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Looking for outdoor adventure while on a Spain tour? El Caminito del Rey trek, also known as the hike with the world’s most dangerous walkway, might just be the answer. Situated in the Andalusian province of Málaga, Spain, and built along the near-vertical walls of the Gaitanes Gorge, the Caminito del Rey walkway is suspended 100 meters above the Guadalhorce River, which meanders serenely between the steep canyons of the ravine.
The pathway was built between 1901 and 1905 to accommodate the crossing of laborers and to carry materials between two nearby hydroelectric power plants. In 1921, King Alfonso XIII walked along the pathway as part of the inaugural ceremony for the opening of the Conde del Guadalhorce dam. Thus, it was named Camino del Rey, meaning kings walkway, and later abbreviated to El Caminito (the King’s little walkway).
Some time ago, the walkway fell into disrepair and soon became much too tempting for thrill-seekers looking for the ultimate challenge. El Caminito gained its more recent reputation as the world’s most dangerous walkway as a result of the many fatalities that occurred before it’s renovation and re-opening in 2015.
|Start/end location||The El Caminito del Rey hike is a linear route which runs from Ardales in the north to El Chorro in the south|
|Difficulty||Good health, physical fitness and moderate level of mental stamina are required of anyone attempting to cross the Caminito del Rey. The significant elevation in certain areas of the hike is not for the faint hearted.|
|Hike duration||Approximately 3 hours|
|Total distance||The route is 7.7 km in total. It comprises 4.8 km of access ways and 2.9 km of boardwalks. The boardwalks, which are built into the side of the cliff face, above the Guadalhorce River are what Caminito del Rey is famous for. The boardwalks are interspersed with forested footpaths, with 1.9 km’s of actual elevated boardwalk.|
|Remoteness||Fairly remote in that it is situated outside an urban area. However, it is easily accessible using public transport such as buses, trains and cars. There are good national roads throughout the region. Hospitality in the form of restaurants and hotels are easily found and affordable.|
|Accommodation||While El Caminito del Rey can be done as a day trip from the Costa del Sol, those wishing to stay a night a two will easily find accommodation in Ardales, Álora or El Chorro.|
|Best time to visit||Spring and summer (March to September) are the best times to visit Spain and to attempt the Caminito del Rey. An early morning will ensure that you enjoy the sights in the best light under relatively cool conditions. If you are doing the walk during autumn or winter (October to February) plan an afternoon hike but be sure to give yourself enough time to complete the route during daylight.|
|Permits||Permits are not required; however, tickets must be purchased at the official Caminito del Rey website. Visitors are required to carry their I.D. or passport at all times and to have personal civil liability insurance.|
Opening and closing times vary depending on the season. The route is always closed on Mondays. The path is open for entrance every 15 to 30 minutes, but remember to be at the entrance about 20 minutes before the scheduled entrance time. Weather constraints can close up the path, but tickets can be changed online in the event of route closure. More information is available on the ticket booking portal and should be checked when purchasing tickets.
The Caminito del Rey trek starts at the visitor reception area, which is where the shuttle bus stops. It is situated near the car park and El Kiosko Restaurant. Once here, you select one of two access routes: the Path (1.5 km) or Gaitanejo way (2.7 km). The main difference between the two access ways is distance. The shorter route uses a smaller pedestrian tunnel situated 200 meters before El Kiosko restaurant, whereas the longer one uses the large tunnel next to El Kiosko restaurant. Both options offer excellent sightseeing opportunities.
Below are some of the iconic sights that are worth being admired on the way.
- Casa de Farraya, an old Gaitanejo cave-house which still houses a few artefacts.
- Gothic Arch, one of the first sights you will see, even before arriving at the northern control point and official entrance to Caminito del Rey. It is a sandstone wall with natural crevices formed by external pressure from elements such as water and wind.
- Northern control point, where the two access ways converge. There is a visitor reception centre situated here where you will receive hard hats, information about the path and instructions regarding what you may and may not do on the path. From here you can see the Gaitenejo Reservoir and the Cambutas Dam.
- Gaitanejo Reservoir, a small circular lookout point from which to admire the dam. You can see the cave houses in the Parda Mountains where labourers who originally built the hydroelectric complex once dwelled.
- Gaitanejo Gorge, the first of the two big canyons on the path. The gorge is approximately ten meters wide with high cliff walls. This is where you access the first boardwalk. From this vantage point you can look down into the gorge and admire the Cambutas (cooking pots), which are shapes in the rock caused by erosion.
- Second Canyon Las Palomas Cliff, the second canyon you will pass. At its start is a viewpoint which looks out over the railway wall built after a train derailment, remnants of which are still visible. You will use the boardwalk along the canal, first passing Kings Bridge and then the Toro Cave. At the exit to King’s Bridge there is a spectacular view point, with a steep drop, from which you can see the Huma mountains.
- Hoyo Valley. Observe the change in landscape as you enter the Hoyo valley, a riverine valley with lush vegetation. You will be halfway through the route at this point and it is a great place to stop and take a rest. Things to see when passing through the Hoyo valley include a pond, a rockslide, Hoyo house and a bat shelter.
- Desfiladero de los Gaitanes. The third and last canyon on the Caminito del Rey hike, Desfiladero de los Gaitanes is where the second boardwalk begins. On this part of the journey you will see a hundred-year-old juniper and fossil beach amongst other fascinating attractions. You will also cross the blood-tingling 100-meter-high hanging boardwalk. Near the end of the boardwalk there is a glass balcony from which you will enjoy some of the most awe-inspiring sights one can to hope to encounter on Spain’s infamous El Caminito del Rey.
From Costa del Sol
- By plane: If the intention of your journey is to spend time enjoying the Costa del Sol, the best way to get there is by plane, arriving at Malaga airport.
- By car: A visit to Caminito del Rey is a popular day trip from the Costa del Sol. It would involve hiring a car; easily available at Malaga airport, and leaving early in the morning to drive from Malaga to Ardales. It is a scenic drive which takes approximately 90 minutes. After walking along the route you would exit in El Chorro. There are regular buses running between El Chorro and Ardales. You would have to take the bus back to Ardales to collect your car from the parking area, situated near the entrance to Caminito del Rey, before driving back to the Costa del Sol.
- Other: For those who do not wish to drive, there are tours available with pickups at various points along Costa del Sol, mostly Malaga, Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Marbella.
- By train/bus: If you are visiting Seville as part of an Andalusian sightseeing tour, you will already be familiar with Renfe, Spain’s official rail network which connects most major Andalusian cities. They offer train routes to El Chorro from either Malaga or Seville. The train journey between Seville and El Chorro takes roughly two hours. El Chorro is a charming hamlet and a great base from which to explore the Andalusian countryside. It would be advisable to spend the night in El Chorro and tackle the Caminito del Rey hike early the next morning. Taking the bus from El Chorro to Ardales you will arrive near the entrance to El Caminito del Rey. You will the follow the King’s Pathway back to El Chorro.
- Bring cash, preferably small notes for bus tickets, parking and other incidentals.
- Take along a printed copy of your ticket as well as a form of identification.
- Water and other non-alcoholic beverages (such as energy drinks) are a must.
- Dress appropriately for comfort and weather protection. Don’t forget sun protection in the form of hats and sunblock!
- Proper footwear is essential. Hiking boots would be the preferred choice.
- Although visitors are not allowed to eat on the path itself, it is advisable to bring along a packed lunch and snacks which can be enjoyed before or after the hike.
- Because this is a mountainous environment there is always the possibility of falling rocks or stones. Safety equipment (helmets) are provided at the entrance and should be worn at all times.
- Personal climbing equipment such as cables, harnesses etc. are not allowed as these may obstruct or cause injury to others. Safety cables run the length of the boardwalk and should be used at all times.
- Keep right on the boardwalks. If someone passes you or if you happen to pass someone else exercise caution.
- Don’t forget to pay attention to the fauna and flora of the area. Look out for eagles soaring overhead and forests of lush pines.
- Weather permitting you may want to cool off on the shores of one the many lakes in El Chorro, a serene forested setting perfect for picnicking, sunbathing or fishing.
- Have a bite to eat at El Mirador Restaurant near El Caminito. As the name suggests, El Mirador offers stunning views of the dramatic landscape and is a lovely way to catch your breath after a tiring day.
For spectacular views and the adrenaline rush that comes with crossing a mountain path at dizzying heights, the Caminito del Rey hike offers a once in a lifetime adventure. The upgraded route runs parallel to the original death defying “King’s Walk Spain” with parts of the old route visible in certain areas. While the new walkway is much safer, it nevertheless delivers an exhilarating kick for nature enthusiasts and daredevils alike.