For decades you could ask adventurers about El Caminito del Rey. You had caught their attention immediately. Their response? They already had ticked off the famous King’s Path or it still was on their to-do list. El Caminito del Rey had a notorious reputation. A reputation only enforced by social media where the hike claimed a second place in the list of ‘Most dangerous hikes in the world’.
The latter was the way we found out about El Caminito del Rey. Admiring the many impressive Youtube movies in which climbers and daredevils crossed the decayed and life-threatening pathways. The fact that the trail at some places wasn’t more than a narrow metal bar hanging over a 100 m gorge was reason enough why it was considered as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world.
Unfortunately, the inaccessible and forbidden trail got too much attention, and therefore casualties, so the Spanish government decided to renovate El Caminito. Sadly, it meant we couldn’t do the hike anymore in its original state. Its beautiful setting, however, made us not forget about the hike and take the next flight to Malaga.
Saturday May 14th 2016: El Chorro
Our announcement that two adventurers were heading to Malaga this time, located at the Costa del Sol, raised some questions. ‘Are they heading for a holiday in the sun?’ Offcourse we weren’t. Our destination Malaga only had one single purpose: traveling to the impressive El Chorro gorge where we could hike the newly renovated El Caminito del Rey.
Eventhough we spent the whole morning in Sunny Malaga, enjoying some delicious tapas and the historical center, we took a late afternoon train towards El Chorro, a small village on the way to Sevilla, but well-visited by nature enthusiastics. Once arrived in El Chorro, we took the bus to Ardales, where the start of the trail is. With no place to spend the night in mind, we hiked the first kilometers of El Caminito del Rey, where we were expected the next day to hike the well-known boardwalks. With the surrounding forests and turquoise ponds, our choice to wildcamp was easily made. Finding a good place in this rocky area was a bit tricky though. About a kilometer from where we would start the boardwalks we found ourselves a ledge where we could pitch our tent. Afterwards we enjoyed the last few sunrays of the day before hitting the sack.
Sunday May 15th 2016: El Caminito del Rey
‘Do you hear that?’, I ask Linsay. ‘It sounds like voices.’ She nods, eventhough she’s still deep in her sleeping bag. The movements of a big animal cracking some branches made clear how wrong we were. The animal eats so loud, we can here him in our tent. ‘What animal would it be?’, we wonder. My curiousity overwhelms me and I crawl out of the tent and aim my look towards the bushes down below hidden in darkness. A serie of grunts gives away it’s a wild boar. The loud noises he makes the fact that he isn’t too keen on our presence. Our perception stays limited to the noises.
The next morning I walk further on the trail, encountering tracks of the wild boar, while I’m walking towards Linsay who is waiting with breakfast at the lake. ‘Take a big branch.’, she shouts. ‘I hear the boar here somewhere.’ Fearing that the boar would attack, I grab the first branch I find. Seconds later I hear the boar rant agressively. It takes a few moments before I realize that he is located in the bushes on the opposite shore of the lake. The echo’s caused by the surrounding canyons made it appear as it was very close.
Ten minutes later we arrive at the start of the Caminito del Rey, closed for free access. Our entrance ticket however, opened the Gates and after being equipped with a helmet, we take our first steps on the boardwalks attached to the cliffs of El Chorro gorge. It doesn’t take along before we notice the old pathway is still there. The decayed concrete parts are well hidden underneath the wooden, new pathway. The contrast between the old and new pathway couldn’t be any bigger. With some regret, we catch ourselves keeping a close eye on the old path and being disappointed we haven’t been able to hike the old trail.
Let us be clear. The thrilling factor of Caminito del Rey has disappeared. The nearly two meter wide path shielded by rocks and a high fence preventing you from a very deep fall, is walked on by children. For tourism a huge plus, for adventurers like us.. a shame. Still, the renewal of the trail is to be understood. On some places, there was nothing left of the former trail, making it a very unreliable trail. The last few years, El Caminito had become a via ferrata, on which adventurers had to attach themselves to a iron cable attached to the cliffs. The ban on entering the trail hadn’t avoided several casualties.
Impressive is the least we can say about the new trail. No doubt about it that the El Chorro gorge still is one of the most beautiful regions in Southern Spain. Yesterday we noticed from the bus how some visitors hiked on the trail, but the views from the pathway itself is impressive nonetheless. For this reason alone, El Caminito del Rey had been on our to-do list.
Do you want to hike El Caminito del Rey? You can, with our adventure e-guide El Caminito del Rey!