Rock climbing has become a popular sport with interest spurred by gripping movies such as the Free Solo, featuring rock climber Alex Honnold, and the rise in climbing gyms all over the world. In fact, 2020 marks the first time climbing will be an event in the Olympics! While there are differences climbing on rock walls at the gym versus scaling natural rocks, climbing in a natural environment has so much more to offer, especially when you are travelling around the world.
Rock climbing allows you to discover a country’s landscape and also gives you a new vantage point to take in some of earth’s breathtaking sights. Besides, if you’re travelling in a group or with a partner, adding rock climbing to your travel checklist is a great way to foster and strengthen bonds.
Even if you haven’t tried rock climbing before, the growing popularity of the sport has resulted in the global rise of climbing companies and experts who conduct tours and lessons with full sets of safety gear for rent or sale. Moreover, many natural walls have bolted routes to make it safer and more accessible for even beginner climbers to scale.
From easy to hard, we’ve picked out the best climbing spots around Asia so you don’t have to go too far to tap into your desire for adventure.
Batu Caves, Malaysia – for those itching to try the sport
There are over 170 climbing routes ranging from easy to hard at the Batu Caves.
Tourists and locals may flock to the famed Batu Caves to marvel at the Sri Subramaniar Temple or its other shrines situated inside the caves. However, not known to many, its limestone hill also makes for a great rock climbing location. Over the past years, Damai Wall has grown in popularity amongst adult and children climbers due to its short and easy-to-navigate routes. Even if you have no climbing experience, the Damai Wall is a great place to learn the ropes to natural rock climbing.
Difficulty: Novice to Intermediate
Cost: Half day climbing tours start from S$55
Pro tip: As the Damai Wall is a popular training ground for those starting out, it can get crowded over the weekends. Plan ahead and schedule a climb on a weekday instead.
Railay Beach, Thailand – for beach lovers who want a picturesque climb
At Railay Beach, one can choose to take on climbing courses ranging from as short as a half-day to a full-on three-day expedition.
Love the beach, but want to do more than just water sports and sunbathe when in Thailand? Just outside of Krabi, Railay Beach is one of the world’s popular coastal climbing spot that’s home to rocky limestone cliffs and a stunning ocean backdrop. Due to the sport’s popularity, many climbing companies like Krabi Rock Climbing, Real Rocks Climbing and King Climbers have sprung up, teaching beginner climbers the ropes and also challenging advanced climbers with difficult routes. There are over 100 well-bolted routes with various range of difficulties at different walls in this area.
Difficulty level: Beginner to Expert
Cost: Half day climbing tours start from S$56
Pro tip: The weather can get a little hot with summer temperatures reaching over 31°C. Stay hydrated and take cover at shaded areas whenever possible.
Miyun Baihe Valley, China – for groups with varying climbing experience levels
Miyun Reservoir is the largest reservoir in northern China and it is also Beijing’s major source of water supply.
This crag has over a hundred routes with varying difficulties for all levels of thrill-seekers (or different climbing experience levels) to enjoy. Its cliffs are mostly granite with a few loose rocks which make the cliffs easier to navigate. The Miyun Baihe Valley is also one of Beijing’s most scenic places to climb as it is situated within a reservoir. You will be surrounded by beautiful foliage and whispers of the running river as you navigate those rocks – don’t forget to take a moment to revel in nature’s beauty when you are up high.
Difficulty level: Beginner to Elite
Cost: No information online, but do refer to the Beijing Tourism’s page for more information on arranging for local guides.
Pro tip: Camping spots are aplenty along the river. Pack a tent and a few necessities for a stunning stay in the great outdoors of Beijing.
Cat Ba Island, Vietnam – for the fearless ones
Along Cat Ba, there are over 230 DWS routes on over 24 cliffs, all of which offering different views of the idyllic island. Photo credit: @nickisimon Instagram
Be free of climbing gear and dive into the deep blue with Deep Water Soloing (DWS). This thrilling new climbing discipline is essentially free soloing (climbing without gear) over water bodies like lakes, seas, and rivers. With DWS, climbers can just let go and plunge into the water at any time. Cat Ba Island has become a popular destination for DWS in Southeast Asia with its beautiful limestone formations and emerald waters. The area’s iconic DWS route is called Streak of Lightning, where you get to climb along a crack that runs across an overhung wall. The climb starts off easy, but, as you make your way upwards, it gets harder. If it gets too much – just jump!
Cost: Half day climbing tours start from S$44
Pro tip: Climbing can be dangerous when the tide is low. Local guides will be able to better advise the prime climbing time depending on weather conditions.
From scenic granite cliffs at Miyun Baihe Valley to exhilarating plunges at Cat Ba Island, there are a variety of natural rock climbing options for all experience levels, all over the region. Be sure to check for any restrictions and permits as you make plans for your next (or first) rock climbing adventure!
Note: Skill level range in ascending order – novice, beginner, intermediate, advanced, expert, super expert, elite
Useful Travel Information
Best time to visit
Batu Caves has relatively good weather all year round. If you want a shaded climb, travel during August to March.
The official currency of Kuala Lumpur is the Malaysian Ringgit (MYR).
Get to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in 1hr 5min via direct flights from Singapore. Then, take a 20min car ride to Batu Caves. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets here.
Best time to visit
The months between January and March are ideal. Showers are less likely occur and the holiday crowds would be thinning.
The official currency of Krabi is the Thailand Bhat (THB).
Get to Krabi, Thailand in 1hr 45min via direct flights from Singapore. Then take a 40min airport shuttle to Ao Nang where you can hop on a long tail boat to Railay Beach in less than 20mins. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets here.
Best time to visit
Avoid boiling summers and harsh winters, take a climb during spring time from March to May instead.
The official currency of Beijing is the Chinese Yuan (RMB).
Get to Beijing, China in 6hr 10min via direct flights from Singapore. Then take a 2hr car ride to Miyun Baihe Valley. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets here.
Best time to visit
The months between October and March is the best time for a climb.
The official currency of Cat Ba Island is the Vietnamese Dong (VND).
Get to Hanoi, Vietnam in 3hr 20min via direct flights from Singapore. Then, journey to Cat Ba via a bus and high speed boat which would take about 4hr. Search for airfare deals and book your tickets here.