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The Caminito del Rey: Andalusia’s royal walk

The Caminito del Rey: Andalusia’s royal walk

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For years, we have been members of several hiking pages on Facebook, where we often find inspiration for our walks in our own country. We also frequently come across hiking routes abroad. One of the walks that immediately caught our attention was the Caminito del Rey. This iconic hiking trail is located in a rugged landscape with towering, vertical cliffs in the Spanish province of Málaga. This week, during our stay in Malaga, we finally walked the renowned trail, and fortunately, the walk even exceeded our high expectations. In this blog, we delve deeper into our long-cherished hiking adventure and provide tips on how to make the most of the walk.


A bit of history about the Caminito del Rey

The Caminito del Rey is not just a renowned hiking route for adventurous hikers. The path also has a fascinating history dating back to 1901 when the construction of “El Chorro,” a hydroelectric dam, began. This dam was part of an ambitious project to generate hydroelectric power for the surrounding region. To connect the dam to nearby towns, a narrow path was built that ran over the ravines and steep cliffs.

The path soon acquired the nickname “Caminito del Rey” (the little pathway of the king) due to a visit by King Alfonso XIII in 1921. He walked the path to inspect the dam. The name stuck, becoming a symbol for the then still challenging and dangerous route. In the following period, the path became infamous for its poor condition and lack of maintenance, earning a reputation as one of the most dangerous hiking routes in the world, attracting adventurers, or rather daredevils.

In 2015, the Caminito del Rey underwent a thorough renovation to ensure safety and make the path accessible to hikers of all levels. The new path retains its historical charm but is now equipped with sturdy walkways and safety fences. Since then, the Caminito del Rey has become a popular attraction, drawing thousands of visitors annually. Walking this historical path and enjoying breathtaking views is a unique experience.

Cliffside path

Our walk on the Caminito del Rey

The Caminito del Rey is located in the El Chorro nature reserve, not far from the Costa del Sol. Today, the name of the southern coast of Spain lives up to its name: there’s not a cloud in the sky as we arrive at the large car park. Even on this winter day, the sun feels wonderfully warm in the mountains.

A few weeks ago, we started preparing for the walk. For such a short afternoon hike as this, we usually don’t start our preparations so early. However, it turned out that we were even running late. For the Caminito del Rey, you need to buy tickets online in advance. If you do this on time, you can still walk the route on your own. We were too late for this and could only buy tickets for a guided group walk. This wasn’t a problem, as a guide usually has a lot of interesting facts to share.

We park our rental car in a large car park. They have created this parking area because the car parks at both the start and end points of the walk were too small. From here, a large bus takes us to Restaurante El Kiosko in five minutes, which is within walking distance of the official starting point. Since we are a bit early, we take our time at this restaurant for a lovely cup of coffee.


Start of our walk

From the restaurant, we first walk a short distance along the road before entering a well-lit tunnel. The long tunnel leads to the Gaitanejo Reservoir, located in a beautiful forested, mountainous landscape. We walk a little further and reach the visitor centre and the official entrance to the walk. Upon showing the QR code of our ticket, we join the guide. Once her group is complete, the walk finally begins.


Fauna along the route

First, our guide tells us more about the history of the Caminito del Rey. She also informs us about the animals we can expect to see during the walk. Firstly, she points out the vulture while pointing upwards. We indeed see many large birds circling in a thermal updraft. However, she continues, we can also find the golden eagle, hawk, and peregrine falcon flying here. Furthermore, the long gorge is home to the Eurasian jay, black wheatear, various species of swallows, and the rock dove.


Our guide has barely finished listing the many bird species when she points to a steep cliff. For a moment, we have no idea what exactly we should be looking at. But soon after, we hear some hikers enthusiastically shouting about an ibex. And indeed, if we look closely, we see an ibex on the other side of the gorge. It’s incredible how the animal manages to walk along the cliff as if it has suction cups under its hooves.

In addition to the Spanish ibex, foxes and mongooses also live in this part of the nature reserve. And in some caves, there is a large colony of bats. The river, the guide enthusiastically continues, is the domain of otters and many freshwater fish species, such as the Andalusian barbel. We don’t get to see the latter animals. Or rather, from this point on, our attention is more focused on the narrow walkways tightly attached to the steep cliffs.

Fear of heights at the Caminito del Rey

My wife has a fear of heights. Her curiosity always wins to continue. Sometimes that happens with more conviction than at other times. Over the years, we have found a method that works for her. I walk ahead. She holds onto my backpack while focusing on the ground or – in this case – the steps. Even now, we climb the steps as a well-coordinated team.

This time, it’s surprisingly going well. The walkways, completely renovated in 2015, are mounted directly above the old bridges on the rock face. Through the gaps in the planks, you can still see the old structure. This disrupts the view of the gaping depth. We can now keep up with the rest of the group as we walk from one gorge to another. It only gets exciting at the end. We have to take the suspension bridge over an enormously deep ravine. The suspension bridge gently moves up and down next to the old, no longer accessible steel bridge. Once on the other side, my wife looks back. She made it, and actually, it wasn’t as bad as she thought. The incredibly beautiful landscape has conquered her fear of heights!

Old bridge

Our verdict on the Caminito del Rey

During our preparations, we were not very enthusiastic, to be honest. Just the fact that we had to buy tickets for a walk seemed very unusual to us. Additionally, we found the booking process confusing. It also took us some effort to find out exactly where we would meet our guide. This was nowhere to be found in the automatic communication from the organization behind the Caminito del Rey. Now that the walk is over, we fortunately know this. Therefore, we can tell you exactly what steps you need to take if you want to walk the route just like we did. You can find the steps at the bottom of this page under the frequently asked questions.

Despite the difficult start, we believe that the walk itself should be on everyone’s bucket list. Even if you are not a real hiker, and even if you have a fear of heights. Our seven-kilometer journey on the Caminito del Rey far exceeded our expectations!

Mountain creek

The surroundings of the Caminito del Rey

The immediate surroundings of the famous hiking route offer more than just the Caminito del Rey. The renowned royal pathway is located in the El Chorro nature park. This large park is a haven for nature and outdoor enthusiasts. The area offers a wide variety of landscapes, magnificent lakes, wildlife, and many bird species. You can hike, rock climb, mountain bike, kayak, canoe, fish, and so on.

Are you an avid hiker? Then be sure to explore the Chorro Gorge. This gorge is particularly popular among mountain climbers. The steep limestone cliffs provide climbers of all levels with a particularly interesting challenge. However, the rugged landscape also attracts many hikers due to the breathtaking cliffs and the crystal-clear, turquoise water. You can find the most beautiful walks on sites like alltrails and komoot, from simple and short to long and challenging hiking routes. Popular routes include the looped Mirador de las Buitreras – Pico del Convento and the Mirador 3 Embalses.

If you pass through Ardales on your way back to the coast, plan to spend an hour for a visit. This charming town offers a rich history with picturesque narrow streets, whitewashed houses, and ancient ruins. Additionally, at the impressive Moorish castle, located on a hilltop, you have a panoramic view of the surrounding, magnificent landscape.

Railway bridge

Things to Know Before Walking the Caminito del Rey

Where is the starting point of the Caminito del Rey?

The starting point of the walk is at the visitor centre of the northern entrance of the Caminito del Rey. From there, you will be taken to the beginning of the route.

How do I get to the starting point of the Caminito del Rey?

If you don't have a car, an organized tour from Malaga is the best transportation option. If you do have a (rental) car, using your own vehicle is the most ideal. It's about a 50-minute drive from Malaga. However, you cannot drive to the official starting point by car. There is some parking at Restaurante El Kiosko, from where it's about 1750 meters to the starting point.

As the parking at that restaurant is limited, it's best to park your car at the large visitor centre. Here, there is a large car park where you can park your car for only 2 euros per day. From the car park, buses regularly depart for Restaurante El Kiosko. Furthermore, from the endpoint of the Caminito del Rey, buses return to this large car park. A bus ticket costs 2.50 euros per person and can be purchased online once you activate your ticket online. Information on this can be found in the question "How do I prepare optimally for the Caminito del Rey?"

How long is the route?

The route is approximately five kilometers long. However, to reach the official starting point from Restaurante El Kiosko, you need to walk 1750 meters. Therefore, plan on almost seven kilometers.

Do you need to be in good physical condition for the Caminito del Rey?

In principle, anyone with a reasonable level of fitness can easily walk the route. The paths and walkways are well-maintained. However, for the last short stretch, you will need to take some stairs towards the endpoint.

Is the Caminito del Rey suitable for people with a fear of heights?

Large parts are absolutely suitable for people with a fear of heights. Some walkways and especially the suspension bridge are less ideal. However, it is still definitely doable, as we know from experience.

How do I prepare optimally for the walk on the Caminito del Rey?

The easiest way to walk the Caminito del Rey is with an organized tour from Malaga. If you prefer to organize the walk yourself, follow these steps to prepare thoroughly:

  • Read this blog and if possible also the official site of the Caminito del Rey.
  • Purchase your entrance ticket on the website of the Caminito del Rey. If you want to walk the route on your own (i.e., without a guide), buy your ticket at least a month in advance. We advise you to book a ticket at least two weeks in advance if you want to walk with a guide. If you are coming by car, immediately reserve a spot in the large car park for 2 euros!
  • Once you have purchased the tickets, you will receive an email with a link to personalize your tickets. For this, you will need your passport details, so keep your passport handy.
  • After the tickets have been personalized, you can download them as a PDF. But even before downloading them, it's best to immediately buy your bus ticket. This can be done on the same page. A bus ticket costs 2.50 euros per person and is valid all day to and from the starting point, i.e., the endpoint of the walk.
  • Once you have purchased the bus ticket, you will immediately see it in the PDF of your ticket.
  • Download the PDF and keep it on your mobile device so that you can access it even when you don't have an internet connection.
  • Check the weather forecast one or two days before your visit. During extreme heat or heavy rainfall, the organization may close the route. In that case, you can reschedule for another date via this link.
    Bring enough water in a lightweight daypack and apply sunscreen on sunny days.
Are there opportunities along the route to eat or drink?

There are no catering facilities along the walk. Therefore, be sure to bring your own drinks and snacks. However, you can visit Restaurante El Kiosko 1750 meters before the official starting point. Also, just after the endpoint of the Caminito del Rey, you will find some small-scale eateries. You can find them in the village of El Chorro on the way to the bus that takes you back to the large car park.

Are there good accommodations in the vicinity of the Caminito del Rey?

There are several accommodations near the Caminito del Rey. Here are some suggestions:

  • Ardales: This charming town offers various accommodation options, including hotels, guesthouses, and holiday homes. Staying in Ardales puts you fairly close to the Caminito del Rey.
  • El Chorro: This village is located near the endpoint of the Caminito del Rey. There is a wide selection of holiday homes, bed & breakfasts, and apartments.
    Alora: This picturesque town is a bit further away from the Caminito del Rey. However, there are many accommodation options available.