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TravelTravel Advice

What's the best place in the world to learn to rock climb?

Climbing Railay Bay (Photo: Maria Ly)
Climbing Railay Bay

Throughout the pandemic, we'll keep publishing news to help you navigate the state of travel today (like whether travel insurance covers the coronavirus), as well as stories about places for you to put on your bucket list once it's safe to start going more far-flung.


From a practical standpoint, your neighborhood climbing gym. You don’t need to hop on a plane to the other side of the planet to learn how to tie in or belay. In fact, you should probably see if you actually like rock climbing before planning an expensive, globe-trotting vacation around it. But the best place in the world for people who are still relatively new to the sport would have to be Railay, Thailand.

Railay is a bulb-shaped patch of tropical paradise jutting into the Andaman Sea that’s accessible only by boat. Towering over its golden sands are massive limestone towers erupting from the jungle floor toward the sky. Thousands of routes are scattered among its cliff faces, nearly half of them bolted, and ranging in level of difficulty from beginner to Chris Sharma-worthy (he’s been there, and more than once). There are a ton of guide services in the nearby town of Krabi. Typical three- or four-day courses for newbies start with easy climbs on the first day, followed by lead climbing instruction, and finally a multi-pitch ascent. One of the more reputable outfitters is Hot Rock Climbing School, which offers half-day to three-day instruction, with a maximum of three climbers per instructor. Railay has no police, only a couple of ATM machines, a smattering of tiki bars and laid back restaurants, and a few bungalow resorts like Railay Bay Resort, where rates start at $90 a night, and the Sunrise Tropical Resort, which starts at $80 a night.

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Lead Photo: Maria Ly