The Caminito del Rey (not to be confused with the Camino de Compostela) came to our attention when housesitting in Alhaurin de la Torre. Our hosts mentioned that there was a lovely drive to the lakes in the mountains and upon googling it, I discovered pictures of this amazing walk. Because of its popularity, we were unable to book a time while staying there or anytime in the following two months so, knowing we had a 4-day break between sits in early November, I booked us to do this on our way east.
We stayed in Allora, one of the gateways to the Caminito in a lovely hostal. We arrived in heavy rain and were booked to do the walk the following day – things didn’t look promising. However the next day dawned clear and sunny, and we drove to the south end of the trail at El Chorro where we caught a bus to the northern start of the trail just out of Ardales. Due to the heavy rain, the direct road was closed and our bus ended up taking us all the way back to Allora and then up the main highway, adding an extra half hour to our day.
We arrived with hordes of other tourist cars and buses disgorging the many tour and school groups. The start of the walk is through a short tunnel and down a short track to the point where we collected our helmets and were let onto the track in groups of about 30, at 15-minute intervals. Although waiting for our turn was painful, it made the walk a lot easier. The walk was upgraded recently after the deterioration of the original and dangerous trail, and the new, improved and safer one-way trail opened in 2015. As we walked, we could still see the remains of the old trail underneath, and looking back in parts you gasp at what holds it all up.
The first part of the trail involves bridges and boardwalks over the gorge until the trail widens out and you can enjoy walking at ground level for a bit. Then once again you are perched high up on the side of the cliffs, hugging the sides and following the contours of these high and sheer mountains.
On the other side, you see the railway wending its way through tunnels and across bridges and marvel at the men who actually laid the incredible retaining walls here. Along the trail, you meet “wardens” in their orange helmets who pass on information and keep a wary eye on tourists. Towards the end, you cross a suspension bridge high over the river, just after the corner with the glass panel through which you can see the gorge floor below.
Then what seemed to be the steepest part, climbing up several flights of stairs to the end of the trail. It’s not until you look back you realise the scale of this last boardwalk against the sheerness of the cliffs.
The walk wasn’t overly exerting, but we covered 6km in just under 2 hours. Those with an extreme fear of heights should stay away, but I never felt scared about our height as the trail is well constructed and edge-protected. Looking over the sides into the gorge brought a frisson of excitement but it was an amazing experience and well worth the wait to do it.
Arriving back in El Chorro, the lines for the buses had swelled and we thought that by the time some of those waiting reached the start, the now threatening rain may put a literal dampener on their experience. Chris now put his cycling gear on and hopped on his trusty steed back to our accommodation, arriving just before the rain did.
Click these links to find out more about this amazing experience.