Southern Spain offers an idyllic lifestyle most of us can only dream about. A rich culture and enigmatic history, all accompanied by dramatic scenery, beaches, good food, great wine, and a generous helping of siestas.
But its greatest boast has to be the variety of world-class hiking spots. And with all the food, wine and siesta-ing to be done, a few hikes will help you to earn your rewards! Offering a diverse range of trails, whether you’re looking for a leisurely ramble or more challenging trek, Spain has something for everyone.
We’ve all heard of the Camino de Santiago, but if you want to whet your appetite first with something less challenging, why not start with the short, but challenging ‘El Caminito Del Rey’ in Southern Spain (which translates as the ‘Little Path of the King’).
The Caminito Del Rey is a one-metre-wide boardwalk constructed of wooden planks that hangs a precarious 100 metres (330 feet) above the Guadalhorce River below. The path (not for those who are afraid of heights!), clings to the cliffs, offering amazing views and an exhilarating trekking experience.
History of El Caminito Del Rey
The famous route was originally built in 1901 to provide access for workers to the hydroelectric power plants at Chorro and Gaitanejo Falls. The path is named after the King Alfonso XIII who walked the path in 1921 to mark the inauguration of the dam, Conde del Guadalhorce.
The original path was made of concrete with steel rails, but over the years the walkway fell into serious disrepair. Much of the structure deteriorated leaving wide spaces where potential walkers were in danger of plunging to a gruesome death! With no handrails, only a thin safety wire, during the 80s and 90s many adventurous types did attempt the route in its previous state, though sadly, this resulted in several fatal accidents in 1999 and 2000.
Following these accidents in the year 2000, the path was closed to visitors for restoration. However, after 5.5 million Euros worth of work was spent, the path reopened to the public in 2015 much to the delight of adventure seekers across Europe. Here’s a video of the path BEFORE the restoration took place. Look away now if you are scared of heights!
El Caminito Del Rey, Spain – The Facts
- Where: Malaga Province, Andalusia, Southern Spain.
- Length: 7.7km in total from North to South. (The boardwalk is 2.9km).
- Height: The boardwalk is 100 metres or 330 feet high!
- Duration of hike: 2-3 hours. (The path opens at 9am and closes at 5pm, or 3pm in the winter.)
- Best time to go: Spring or Autumn is the best time to avoid the crazy heat of Andalusian summer which easily reaches 40 degrees through July and August.
- Start and end points: The walk starts in the North (Ardales) and ends in El Chorro in the South. (Linear route, not circular). There is a car park in the North and a shuttle bus from the South to the North for walkers who have finished the trail that costs 1.55 Euros per person.
- Reservation: As this is such a popular trail and limited to a certain number of people each day, it is advisable to book online beforehand. Tickets can be purchased on the official website here. The cost is 10 Euros (unguided) or 18 Euros (guided) and includes insurance as well as personal protective equipment.
- Children must be over 8 years old and you must take ID to collect the tickets.
The path is only 2.9 kilometres in length, but the full walk (North to South) is just under 8 kilometres. While short, this is one of Spain’s most memorable trails and has become one of Andalusia’s most popular tourist attractions.
Due to its controversial history, this 100-year-old cliff route has been nicknamed the ‘Walkway of Death’ and ‘the most dangerous walkway in the world’ – which may put some trekkers off! However, don’t worry, while you certainly need a decent head for heights for this route, today, the path is perfectly safe and doable by anyone with a good level of fitness.
There are several Spanish films which feature the Caminito Del Rey… For example, the 1960s film, Scent of Mystery, contains a chase scene at the end of the film which takes place on the boardwalk, as well as the 2012 thriller, The End.