Andalusia: El Caminito del Rey

Written by | Mountain Tours, Spain

The most spectacular parade in Europe. Worth seeing!

I first heard about Caminito del Rey a few years ago, on the Internet.

It was presented as one of the most beautiful, but also dangerous, defile routes in the world. At that time I told myself that I probably would not dare to go through it, no matter how beautiful the photos or videos seen on YouToube were.

But, in 2017, during the Andalusian holiday documentation period, Corina, my wife, calls me at the computer and tells me: “Look, the Caminito del Rey route has been restored and now anyone can go there!”.

I looked and indeed, in the pictures displayed on the official site nothing looked like before.

New balustrades, safety cables, what-not… I decided that we really had to see it and of course I gave it an important place in the list of objectives to visit.

Caminito del Rey – History

Caminito del Rey is actually a path, hanging for the most part from the vertical slopes of the Guadalhorce River defile.

At first it was a utility road, made of wood panels, necessary for the construction of the Malaga-Cordoba railway.

Then, after the construction of the El Chorro accumulation dam, inaugurated in 1921, the path was paved with concrete and railings and railroad pillars were added. At that time, “the little road”, as the locals call it, was used daily by the families established in the area.

The name of El Caminito del Rey is derived from the inauguration of the dam, made in presence of the King of Spain, at that time Alfonso XIII, who also traveled on a small part of this road. The locals, probably proud of this honor, baptized it with the name of “King’s little road”.

Over time, however, once other access roads have been built, the road through the defile has lost its practical importance and has been continuously degrading. Thus, in 1993 after some fatal accidents the road was closed by the authorities, which demolished the entrance from Ardales to avoid future accidents.

However, the route has become the paradise of pure adrenaline enthusiasts. Stealthily, of course, they found access ways and traveled on the road, even it was in an advanced state of degradation. Unfortunately, some have lost their lives in these audacious attempts.

In 2014, noticing the particular tourist importance, the local authorities financed a project of Є 3.12 million with which El Caminito del Rey is completely remodeled to reach today’s tourist standards.

The project has been completed in 2015, and Caminito del Rey is now probably the safest route of this kind in the world. The road has been completely rebuilt, above the original one, using modern materials.

The entire route is monitored in real time by means of video cameras, and the supervisors equipped with radio stations patrol permanently along the entire length to prevent extravagant tourists from doing any silly things. At the entrance, each visitor receives a helmet.

Along the metallic walkway it is forbidden to use selfie sticks (I tried and a supervisor appeared from nowhere and told me to put it immediately in my backpack), and the distance between travelers must be 1.5 m.

Caminito del Rey – How to get there?

My recommendation is to rent a car to visit Caminito del Rey.

The access to the route is only allowed at the entrance from Ardales with the exit by the locality El Chorro. This point can only be reached by car.

But if you travel by train, note that it stops in El Chorro, where you have to take a bus until you enter the route. There are special regular drives for this purpose. However, note that few trains pass through this station (I think there is one in the morning and one in the evening).

Also, be careful when planning the trip, because the route is closed on Monday!

By car, from Malaga, using the A-357 highway, which gradually turns into an express road, you will reach the entry point on the route within an hour.

Here is the Google map with the route we followed by us.

Remember that next to Ardales you must turn right, then keep going forward, following the signs for Caminito del Rey and not El Chorro.

Search on the map a place called El Kiosko as a starting point. It is actually the entrance to a pedestrian tunnel that crosses the mountain slope in a straight line and shortens the road by more than 30 minutes. It would not be bad to have a flashlight with you because the tunnel is naturally illuminated and in the middle you can hardly see where you step.

Look for the tunnel entrance on the right side. You can leave the car in a parking lot on the side of the road. There are, of course, paid parking lots below, if you have the misfortune not to find a vacant place.

For entering the route you must stay in line. Although we started very early from Malaga, with the intention of arriving until nine o’clock at the entrance on the route, we arrived at around 09:30 and by this time, you can already see from the photo what a big line there was. Anyway, the first group entered at around 10:00 (we visited it at the end of August).

I recommend that you buy tickets online in advance. There are also guided tour type ticket, but honestly I didn’t see what the use for it was in this case. Anyway, buying in advance guarantees your entry on the route at the set time +/- half an hour.

We couldn’t get tickets online anymore, so we waited in line. It took about 45 minutes, but we finally entered.

At the entrance, you are given a protective helmet that you must wear during the entire route.

To be honest, I appreciated it, because on some portions the path passes below some snags of stone and without the helmet, I would have had some bumps, after all.

Here is the Google map of the El Caminito del Rey route.

Caminito del Rey – Route description

I would divide the route into 4 sections.

The first section, through the Gaitanes defile, starts right after the entrance at the control point and consists, after several tens of meters of solid ground, of a footbridge suspended on the right side of the valley.

The road is anchored by the vertical wall and it is built of galvanized steel. The circulated part is paved with boards of hard wood, through which the abyss beneath can be seen.

It is a view that may disconcert you on your first steps, but then you will get accustomed and walking on this section will actually be a piece of cake.

The balustrades are quite high, doubled with galvanized steel mesh and supported by stressed steel cables. So you can move in perfect safety.

The only danger can come from the possible jams with the other visitors, a reason for which there are signs everywhere earning you to keep your distance from those in front and behind you.

At the exit from the Gaitanes defile the road descends on a section in steps. The entire route is monitored with video cameras, as shown in the following image.

Section II is actually a normal mountain road that sometimes passes through the forest and follows the Valle del Hoyo valley.

There are several places for rest where you can take your meal.

This section is a classic one, but it is particularly picturesque, because it follows the valley of the river in parallel with the opposite slope on which the railway connecting Cordoba with Malaga is built.

Here is a video of the first part of the route:

Section III crossing the Gaitanejo defile is, in my opinion, the most spectacular.

The level at which the footbridge is mounted is higher and the mountain wall is almost vertical.

On some portions the footbridge has baffles and elbows as it follows the wall from which it is suspended.

It is an absolutely formidable view, amplified by the astounding height of over 100 meters where you are suspended.

At the exit from the Gaitanejo defile, you have to pass from the left slope to the right one.

The crossing is done on a cable-suspended bridge, at a high of 105 meters above the Los Gaitanes defile.

Due to the relatively small distance between the two slopes, the air currents are very strong, and they feel very strong on the suspended bridge.

We were lucky to have a clear day, with little wind, but I can’t even imagine how somebody feels walking on that path during bad weather!

Probably in order to better bear up the wind, the footbridge is lined with grilles through which you can see the abyss below your feet.

After crossing, you have to descend a few steps, the footbridge follows almost horizontally the wall of the mountain, then climbs slightly and passes over the railway, and finally descends on “hard ground”.

Section IV is actually a construction site road, which starts from the exit of the defile and stops in the El Chorro village.

There is nothing special to say about this portion, except the fact that it is a monotonous road and extremely exposed to the sun. Therefore, we felt relieved to arrive to El Chorro and sit in a shaded place.

From El Chorro, there are regular buses (at about each 45 minutes) that make the connection on the roadway with the entry point on the route to Ardales. Practically, they bring you back to the starting point.

Here is the video of the second part of this splendid route:

Conclusions and recommendations

Caminito del Rey is one of the most spectacular mountain routes in Andalusia. The length of nearly 2.9 km of suspended footways make it arguably unique in Europe.

Do not be intimidated by the height seen in the photos! It is a very easy route from a physical point of view. A kind of walk in the woods. But the view is unique!

Almost anyone can ride it in maximum 4 hours (if a lunch break is taken).

Probably because they wanted it to be visited by as many people as possible, the administrators decided that it should be crossed only from Ardales to El Chorro. In this direction, the terrain naturally descends, facilitating the flow of tourists.

It is preferable to get here by car. In this case, try to reach the entrance on the route at around 9 o’clock in the summer, so that you do not wait in a big line. Access is allowed from 10:00 in the summer, in groups of maximum 30-40 persons.

 Attention, the route is closed on Monday! 

The railway travel is conditioned by the few trains that stop in El Chorro. A simple delay at the route entrance, due to the crowding, can make you miss the evening train.

Take with you at least one liter of water per person. You will not find sources of drinkable water on the route.

Observe the instructions of the administrative staff, the indicators of limiting the number of persons (for example, on the suspended footbridge maximum 10 persons are allowed at a time) and especially, the distance from the other tourists.

Otherwise, I wish you a nice walk and as many successful photos as possible!

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Last modified: 11 October 2019

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