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Inspired by Olympic sport climbing? These are Europe’s best destinations for learning how to climb

A climber scales a cliff face
A climber scales a cliff face   -   Copyright  Getty via Canva
By Sarah Palmer  & Ruth Wright

The 2021 Olympics in Tokyo has debuted sport climbing as an official Olympic event. Over the past few days, we’ve seen some incredible feats of gravity-defying endurance and skill.

After the qualifying rounds earlier this week shone new light on this exciting sport for millions of viewers, social media was buzzing with excitement. It became the top trending Olympic sport in Google searches on Tuesday as many sought out more information on this brand new event.

But what exactly is involved in sport climbing and is it something amateurs watching at home on the TV can pick up?

What is sport climbing?

Sport climbing is a kind of rock climbing that involves permanent anchors offering a set pathway for athletes to follow. The climber is attached to a rope in case of any falls, and some shorter distance climbs use crash pads to cushion unexpected drops.

It originated from free climbing - the same thing without the safety equipment and sport climbing has become highly popular as either a regular hobby or a holiday fling.

Is sport climbing safe?

Like any sport, instruction and supervision from a qualified climber is essential, especially when you are still learning. Always make sure you check out the company’s equipment and if it looks old, badly maintained or broken, raise this before you start using it.

As with any type of travel experience, follow your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it.

Feeling inspired by the Olympics? Here are our top picks of sports climbing destinations in Europe.

Best sport climbing holidays

Haute Provence, France: Year-round sunshine

Rock and Sun is one of the UK’s best companies for rock climbing holidays. Its packages welcome climbers of all experience levels and promise that you’ll have a wonderful holiday. The company offers trips to Greece, Mallorca, Spain, Italy and even Thailand.

We particularly like the look of their trip to Haute Provence in south eastern France. With 300 days of sunshine a year, you’re almost guaranteed good weather. The region offers the chance to climb in the Orpierre crag which has routes ranging from 10 to 180 metres long.

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Haute Provence offers many sport climbing opportunitiesGetty via Canva

Tatra Mountains, Poland: Fabulous views in the Polish Jurassic Highlands

Tatra Climbing School teaches sport, mountain and winter climbing plus much more besides, including mountaineering and ski touring courses.

It offers a sport climbing course where even total beginners are welcome. Over 3 days in the Jura Uplands you’ll learn lead climbing techniques, how to belay, self-rescue and abseil. Email the company to find out dates for this year.

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The Tatra Mountains in PolandGetty via Canva

Cinque Terre, Italy: High above the crystal clear waters

The Prorock Outdoor Team is based in Camaiore, Tuscany, right in the heart of the Apuan Alps. The experienced team offers courses on rock and ice climbing, mountaineering, vie ferrate, canyoning, backcountry skiing and hiking.

Portovenere and the Palmaria Natural Park overlook the sea and are popular with climbers of all abilities as the area provides a variety of routes. The climbing school’s locality extends to Muzzerone, home to incredible sea views and even better weather.

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Cinque Terre in ItalyGetty via Canva

Zermatt, Switzerland: Dramatic glaciers and panoramic mountain views

Zermatt is a Swiss mountain resort famous for its great skiing, climbing and hiking terrain. The town lies 1,600 metres below the iconic Matterhorn making it the perfect location for climbers.

Organisation Zermatter is made up of local people who keep the community going strong. The team alternate their responsibilities - so don’t be surprised if your climbing instructor serves you a cold beer in the hotel later that night.

Their local expertise makes them the ideal instructors - you can find out about the climbing courses available here.

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The iconic Matterhorn from Lake Stellisee, ZermattGetty via Canva

Siruana, Spain: Sun and sangria

Local climbers induct those looking to get into the sport at Climbing Siruana. Whether you want to start small with bouldering or fancy tackling a vertical rock face, this part of Spain has the perfect terrain.

This company has multiple options for any ability, whether you’re after a one-off experience or a complete holiday package.