ON the Easter Weekend, a few days after the ‘Caminito Del Rey’s’ long-awaited re-opening, I was lucky enough to experience this route up the Garganta del Chorro for myself.
So what’s it like, this walk that is sometimes referred to as the ‘most dangerous in the world’? In short, I can only describe it as magnificent.
Taking the daily train from Malaga, heading 50 kilometres to the north, you quickly leave the urban landscape of the city behind.
At the tiny collection of houses that makes up El Chorro, the Rio Guadalhorce carves a spectacular canyon through the vast cliff face that rises for hundreds of metres above the town and the deep waters of the Tajo de la Encantada reservoir.
The scenery around the town is spectacular in itself, with forested valleys and steep hills all around. It only gets better as you walk to the Caminito entrance, where you’re issued with hard hats as a precaution before setting off on your hike. Numbers walking on the trail are also limited to 50 people every half an hour for safety reasons, hence the need to book spaces in advance online at www.caminitodel rey.info
The trail begins on a spectacular, rebuilt wood and steel walkway, bolted to the edge of the sheer cliff face. Steel handrails are attached to the side of the gorge, but nevertheless walkers with severe vertigo will find the jaw-dropping views more than 100 metres below difficult to say the least.
A cable bridge, the Puente Colgante, is then quickly reached spanning the two vertical sides of the gorge. Views both above and below are breathtaking with ancient sandstone seabeds pushed up into vertical formations and lines, often with deep caves and overhangs.
There are reminders of the need for caution on the walk, and it’s apparent with memorials to climbers and walkers who died on the trail when it was in a worse condition.
The central section is less steep in the Hoya Valley, with a rushing river winding its way through a deep, forested canyon. Here, there are plenty of places that are perfect to sit, relax and enjoy the wonder of nature around you.
Towards the end of the 7.7-kilometre route, the canyon once again becomes steep and vertical, with the river racing down rapids and waterfalls, carving bizarre shapes into the rock face on its journey.
Here wildlife fans can enjoy spectacular views of huge griffon vultures soaring on the thermals above. The birds are true giants with wingspans of nearly two and a half meters.
The walk ends at the Embalse de Gaitanejo, but remember that unless you’ve arranged transport from the far side or you intend to keep hiking on other trails, you have to re-trace you steps, making this a 15-kilometre walk in total, but well worth it by any standards.
Andalucía’s ‘Grand Canyon’ is walk that lives up to all expectations.