It boggles the mind: just a narrow path, at most a meter wide, on the edge of cliffs up to 100 meters high — its concrete cracked, metal beams rusted and rotting away, and some sections completely collapsed.
Or at least, this was the state of the Caminito Del Rey for many decades until it was rehabilitated in 2016, while the old path remains visible from the new one built just above it.
Since then, the Caminito has been no longer just for adventurous climbers, but easily accessible for any tourist.
From the extensive boardwalks running along a 3 km trail, you can enjoy phenomenal views of the Gaitanes Gorge. I think it’s easily one of the top attractions in southern Spain.
History of the Caminito
The precarious path was originally built in 1905 to provide access for workers and materials to a hydroelectric dam.
The path’s name translates to The King’s Little Path and is named after King Alfonso XIII, who inaugurated the nearby dam in 1921. It’s said he walked some of the path himself.
A water canal also runs along the same route, which the path helped to be maintained.
The Caminito also touches at several points the railway line from Malaga to Seville. This line runs through mountain tunnels built in the 19th century, which helped to free Malaga from its relative isolation at the time.
The single-track line is still used by Spain’s modern AVE service today, which you may see whooshing past at some point.
Over the years the path became abandoned and the area closed off, but this didn’t stop climbers and adrenaline junkies from jumping the fence and making their way through the gorge. The trail sadly claimed eight lives over the years, becoming known as the world’s most dangerous walkway.
Starting in 2014, specialized alpinists began work on a new pathway in order to make the area safely open to the public.
The Caminito experience
Part of me wishes I’d done the trail with ropes and climbing gear when it was still in its previous state — you can see what it looked like before on other blogs.
But in its current state, the trail is undeniably easier to enjoy. Walking the Caminito del Rey is not an adventure activity, as the elevated walkway is suitable for anyone (including children over 8). Most of the hike is flat and there are no fitness requirements.
You’ll be asked to wear a helmet at all times and there are numerous safety measures in place, such as cameras and supervisors. This means the focus is firmly on enjoying the fantastic views and learning about the history of the trail, the dam, and the railway. Information signs will give you a fair bit of background, though there are also guided tours available.
Along the way, you can expect to see some spectacular gorges with vultures flying overhead, interesting rock shapes created by millennia of erosion, and of course the remnants of the old paths and tunnels.
If you have an imaginative mind, perhaps you’ll feel like you’re in some crazy Wild West location, or maybe in a fantasy epic making your way through the perilous mountains.
How to get tickets
You will need tickets in advance to hike the Caminito Del Rey. You can’t just show up.
Tickets are for a specific date and time. They are sold in two different ways: directly to customers and through tour agencies.
They can sell out quite a while in advance, though this depends a lot on the time of year and whether it’s a weekend or weekday you’re trying to book.
You can first try making a reservation through the official site.
If it’s sold out for your date, don’t despair just yet. You may still be able to get one by booking a tour via a third party company, as they have their own separate stocks of tickets.
For example, you can get a guided trek with tickets through GetYourGuide.
How to get there
It’s easiest to get to by car. The trailhead is near the restaurant called El Kiosko [map], so you can park somewhere around there. The trail is one-way but a bus will bring you back to the start. You can get the shuttle bus already included with your ticket, or you can pay the €1.55 on-site.
Keep in mind there’s a hike through the forest before you get to the entrance. Count on needing at least 30 minutes for this.
If you come by public transport, catch a train from Malaga to the town of El Chorro. This town is where the trail ends, but you need to be on the other side of the trail. To get to the start, use one of the public buses in El Chorro or the buses that are run by the Caminito del Rey. The drive takes about 15 minutes.
In 2020, a path is being created from the trail end back to the trail start, allowing you to walk a full loop in the future.
If you go by an organized tour, you may already have a minivan to bring you and pick you up.
Overall I thought the trail was completely worth the price of admission. Finally, I’ll leave you with just a few more photos from the trip!