Join Alison & Graeme Pike & Jamie & jesse
“The Most Dangerous Walk in the World!” was the headline that caught our eye while we were researching places to go and things to see on our upcoming trip to Spain. We like a bit of excitement and this hike looked pretty spectacular. We checked it out with the rest of the travelers and we all agreed it was a Must-Do!
Where and what is it?
It’s called the Caminito del Rey and it is a 100-year-old 3 km pathway that clings to the cliff sides of a narrow gorge in El Chorro in Spain, with sheer drops of about 300 feet.
It was originally built as a walkway for the workers building hydroelectric plants in El Chorro and Gaitanejo from 1901 to 1905 so they could get access from one side of the gorge to the other.
The name ‘Caminito del Rey’ in English means ‘The King’s Little Pathway’ and is named after King Alfonso XIII who inaugurated the dam in 1921.
It is situated in El Chorro, about an hour’s drive from Malaga in Spain, well away from the beachy tourist hot spots.
Did it live up to our expectations?
Oh yes! Amazing scenery! Breathtaking views! Huge rock faces & canyon walls and the river a long, long, way below us. Lots of ‘Wow’ moments. Around every corner or bend, there was another awesome sight!
Was it scary?
Very! Scary is an understatement! The walk started easily enough but got scarier and scarier as we went along. From a distance, we caught sight of a solid looking bridge-pipeline which appeared to have people on it, going across the canyon. We thought this was the end of the walk and we breathed a sigh of relief! However, as we got closer we realized this was an optical illusion.
In fact, the people were on a swing bridge running alongside the pipeline. The swing bridge was absolutely terrifying even though it was totally safe. We recovered from that to find we were not at the end of the walk. It was not over yet and the next challenge faced us- a series of open steps on the side of the cliff through which we could see the river a long, long, long way below each time we went to take a step! Extremely scary!
How did it get its reputation for being dangerous?
The construction work was finished on the hydroelectric plants and the dam opened in 1921. After that, the path was not required and no maintenance work was done on it. Gradually the path partially disintegrated and fell into disrepair. The concrete pathway crumbled in sections and the steel supports became rusty. The hike became a challenge for thrill-seeking adrenaline junkies and rock climbers. It was very dangerous, very thrilling and five people lost their lives challenging it.
When was it repaired and reopened?
After two fatal deaths in 1999 and 2000, the track was closed for 15 years. Even though it was officially closed and trespassers could be fined, it still attracted thrill seekers and more accidents happened.
In 2011 the government of Andalusia and the local government of Malaga decided to upgrade the walk and spent about nine million Euros repairing and rebuilding the pathway to make it into a safe tourist track.
It re-opened in 2015 with new handrails, wooden boardwalks and skywalk glass floor look out sections built over the old pathway which is still visible, to make it into a very safe, but just as spectacular track and still very exhilarating, especially if you have any kind of fear of heights.
How did you get there?
We specifically went to the Malaga region to do the walk. We flew into Malaga from Lisbon and picked up a hire car at the airport.
TIP: If, like us, you are hiring a car at the airport, make sure you follow the signs carefully to access the car rental area from inside the airport grounds. Somehow we found ourselves outside the ‘secure area’ and had difficulty getting back inside! .
Where did you stay?
Most people stay at Malaga (about 80 minutes drive to Caminito del Rey ) but we are not big city fans and found a villa on Airbnb in the small hinterland town of Casarabonela about 40 minutes from Malaga and 50 minutes drive to the walk. We booked for four nights and loved it there.
Casarabonela is off the tourist track. It is not a tourist town but a traditional Spanish village with its narrow whitewashed streets. As strangers in town, we attracted attention. The house was perfect for the four of us.
From Casarabonela we also visited Frigiliana, a Moorish old town east of Malaga with its narrow streets decorated with ceramic mosaics. We visited Ronda, a mountaintop city that’s majestically set above a deep gorge. We were hoping to catch the ferry from Gibraltar to Tangiers for the day but on arrival found our ferry had been canceled so spent the day in Gibraltar instead. Not quite the day we had planned!
What tips would you give to people planning a trip to Caminito del Rey?
Pre-book the walk online well ahead of time. Keep in mind that the walk can sometimes be closed due to poor weather conditions so you may want to stay a couple of days to ensure you will get to go.
We chose the 4.00 pm start time as it was cooler then. There were about 20 people in each group. Each group has a guide and everyone is given a helmet and a headphone set. Everyone goes at their own pace. You don’t need to be particularly fit.
Allow plenty of time to find the entrance to the walk. We lost quite a bit of time on arriving because we could not find the beginning of the walk and had taken a wrong turn and ended up at the end of the walk instead. We had to drive back about 30 minutes to find the entrance, which is just a small tunnel in the hill with a very small sign. We still had difficulty finding this.
Caminito del Rey is no longer “The Most Dangerous Walk in the World,” but it is definitely one of the most amazing experiences in our life. However, if you have a fear of heights don’t even think about it!
Would we do it again? You bet!