Where to Defy Gravity: The Best Locations for Rock Climbing in Thailand
There’s been a revolution in the Land of Smiles, and what was once a niche sport is now a wildly popular activity. Rock climbing in Thailand is a rapidly growing trend and thankfully, we know all the best spots to get your climb on.
Everyone knows that Thailand has great beaches, but did you also know that it’s a world-class climbing destination? Yep, dotted around the country are some insanely good routes for both beginners and pros, and they’re all within easy reach of the country’s best holiday spots. You can be clipping on a carabiner in the morning and strapping on a snorkel in the afternoon. Here’s a run-down of the best places to scale the heights.
Rock Climbing in Tonsai and Railay (Krabi)
There are a lot of tourists in this part of the world, and consequently a lot of climbers, but there’s still room on the peaks for everyone. The beautiful cliffs of this area offer some spectacular ascents with the Andaman Sea as your backdrop. If you’re a beginner then hit up one of the shops in town to join a course, and look forward to learning your new favorite hobby in one of the most beautiful places on earth. If you’re more of an expert then head to Spirit Mountain near Ao Nang to test yourself. Railay and Tonsai are great places to meet fellow climbers so you might make a few new climbing buddies too.
While it isn’t what the city is famous for, Chiang Mai actually offers some world-class rock climbing. Head to Crazy Horse Buttress to check out more than 150 different routes, ranging from gentle ascents to crazy overhangs. If it’s rainy season (May to October) then talk to a local agent about doing some climbing underground. Some of the region’s caves offer great subterranean routes with the swollen river flowing beneath your feet. For obvious reasons, this should only be attempted with a qualified, expert local guide! When your arms want a break from hauling you up a rock face then Chiang Mai also offers a world of other entertainment, from chatting to monks to washing elephants.
Koh Phi Phi
You’ve probably heard of Maya Bay, made famous in the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach, but Koh Phi Phi Island has more to offer than just sunbathing spots. Beginners should head to the Tonsai Tower to have a go at some easy routes while more advanced climbers can hire a boat and head out to some more remote locations. Grading for some of the popular spots is around the 6c mark, and if you can find a group of climbing buddies (not hard in the bars on the island) then you can explore some of these cliffs as an independent group.
This last one is our most unusual pick. Khon Kaen isn’t a beach destination, it’s north-east of Bangkok in Isan which is a long way from the coast. Don’t worry though, the trip is totally worth it! An otherworldly landscape of rock-strewn forests hosts a ton of bouldering opportunities. It costs 150 baht to get into the park, but once you’re there you’ll be one of the pioneers of climbing in this area. Choose one of the 300+ boulders and get climbing. Monkeys and tropical birds, rather than other tourists, will be your spectators here! It’s a great way to see some of the ‘real’ Thailand while having a good time on the rock face.
Beginners Rock Climbing Tips
Thailand is a relaxed place so there aren’t too many rules to follow, but it still pays to be aware of local sensibilities. Use qualified local guides wherever you can, and make sure to check all your equipment before you start. Most climbing shops will rent you gear for a reasonable price so there’s no need to lug all your kit from overseas! Climb in whatever is comfortable (it’s always hot…) but bring some clothes to cover up when you unclip and head into town. Finally, enjoy it! Thailand has some amazing climbing spots and your first climb here is guaranteed to not be your last.