The 3 Best Rock Climbing Locations in South Africa

If you’re considering South Africa as your next rock climbing destination, then you’re in luck. South Africa offers some excellent climbing opportunities. This can be surprising to some, because despite of what many people believe, South Africa actually offers far more than safaris!

Best Rock Climbing Locations In South Africa

In terms of rock climbing, you really are spoiled by the sheer amount of climbing locations in South Africa, as there are several sites with plenty of great quality, towering solid rock. What’s even better is that the backdrop to your rock climbing is often out of this world because of the beautiful, scenic landscape that South Africa is rich. It’s an ideal place for a vacation and especially so for rock climbers!

Since the end of Apartheid, rock climbers from all over the world have been discovering South Africa’s rock climbing sites. And there are many, as we will see below.

Although the sport is fairly new in South Africa, it has taken off considerably due to the vast amount of huge cliffs and spectacular wilderness that is still being discovered. If that’s not enough to make your mouth water as a climber, then the South African climate is, as it is extremely pleasant. And you’ll be amazed by the diverse kinds of rock climbing that you can experience.

Looking at the African continent as whole, South Africa actually offers the very best rock climbing sites – at least, according to my friend Annie that lives there (although I always take such qualifications from locals with a grain of salt. Sorry Annie! 😉 ). In fact, she is right that a few of the South African climbing locations are considered by some as among the best in the world. Let’s have a look at them, shall we?

So, what are the top rock climbing locations in South Africa? Well, the general consensus is definitely these three speculator sites: Waterfall Boven, Montagu and Rocklands. Let’s take a look at why these 3 are considered the absolute top!

1. Waterval Boven

The Elands River Waterfall at Waterval Boven, is one of the many places in South Africa that's just begging to be climbed.

Waterval Boven is situated in lush, green and picturesque Mpumalanga. Don’t worry, it’s easier to get there than to pronounce it.

One of such easy ways to get there is by traveling from the country’s largest city, Johannesburg. Driving from Johannesburg should only take you a maximum of 2 and a half hours so you could easily travel there straight from the airport.

Climbing on Waterval Boven is done on hard quartzitic sandstone rock with bucolic surroundings. With its beautiful orange walls, there are many routes (over 700!) that give you challenging side pulls and crimpy edges. You will definitely not get bored here because there are over a whopping 900 single pitch routes that span different types of grades. This rock climbing destination is a must-see for anyone searching for some top quality, challenging climbing. According to Annie, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything better!

The great thing about Waterval Boven is that climbing here was only officially discovered in 1993 when German magazine, Rotpunkt published an article about it praising the location. Since then, visitors from far and wide have been flocking to Waterval Boven to experience some of the most amazing climbing in the world.

  • 2.5 hours drive from Johannesburg
  • 700+ routes
  • Quartzitic Sandstone
  • Large range of grades

2. Montagu

Mountain Near Cape Town
The area around Cape Town is any climbers' dream

Second on our list is Montagu which is also fairly easy to reach as it is only a 2-hour drive from Cape Town, the country’s second largest city. Montagu is in South Africa’s Western Cape, an arid yet stunningly beautiful region that is famous for its awe-inspiring folded mountains.

You will not be disappointed by the rock climbing in Montagu because you will find a lot of crags offering various types of climbing on its sandstone rock. Montagu boasts about 400 climbing routes and there is something for everyone: whether you like slabs, vertical walls or steep overhangs. Climbing difficulty here ranges from extremely difficult to very easy. We recommend trying the world-famous Wolfberg Arch!

Of course, don’t forget to bring an extra pair of rock climbing shoes, as sandstone slabs are notorious for burning through your soles in a breeze.

  • 2 hours drive from Cape Town
  • 400 routes
  • Sandstone Slabs
  • overhangs and vertical walls
  • Large range of grades

3. Rocklands

Rhino Boulder in Rocklands in South Africa
This is the "Rhino Boulder", situated in the Rocklands, South Africa

Thirdly, Rocklands, also in the Cape, comes highly recommended. Getting there is easy and will only take you about 2 and a half hours from Cape Town. Rocklands is situated within the exquisite Cederberg Wilderness area – a national park within the Cederberg Mountains and has an amazing bouldering area. It is a very isolated, safe yet pristine climbing site which attracts climbers from all over the globe. The diverse range of sandstone and curious shapes makes it the perfect spot for any grade.

Rock climbers will love the striking grey, black and red sandstone boulders that are surrounded by wild desert flowers. Some people say that it is like climbing in a place that time forgot!

  • 2.5 hours drive from Cape Town
  • Differently colored sandstone
  • Best bouldering location in South Africa
  • Couple of sick overhanging bouldering problems

Other great rock climbing sites in South Africa

South Africa is an interesting place to visit for rock climbers as the country’s geography is very climber-friendly.

The majority of the landscape has high and flat areas known as plateaus. These regions are normally covered with rolling grasslands as far as they eye can see. This is called the high veld. Other areas have vast plains with beautiful trees and these regions are known as the bush veld.

As you move eastwards, the south-west of the plateau (the escarpment) becomes more mountainous. People also call this area the Great Escarpment. To the east, the spectacular mountain range, the Drakensberg (or Dragon’s Mountain) can be found and this makes for some excellent climbing, too! Rock climbers enjoy the Drakensberg’s jagged peaks that reach over 3,475 meters high!

Apart from the Drakensberg, South Africa boasts many other mountain ranges and wild, jagged shorelines that attract rock climbers. Regardless of where you are in South Africa, there will always be a popular climbing spot!

If all of this sounds very tempting to you, we’d recommend going between April and October for the best climbing as these are the winter months. Most areas are mild and dry but the Western Cape can be a bit rainy during the winter.

So, which one of these rock climbing spots tempts you the most?

Climbing Blogger

Zealous boulderer, gear geek and editor. Typically has more flappers than fingers on his hands. Occasionally enjoys the feeling of being scared of heights. Mostly prevents looking down too much, though, and cheers at the invention of climbing chalk.

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