What is the Caminito Del Rey?
The Caminito Del Rey is a famous 7-kilometer footpath near Malaga in southern Spain. The path traverses through two gorges on wooden planks nailed into the cliff. The Caminito Del Rey was originally used as a shortcut for hydroelectric plant workers but gained national fame when King Alphonso XIII walked it as part of a tour of the area in 1921. After a long closure and renovation, it reopened to the public in 2015 and ever since has become one of Andalusia’s most popular tourist attractions.
The Caminito (little walk) is not to be confused with the Camino (big walk) de Santiago in northern Spain.
How to Book?
Tickets can be purchased online, but it’s a tough ticket to obtain. In a typical year during high season (the winter), tickets have to be purchased weeks if not months in advance. During the rest of the year, you can purchase tickets a week or two in advance.
Most tickets are for a guided tour (18 Euros in 2020) but there are a few spaces without a guide (10 Euros). In addition, make sure to purchase the bus fare. That is because the exit is very very far from the entrance and there is no other realistic way to get from the exit to the entrance without the bus. In fact, the purpose of the Caminito was to shorten the walk between the two entrances.
Logistics of the Day:
The hike is one-way. It starts in the North Entrance and ends in the South Entrance (today the exit).
There are two ways to plan your day:
- Take your own car and park near the NORTH ENTRANCE (use Restaurante El Mirador Ardales in your mapping app). Park on the street, but know that spaces are not always so easy to find. After the hike, you will take the bus back to your car.
- Take the train from Malaga, which drops you off at the SOUTH ENTRANCE (actually the exit) in the town of El Chorro. From the train station, you will then have to take the bus to the NORTH ENTRANCE to start the hike.
Regardless of which way you choose, it is a 2 kilometer (25-30 minute walk) from the north entrance parking to the actual start of the hike/ticket check. Make sure to leave enough time to get to the ticket check on time. If you miss your tour, too bad!
My Journey: October 8, 2020
I booked 2 tickets for a guided tour about 3 weeks in advance. The only time slot for that long weekend was on the Friday at 13:35. Saturdays and Sundays appeared to be booked solid for the next month. My friend Dan was able to join me on the adventure!
Since we had some time before the tour, we first decided to visit the town of Antequera: a real gem of a town somewhat on the way between Malaga and the start of the Caminito. Antequera contains a UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Dolmens, which are megalithic burials. Additionally, Antequera has a beautiful white town center and a Moorish fortress called an alcazaba.
Antequera was also the filming location of the 2020 Netflix series Warrior Nun. Dan is a big Warrior Nun fan and was excited to be among some of the world’s first Warrior Nun tourists. Alas, at the alcazaba, there was a huge poster highlighting some of city landmarks featured in the show.
From Antequera, we drove 45 minutes to reach the North Entrance parking area, which is not a lot but rather a long stretch of road around the restaurant El Mirador Ardales.
We arrived at 12:00, which gave us time to eat lunch at the restaurant. The food was surprisingly good given the location and clientele and has a stunning view of the nearby reservoir.
At 13:00, we walked towards the entrance. At 13:25, we arrived at the ticket booth just 10 minutes before our scheduled tour time. There was a crowd of people trying to get in. After some confusion and dealing with an angry security guard, we got on the tour with no major issues.
We then were given helmets and earpieces to better hear our guide. I was the only non-Spanish speaker on the trip and the guide gave me a real hard time for it- even though she was British (understandable if I booked a Spanish-only tour but I booked the bilingual English/Spanish tour). I was able to get explanations in English when I walked close to her.
Luckily, I wasn’t here for the history lesson, I was here for the incredible scenery on the craziest plank walkway! The tour started in the first gorge. This reminded me of The Narrows hike in Zion National Park in Utah, USA. But here, we were 100 meters (300 feet) above the river.
The path and the canyon were both beyond spectacular.
After about 45 minutes, we traversed the first canyon and reached an open valley. We walked across this valley for another 45 minutes.
Finally, we reached a second gorge. This one was somehow even more spectacular than the first. The cliffs were taller and the gorge was slightly wider so we could get a better view.
At the end of the second gorge, we reached a plant/cable bridge. This place reminded me of the Bridge of Kazad Dum in the first Lord of the Rings.
After crossing over the abyss, it was a 30-minute walk down to the bus station.
We made the mistake of not purchasing a bus ticket in advance and had a little scare trying to find a way to buy a ticket Luckily, we were able to buy one from the driver. It took 30 minutes to get onto the bus and another 45 to drive back to the car.
All in all, we returned to the car at 17:30, 4.5 hours after leaving our car for the entrance.
The Caminito Del Rey is worthy of the hype. I would consider it one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever done. The logistics were a bit annoying, but it does all work.