05 Jan

Caminito del Rey (05 Jan 19)

Spain, Andalusia, near El Chorro – 7.7 km

We got up early (I was visiting my mum and her partner in Spain) to still have a nice and relaxed breakfast. Around half eight, we jumped in the car and drove off. Even though we had only a one and a half hour drive in front of me, we didn’t want to rush. When I’d booked my ticket, I’d got an eleven o’clock time slot, and they ask you to arrive around a half hour early to get the arrival procedure out of the way.

The drive up north from Marbella was nice and the roads are in surprisingly good condition. We made good time and arrived at around ten at the northern end of the trail. There was still some morning fog in the air and it was quite cold. The car had measured 1°C (34°F).

Morning fog over the Presa Conde de Guadalhorce (the Dam of Count Guadalhorce).
Walking over the dam towards the Sillón del Rey (the King’s Chair).The Sillón del Rey is one of the entrances to the trail that leads to the main gate of the Caminito del Rey.

I left my mum and her partner behind and made my way down a short flight of stairs and entered the trail that’s leading towards the entrance. It’s just compacted dirt with some rocks sticking out. A digger had apparently recently scraped off a top layer of soil and graded it. It’s an easy walk.

The Embalse de Gaintanejo (Gaitanejo dam).

The trail follows the Embalse de Gaintanejo (the Gaitanejo dam), which is very narrow and looks more like a river than a lake.

The morning fog is slowly lifting.

The path lightly undulates through the countryside and offers some nice views. There are a few power lines visible on the horizon, but they aren’t too in your face.

After about 2.7 km (1.7 mi) I arrived at the main gate, where my ticket was checked, and I was given a helmet and a safety pep talk.

The main gate and the obligatory t-shirt vendor.

The first thing I walked towards was the old turbine house of the dam. It’s quite pretty for an industrial building. I wish, we could still build pretty buildings for utilities.

White helmets are individuals, coloured ones are groups.

Around the corner is the small, old dam that created the lake I’d walked along earlier.

The dam.

A few steps further I got my first glimpse of the first gorge. The cliffs are about 300 m (1,000 feet) tall. Quite imposing.

The first gorge.

Then, it was time for one last selfie before entering the chasm …

Smile for the camera.

The walking path is anchored straight into the rock face and feels, er, rock solid. I’m sure that the old one was a bit more butt clenching.

The new walkway is safe and stable.

Thankfully I have no fear of heights. Be warned though that, if you are, you can look through the planks into the abyss below.

Cameras are set up along the path to discourage mischievous climbers.

As I looked down, I could see the Río Guadalhorce (the Guadalhorce river) — and a lot of pigeons.

The Río Guadalhorce (the Guadalhorce river) below.

Well, and then it was just a few metres and I was on the other side.

The river builds a little pool below that is green from algae.

At first I wondered if this was it. But no, there is more.

Looking towards the rail tracks.

I clambered down some stairs almost to ground level and looked back to see where I’d just been. It’s quite beautiful.

Looking back towards the gorge.

Then I walked up some of the old stairs towards the rail track (that spoil the view a little, but it’s not too bad).

Round the corner we go …

Once I had the valley in front of me, I could see a tiny little bridge in the background that connects the rail track on the left to the old trail on the right.

The trail on the right and a bit of the bridge visible.
It’s slowly falling apart though.

Once I was past the bridge, the board walk ended and I was treading on dirt again. The valley that’s connecting the first with the second gorge is really pretty and worth taking your time.

The view towards the second gorge.

The path meanders through some beautiful Andalusian landscape that’s mostly unspoiled, because there’s no road access.

Beautiful path.

As I was walking towards the second gorge, I had this massive rock face towering in front of me that almost looks like a cathedral for the way it’s been hollowed out by the elements.

Yes, it’s quite tall.

It’s really remarkable to think how the original trail had been built. Also the way the rail track had been threaded through that gorge is quite breath taking.

How long did it take – and how many died?

After shoving a couple of group members out of my way, I came towards the section that is most often seen in photos when you read articles about the Caminito del Rey.

Conga line.

Here, the new trail is not built directly on top of the old one so that you can see and appreciate the precariousness of the old one. I’m sure it was terrifying in the olden days.

It’s steep.

Then I came towards a gap in the rock, where the trail had been built all the way around. There’s a shortcut though and it’s probably not for people with Acrophobia.

There’s a gap …
… and a shortcut.

Then I’d almost made it to the end. I came towards an old bridge, where water was pouring out of and cascaded down into the depths.

Leaky bridge.

At first I wondered why a footbridge would be leaking, but then I came closer and realised that the old bridge is not for pedestrians, but actually holds some sort of an old water pipeline. There’s a brand new suspension bridge built directly next to it, so that little old me can cross dry footed.

It’s a pipeline.
The new suspension bridge is gorgeous.

Just in case you’re wondering, the bridge swings and is made with grating, so you can look down between your feet.

On the other side.

On the other side, I walked around the last rock corner and made my way towards the exit.

There are a couple of lounging spots on this side, where you could hang out a little and enjoy the view. They were both taken when I came though, so I moved on.

The end is nigh.

Interestingly, even though I’d already walked through the exit gate, I had to walk all the way down to the parking area before I could hand back my helmet. Maybe this is only done in the off season.

Then I got picked up by my family with the car again and we made our way back home.

A last view on to the bridge.

It was a really interesting little walk. Clearly, the adrenaline pumping scariness is completely gone (unless you are afraid of heights).

Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth the €10 entrance fee.

Just a couple of tips, if you do get the chance to go yourself:

  • You have to book in advance on their website.
  • Try to get an afternoon spot so that the sun’s in your back. I had to take pictures into the sun all the way.