During our month-long dirtbagging and climbing trip in Greece, which brought us to Leonidio and Kyparissi, the gems of the Peloponnese, we also spent a few days at the charming beach at Vlychada; including New Year’s Eve.
South of Kyparissi, Vlychada is a dream climbing destination and a dirtbag enclave. A hidden, deep bay with a wide pebble beach, emerald sea, and a solid reddish-gray limestone cliff at one end, the place is utterly spectacular. Even better, you can stay with your tent or camper van at Vlychada Beach during off-season.
The sole purpose of coming here to climb is for the fun of it. To take a break from Kyparissi and Leonidio, to see something different, to relax, to chill, to feel like you’re stranded on a deserted beach at the end of the world, with nothing to do but climb a little, swim a bit, have barbecues in the evening, and repeat. It sure is worth visiting on a rest day, too, without tying in at all.
So, if you’d like to climb at Vlychada Beach, the little slice of Greek paradise in the Peloponnese, here’s some useful information for you:
In this article
Vlychada Beach, a paradise for dirtbags
As soon as we arrived at Vlychada Beach, it was as if we had stepped through a time portal and ended up in a hippie enclave from the 70’s. We were greeted by a bunch of old converted vans, people lying around in the sun, some swimming, girls doing yoga, climbers heading to the crag…all of them gathered there for the good vibes and the climbing. There was even a group traveling by boat (their boat was anchored in the bay and they were sleeping in it).
Everyone seemed to know each other. Perhaps from before, perhaps they just met there. Who knows? But they sure looked like a solid tribe.
With all these dirtbags around, we felt like we arrived to the right place. While in Leonidio and Kyparissi we tried to keep a low profile when it came to our way of travel, at Vlychada we were right at home.
In summer, this is a lively beach with a small terrace and functional toilets. In winter, the beach almost seems deserted, apart from those who come here to climb or chill during a rest day, of course. Although there are signs that forbid it, wild camping is tolerated during off-season (winter months) here at Vlychada.
We pitched our tents on the beach on the opposite end from the crag, next to some tall trees. Most of the other vans were parked close to the crag. The beach is wide and long enough to accommodate many camper vans and people without feeling crammed at all.
There’s a white building on the northern end of the beach, just below the cliff. To reach the crag, take the path next the white building.
Read more >> The Dirtbag Way
Climbing at Vlychada Beach
We were pleasantly surprised at how great the climbing at Vlychada really is; way beyond our expectations. There are only 26 routes here, but they can please all levels of climbers.
For a small crag, it sure offers incredible variety – slabs, overhangs, tiny pockets, crimps, tufas, jugs, you name it!
The routes are from 10 to 20+ meters long, from grade 3 (yes, you read it right, 3!) all the way to 8b!!! Now that’s what I call a crag for everyone. Make no mistake; many of the routes here will test your finger strength; your boulder skills, too.
The crag is right next to the beach. So, as you can imagine, the views when you climb are just breathtaking. When you reach the anchors, you just have to take a moment to look around and let it all sink in.
The small climbing area at Vlychada is presented in the Climbing Guidebook for Leonidio, Kyparissi & More, which we bought from Leonidio but you can also find it online. If you don’t have the guidebook, you can get by with thecrag.com. However, there’s no phone reception at Vlychada so make sure you download the info beforehand.
The next bay south of Vlychada is Damos Beach, home to yet another crag, Balogeri, with 30+ sport climbing routes. This bay is even more remote than Vlychada.
Best time to climb at Vlychada
Vlychada has a longer climbing season than some of the other crags in the area. Thanks to its position – by the sea, with a nice breeze, both sun and shade – the best time to climb at Vlychada Beach is from October till April.
The cliff gets a bit of sun in the morning and then sits in shade for the rest of the day.
From what I could see, some of the routes dry out after rainfall, but some parts of the crag stay wet for longer.
Adorable thieving jackals
At Vlychada Beach, we saw jackals for the first time; golden jackals to be exact. At first, we thought we saw a fox in the bushes. Then a loaf of bread disappeared. Later, we heard some strange noises from the bushes that made our blood run cold, like the yells of some possessed babies.
As soon as it became dark, we saw them – a couple of very curious jackals spying on us. They would get very close to us, follow us as we walked around, stopping when we stopped, hiding behind a rock or bush as if we wouldn’t see them. But we did. They watched us from up close for the entire time we were outside. They stayed close while we slept, too, as we could hear them lurking around. In the morning, they engaged in horseplay right next to us.
They were simply adorable; and nasty thieves. We couldn’t leave any food unwatched or they’d steal it. We tossed the garbage bag on the roof of the van before going to sleep but they climbed there during the night and stole it, the little rascals.
A storm to remember
The sea was calm on the first night. But things changed right after that.
On our second day there, in the afternoon, the wind picked up. All of a sudden, the vans gathered their stuff and fled. The boat put to sea. All those dirtbags we encountered on the first day disappeared. We didn’t think much of it at the time. But, as nighttime neared, the wind grew stronger. Soon, we found ourselves right in the middle of one of the biggest storms we’ve ever endured.
The wind was fu**ing mad, blowing from all directions. The tent was bending like crazy. We couldn’t leave anything outside or it would end up in the sea.
The next day, on December 31st, it rained. All goddamn day. The wind was still blowing from all directions. We took shelter under the roof of the summertime terrace, but the rain reached us even there. Plus, the roof started to leak. It was not a pleasant day.
In the evening, the storm calmed down a bit. Since we were the only crazy humans left on the beach, we moved our tents next to the white building below the crags, where we found a bit of shelter from the wind.
On New Year’s Eve, we built a fire inside a rusty car wheel. It felt so good to warm our bones after that storm.
January 1st came with good weather, warm and sunny. We managed to climb at Vlychada on the routes that were still dry. And I spent a lot of time in the sea that day, since the water was just right for me.
Vlychada Beach is about 33 kilometers south of Kyparissi. From Kyparissi, drive up to Harakas. Head to Lampokampos and then to the village of Richea. From there, drive westward, down towards the coast. The road is narrow and steep, with hairpin turns that seem almost impossible to take with a van. But you can.
Good to know
Richea, the last settlement before descending towards Vlychada, is a small traditional village with old stone houses and cypress trees, quiet and peaceful. It has a small village market, a tavern, and a café, all next to the main road. However, they might not be open all day during off-season. So, if you plan to stay at Vlychada Beach for longer, it’s best to bring provisions.
There’s no drinking water on the beach at Vlychada so make sure you bring enough drinking water with you.
While we were there, we had absolutely no phone reception. We were able to find some reception higher up on the road to Richea, enough for a phone call but no mobile data, though.
The golden jackals that lurk around the beach are professional thieves so don’t leave any food unsupervised or you might not see it again. Also, don’t leave any bags with garbage around or they might spill everything and make a mess. We also saw cats on the beach and I suspect they were stealing food and garbage, too.
There are some dumpsters on the beach but they looked as though they hadn’t been emptied for a long time and I think no one collects the trash during off-season. So, bring your trash back with you when you leave.