Once a hair-raising adventure suited only to climbers and adrenalin junkies wanting to tick off a walk described as the “world’s most dangerous”, a $6 million upgrade to the 100-year-old path by the Malaga County Council in 2015 has resulted in a walk which combines stunning scenery with vertigo inducing hanging board walks all in a relatively easy and safe environment. That said, if the thought of nothing but a wooden platform and guard rails separating you from a 100m plummet to your death fills you with a sickening incapacitating fear, then this is probably not the walk for you.
The Walk and a Bit of History.
The path was completed in 1905 by the Hydroelectric Company El Chorro to provide access for maintenance workers. It was walked in 1921 by King Alfonso which is why it is called El Caminito de Rey. It ceased to be used by the hydroelectric workers and fell into disrepair, but became popular with hikers, climbers and those looking for YouTube fame. After a number of deaths, the Andalusian government demolished the first part of the path and made access to the path illegal. Naturally this didn’t stop anyone and the final solution was the construction of the path we see today. Cleverly the designers have, to the extent possible, retained the old pathway and built the new board walks above it enabling you to see just how insane people who undertook the old route without safety equipment were.
We walked the route in late October 2017 when the weather was mild and there were not as many people around, which meant we never felt crowded and could really enjoy the experience.
The walk starts at El Kiosko restaurant and from there it is 2.7km through the forest and along the river to the Caseta de Control, where the famous part of the walk into the canyons starts and for which tickets are required for entry.
After the Caseta de Control, the Caminito Del Rey passes through three canyons in total, and is a mixture of forest paths and the jaw-dropping hanging board walks through the canyons for which the walk is famous. For me, the portions through the forest and the first couple of smaller canyons were the most enjoyable, mainly because my brain seems to be able to cope with 20m drops which will kill me, but not 100m drops.
Unfortunately, it was once we got to the final and most spectacular of canyons that the irrational fear portion of my brain took control. So, whilst others may choose to dawdle through this part to soak it all in, I confess that we did it all in a rush, including the suspension bridge over the gorge. Once past the suspension bridge it was only a few more minutes along the boardwalk climbing upwards to the exit from the gorge and the relative safety of a dirt path out to the end of the walk.
The walk is located in Spain’s Malaga province in the territory of Alora between the Guadalhorce reservoir in the north and the town of El Chorro in the south. El Chorro is on the train line that travels between Malaga and Ronda.
El Caminito Del Rey is a linear walk and if you include the walk to the control point and from the exit to El Chorro it totals 7.7km. It is only walkable from north to south and takes about 2.5 to 4 hours depending on how many photos you, or those ahead of you, take. Whilst the walk is a little bit up and down, anybody of moderate fitness with a capacity for heights will be able to complete it.
Getting there and away.
We flew in to Malaga (the closest airport) and caught the 10am train from the Maria Zambrano station arriving in El Chorro at 10.47am. From the El Chorro station, shuttle buses take walkers to El Kiosko at the Guadalhorce reservoir (waiting time plus 25-30 minutes travel). From El Kiosko it was a 2.7km walk to the Caseta de Control. At the other end of the walk it was a 2.1km walk from the exit to El Chorro station. In 2017 when we completed the walk there were two trains in the afternoon back to Malaga – 3.13pm and 6.03pm, however we chose to stay overnight in El Chorro and take the morning train through to Ronda so that we could walk El Caminito del Rey later in the day when we hoped there would be fewer people.
There only a few hotels in El Chorro, so if staying overnight book early. We stayed at Complejo Turistico Rural La Garganta which was clean and comfortable.
Booking the Walk.
Entry to the walk is ticketed and tickets are allocated to set times of departure to limit the numbers on the walk at any one time. It is a good idea to book the walk, as tickets can sell out months in advance. Tickets may be booked through Caminito del Rey and cost 10 Euro per person. It costs an extra 1.5 Euro for the shuttle bus. As times are allotted for departure you need to arrive at the Caseta de Control with plenty of time to get your helmet and have the briefing.
Every walker is issued with a helmet, the wearing of which is mandatory. An even less than attractive hair net is provided with the helmet which will also have to be worn unless you bring your own cap to sit under the helmet. The helmet is deposited at a collection point at the other end of the walk. There are attendants at various points of the walk who are available to assist in the case of any difficulties. Regular signs appear along the board walks warning people to keep 1.5m apart. Every rule obeying and safety conscious bone in my body was disturbed by the complete failure by anyone else to pay attention to those signs.
Facilities and services are available at El Kiosko but are not otherwise available until you exit the walk close to El Chorro.