The Gorge Desfiladero de los Gaitanes has been carved by the river Guadalhorce. In some places it is only 10m wide and 700m deep. The Camino del Rey (or ‘Caminito del Rey’ translates as ‘The King’s Little Pathway’) was constructed as a path to provide access for the maintenance of several reservoirs used to feed a hydroelectric plant. It was opened by Alfonso XIII, hence its name.
The original walk way was a very narrow path balanced on top of metal rods hammered in to the side of the gorge. Even when it was in use as a maintenance road it was pretty hair raising. Over time the road fell into disrepair, the handrails disappeared and sections of the flooring fell away. This made it a very dangerous path and it was closed. However this did not stop people attempting to walk or climb over it. Have a look at the video below to see what it was like at its worst.
On my first visit to the gorge I remember being astounded that such an incredible place was unheard of and totally undeveloped. Recently the Andalucian Government realised what a fantastic attraction the gorge could be. Not only is the walk itself world class in terms of its attractiveness to tourists but the surrounding countryside, mountain ranges, lakes and towns are all superb but under-utilised. A very selective list of some of the local attractions is; Flamingos at the Puente de Piedra lagoon, howl with wolves at Lobo Park, walk around the twisted rock formations at El Torcal, visit the domens which are three burial mounds dated around 2500BC, stages 20 & 21 of the Great Malaga path (GR249) pass through the area, explore the Sierras de Ronda. Ronda, Antequerra and Malaga are only a short drive away. So reopening the Caminito del Rey would draw in tourists who will hopefully extend their stay in the area and generate much needed prosperity. As a result the regional government has totally rebuilt a 1.5km section of the raised walkway and 1.4km of forest and valley path to reconstruct 2.9km of the original pathway. In addition there is a 2.5km path at each end linking it to start points at Alora and Ardales.
The actual walk is 7.7km but only 2.9km of this is actually on the Camino Del Rey. The remaining length links you from the two access points to the Camino del Rey.
You can the start the walk from either the north end (Ardales) or the southern end (El Chorro Station in Alora). If you start from the North end the walk takes about 4 hours and is downhill. If you start from the Southern end the walk is uphill and takes 5 hours. See the section below for specific information on how to get to the start points.
The walk is linear not circular. So you need to build in time and a route to get you back to your car, bus stop or train station. There are very cheap (€1.5 at the time of writing) shuttle buses that run all day between the two ends to make this easier. The bus stops at the official start points of the walk, see below. You can choose to walk back over the boardwalk to return to your original starting point in which case the walk is a minimum of 10km long.
The walk is steep so you need to be mobile to attempt this walk. At points the walk is very high and narrow with only a transparent handrail. As a result it is not suitable for those who don’t like heights.
The walk may be closed due to maintenance or bad weather. The only way to know is by checking the official website so make sure you do this before you start to travel.
You have to book the walk and print off a ticket. At the time of booking you have to provide an ID or passport number for each person – so the tickets are not transferrable. You will not be allowed to do the walk if you have not got your ticket. Remember to take your ID with you in case staff wants to check it. You also have to choose which start point you will use and what time slot you will start the walk in at the time of booking. See below for more information on how to book.
The walk is booked up months in advance so if you want to do it – start planning your trip now!
Arrive at your start point at least 30 minutes before the time on the ticket so groups can be formed and safety gear put on.
There are no cafes or places to get water on the walk so it is essential you bring your own water and some food. But do not use a large backpack or alcohol as these are considered dangerous on the walkway. There are no toilets on the 7.7km route.
You cannot take dogs on the walk.
At the moment the access roads are not great and car parks scarce. The official website says – don’t rush to visit; there will be lots of improvements made this year making it much easier to visit next year.
The Start Points
The start points are marked by signs with an aerial view of the path and photos. The Southern start point of the walk is the El Chorro Train Station in Alora and the bus stops in the ‘Camino del Rey’ bus station of El Chorro. The Northern bus stop and start point is at the 10.7km mark of the MA444 outside the restaurant ‘El Kiosco’. The buses run 7 days a week every day (except 24th, 25th, 31st of December and 1st of January). April to October they run from 12.30am until 8pm and November to March 12.30am until 6pm.
You can get a direct trains to El Chorro from places which include Malaga, Seville, Bobadilla, Osuna, Cartama and Pizarra.
Booking Your Visit
You book your tickets online from the official website; Book Your Visit.
From April to September 2015 the walk is free, after then you will have to pay. You can only book yourself and two other people onto the walk unless you book a group. As a result two of your family might have to book at the same time to get tickets for everyone. You will need the passport number and date of birth of everyone you are booking for.
When you book you need to have already decided which end of the walk (Alora or Ardales) you will start from and at what time. You can start the walk every half an hour between these times; April to October 10am – 5pm & November to March 10am to 2pm. Make sure you have enough time to arrive at your start point 30 minutes before the start time and enough time to finish the walk before it gets dark.