El Caminito del Rey deaths trail was once nicknamed the ‘Most dangerous path in the world’. The review is written to give you, as the reader, insight into this wonderful trail and the amazing landscape and lakes it has to offer.
I traveled the Caminito Trail in Spain in May 2016. The trail was, in 2016, 1 year fully operational and maybe not that much frequented yet.
El Caminito del Rey hiking trail, also known as the King’s path, is a cliff-side trail hanging 100m above the waters of the river Guadalhorce reservoir. The river in itself runs through the El Chorro gorge.
El Chorro gorge, near the villages of El Chorro in Alora and Ardales in Andalusia, Spain is one of the most important tourist destinations of Malaga in Southern Spain. It is famous due to its amazing natural beauty and an attractive and popular rock climbing attraction for mountaineers.
El Caminito del Rey is about 25 km inland from Malaga city.
Who built El Caminito del Rey and why?
The hiking trail of deaths, El Caminito del Rey, was originally built as access for workmen around 1901. El Caminito del Rey was only functional, but soon became part of the life of the inhabitants of El Chorro and the surrounding villages.
The Hydroelectric Society of El Chorro used the trail to facilitate the passage of workers and materials. The construction of the Caminito del Rey took 4 years.
In 1921 the trail of Caminito del Rey was improved and inaugurated to the public by King Alfonso XXIII and therefore named the King’s little path.
Around the 1980s, the El Caminito del Rey trail started to deteriorate and was closed to the public. It was during this period that in El Caminito del Rey deaths and accidents occurred, as it did not stop the most adventurous of people. El Caminito del Rey in Malaga became known as ‘the most dangerous path in the world’, also known as ‘the walk of deaths’.
The El Caminito del Rey accidents did not stop there. In the 1990s several fatal falls occurred. In the 2000s mountaineers decided to set up a zip line to help those that continue to hike the trail. Although a zip line was set up fatal falls kept occurring. Something had to change in the restoration of the El Caminito del Rey hiking trail.
The Spanish authorities in Andalucia had promised many times to restore the trail. El Caminito del Rey was finally restored and reopened on the 28th of March 2015.
The reconstruction of El Caminito del Rey death trail was kept as close as possible to the original pathway in 1921. The “new” and famous boardwalk of the El Caminito del Rey hike is built with wooden planks and not more than a simple 1.2m-high three-wire guard rail. In some places the trail is not more than a meter wide, hanging to the cliff face.
If you are not afraid of heights you can see the ‘old’ path of the El Caminito del Rey deaths trail just below. The hiking trail includes a steel suspension bridge with an open grid decking across the gorge, which is just next to the original aqueduct bridge.
The El Caminito del Rey Elevation
El Caminito del Rey hiking trail has an elevation of 120 meters between the Kings walkway and the Gaitanes gorge over the river at the highest point. The hike is absolutely breathtaking.
The hike starts at an elevation of 400 meters above sea level and the trail ends at 300 meters. The hike is in the same direction as the Guadalhorce river, and because of that the trail is mainly descending.
The elevation of the Kings walkway and the suspension bridge in the Gaitanes gorge is 120 meters over the river at the highest part which makes the hike absolutely breathtaking.
- Distance: 7.7 km
- Difficulty: easy
- Total Ascent: 120
- Total Descent: 100
- Time Needed: 2 hours ( 4 hours incl. Bus to the start)
- Where to Eat: El Kiosko
How to get to El Caminito del Rey from Malaga
It is easy to get to El Caminito del Rey, which is around an hour inland from Malaga by car. Driving is therefore also the preferred choice since the train stops at the end of the hike. You can get straight to the entrance by entering “El Kiosko Restaurant Ardales/El Chorro” in your navigation.
Parking your car is both possible at El Chorro and by El Kiosko Restaurant. The last-mentioned ensures you can immediately start the trail having the entrance nearby.
By public transport, the best way is to take the train from Malaga’s Maria Zambrano station to El Chorro. The train has a direct connection, at just €4.85 for a one-way ticket. The train ride takes approximately 45 minutes. Since the trains run throughout the day every day it is wise to plan your arrival time with your timeslot of the Caminito hike. From there as you get off there are buses that leave every 30 minutes to the El Kiosko restaurant where you start the trail.
The last option is to have a shuttle bus and guide tour included if you do not want the hassle of planning.
In the summer many tourists and locals come to the surrounding areas of the Caminito for years. There is a possibility of doing water sports and where they can cool down in the turquoise reservoirs.
If you plan to stay for a longer period of time there are enough accommodations like campsites, b&b’s and guest houses in the area of Guadalhorce valley with an amazing and breathtaking landscape.
Rent a car in Malaga for more flexibility
Making use of public transport, as you may imagine, is a hassle to reach El Caminito del Rey from Malaga (or Seville). If you want to be more flexible, it is also possible to rent a car in Malaga.
Having the flexibility of a car, it gives you the advantage to stop in at the lake and enjoy the scenery. Rental Cars in Malaga can be picked up at the airport or the train station.
I recommend renting a car from the airport for 3 reasons:
- The prices at the airport seem to be cheaper
- It takes only 15 minutes to get to the airport by metro.
- There is no need to drive to the city center.
If you plan to drive from the airport to El Caminito del Rey it takes around 90 minutes to reach the trail. I recommend rentalcars to compare prices.
How long does it take to walk Caminito del Rey?
El Caminito del Rey hiking trail is 8.1 km in total and takes at least 3 hours to walk, but from my own experience, it is better to take into account that it takes four to five hours in total to complete.
The path is divided into five sections which can be mentioned as follows:
- 2.5 km access path from El Kiosko through the forest to the ticket entrance
- 1.3 km boardwalk through the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes (Gaitanes gorge)
- 1.6 km path through the wooded Valle del Hoyo (Hoyo valley)
- 0.9 km cliff-hanging board through the Garganta del Chorro (El Chorro gorge)
- 1.8km access path to El Chorro village. (See detailed route description).
El Caminito del Rey which was called “the walk of deaths”, the trail which I did myself in 2016, is a very popular tourist attraction and perfectly safe. If you are afraid of heights I would not recommend it since you literally walk along the cliffside.
Since El Caminito del Rey is limited to 100 visitors per half hour it does not get too crowded. Tickets can be bought online in advance based on a timeslot, although sometimes standby tickets are available.
If you are a beginner in hiking, El Caminito del Rey is the trail to start. This 3 hour trail is mainly flat and is therefore something that a person with any fitness level can do.
How to return back to the start of El Caminito del Rey?
There are shuttle bus services that drive the 9.5 kilometers between El Kiosko Restaurant and El Chorro train station. The service costs 1.55 Euros which can be paid in cash at the bus unless you’ve bought a combined ticket.
Every 30 minutes the bus leaves, so if you come by train and need to take the bus to the start of the hiking trail, it is advisable to get a train that gets to El Chorro 1,5-2 hours before our entrance starts.
Can you walk the Caminito del Rey without a guide?
The hike of El Caminito del Rey can be done easily without a guide as you can’t get lost on this trail. Often there is also staff posted along the route if help is needed. Depending on how you arrive make sure to check train schedules and at which time your tail starts.
Is Caminito del Rey open all year?
El Caminito del Rey is open all year. The opening days for Caminito del Rey are from Tuesday to Sunday all year round (Mondays the trail is closed). So if you want to visit Malaga or other cities, I recommend you organize your trip on Mondays. In the winter the opening hours are from 9:30 am until 2:30 pm.
Note: All activities in Malaga and more can be found here for your city trip on Monday.
Although you can walk the Caminito del Rey all year round, the less hot months are the most suitable for enjoying this route.
On the other hand, you must take into account the El Caminito del Rey meteo that during these months there are greater changes in temperature, more probability of rainfall, and fewer hours of light.
What to pack for El Caminito del Rey in Malaga?
Although this is a 3 to 5 hours hiking trail, there are always a few things you should prepare for. Take a small backpack (large bags are not allowed) and bring enough water, snacks, and sunscreen with you. Have a good pair of hiking shoes to enjoy the trail.
Protecting yourself with a cap when hiking during summertime is recommended. Though shade from the cliffside can be found everywhere it limits the chance of sunburn and overheating.
Like always when going on a hiking trip, comfortable clothing is recommended.
Do not bring hiking poles or selfie sticks with you as these are not allowed during this trail
If you plan to hike El Caminito del Rey during the warmer months, you can combine it with a swim at the lake or picnic afterwards.
As an alternative, you can also eat at El Kiosko Restaurant or at any Restaurant or bar in El Chorro at the end of the trail..
Practical information regarding the El Caminito del Rey
Because of the narrow pathways and the characteristics of the trail, the age limit of Caminito del Rey is 8 years. At the Saltillo gorge or El Torcal de Antequera, it is possible to take a guided excursion with children under 8.
There are a few additional things you need to know about the hike that is not always being mentioned:
- Pets are not allowed
- There are no toilets along the path
- The walk sometimes closes in case bad weather exists. (Be aware that refunds are not offered)
Note: Since refunds are not being offered for de El Caminito del Rey hiking trail you might want to consider for travel insurance. If you want to know more, read my complete World Nomads vs SafetyWing review for digital nomads.
Book tickets for El Caminito del Rey
Tickets can be booked online on the official website and cost €10 per person and 11,55€ including the optional shuttle bus to take you back to the starting point. You will receive a mandatory helmet at the entrance.
When booking you must choose a start time in 15 minutes to 30 minutes intervals. Be aware that tickets for sale to the public are only released in batches of two months at a time. The tickets for El Caminito del Rey tend to sell out quickly. Most times are booked out about a month in advance. This makes it difficult for a tourist to plan and buy tickets months ahead.
There are tour providers that have a separate allocation for these tickets and will accept bookings in advance. You can check for tour availability here. The tour guide can pick you up in Malaga or will meet you at the restaurant El Kiosko near the entrance.
Where to stay near El Caminito del Rey?
When you are planning to stay overnight near the trail, the best thing to do is to find your accommodation near El Chorro or Ardales. In addition, if you like camping, there is some camping ground at the lakes close to the El Kiosko Restaurant.
Complejo Turístico La Garganta is a good hotel with an outside pool. The hotel has free parking, but also an airport shuttle bus if you do not have a car.
Apartamentos Parque Ardales has apartments and a campground for tents and caravans. It’s located next to El Chorro Lakes and only a few minutes drive from El Kiosko Restaurant. You can also walk from the El Kiosko Restaurant to the start there in about 20 minutes so you don’t have to worry about parking.
My experience on El Caminito del Rey hike
My experience of the El Caminito del Rey trail hike was in May 2016, a year after the trail was renovated and reopened. When you are in Andalucia, it is a must to experience the El Caminito del Rey hike. The amazing beauty of the El Chorro gorge and although in some places the trail is narrow, I could easily enjoy the beauty of it all
The fact that it is a controlled hike where you pay a fee for entrance and need to use a mandatory helmet, makes maintaining the hike possible. A trail that is not comparable to others.
If you are afraid of heights then probably this trail is not recommended. It is not for everyone, hanging on the side of a cliff a hundred meters above the ground.
Disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links and I may earn a commission if you click on them, at no additional cost to you. Hope you find the information here useful! Thanks.Bruno