El Caminito del Rey (The Kings Path) is an air path built into the walls of Los Gaitanes Gorge in El Chorro with a length of 3 kilometers long and a width of 1 meter. It begins in the town of Ardales, goes through Antequera and ends in El Chorro (Alora).
This path is hanging on the vertical walls of the gorge at an average distance of 100 meters above the river.
This trail was built because the El Chorro Hydroelectric Company, which owned El Gaitanejo and El Chorro Hydro-electrics Power Stations, needed access between the two “waterfalls” to facilitate the passage of both maintenance workers and the transport and monitoring of materials.
Works began in 1901 and concluded in 1905. The path began near the train tracks and toured Los Gaitanes Gorge, communicating and facilitating the passage between the two sides. In 1921, King Alfonso 13th inaugurated this great work. In order to access the Count of Guadalhorce’s dam, the King needed to cross the path previously built. It was from this time that people began to call that way as Caminito del Rey, a name that remains today.
With the passage of time, and as a result of neglect and lack of maintenance, this unique work has been deteriorated so much that it became almost impracticable. In fact, it can be seen missing railings almost all the way and the pavement of many areas have been destroyed and or disappeared, leaving only the light beam of the base.
Many hikers, attracted by the fame of this dangerous path, have travelled to El Chorro to walk through the Caminito or to climb in this area, one of the largest in Europe. This has caused numerous accidents (some fatal) over the years and increased its black legend.
In 1999 and 2000, after several fatal accidents with the death of four hikers, the Government of Andalusia decided to close the access to the path to avoid further mishaps, demolishing its initial section to prevent the passage of visitors. On February 2014, the Malaga County Council started a process of full restoration of the Caminito, finishing with the aperture to the general public on March 28th, 2015.
The overhang of the path is clearly visible from the railway and anyone who contemplates it admires its risky construction and the scenic landscapes that are emerging from there. From the road linking Alora with El Chorro, and the entrance of the gorge, a small picturesque bridge linking the walkway that runs along both walls can be seen. From the bridge follow the footpath installed on the vertical rock that ends in the railrway from Cordoba to Malaga.
The Gaitanes Gorge is located in the western part of the Betic mountain range and, overall, the barrel has, in some sectors, walls with over 300 meters high and with a width less than 10 meters. It is basically dug limestones and dolimias from the Jurassic, existing also outcrops from the Miocene. The most dramatic morphological aspect is the vertical stratification of the limestone that the river has been offering drilling and cutting.
In the area of Los Gaitanes Gorge exists twenty cavities, some of them hanging several hundred feet above the river, and whose evolution has been affected by the progressive engagement of the river Guadalhorce, which have deepened the gorge in successive stages.
Of the various units present are a formation of conglomerates and calcarenites, presenting beautiful Miocene sedimentary structures, some fossil remains of whales and sandstone formations like “taffoni” and consisting of a rounded sandstoned promontories where erosion has excavated a cave or shelter.
Things to keep in mind
- The Caminito should not be attempted if you are of a nervous disposition or suffer from vertigo
- You will be provided with a helmet upon entry. It must be kept on at all times.
- There are no bathrooms or facilities throughout the entire route.
- Bring water and food with you.
- Children need to be accompanied at all times and must be over 8 years old.
- Access can be closed during high winds – over 35 km/h.
- The walk is linear. You start in the north and end in the south.
- There’s a bus service that connects the two sides. Buses leave every half an hour, with a single ticket costing €1,55. You can buy the bus tickets together with the tickets for the Caminito.
- The bus from the El Chorro side leaves from the first roundabout just before arriving at the train station.
- The bus from the Ardales side leaves from El Sillón del Rey – the King’s chair – a few hundred metres down the road from the Kiosk restaurant. El Sillón del Rey is a stone table and chair that was dedicated to the opening of the reservoir. The same reservoir they had to be fished out of having been thrown into it during the Spanish Civil War.
Since spring 2016, the visit of the Caminito del Rey is chargeable. Tickets must be bought in advance on the Internet. You should book as soon as possible, because especially on the weekends the tickets are sold out quickly. Admission costs 10,00€ or 11,55€ per person with a bus ticket for the shuttle bus that will take you back to the El Kiosko car park at the north entrance of the gorge. You can book on www.caminitodelrey.info.
Getting there by car
On leaving Málaga follow the A-357 northwards towards Cártama. Stay on the motorway for 65 km, just after you pass the village of Ardales on your left hand side, keep your eyes open for a sharp turning rightwards. It’s labelled M-442/Ardales/MA-5403/El Chorro.
Take an immediate left onto the secondary road MA-444 which quickly starts to wind around the Guadalhorce reservoir, providing some fantastic scenery. Keep following this road as it winds around the lake. You’ll eventually come to a junction, with a sharp turning rightwards towards the village of El Chorro. Rather than turning rightwards, keep on the MA-444, driving past the campsite and the beach areas.
Just before a small tunnel, take a sharp right onto an unpaved forestry road. Signposted Restaurante El Mirador. Drive up a couple hundred metres and park anywhere you can. The tunnel is clearly visible and signposted.
The journey from our house “Cortijo Los Capitos” takes 1 hour 30 minutes. A very scenic route is via the plateau leading A 356.