Updated: May 24
Travel climbing guide Anju has visited over 50 crags around the world and here is why Geyikbayırı in Turkey is a world-class rock climbing destination and how to plan a 7-day trip.
G E Y I K B A Y I R I – it sounds complicated but it’s worth learning how to pronounce it. This magical tufa wonderland will change your perspective on limestone sport climbing. It is the biggest rock climbing destination in Turkey and one of the most aesthetic ones in Europe.
Geyikbayırı is the name of a small mountain village that sits on top of the climbing area. It is about 20 miles from the Aegean Turkish coast and Turkey’s most popular beach vacation town Antalya. The limestone cliffs are nestled into a Mediterranean landscape with olive trees and the occasional pomegranate and orange trees. Sometimes a herd of goats make their way through the area with their shepherd. This is Turkey’s biggest international rock climbing destination with climber’s visiting, especially from European and eastern European countries. At the cliffs, you hear Norwegian, Hungarian, Russian, French, German and so on…
It is the season for rainy and cold countries during fall and winter, with the perfect season being between November and March.
Turkey is internationally known for its long and rich human history preserved in many archeological sites that go back to the first civilizations in Earth’s history. You can start at pre-historic sites and follow through ancient sites, Greek and Roman eras to Byzantine and Medieval sites. It is also the melting pot of Europe and Asia and is the only country in the world that has a secular Muslim government, which makes the country more friendly to travel especially for women from Western societies.
Climbing is the perfect way to travel internationally and discover new cultures. You can do your favorite thing, while being engaged in new routes and at the same time learn about a country in a way that most tourists won’t.
What makes a climbing destination “world-class”?
I have climbed in over 10 countries on 3 continents , more than 50 crags and in all styles: sport climbing, trad climbing, multi-pitch, big wall and bouldering. And many times, especially in the US I hear people referring to a climbing area as “world-class”. So what does that mean? Spoiler: there is no “right” answer and everyone has their own factors. But for me a world class destination for sport climbing needs to have the following:
superb rock quality
route length median 90 ft+
different climbing styles (pockets, edges, slabs, overhangs, tufas)
easy crag access
reliable weather/ season
close by accommodation
option for rest day activities
These are pluses:
+ access to sanitary facilities
+ cultural experience
+ proximity to local cuisine
+ proximity to beach
*means that a route is consistent in it’s difficulty rating for the whole length of the route
What makes rock climbing in Geyikbayırı, Turkey so unique?
Geyikbayırı has over 1300 sport routes and the rock forms mostly Tufas that offer a variety in grades from lower 6th French grade to 9a. The routes are in many places homogenous and some sectors have 120 ft long routes, on Tufa! Tufas are calcite formations that form during many years of dripping calcite-saturated water. They can look like snakes running up the rock or stalactites that hang like chandeliers of the walls. Many “easier” Tufas in other places are usually overhanging, while in Geyikbayırı the tufa lines are only gently overhanging which provides a more vertical climbing experience than muscle-focused steep overhanging routes like the ones in Kalymnos. You can also find climbs that are slabby, have pockets and edges. This variation of climbing styles gives your body more options to climb and you don’t burn out as quickly when JUST climbing tufas. Most of the climbs have best quality glue in titanium bolts on superb rock quality. The area is well-vegetated, which naturally leads to shady crag options and fresh air.
The outstanding rock climbing experience is a result of all contributing factors surrounding the stay in Geyikbayırı and Antalya. The climbing is unique and fun in a Mediterranean mountainous environment with an international feeling to it. Routes in all grades and many climbing styles can be found. Not many of us have spent time in an oriental country that is very relatable to our own lives. Sundays are market days and those are just a few minutes down the road and locals sell their fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and homemade goods. Pick at least 5 items that you have never eaten before and learn their names! You will crave them later back in your home country…Visit the city of Antalya on a rest day and treat yourself with a bath in the Hamam.
Afterward stroll around the streets for some Turkish coffee, baklava, and a traditional grill experience for dinner. Similarly, you can also visit one of the many archeological sites, or even better visit the one in Olympos and walk through the maze of ruins to get to the beach…There are even climbing routes found on remote cliffs that can be only accessed by boat. There are many reasons to visit Geyikabayiri but combining all of them just makes for a view-changing experience.
Day 1 – After all your research and preparations, you are picking up your rental car at Antalya airport and drive to your hotel in town, airbnb, a cabin or tent site in the climbing area itself. Pick up some fresh food from one of the local supermarkets and the country’s classic food items. Such as hazelnut butter, snacking cucumbers, fresh tomatoes, and maybe some Turkish sweets such as baklava or ice cream (name baklava shop in Konyalti). Spend the day at the beach in Konyalti or try to get a couple of pitches in.
Day 2 – Squeeze some fresh orange juice and have a classic Turkish breakfast. It includes fresh bread, jam, honey, white cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, fresh herbs, eggs and maybe some beef salami. Oh and of course Turkish black tea – Cay! This beverage is drunk by locals all day long. Served in two different containers, one with hot water and one with tea concentrate, keeps the tea fresh and is always served in a small hand sized glass – so your tea will never get cold!
A good warm up area for climbing is Küllüin or one of the many routes that are visible from the Josito campground itself. Make sure to be aware of the weather and start accordingly in a shady or sunny area. Most crags are close to each other and it’s easy to walk from one to another.
Day 3 – A good technique for climbing with a jetlag might be to climb in the morning in one area, rest for the middle of the day and head out again in the afternoon. Go on a walk and don’t miss the forgotten town of “Trebenna” a one-hour hike or run in the forest behind the limestone cliffs.
Day 4 – Finally a rest day! Learn more about the ancient city of Termessos, a time led by Alexander the Great. It lays just like Geyikabayiri in the Taurus mountains high up at 3000 ft with a backdrop of limestone cliffs. Maybe you just want to relax at the beach and discover some ruins out of Antalya while shopping through the local markets. Every Tuesday there is an open air market in the district of Konyalti, just a 20 min drive from the climbing area. Don’t miss out on visiting at least once a classic Turkish food market. Besides fresh vegetables, fruits, fish, muscles and cheese you will find an assortment of natural candy made out of local nuts and honey. Another highlight is the fresh pressed Pomegranate juice – a taste you will only experience in Turkey!
Day 5 – If the weather and the waves are playing along, Olympos is worth a visit. It is a beautiful and mysterious archeological site that leads you to a beautiful beach of the Mediterranean sea. For climbers though, Olympos is a rope climbing destination, but also known for deep water soloing. Inquire information about a boat guide in the Olympos Treehouse – a traveller’s hostel close to the beach. This is an unforgettable experience, sea sick climbers will not have any fun though. The boat ride and the climbing is in the open sea and takes about 20 min to travel to. The climbing is amazing, however, one needs to make sure to jump properly into the ocean to prevent injuries. The wall is up to 50 ft tall…For smaller climbs ask about a little cove that is more protected from the open sea.
Day 6 – A great day to give another try on an unfinished project or just to climb one of the beautiful tufas. One of my favorite spots is Sarkit, where amazing tufa lines can be found from 5.10 to 5.13. Head here in the early morning because of the South-facing nature of this crag.
Day 7 – On the last day I recommend making sure you are checked in to your flight and all the bags are packed. International traveling can be stressful and there is little worse than missing a flight. If you haven’t done already, this is your time to enjoy an authentic Turkish breakfast. Turkish breakfast is more like a brunch where you spend a lot of time eating, drinking tea, and hanging with your friends and family. I can highly recommend any of the breakfast houses on the Sunday market or the breakfast house “Nuria” up in Geyikbayiri. Make sure to order something of everything, a big tea pot, juices and “Bazlama” bread with or without cheese.
Many of us can only take so much time off at a time, but I recommend to take at least 7 days so you can experience: climbing, local cuisine and a visit to an archeological site of humanity’s first civilizations.
Interested in a Turkey trip? Check out our Turkey Rock Climbing Retreat.
About the author
Anju grew up in Berlin, Germany and lived in Turkey, Chile and the USA.
She has been climbing for 9 years all over Europe, the US and South America. Her passion is to explore cultures through rock climbing trips, that is why she speaks German, English, Spanish and some Turkish. She is a co-owner of Beartooth Mountain Guides and guides the Mountain and Rock disciplines.
Ask her about managing fear in trad and sport climbing - a topic she loves to geek out about. In her free time she is found rock climbing, ice climbing or skiing.