Southern Spain offers an idyllic lifestyle most of us can only dream about. A rich culture and enigmatic history are accompanied by dramatic scenery, beaches, good food, great wine, and a generous helping of siestas.
But it’s also home to a 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! Whether you’re on the hunt for an epic European hike or a relatively short stroll, Spain has got something for everyone.
While the Camino de Santiago is undoubtedly Spain’s most famous hike, the short but challenging ‘Caminito del Rey’ is one of the country’s most impressive. Translating to ‘The King’s Path’, El Caminito del Rey was once known as ‘The Most Dangerous Path In The World’.
Prior to its closure in 2000, the trail was a crumbling ruin. Broken walkways clung a hundred meters above the raging Guadalhorce river in Malaga — offering no protection against the deadly drop. A spate of deaths in the late 90s forced the trail to officially close.
The Caminito del Rey reopened in 2015 and is now perfectly safe. High-quality boardwalks, catch fences and a healthy dollop of safety rules mean the trail can be enjoyed by anyone fit enough to walk for a couple of hours. It’s still exhilarating, but not in an “Oh My God. I’m definitely going to die today!” kind of way.
El Caminito del Rey – Quick 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 at its highest.
- Duration of Hike: 2-4 hours.
- Best Time To Visit: Spring or Autumn.
- Start and End: The walk starts at Ardales in the North and ends at El Chorro in the South.
- Reservation: Not required but recommended.
- Children under 8 years old are not permitted.
History of El Caminito Del Rey
The path was originally built in 1901 to provide access to the hydroelectric power plants at Chorro and Gaitanejo Falls. It’s named after King Alfonso XIII who followed the route in 1921 to mark the inauguration of the dam, Conde del Guadalhorce.
In its early iteration, the path was made of concrete with steel rails, but over the years the walkway fell into disrepair. Much of the structure deteriorated, leaving wide open spaces where walkers were in danger of plunging to a gruesome death! With no handrails and only a thin safety wire, daredevils in the 80s and 90s would regularly take on the dilapidated trail. Sadly, this resulted in several fatal accidents in the years 1999 and 2000.
Following these accidents, the path was closed to visitors for restoration. Fifteen years and more than five million Euros later, the path was reopened to the public. Here’s a video of the path BEFORE the restoration took place. Look away now if you are scared of heights!
The Caminito del Rey Today
Since its official reopening in 2015, El Caminito del Rey has seen thousands of walkers cross its improved boardwalk. It’s still a nerve-wracking experience, especially if you’re scared of heights. But thankfully the path is now safe and fully intact!
The real rush of walking this exquisite trail comes from the astounding views and awe-inspiring power of nature. The route crosses from Ardales in the North to El Chorro in the South and can only be walked in one direction.
If you leave your car at the start, you’ll need to return using the shuttle service. However, if you want to leave your car at the end, you’ll need to park up and get the shuttle service to the start. This costs less than €2 and can be booked in advance.
If you don’t have a car, it’s possible to take public transport to the trail from Malaga or Seville — El Caminito del Rey’s two closest cities.
The path opens at 9am and closes at 5pm, or 3pm in the winter. It takes 2-4 hours to complete, depending on which route you take and how fast you walk.
Top Tip: Avoid visiting in July and August. The temperatures can reach close to 40 degrees during the Andalusian summer!
Tickets cost €10 for a self-guided walk. For €18 you can join a guided tour. Both ticket types include insurance as well as protective equipment. Limited numbers of people are permitted on the Caminito del Rey each day. To ensure you don’t wind up disappointed, it’s worth reserving your tickets. You can do so on the official website.
Don’t forget: You’ll need to take ID to pick up your tickets!
How to get to El Caminito del Rey
El Caminito del Rey can be easily reached from Malaga (1-hour driving) and Seville (2-hours driving). You’ll find it easily with Google Maps.
You’ll need to decide whether to park at the start or end of the path. This will depend on what time you booked your entry ticket for. If you have a couple of hours to spare, it’s best to park at the southern end and get the shuttle to the start. However, if you’re short on time you’ll need to park at the northern terminus.
You can get a train from both Malaga and Seville to El Chorro. This station is just a few minutes away from the end of the path. From Malaga, the train takes forty minutes. From Seville, it takes two and a half hours.
When you disembark the train, you’ll need to catch the shuttle bus to the start of the hike. Once you’ve finished, it’s just a short hop from the end of the path to the train station.
Walking El Caminito del Rey
The start of the path is marked by El Kiosko, a big cafe/restaurant. You’ll see signs pointing you to the path. There are two routes to take you to the control point. The shorter route is 1.5km, while the longer route is 2.7km. Decide which one is for you based on how much time you have. Both offer scenic views and a chance to see some of Andalusia’s rarer wildlife.
Both paths lead you to the visitor centre. At this control point, you’ll need to show your ID and, assuming all is well, you’ll get given a hard hat and a safety talk.
Once you’re released from the safety briefing, follow the trail past the first dam — keep your eyes peeled for the cave houses where workers once lived! Continue down the path and you’ll pass the ruins of the second dam before arriving at the third.
The path is easy to navigate and soon you’ll arrive at the first of the boardwalks. There’s plenty of information about the rock formations and history of the path along this section. Take the time to read them and enjoy your surroundings!
At the end of the first boardwalk, the path passes through a cave before hitting the second section of boardwalk — lookout for bird and animal life. While the path was closed for 15 years, the whole canyon became a sanctuary for nature!
Eventually, you’ll be spat out of the second canyon and into a whole new landscape. The Hoyo Valley is home to many species of protected plants as well as being prime nesting territory for vultures. While following the trail through the otherworldly valley, you’ll see information boards, old drainage systems, abandoned houses and even walk through an old canal, before finally reaching the last boardwalk.
The final canyon offers the highest and thinnest boardwalks of the whole path. You can even see the remains of the original path just below you! There’s plenty to marvel at along this last canyon. Fossils in the cliff wall, ancient caves with Bronze Age ruins, the glass balcony and finally, the hanging footbridge.
Follow the trail back the final 3km to arrive at the endpoint. From here, either return to your car, head to the train station or get the shuttle back to the northern terminus.
El Caminito del Rey FAQS
How dangerous is Caminito del Rey?
Previously known as “the most dangerous hike in the world”, the Caminito del Rey has had a facelift in recent years. A spate of deaths in the year 2000 left authorities no choice but to close the path. In 2015, it reopened after extensive renovations. Today the walk is perfectly safe for anyone with a reasonable fitness level.
How long does it take to walk the Caminito del Rey?
It takes 2-4 hours to complete the 7.7km walk. You’re walking speed and choice of initial route will determine exactly how long it takes.
How much does the Caminito del Rey cost?
Entry to El Caminito del Rey is €10. The shuttle bus costs a further €1.55.
Expect to pay around €10 for the train from Malaga and closer to €30 from Seville.
Do I need a ticket for the Caminito del Rey?
Yes, you need a ticket for the Caminito del Rey. This should be ordered in advance on their official website. You can pick the tickets up from the start of the walk. Remember to take your ID or you will not be allowed to collect your ticket.
When is the Caminito del Rey open?
The Caminito del Rey is open Tuesday – Sunday, 09.00-17.00. In the winter it closes at 15.00.
Can children walk the Caminito del Rey?
Children under eight years old are not permitted on El Caminito del Rey. Older children are welcome.
Have you walked the Caminito del Rey? Let us know about your experience in the comments!
After a life-changing motorcycle accident, Tim decided life was too short to stay cooped up in his home county of Norfolk, UK. Since the incident, he has travelled in South East Asia, walked the Camino de Santiago and is currently backpacking around South America. His first book 'From Paralysis to Santiago' chronicles his struggle to recover from the motorcycle accident that changed his life and will be released later this year.