Walking Spain’s ‘Grand Canyon’ – the Caminito del Rey

5
Stephen Frankham


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.

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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.   

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, nice article….. Could you just clarify the return journey? I thought that you were only allowed to walk one way then had to get transport back to your start point but you seem to be saying in your closing paragraph that it is possible to walk in both directions in 1 day with 1 permit?… many people would do this if it was allowed but then this would interfere with the 50 people per half hour with a maximum of 600 a day no? Say 25 people in a group decided to walk back again, that would be 25 people walking the route in a direction that they don’t have a permit to do…

  2. Hi Clive,
    Thanks for the comments. I think in the future extra transport might be arranged so you can take a bus or something similar back to Chorro. When I walked the trail on Saturday you needed to re-walk the trail to the start point (in my case at Chorro) – unless you had private transport waiting for you at the far end or you wanted to continue walking on the many trails in the area beyond the Caminito del Rey.
    It seems like the authorities are just beginning to find ways to deal with the popularity of the route, so at some times the may be more than 50 people on the trail at the same time. If you fairly fit I would say you should give maybe 2 hours to walk 1 way and take in the views.

  3. Thanks for that extra information Steve. I was told by soemeone at the Malaga council that people were only allowed to walk it one way and must arrange transport back themselves… I have seen today at http://www.caminodelrey.es that there are now shuttle buses available. I have a permit for this Saturday 🙂

  4. Hi, I walked the Caminito last Saturday in both directions from the Ardales side and started at the Kiosko Bar by the lake. I set off at 11am, passed the checkpoint at 11:30, walked as far as the suspension bridge on the El Chorro side and then back again. I got back at 2:30pm, so 3 hours there and back. There is a lot of English information about the Caminito and the general area at http://www.caminodelrey.es

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