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Visiting the Caminito del Rey, Malaga

 
The opening of the newly reformed Caminito del Rey, also known as El Camino del Rey, has been one of the most anticipated events in recent years.
 
The new pathway has been making headlines across the world, with Lonely Planet recently nominating a walk along the Caminito as one of the hottest things to do in 2015
 
The official opening of the Caminito del Rey was on March 28th 2015. Here’s what to expect.
 

About El Caminito Del Rey

 
The Caminito was originally built between 1901 and 1905 and was used to transport material and people between two power stations that were built either side of the El Chorro gorge. It wasn't until the early 1920s that it was officially opened by King Alfonso XIII who walked its whole length and gave it its name. Since that time, the Camino has become one of the wonders of Spain. 
 
The El Chorro Gorge (La Garganta del Chorro) is an amazing place, with huge walls of rock as high as 400m along its three-kilometre length. “El Chorro” can be loosely translated as the "spurt," which is exactly what the water used to do when travelling through the gorge’s narrow ravine. The height difference between the two man-made reservoirs at either end of the gorge provided a unique opportunity to develop hydroelectric energy. An almost revolutionary concept at the time.
 
Electrical genius notwithstanding, the real attraction has always been the concrete catwalk, El Caminito del Rey, which threads the length of the gorge hanging precipitously halfway up its side. The original structure was said to be built by sailors who were used to climbing ropes and working while suspended above a void. Unconfirmed reports have also stated that prisoners, who were condemned to death, carried out some of the more dangerous tasks.
 
The path was built using sand and cement, and held in place by metal brackets. A simple iron railing was put in place along this decidedly non-frills path. The Caminito slowly fell into disrepair over the years and was officially closed in 2000 after several people fell to their deaths. 
 
This danger became the stuff of legends and attracted climbers and adrenaline junkies from all over the world. With many people referring to the Caminito as the ‘world’s most dangerous pathway.’ This is what the Caminito looked like in 2013 just before the reforms started. For more information on how the Caminito used to be
 
 
The government spoke of reforming the Camino for years. In late 2013, these plans finally came to fruition. The local authorities and the city of Malaga are sharing the total €5.5m renovation cost. €2.2m have been used for the new construction of the new Caminito, the rest is destined for additional services in the area, roads, parking and bus facilities. An estimated 250,000 people will visit the Caminito in the first year alone, generating over €20m in local revenue and creating 180 jobs directly. It promises to be one of the largest attractions in Andalusia, if not the whole of Spain. 

Tickets

Tickets have to be reserved online and can be done so here. For the first six months, entrance is free. After this six-month period, entrance is €6 per person. 
 
The maximum number of people allowed on the Caminito at one time is four hundred. Groups of up to fifty people are allowed through the initial control points, with slots allocated every half hour. An estimated six hundred people a day are expected to visit the Caminito during the first six months. 

Opening Times and Dates

The initial opening times are listed below.
 
1 April to 30 October: 10.00 to 17.00
1 November to 31 March:  10.00 to 14.00
Closed 24, 25, 31 December and 1 January. 

The New Caminito Del Rey 

The total distance to walk the new Caminito del Rey is 7.7 km - depending on where you start from. You have the choice to leave from two opposite sides: from the northern Ardales one, or from the southern Alorá / El Chorro side
 
Even though the routes are identical, there are differences that need to be taken into consideration - namely height differences. 
 
For some additional pictures of the new Caminito - see Spain Holiday's Facebook page

Alora Southern Access - El Chorro / Caminito del Rey train station 

 
If coming by train, this is the route to take. The harder of the two, as it's uphill. In saying that, with only a few hundred metres in height difference over more than 7 km it’s something that isn't too noticeable.
 
The estimated time from start to finish for this route is 5 hours compared with 4 hours if going from the Ardales side. 
 
 
Starting from the train station, you have a 1.5 km walk to the first control cabin. You need to walk past the old campsite and keep following the signs. From the cabin, there's a steep uphill climb towards the train tracks and the tunnel - 800 m.
 
You start the Caminito at it's highest part, with the most vertical sections going through the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes and crossing over the hanging bridge of the Balconcillo de los Gaitanes coming up straight away. 
 
 
From here, you have almost 3 km of cliff-hanging path as you pass through the most spectacular parts of the gorge. You then drop back down into the Valle del Hoyo. A truly beautiful valley. One that for years was very hard to access and is now full of flowers and trees with the river gently meandering through it. The perfect place to stop off for a picnic. There several designated picnic spots, with tables and chairs. Remember to take any rubbish with you. 
 
This section is very straightforward and gently meanders on for another 2.7 km. There's another vertical section that goes through the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes and drops back down to the control point on the Ardales side. 
 
At the time of writing, you could either turn back and walk the Caminito again or walk into Ardales and take a shuttle bus back to El Chorro - see below. 

Ardales Northern Access

 
This is the easier of the two routes, as you are following the river downstream and is said to take one hour less. The route starts just off the MA-444 access road. The road that winds around the Ardales lakes. There are several ways you can get to the start of the Caminito from here. You need to get to the other side of the mountain. 
 
 
There’s a small tunnel that is situated just beside the Kiosk restaurant, right in front of the Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir. The tunnel is short, but you need to walk further at the other end (approx. 2.5kms). The path is exceptionally picturesque, signposted and follows the course of the river until you reach the control point/entry. 
 
There's a larger/longer tunnel that is situated near the Mirador restaurant. This tunnel is quite a bit longer than the one near El Kiosk, but you save time walking on the other end. At the time of writing, there were no lights installed. Bring a torch or headlight if feeling unsure. 
 
If you don't want to use the tunnels, you can easily walk over the mountain and drop back down to the river. Follow the track that runs behind the Mirador restaurant. You can't miss it. 
 
The control station is situated just next to the old hydroelectric plant. Once you pass through the control, the path quickly narrows and gets increasingly vertical as you progress into the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes. You eventually drop down into the Valle del Hoyo
 
The old Caminito has been left as intact as possible with the new path built just above it. It's made up of predominantly wood panels that have supports drilled into the rock face. The one metre wide path offers several spectacular glass floor sections and culminates with a hanging bridge that crosses above the Balconcillo de los Gaitanes. Not for the faint hearted, the bridge is suspended more than 100m off the Gaintanes gorge. 

Things to keep in mind - 

  • The Caminito should not be attempted if you are of a nervous disposition or suffer from vertigo
  • You will be provided with a helmet upon entry. It must be kept on at all times. 
  • There are no bathrooms or facilities throughout the entire route. 
  • Bring water and food with you. 
  • If arriving by train, make sure you reserve places for the Alorá side. 
  • The train station at El Chorro will be renamed El Chorro - Caminito del Rey
  • Children need to be accompanied at all times and must be over 8 years old.
  • Access can be closed during high winds - over 35 km/h. 
  • The walk is linear. You start and end in two different places. 
  • There's a bus service that connects the two sides. Buses leave every half an hour, with a single ticket costing €1,55. 
  • The bus from the El Chorro side leaves from the first roundabout just before arriving at the train station. 
  • The bus from the Ardales side leaves from El Sillón del Rey - the King's chair - a few hundred metres down the road from the Kiosk restaurant. El Sillón del Rey is stone table and chair that was dedicated to opening of the reservoir. The same reservoir they had to be fished out of having been thrown into it during the Spanish Civil War. 

Getting there by car

There are two ways to get to El Chorro from Málaga. You can go via Álora or Ardales. The quickest is by following the Ardales route and is shown below. On leaving Málaga follow the A-357 northwards towards Cártama. Stay on the motorway for 65 km, just after you pass the village of Ardales on your left hand side, keep your eyes open for a sharp turning rightwards. It's labelled M-442/Ardales/MA-5403/El Chorro.

Take an immediate left onto the secondary road MA-444 which quickly starts to wind around the Guadalhorce reservoir, providing some fantastic scenery. Keep following this road as it winds around the lake. You'll eventually come to a junction, with a sharp turning rightwards towards the village of El Chorro.

If going on the El Chorro route take this turning and keep following the road as it drops downwards and winds sharply around the woods. After approximately 5 km, you'll come out of the woods and start getting glimpses of the Caminito and the El Chorro reservoir.

Follow the signs to the village. You need to cross over the reservoir. 

 

To start from the Ardales side - 

 
Follow the instructions above. But rather than turning rightwards towards the village of El Chorro, keep on the MA-444, driving past the campsite and the beach areas.
 
Just before a small tunnel, take a sharp right onto an unpaved forestry road. Signposted Restaurante El Mirador. Drive up a couple hundred metres and park anywhere you can. The tunnel is clearly visible and signposted. 
 
There are future plans to build two large car parks here. 
 

Trains to El Chorro - Caminito del Rey from Málaga

There are currently only two trains that leave daily from Malaga's Maria Zambrano station to El Chorro - Caminito del Rey. The first leaves at 10.05 - destination Ronda - and the second at 16.48 - destination Sevilla Santa Justa. Journey time is 40 minutes and a ticket costs 6€. 

There are three trains that return from El Chorro back to Málaga. Leaving at 9.33, 15.03 and 18.03 from El Chorro. 

Additional train services have been planned for the future. For more information, see the Renfe website or call 902 320 320. 

For more things to see and do in the area, be sure to check the fantastic hike up the Arabic staircase or pay a visit to the Bobastro ruins.

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