My first international climbing trip was to El Chorro in the Andalucia region of Spain. It was a short, two-and-a-half-day stint that we squeezed between trips to Granada, Mijas, and other coastal towns in Benalmadena. At the time, my climbing skills were desperate and on half the climbs my husband was left to pull me up on top rope as I struggled to make my way to the chains. Despite my lack of skill, the region and attitude of everyone there drew me in.
After we came back to the states and I slowly gained my strength and passion for climbing, I knew we had to make a return trip to El Chorro. The limestone is dreamy. The landscape is gorgeous. And the sangria is so good.
With my rockin’ flight benefits, we decided to head back to Andalucia for round two this past June. The second time around was much different than the first. I lead a route that I’d only made the second clip on (on top rope) the first time. We stayed 10 minutes from the crag instead of nearly an hour. And we were able to enjoy it with two of our close friends who’d just completed the Camino Del Santiago.
From SLC it looks like the cheapest flying options would be a direct to LHR on a major carrier and then switching over to RyanAir and flying to Malaga from there. Or basically anywhere in Europe on a major carrier, but then RyanAir is the way to go. Although you have to pay for literally everything (even water), it’s cheap and it’ll get you there.
Once you’re in Malaga you’ll either need to hitchhike or rent a car. I’ve heard you can take a bus, but we weren’t brave (or smart) enough either time to figure it out. We rented a car through Malaga Car both times and were thankful for it. From the Olive Branch some climbs are accessible with fairly little effort, but you can access more crags (as well as the idyllic lakes) with a car.
As for where to stay, the Olive Branch is definitely the place to be. You can camp for €8 a day. We didn’t even pitch a tent. My husband rolled out his sleeping bag on the ground and I hitched my hammock to a couple of sturdy trees. The hosts are so kind and they have a few adorable pups you can love on. The eating/lounging area in the house is a meeting place for people from all different countries nerding out over the guidebook, losing terribly in pool, drinking healthy amounts of alcohol, playing games, and rocking out on the guitar. It’s the best dose of dirtbag life.
I’ve saved the best for last: the climbing. Limestone caves. Tufas. Dimples in the rock that are perfect for your fingers. Pockets. Single-pitch, multi-pitch, some traditional. Perfectly spaced bolts. And more than you’ll ever have time for (unless you move there–a serious consideration for us!). I would recommend going in the fall or spring, because in June we spent a lot of time chasing shade.
There’s also plenty to check out in the area. We love Mijas (where Coby first professed his undying love for me!), and the El Caminito Del Rey which was cooler and riskier a few years ago, but has since been updated. Still cool, definitely beautiful and worth the few euros to check out on a rest day.
If you’re heading that way or wanting to check out El Chorro let me know! I might even jump on a plane and meet you there.
What’s the coolest place you’ve climbed?