Caminito del Rey: A practical guide to get the most out of your visit

A privileged natural environment made up of gorges and a unique population of flora and fauna.

A privileged natural environment made up of gorges and a unique population of flora and fauna.

This is the el Caminito del Rey, one of the most emblematic routes in Andalusia and Spain, just 60 kilometres from Malaga.

This tourist gem, surrounded by gorges and valleys, has been delighting visitors from all over Spain for almost a decade, and if you are one of those visitors, you will no doubt be interested to know this guide in which we tell you everything you need to know to enjoy the outdoors and all the history that permeates the trail.

About the Caminito del Rey

The Caminito del Rey is a route in Malaga, located between Álora, Ardales and Antequera. It runs close to the natural area of the Gaitanes Gorge and at the foot of the Guadalhorce River. As a curiosity, it owes its name to King Alfonso XIII, who was in charge of placing the last stone of the Guadalhorce dam in 1921.

As can be guessed, one of the main reasons why this trail has become a real must for nature lovers is that, in just a few kilometres, it shows the unique enclaves of the regions of the province of Malaga. If one had to sum up this route in a few words, perhaps it would suffice to mention its unbeatable views, which are capable of immersing visitors in a breathtaking fusion of adrenaline and charm. It is not for nothing that the Caminito del Rey is widely known for its imposing walkways, which are suspended some 100 metres above the vertical rocks. However, this description does not go far enough considering the biological and cultural richness of the centuries of history of this place. And, despite its recent opening to the public, the It is true that the terrain dates back to Palaeolithic times, hence the great variety of species found and the antiquity of certain areas that are not currently passable.

Such is its beauty and idiosyncrasy, that the Caminito del Rey has been registered as a candidate for World Heritage Site by UNESCO, with three of its seven main landmarks being recognised: (1) the El Chorro/ Conde de Guadalhorce and Gaitanejo Dams, (2) the footbridges of the El Chorro Hydroelectric Dam and (3) the El Chorro Railway Station and bridges over the Gaitanes.

Through the history of Caminito del Rey

Part of the enjoyment of this route lies in understanding the years of history that are embedded in its corners, which is why it is worthwhile to understand what the Caminito del Rey is and what its historical route has been.

As mentioned above, the land that makes up what is now known as the Caminito del Rey has existed since Palaeolithic times, but it was not until 1901 that the Sociedad Hidroeléctrica de El Chorro (the former owner of Salto del Gaitanejo and Salto del Chorro) began to build the first version of the path, what we could call the initial version. This route, which was ready by 1905, was quite primitive and was intended to create a link between two hydroelectric dams, so that the transport of materials and of the workers themselves would be feasible. However, the route fell into disuse within a few years.

As is often the case with abandoned land that is not regulated, the path became a meeting point for thrill-seeking hikers. Between the abandonment of the area and the fact that the terrain inevitably eroded with the passing of time and successive inclement weather, the Caminito del Rey became known as “the most dangerous path in the world”, which, although an interesting claim, was a cause for alarm. For this reason, in early 2000, it was decided to close access to the public.

It was not until 2009 that the Provincial Council of Malaga undertook the restoration project of the Caminito del Rey, which was completed in 2014, and it became available for visits again in 2015.

With this overhaul, it was possible to preserve that touch of adventure, but safeguarding all the necessary safety guarantees In this respect, new walkways were fitted out with sections from which, in complete safety, it is possible to see those now disused walkways that for years were used for access and fun by a large number of people.

At present, the Caminito del Rey consists of what would be the main route, which is the one open to the public, but there are still two other paths which, as mentioned above, are in disuse and closed to the public: the primitive path, which was made with ropes, and the path of the train tracks, which is covered with cement.

How to get to the Caminito del Rey

Getting to the Caminito del Rey is easy and convenient, thanks to the variety of means of transport available. Formally there are 3 main way to get to the Caminito del Rey: by car, by train and by shuttle bus.

  • If you come by car, access is from the A-357 Guadalhorce motorway towards the MA-5403 road (between Ardales and El Chorro). The distance is about 60 kilometres, so it takes about 50 minutes. Shortly before arriving at the Restaurant El Kiosko, located at the northern access of the route, you will find the car park, which costs 2 and closes an hour later than the walkways. Although it is common to travel by private car, it is increasingly common to find hikers who agree to travel in a group through applications such as BlaBlaCar, which can be an interesting option for people who do not have their own vehicle.
  • In the case of the train, you have to get off at the El Chorro stop. As this stop corresponds to the southern area, i.e. the end of the route, it is necessary to take the shuttle bus to get to the northern area from where the Caminito del Rey begins. This option is usually used by people who book a guided tour, as it departs from the María Zambrano station in Málaga, although it is also very common for those who take a tour from other cities.
  • The shuttle bus connects, as mentioned above, the southern access with the northern access. The caminito del rey shuttle service runs every 30 minutes approximately and costs 1.50 euros. It does not accept credit cards, so it is advisable to carry cash. This option is for people who come by train or depart from Álora, either because of the proximity or because they decided to park in the town instead of paying for the car park in the northern part of Ardales.

How to do the Caminito del Rey

El Caminito del Rey is made up of several parts that are worth getting to know before going there in person. In this sense, the route starts from the northern access to Ardales. More specifically, the first thing you come across is the reception area (where the buses stop), which has the Kiosko Restaurant as a reference point.

From this meeting point, the access to the route begins. You can take either the path or the Gaitanejo track, which is a wide and comfortable track in the direction of Álora. This path leads to the Gaitanejo reservoir, which is notable for its novel architecture. After this, you come to the first canyon, which corresponds to the Gaitanejo gorge, and the second canyon, commonly known as the tajo de las palomas (gorge of the pigeons).

It is at this point that the is the famous suspension bridge that often appears in Instagram photos. Once you have passed this part of the route, you will come to the valley of the Hoyo. Here you can see interesting architectural remains such as the Hoyo house and the shelter where the bats hibernate. Hikers usually take a short break in this part of the route before continuing on their way.

After this, the third canyon takes centre stage, which is none other than the Gaitanes Gorge, one of the greatest treasures of the province of Malaga, which leads to the walkway to the exit of the Caminito del Rey.

The route ends in the southern part of Álora, where there are toilets, as well as refreshment stalls and restaurants at the service of visitors. For those who have parked their car in the northern area, the shuttle bus stop that connects the southern and northern areas is within walking distance.

Questions to bear in mind about the Caminito del Rey In addition to the basic information on how to get there and, in general, the characteristics of the route, it is worth taking into consideration other questions that may allow you to become more familiar with what is involved in the Caminito del Rey and the preparations that may be required beforehand:

  • First of all, the trail totals 7.7 kilometres, so it takes about 4 hours and in some cases 5 hours, of course not counting the waiting time for access, if at the time of picking up the helmet at the checkpoint there are people waiting, if you take breaks or if you stop to take photographs. With this in mind, it is advisable to bring food and water. It is also important to remember that the time shown at the entrance is the time you have to be at the checkpoint, not at the north or south entrance.
  • Furthermore, as mentioned several times throughout the guide, the access to the Caminito del Rey is from the northern area, i.e. from Ardales. This is done in order to make the route downhill and, therefore, more accessible and safer for hikers. Therefore, the Caminito del Rey is a linear route, not a circular one, which is why some people prefer to park in Álora and from there take the shuttle bus in the direction of Ardales. As there are no steep climbs or descents, it is not necessary to be in great physical condition to complete the route, although in the case of people with vertigo it is advisable not to look down.
  • In addition to all of the above, the Caminito del Rey has all the necessary facilities to guarantee the comfort of the public, including wide, adequately signposted paths, good mobile phone coverage and services, both in the El Kiosko restaurant, located in the north access area, and in the access area to the footbridges (where the helmet is collected) and at the exit of the route.
  • The opening hoursare from 9.00 a.m. to 3.30 p.m. / 5.20 p.m. depending on the season, so before booking a date it is advisable to check the opening hours on the website of the Caminito del Rey. In this regard, opening times, opening dates and possible changes and modifications are established by the management company, so they are non-negotiable. In any case, these and other notifications are always updated on the official website of El Caminito del Rey and through its social networks, including Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
  • In terms of price, the general admission ticket costs 10 euros, while the official guided tour (available in Spanish and English) costs 18 euros. The general admission ticket is free and can be purchased for a maximum of 10 euros, while the guided tours are for groups of a maximum of 30 people accompanied by a certified guide. It is advisable, both in the case of general admission tickets and guided tours, to purchase them in good time, as they sell out quickly. In addition to these services, the Caminito del Rey is expected to include the possibility of booking a shuttle bus, as well as a parking space.
  • The tickets include a civil liability insurance, which covers any problem that may arise during the tour, including damages, although in the case of cancellations and other unforeseen events, it is usually recommended to take out travel insurance, especially in the aforementioned case of people taking a tour from other provinces.
  • Finally, in response to one of the most frequently asked questions about whether it is possible to do the route in the company of minors, the answer is yes, but only if the children are over 8 years old. Not only do they have to be over 8 years old, but it is also necessary to prove this by means of a supporting document, which can be either a National Identity Card or a Family Book. These requirements include the commitment of the accompanying adults, insofar as it is essential that the children are accompanied and supervised at all times.

Rules for access to the Caminito del Rey

In line with the above, the Caminito del Rey requires its visitors to behave in accordance with the values of environmental preservation that it promotes, as well as with the rules of coexistence and safety stipulated in its regulations.

All this is due to the fact that, as we have seen throughout the guide (1) the Caminito del Rey is a reconstructed area that must be cared for to guarantee safe leisure, (2) as well as being home to a great diversity of species with which it interacts to preserve its balance and subsistence. Consequently, it is not surprising that visitors are requested to comply with a series of basic rules that guarantee the preservation of safety and care of the natural environment, as this is ultimately the reason why it is possible that the route has become an epicentre of leisure and entertainment.

Among the main specifications, the organisation of the Caminito del Rey establishes that:

  • It is necessary to wear a helmet, and it is compulsory to wear it all along the route along the footbridges. To get it, you just have to pick it up at the checkpoints before entering the walkways.
  • It is also recommended to follow the indications provided on the panels, especially in the more difficult areas. This not only prevents visitors from getting lost, but also reduces possible incidents.
  • No rubbish should be thrown in the vicinity, as rubbish not only spoils the environment, but can also interfere with the normal development of the flora and fauna of the area. This is essential as everyone wants to enjoy the route. It is recommended, as in any other natural destination, to carry a bag for waste disposal.
  • Inappropriate footwear, such as flip-flops or high heels, is prohibited. Ideally, hiking boots or trainers with a sole suitable for hiking should be worn.
  • The use of umbrellas is not recommended in case of rain. In this case, a mackintosh should be worn. Of course this depends on the time of year, but especially if you come in the autumn/winter months it is advisable to wear several layers of clothing, considering the coldness of the higher altitudes.
  • Smoking, drinking alcoholic beverages or consuming any other substances is not permitted.
  • Access is restricted for pushchairs and wheelchairs, due to the difficulties posed by some sections of the route. It is important to bear in mind that the Caminito del Rey, although it is easy to walk along, has narrow paths, stairs and slopes that are not accessible for wheelchairs and pushchairs.
  • The use of drones is prohibited in the natural area and its vicinity.
  • The use of selfie sticks, tripods, walking sticks or bulky backpacks is not permitted. This is again due to the fact that the site runs along narrow walkways embedded in rocky areas.

Accommodation near the Caminito del Rey

Given that the Caminito del Rey route is a daytime activity, it is likely that many people, especially those coming from outside Malaga, will wish to link the route with the Caminito del Rey visit with some other activity within the province, such as, for example, visiting the Costa del Sol. For this reason, it is also interesting to know some of the residential offers in the area.

In terms of accommodation options, Ardales has small rural hotels ideal for overnight stays, as well as flats, while Álora has resorts with complete facilities and competitive prices. On the other hand, Antequera Ronda has a much wider range of hotels, such as the emblematic Hotel Antequera, while Ronda has some of the most highly recommended charming accommodation in Malaga and Marbella, with aparthotels with marvellous views of the sea.

For camping lovers, another option would be Parque Ardales, a forest estate that allows you to enjoy the Guadalhorce reservoir, as well as offering quite practical flats. And, of course, if you have enough time, another very good solution for weekends, long weekends and holidays are the houses. At Lovely Home we have a wide range of holiday destinations, from flats for one night, to castles for a week or even villas for a month. In the case of the Caminito del Rey, a very good option, and in some cases more economical than other tourist options, especially considering that in high season prices increase, is Villa Aguacate, , a fantastic accommodation located in Villafranco del Guadalhorce, just 30 minutes from Ardales taking the A-357 motorway.

Similarly, our offer is made up of destinations with different prices and capacities, depending on the budget of the visitors, the estimated number of guests and the location to be booked.

What do you think, are you up for a weekend of adventure in the marvellous mouths of the Guadalhorce? At Lovely Home we know for sure… there’s nothing like fulfilling dreams!

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