best climbing in Vietnam.  March is a great time to visit this winter climbing destination for sport climbing, but if you’re interested in the deep water soloing popularized by climbing legends such as Neil Gresham, Tim Emmett and Chris Lindner then the best season is Autumn.  

This will give you better options for high tides and won’t be as cold as the winter months.

Accommodation, food and everything else is very easy once you’re on the island of Cat Ba.  Getting there is now also a lot easier thanks to the giant bridge that has recently been built, however, the adventurous climber will arrive on their bikes crossing by ferry from the city of Haiphong.

As well as tackling some world class climbing, why not take a kayak trip around the beautiful Unesco World Heritage site of Halong Bay on a rest day, or explore the rest of what the island has to offer by motorbike.

For more reading on Cat Ba check out our in depth guide

Best Winter Climbing Destinations USA

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Best Month ~ December

Average Days with Precipitation ~ 2

Temps (High/Low) ~ 63° / 36°

As places to climb in the winter go, it’s hard to beat Joshua Tree National Park in California.  With near perfect climbing conditions all winter long and thousands of routes, we can see why this place is so popular with visitors from all over North America and the world.

The surreal desert landscape is the perfect place to hang out climbing sport routes for a week with friends, camping in the wilderness, forgetting about civilization.  

The area is home to many developed boulders as well, so bringing a crash pad is highly recommended.

The regular campsites are, however, thanks to the popularity, rather limited.  

Wild, backcountry or free camping is permitted, and a favourite of many climbers, but make sure you are at least 1.5 km from the parking.  Also take out any and all trash, and remember to register for a permit before setting off.  

Also, fires are prohibited as water is extremely scarce.

Red Rocks, Nevada

National Park

Best Month ~ March

Average Days with Precipitation ~ 4

Temps (High/Low) ~ 63° / 40°

The Red Rock Canyon has it all.  You want to climb splitter hand cracks that just eat up gear?  Check!  

How about some bulletproof single pitch sport climbing on perfect incut edges?  Check!  

Bored of that and want to go bouldering on perfect sandstone?  Yep, you guessed it, Red Rocks has it.

It’s no wonder this has become home to many of the world’s best climbers, including the legendary Alex “no big deal” Honnold.  With the indulgent vice town of Las Vegas literally just a stone’s throw away, the two disparate communities shouldn’t, but somehow do, work together.  

Once out in the Red Rock Canyon the bustle of the town is drowned out by the vastness at your feet, only reappearing at night as a glow on the horizon.

More Destinations

Man climbing rock

Not satisfied with those above?  Then here are a few more destinations to whet your appetite for world class winter climbing!

Sport Climbing

Kalymnos – Greece

  • Sport climbing tufa paradise!

Tonsai – Thailand

  • Sport climbing by the beach in the sun.

Geyikbayiri – Turkey

  • Amazing limestone and welcoming hospitality.

Siurana – Spain, Catalonia

  • Crimps!

Smith Rock – North America

  • Birthplace of modern sport climbing in the USA.

Red River Gorge – North America

  • Visit the sandstone red rock of the red river gorge in winter for the best friction possible!  Just remember not to climb after rain!

Traditional Climbing

Wadi Rum – Jordan

  • Adventurous trad climbing in the desert.

Stanage Edge – England, UK

  • Cold and often wet, but with winter comes the best friction for the gritstone classics!

For further reading see: “Rock Climbing South America: The Best The Continent Has To Offer” 

Published by Neil Skilton