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Caminito del Rey: Complete Guide

The Caminito del Rey is one of the most important climbing routes in Europe that opts to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Caminito del Rey - Pixabay

Caminito del Rey - Pixabay

Origin and curiosities of the Caminito del Rey

The Caminito del Rey is a very popular route that opts to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although it may seem that this route is related to the Camino de Santiago, the answer is no, since it has no relationship with the Jacobean routes. The Caminito del Rey route was born with the aim of communicating the municipalities of Malaga with the Natural Park of the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes.

It originated between 1901 and 1905 thanks to those in charge of the Sociedad Hidroeléctrica del Chorro. Workers needed a way to get through the site and move construction material. Its path is in the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes itself, which groups the municipalities of Ardales, Álora and Antequera in Málaga (Andalusia).

The name refers to its origin. In 1921, King Alfonso XIII inaugurated the accesses between the Guadalhorce and Guadalteba reservoirs. The king had to cross the catwalk to get to the place where they were under construction. Since then, they began to call it the Caminito del Rey, a name that lasted to this day.

Already one of the most impressive and sought-after trekking routes in the world, the Caminito del Rey has a handful of curiosities to its credit, several of which are linked to its origins. Rafael Benjumea, in his role as a civil engineer, was the architect not only of the Chorro electricity company, but also of the characteristic route of the place. A route designed on the basis of iron sheaves and wooden planks that has become the hallmark of thousands of visitors to the site. 

There are many legends concerning its construction. Some of them say that the footbridges were built by prisoners condemned to death, dozens of them dying during the construction work. Others, closer to reality, claim that expert sailors were responsible for shaping the famous Caminito del Rey, due to their experience in rope work at heights, such as those carried out on the masts of ships.

After its construction it was years without maintenance, so the land was in very bad condition, without railings and with some areas with destroyed soil. However, this fact did not detract from its popularity, as it became famous among hikers. Its fame made it one of the most important areas for climbing in Europe.

One of the attractions of this route are the 3 km long walkways at more than 100 meters high. The road is located on a water channel with a width of just 1 meter, and has another 4 km of accesses. Although it is very popular, its dangerousness led to the death of 4 hikers during 1999 and 2000. Since then, the Junta de Andalucía decided to close its accesses to prevent more deaths, imposing fines of up to € 6,000.

In 2006, the Málaga Provincial Council and the Junta de Andalucía carried out a proposal to restore the Caminito del Rey. This request was launched in 2014, the year in which the works of its path began. After a year of construction, specifically on March 20, 2015, it was reopened to the public.

The Caminito del Rey has entrances and walkways. The access area has a distance of 4.8 km, while the footbridges (the best known) have a distance of 2.9 km. It is carried out in a single direction, from the north of Ardales to the south of El Chorro. The choice of this direction was to reduce the difficulty, since this way you walk downwards. The duration is approximately 3 or 4 hours, it depends on the pace of the walker.

Caminito del Rey - Pixabay

Caminito del Rey - Pixabay

How to get to Caminito del Rey

The Caminito del Rey can be accessed from three different points.

  • Málaga. You can get there from the capital after a 60 km journey. Take the exit for the A-357 towards MA-5403. Along the way, you will go through the municipalities of Cártama, Pizarra, Carratraca and Ardales.
  • Antequera. You can also go from this beautiful town of Malaga. One option is to do it in the direction of Campillos by the A-384 to the pants of El Chorro (A-357 and MA-451) or also, to the Valle de Abdalajís by the A-343 and from there to El Chorro by MA-4401 .
  • Ronda. You can go from Cádiz by the A-367. Once you reach the municipality of Ardales, take MA-5403, which has a 60km route to the final destination.

Once we arrive at the area, we have two options for parking our car. The most common option for visitors is to park in the northern area, as this is very close to the entrance tunnel, from where we have to walk 1.5 km to the control hut, where the tour groups are formed. At the end of the route, we must walk 20 minutes until we reach El Chorro to catch the shuttle bus that will take us back to the car park where we have the car.

The other option is to park in the southern area, in El Chorro. Once there, we will have to wait for the bus, which leaves every half hour, to take us to the north entrance, where we will start walking to the control hut. The advantage of parking here is that, once we finish the Caminito del Rey, we will have the car very close to us.

Although in both cases it is advisable to arrive at least one hour in advance, this will be even more important if we park in the southern area, as we depend on the bus to arrive on time for our visit.

The environment around this route

The impact that the Caminito del Rey has on the hiker is not only due to the strangeness of the route. The entire route crosses impressive landscapes, and we can also see them from a privileged perspective. The Gaitanes Gorge, seen from the Caminito del Rey, can be seen from nowhere else. This narrow canyon was naturally carved by the Guadalhorce river, and is one of the most spectacular landscapes of the Sierra de Huma. There are points where it is only 10 metres wide and over 700 metres deep. 

It is not only impressive for its scenery, but also for its history, dating back to the Jurassic and the Miocene. Caves of natural origin can be found throughout the gorge, some of which were used as shelters by the local inhabitants until a few years ago.

Another impressive enclave in the area is the Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir, although it does not actually belong to the route. This dam was designed by Rafael Benjumea, the same engineer who planned the route to the Chorro hydroelectric power station. He was known as "the poet engineer", because of the synthesis he made between the functionality and beauty of the work, integrating it into the landscape.

In this corner of the reservoir we can walk, swim and do other outdoor activities. It is easily accessible, unlike the Caminito del Rey, and the views are very different. Here we can see the river from its level, instead of at a height of 100 metres.

Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce - Wikimedia Commons / Malopez 21

Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce - Wikimedia Commons / Malopez 21

The best time of the year to do the Caminito del Rey

Bearing in mind that this is an outdoor activity, one element that can influence our experience is the weather. Therefore, whenever we can, we should make a small study to choose the time of the year that offers the best weather conditions. But which one is it?

First of all, we must not forget that the Caminito del Rey is in Malaga, and although it is located in a mountainous area, temperatures in summer can be quite high. Therefore, if you don't like the heat and the sun, the best thing to do is to avoid the summer months. In addition, although there is a maximum number of visitors per day, this is the time of year when there will be the greatest overcrowding.

On the other hand, in the winter months we may encounter cold weather and rain. This implies the use of mackintoshes, as umbrellas are forbidden, and depending on how bad the weather conditions are, visits may be cancelled or some areas may be closed, and certain sections may have to be visited through a tunnel.

Bearing these elements in mind, we could say that the best time to visit the Caminito del Rey is between March and May, and also between September and November, although in the latter month there is a greater risk of rainfall. It is also preferable to do this route during the week and as early as possible, as these are the times when there are the fewest people.

It is also important to stress that the Caminito del Rey is open all year round, and that what we have mentioned above are only recommendations. Therefore, if your situation forces you to do it on a specific date, don't worry, you can still do it.

Recommendations for the Caminito del Rey

  • Plan your trip in advance: as it is a very popular tourist destination, it is best to buy your tickets as far in advance as possible, especially if you want to visit it at the weekend or during the busiest months. On the official website of the Caminito del Rey you can buy tickets up to 4 months in advance, which is also essential if you intend to buy the ticket that includes a guide.
  • Bring supplies: although we should not go too loaded, as it is a 3 or 4 hour walk, it is very important to carry a backpack in which to store supplies. On the one hand, enough water, which is even more important in summer, and on the other hand, snacks such as energy bars or dried fruit and nuts, as there will not be a stop to eat as such.
  • Be careful if you have vertigo: we must not forget that this is a route that in some sections is more than 100 metres above river level. Therefore, although it is not characterised by great difficulty, certain areas can be complicated for those with vertigo. For example, the final bridge, which is a suspension bridge, moves a little and through its floor we can see the void.
  • Choose your clothes wisely: although it is not compulsory to wear hiking boots, it is essential to wear sports shoes and clothes, as we have to avoid discomfort during the tour. In addition, there are certain footwear that are prohibited, such as flip-flops.

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