Kyparissi is a secluded paradise backed by the craggy slopes of Mount Parnon and fronted by the cobalt blue of the Myrtoan Sea. Home to about 400 people, it is tucked away on the east coast of the Peloponnese—between Leonidio and Monemvasia—at the end of a scenic mountain road. The time by car from Athens is about 4.5 hours. Until 1970, Kyparissi was only accessible by sea or on foot by walking down a long, steep mountain path. Then, the road connecting it to Sparta was completed. And what a road…the last 10km of the drive down to the village are through a scenic, dizzying road that snakes down through steep cliffs and lush ravines, enough to intimidate even those of us used to verticality.
Kyparissi is surrounded by consecutive belts of phenomenal limestone, and it has all the makings of an international climbing venue: Cliffs are abundant; their quality is exceptional; climbing conditions are usually perfect, especially in spring and autumn; touristic infrastructure is already in place; the setting is spectacular and authentic; and the locals, who are genuinely kind, would greatly welcome an extended tourist season.
Until early 2015, only 25 lines had been put up in Kyparissi (even though it was discovered back in 2005). But finally, in 2015 a locally funded bolting project (“Climb Kyparissi“)was implemented thanks to the generosity of some benefactors from Kyparissi, a handful of very active local representatives, and a persistent Greek mountain guide. Slowly but surely, Kyparissi began to emerge from climbing obscurity and it is now on its way to becoming a proper sport climbing venue.
To-date there are nine sport crags in Kyparissi totaling more than 200 well-bolted routes, and there is significant potential for many more. The sensible development of climbing in Kyparissi is another point in its favor: Bolting has followed a set of reasonable guidelines from the start (proper hardware, well-protected routes, thorough cleaning and marking of the crags and paths) and there is something for climbers of all grade levels.
The crags of Kyparissi in a nutshell
Kastraki is a sector above the village church with very easy access, great views of the village and beach, and routes between 5c-7a on mostly grey compact limestone, but some red slightly overhanging routes on tufas as well. Predictably, Kastraki is the most popular crag in Kyparissi, as it appeals to the vast majority of climbers and families.
Watermill is a stunning bright red overhanging wall just off the road outside the village. It catches the eye immediately, and it features fantastic routes starting from 6b/6c up to 8a/8b.
Playground is a small crag with ultra-compact grey rock and 12 easy routes. It is perfect for for new climbers and families with children, as the path and the terrain beneath the cliffs are both very good.
Sectors Jerome’s House, Stavros and Psilovrachos are located high above the village, with routes in the mid-to-hard grades and perfect for climbing on very hot days.
Kapsala, a massive red cliff face just above the sea, is 15 km north of Kyparissi along the new coastal road connecting it to Leonidio. The rock is highly-featured and routes come in a variety of grades.
Vlychada is many people’s dream crag! It is a grey and red cliff that starts almost at the beach–an incredible beach with crystal clear waters, a perfect little canteen and a road going all the way down. It is 34km south of Kyparissi, near Richea village, but it is well worth the extra distance.
Lastly, there is Babala–the crown jewel of Kyparissi and one of the best (if not the best) sport crags for hard climbing in Greece.
Babala is a long expanse of creamy yellow limestone streaked with grey/blue tufa snakes, pipes and wings that run the full height of the cliff like vertical rivers. It unfolds along the ridge high above the village (approximately 45 minutes via a beautiful old trail) but every moment of the walk is worth it. Babala is a world-class hard sector featuring pure tufa climbing at its best. The well-traveled Greek climber Aristos Thanopoulos describes it as “the best hard sport crag in Greece”. And Angy Eiter simply says: “The climbing here is so good.” local authorities have pursued funding for a project to develop climbing in the area, so keep checking online at climbgreece.com for updates on the Kyparissi project.
Introducing Kyparissi to climbers: The 1st Kyparissi Climbing Festival
To acquaint climbers with all the new routes and the natural beauty of Kyparissi, a small festival was put together in the beginning of October 2015. Without much advertising or a big budget, the turnout for the festival exceeded all expectations and it was, by all accounts, quite a success. To read more about the 1st Kyparissi Climbing Festival, check out our previous posts here and here.
Getting to Kyparissi
Approach A: Getting to Kyparissi from Athens (approximately 300km, or 4-4.5 hours to drive). The quickest way to get to Kyparissi from Athens is via Sparta (or Sparti). From Athens, drive to Sparta (about 2.5 hours, most of which is on a very good motorway); from Sparta, continue to Kyparissi on mostly narrow country roads via the villages Geraki, Agios Dimitrios, and Harakas.
Approach B: Getting to Kyparissi from Leonidio (approximately one hour to drive). There are two options: The longer route (97km) is via a paved road, while the shorter route (64km) has a short portion that is unpaved (approx. 3-4km of relatively smooth dirt road; does not necessarily require a 4×4 car).
The longer route goes via Kosmas–Geraki–Agios Dimitrios–Kremasti–Lampokampos–Harakas to Kyparissi.
The shorter route goes via Poulithra–Peleta–Harakas to Kyparissi. It is best to avoid the shorter route during winter, as parts of it may be icy or slippery. (Note: A new and very scenic coastal road connecting Leonidio to Kyparissi (30-35km) is currently under construction, with estimated date of completion sometime in 2016. It will be part of the new Argos-Leonidio-Fokianos-Kyparissi coastal road.)
Accommodation in Kyparissi
There are accommodation options for all budgets in Kyparissi, and almost all are quite nice, with sea views and incredible scenery. Many options are listed on the left sidebar of this page.
There are a few mini-markets, bakeries and several very good restaurants in Kyparissi. However, there is no gas/petrol station or bank/ATM in Kyparissi, so make sure you fill up the gas tank of your car and your pockets with cash before driving down to Kyparissi. If you are driving to Kyparissi from Athens, make sure to get gas/petrol and cash in Sparta; if you are driving from Leonidio, get gas/petrol and cash in Leonidio.