Climbing in Franchthi Caves – Ermionida, Argolis

Although now it’s officially autumn, the weather in Greece is still rather hot and therefore we took the opportunity to go an climb to one of the most interesting climbing crags in Greece, in Franchthi.

Franchthi cave or Frankhthi cave (Greek: Σπήλαιον Φράγχθη) is a cave overlooking the Argolic Gulf opposite the village of Koilada in southeastern Argolis, Greece. The cave was occupied from the Upper Paleolithic circa 38,000 BCE (and possibly earlier through the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods, with occasional short episodes of apparent abandonment. Last occupied around 3,000 BCE (Final Neolithic), it is one of the very few settlements in the world that shows nearly continuous human occupation for such an extended period of time, and is one of the most thoroughly studied sites from the stone age in southeastern Europe.

Prehistoric cave of Franchthi sign

Caves of Franchthi (or Frachti) is an enormous cavern with three (3) large openings 50-100m wide. The third opening is like a mine shaft. Even for non-climbers they are well worth a visit due to high archeological interest. The excavations are from the discovery of what are thought to be the oldest human remains in Greece, and Europe.

The attractions for climbers are the dry bouldering, the slab climbs out of the last opening, the amazing climbs under the floor of the cavern and the magnificent roof climbs.

See other crags in Ermionida region:

About Caves of Franchthi

During much of its history Franchthi was significantly further from the coastline than it is today, due to lower sea levels that have since risen around 400 ft. Thus, its inhabitants looked out on a coastal plain that was slowly submerged over the course of their occupation.


Paleolithic Era

During the Upper Paleolithic Franchthi Cave was seasonally occupied by a small group (or groups), probably in the range of 25 – 30 people, who mainly hunted wild ass and red deer, carrying a stone tool kit of flint bladelets and scrapers. Its use as a campsite increased considerably after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), with occasional hiatus in the sequence of occupation. Obsidian from the island of Melos appears at Franchthi as early as 13,000 BCE, offering the earliest evidence of seafaring and navigational skills by anatomically modern humans in Greece. (There is evidence that suggests ancient mariners – such as Homo Erectus or Homo Heidelbergensis – may have reached Crete at least 130,000 years ago.)

Mesolithic Era

An apparent break in the occupation of Franchthi cave occurred during the Younger Dryas climate cooling event, after which a Mesolithic culture appeared as the world settled into the warm Holocene climate that continues today. The Mesolithic is represented by only a few sites in Greece, and, like Franchthi, nearly all of them are close to the coast. They did not rely as heavily on big game as their predecessors, probably due to the changing climate and environment; instead they broadened their resource base to include a variety of small game, wild plants, fish and mollusks. The evidence of increased fish bones and increased use of obsidian from Melos at Franchthi during this period shows they were accomplished seafarers. There is a notable stretch spanning several hundred years (circa 7,900 – 7,500 BCE) when tuna became a major part of the diet at Franchthi cave, implying deep sea fishing. It has also been suggested that the tuna could have been caught by placing nets near the shore. A few graves have been found buried in the cave during the Mesolithic that suggest care for the dead.

Neolithic Era

The cave also contains some of the earliest evidence for agriculture in Greece. Around 7,000 BCE the remains of domesticated plants and animals are found among the usual wild plant and animal species hunted and gathered during the Mesolithic, suggesting that either the inhabitants of Franchthi had begun to practice agriculture or were trading for seeds and meat with the Neolithic people who had recently arrived from the Near East. There has been some debate about whether agriculture developed locally in Greece, or was introduced by colonists. It is now generally believed that emigrants from the Pre-Pottery Neolithic B cultures of the Near East arrived by boat at the beginning of the seventh millennium BCE to settle Greece (c.6,900 BCE), introducing agriculture.

For some time the evidence from Franchthi was used as an example in support of locally developed agriculture, but more detailed study of the remains has demonstrated that the evidence supports the foreign introduction of domesticated plants and animals. The Mesolithic hunter gatherers of Greece rapidly adopted the methods introduced to them by Neolithic colonists, including at Franchthi Cave. During the Neolithic main occupancy of the cave shifted to an area outside the entrance, called the Paralia (the seaside), where terracing walls for growing crops were built. It is believed the inhabitants also occupied a village below the Paralia, which is now submerged beneath the sea.

Several anthropomorphic and zoomorphic figurines have been recovered at Franchthi from the Neolithic era, and it has been suggested that the site may have served as a workshop for making cockle-shell beads to trade with inland communities during the Early Neolithic. The cave and the Paralia were abandoned around 3,000 BCE.



Climbing in the Caves of Franchthi

An enormous series of caverns just above the sea, with large openings allowing enough light to climb by. At night the area is illuminated giving a superb climbing experience. Apart from being worth a visit in their own right some of the climbing here is outstanding and naturally, when it is raining, this is the place to be with some entertaining and bizarre climbing in the 20m deep crevasses under the floor. The potential for enormous roof climbs is obvious but hardly tapped. Karsten Oelze has shown the way with his recent efforts, but there is plenty more to do.

Outside the cave on the cliffs above the beach are 8 routes which we have cleaned and partly drilled but not yet bolted. With a few nuts or a toprope they give some good sport in the lower grades. The highpoint of a visit here are the routes in sector Last Exit, grade 6 climbing at its best.

Path to the cave starts from the beach
Path is well signed
Private island of a Shipping magnate of Greece


Coming from Corinth towards Ermioni/Kranidi, on the road take a right turn after the first petrol station in the village of Fourni, go along this for 3,6km to the sea. Left, then right, takes you around the chapel to another beach. Park here, and walk along the marked coast-path to the caves.

This beach is not packed with people therefore one could eventually stay overnight there too. Though, it is important to have food and water supplies, because there is not an option to find food or water in the nearby area.

Once parked the car, follow the trail that starts from the beach and end in the caves of Franchthi.


Beautiful trail next to the sea side


First sector is located about 100 m. before the cave

Sector Beach

Straight up behind the beach on the left side on the obvious climbable piece of rock are some pleasant shorter routes. In my opinion all the routes of the beach sector are presented in lower grade than they really are. Also, there are several run-outs and therefore any beginner should be more attentive.

Sector Beach



Jim 1


Jim 2


Jim 3










First Cavern – Sector Beginners

First Cavern – Sector Beginners



This Is For Kids


Play With Us


Game Boy


Boys Don’t Cry


Stone Express


Rage Against Gravity


Cathedral of Power


Wild Monkeys


Caveman (free project)


First Cavern
First Cavern


Great quality for rock clumbing

Second Cavern

Second Cavern





Rice Krispies


Thunder And Lightning






Fat Boy Slim


Back And Foot


Passage from first towards the second cave

Third Cavern

Some tremendous climbing in the 6th grade with Mission Impossible possibly being on the upper limit of the 6ÅLs. The floodlighting at the top provides enough light to climb at night and this is a fantastic experience.

Third Cavern



Red Road


Stone Temple Pilots


Christmas Day At The Workhouse


Magic Way finish


Wild Frontier


Mission Impossible


Once We Were Trees





View from the Crag


See other crags in Ermionida region:

Most of the routes have been opened and first ascent by J. Titt. You can learn more about J. Titt and his magnificent bolts on the website on this link.

Additional Information

You can get additional and more detailed information about all the climbing routes on Frachthi, by visiting the detailed guide of J. Titt.

16 thoughts on “Climbing in Franchthi Caves – Ermionida, Argolis

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