If you’ve been going a bit stir crazy in lockdown, you’ve now climbed all your local projects, or you just want to escape for a holiday, the question on your mind is likely to be: where can I go without having to self-isolate on arrival or when returning back to the UK?
Let’s face it, a holiday in self-isolation for 14 days before being let out to do any fun stuff isn’t really a holiday. And who has a spare two weeks of holiday anyways? So what can we do?
The UK government has just released a list of countries where you can return to England (similar but slightly different rules apply to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) and not have to self-isolate. Find out the full list of the travel corridors for England here, Wales here, Scotland here and Northern Ireland here. Just be aware that you will need to self-isolate if you visited or made a transit stop in a country that is not on the list in the 14 days before your return to England.
If you don’t have time to read all that, we’ve sifted through the rules and restrictions to find out some of the top destinations you can head to. But first, should you travel abroad?
Should you travel abroad
Although many destinations are opening up, like when climbing, it's up to you to make your own assessment of any risks based on your personal circumstances and travel plans. Travelling overseas won't suit everyone at the moment, and staying in the UK is a great option.
One of the easiest places to get to from the UK, climbing in France is back on the cards now as British tourists no longer have to do the 14-day quarantine on arrival, the rule was only just relaxed on 10 July, and France is on the UK government's quarantine exemption list.
The question of where to go climbing in France can lead to a discussion that lasts longer than your allocated slot at the pub, so you’ll just have to go back for another night of drinking and planning!
Of course, the style of climbing you’re seeking will influence the destinations offered, but with multiple world-class venues across the disciplines of bouldering, sport, trad and alpine you’ll never be disappointed with the final answer.
Everyone must have heard of the bouldering mecca in the forests of Fontainebleau (pronounced Fon-tain-blow) where the ossified remains of sand dunes have formed smoothly rippled boulders of sandstone perched among the trees which often open on to inland beaches. It’s a truly spectacular place that’s suitable for all levels and with enough climbing for a lifetime. A great way to see what’s on offer is to attempt to complete one of the unique colour-coded circuits that send you around the forest from one crazy boulder to the next!
If you’re seeking the more heady heights of mountains and multi-pitch, the traditional routes around Mont Blanc in the Chamonix region are not to be missed. With many iconic ridges, summits and infamous routes on beautiful granite, it’s the mountaineer’s paradise!
Sport climbers are spoilt for choice, with crags dotted all around the country. Two of the most classic are Ceuse and the Verdon Gorge. Ceuse is often described as the best sport climbing crag in France and is blessed with a huge number of amazing single-pitch routes on pocketed limestone in a superb location. Meanwhile, the Verdon Valley’s steep limestone cliffs are stunning and, while there are tons of quality single-pitch routes, if you’re after something a bit spicier then try committing yourself to one of the multi-pitch routes that are accessed by abseiling from the top and often require pulling the ropes and setting up hanging belays. Fun!
It’s the perfect place to head to as there are no restrictions for UK travellers to Germany and it is also on the UK government’s quarantine exemption list.
Have you watched Rotpunkt yet? If you have, then you might have heard of a magical place called the Frankenjura nestled in the northern forests of Bavaria. Frankenjura is the birth place of sport climbing and, while it may be old school, it’s also still being developed and is one of the world’s premier sport climbing destinations with 1,000s of routes on 100s of crags.
These limestone crags are known for their pockets and dents and are dotted all around the forest, which means there is a crag for every season, all types of weather and there’s always a quiet crag to be found. Climbs are usually single pitch and short, athletic style on vertical or steep cliffs, and there’s climbs at all grade ranges for all abilities.
Another great choice – Italy has no quarantine for British tourists and is on the UK government quarantine exemption list. The only condition is that visitors have to avoid public transport in Italy, and instead hire a car, arrange lifts or get taxis.
Via Ferrata in Italy is back on. Photo: Emma Travers
Where to go if you’re a climber in Italy? There’s so many places to choose from! They’ve got it all – big pitch, little pitch, boulder rocks. There’s a serious amount of climbing to be had in Italy and a serious amount of sun, good food and great wine.
For towering granite walls with incredible multi-pitch routes and a well-developed boulder field with brilliant blocs head to the alpine region of Lombardy to arrive in Val di Mello. Quiet alpine meadows are surrounded by white peaks of more than 3,000m with soaring cracks and flakes, not to forget delicate slabs for the graceful movement of friction climbing.
If you’re more into bolts then fear not, there are still too many places to list here. But one mention has to go out to Arco in Trentino-Alto Adige where the iconic Rockmaster climbing competition helped bring this small Italian town to the attention of international travellers. The stunning vistas of lakes, olive fields and craggy mountains all contain hundreds of single pitch and multi pitch climbs on well-bolted limestone. Some say it’s paradise, who are we to argue?
And don’t forget the amazing Dolomites region, of which we could write an entire series of articles about the fabulous Via Ferrata routes up this vast mountain range, as well as the adventurous multi-pitch routes too.
UPDATE: Spain is no longer on the UK government’s quarantine exemption list and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently advises British nationals against all but essential international travel to the mainland and since 27 July both the Canary Islands and Balearic Islands have also been included in the FCO advice against all non-essential international travel.
Those already in Spain are advised not to cut short their trip but any travellers that have visited Spain, the Canary Islands or Balearic Islands will be required to self-solate on arrival in the UK. British visitors to Spain will not need to self-isolate on arrival, but they will be required to go through a triple check: provide contact information and history of exposure to COVID-19 48 hours prior to arrival – you can do this via the Spain Travel Website, have a temperature check, undergo a visual health assessment.
Sport climbing is the name of the game in Spain, and the choices are vast. The huge limestone cliffs of El Chorro, the many crags of the Alicante and Costa Blanca region, the green and mountainous Jurasssicesque landscapes in Asturias and Cantabria, the famous and world-class crags of the Catalunya region containing some of the world’s hardest routes and the spectacular cliffs of Mallorca.
In high summer heat can be an issue when climbing in Spain, so it’s advisable to check where the shady crags are and to avoid climbing in the hottest parts of the day. Or head to the beach crags to mix in some climbing, swimming and maybe even a spot of deep water soloing!
That sunny Spanish rock is still out there waiting to be climbed. Photo: Emma Travers
British tourists are required to present a medical certificate (can be found on the website of the Austrian Embassy in London) when arriving in Austria which confirms you have had a negative molecular biological SARS-CoV-2 test in the last four days. Those arriving without a medical certificate will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Coronavirus tests are available for €190 on arrival at Vienna Airport. If you wish to be tested at the airport, you must book an appointment in advance. Austria is on the UK government’s quarantine exemption list.
Lying in the heart of the Alps, with hundreds of mountainous peaks over 3,000m high, there is most certainly a lot of opportunity for climbing in Austria. The main areas surround Salzburg and Innsbruck and range from single-pitch sport to huge multi-pitch alpine routes, and many famous bouldering areas also.
One of the more famous areas is the Ötztal Valley, home to renowned alpinist Hansjörg Auer, and harbours sport climbing in single and multi-pitch variety in the hundreds all in a spectacular setting surrounded by snow-capped peaks. With routes suitable for beginners, families and those looking to challenge their newfound strengths from lockdown training on a mixture of limestone and more often granite, this is a perfect venue for summer. There are also a number of accessible Via Ferratas with the most stunning climbing by the 159m Stuibenfall waterfall, the highest waterfall in Tirol. It’s not to be missed!
Entry in to Switzerland from the UK is permitted for British nationals and nationals of EU and EFTA countries. Family members of UK/EU/EFTA nationals regardless of nationality are also permitted. Essentially this means that British tourists can visit without having to self-isolate on arrival or on return to the UK, but this may change in 2021 after the UK and EU renegotiate arrangements.
It's hard to beat the views in Switzerland. Photo: Emma Travers
When it dries out in summer, Magic Wood close to Ausserferrera in the south east of Switzerland is home to some of the best bouldering in the world with an unusually high concentration of world-class climbs. The fine-grained swiss granite is often steep and hard, with sometimes less than ideal landings – it can be daunting for beginners but there are some 150 climbs below 6a and around 400 in the sixes, that should be enough for one trip, right?
The magical name comes from the setting as the bouldering is scattered around the verdant ancient conifer woodland where the mossy boulders blend into the background at 1,200m high in the mountains close to a rushing river, where the stones smoothed by the flowing water have made a number of iconic and unique blocs.
If you have time in late summer, you could also sample some of the brilliant bouldering in Ticino also which swelters in the hot summer days at the base of the mountain, but cools down after August.
Have a home-grown adventure
There’s never been a better time to stay in the UK for a holiday. Staying local will reduce your carbon footprint, help out our rural economies and mean that you can explore crags and places that you’ve still never visited. If you are staying local, then don’t forget that our UK travel insurance polices all include a 15% donation to The Climate Project.
The BMC Shop has a mighty range of UK guidebooks to choose among, so staying local has never been so accessible. Don't forget, BMC members get 10% off all products!
As Europe is unlocked, BMC travel insurance is loaded with the essential cover that you need for adventure.
From 10 July, many European destinations are opening up to UK travellers. This means that you can still have your summer adventure – from sport climbing in Spain to trekking in the Alps.
BMC travel insurance comes in five policies: Travel, Trek, Rock, Alpine and Ski and High Altitude.
All of our policies include the following Coronavirus cover:
24-hour emergency assistance helpline
£10 million emergency medical cover
£100,000 Search, rescue and recovery cover
Please be aware that there is no cover for cancellation, curtailment, delays or journey disruption in any way caused by or resulting from coronavirus / Covid-19. Read more about the Covid-travel FAQs here