Hike the Caminito del Rey – Malaga, Spain (near El Chorro)
Fitted with a dizzying glass walkway 300 feet high, Europe’s most dangerous path has reopened. This 2-mile-long path clings precariously halfway up the vertical cliffs along the Guadalhorce river. The size and ruggedness of the gorge is truly impressive, but has the new walkway taken all of the excitement out of this legendary pathway?
An Unmaintained Death Trap
Officially closed for the last 15 years, the new pathway is built above the rusted remains of broken safety equipment that has cost countless lives. Despite the official closure, daredevils have flocked to the site to cheat death and try their luck. Today after an enormous investment, the infrastructure has been improved and the biggest risk is other tourists. Everyone must wear helmets to protect their heads and hairnets to protect them from the helmets.
A Dark History
The footsteps of King Alfonso consecrated this trail in 1921. The pathways used to carry construction materials proved so dangerous that sailors had to be brought in because they were adept at climbing ropes and balancing on boat masts at sea. This is not a place to look down if you have a fear of heights.
Traditionalists and adrenaline junkies may scoff at the new attraction as a Disneyfication of one of the scariest treks, but the safer walkway paves the path for sustainable tourism and interest in the mysterious culture of Andalusia. Home of bullfighting and flamenco dancers, the Mezquita and the Alhambra and a people with a sense of passion stronger than any you will meet.
How to Visit the New Caminito del Rey
The government has said that entry will be free for the first 6 months and will charge admission after that but good luck getting tickets as they are booked-up many months in advance. You can try the official site which has pretty photos but didn’t work for me.
I had good luck working with Ali and Caroline at Cortijo Valverde, an excellent B&B very close to El Chorro that served as my base for exploring deeper into the culture of Andalusia. They have provided me invaluable guidance and insider access to places in Andalusia that a tourist would have no hope of seeing.
Helpful Hints: it helps to arrive at least 30 minutes before your scheduled time to find parking and walk to the entrance. The entire path took us 2 hours to walk one-way as we had a driver meet us at the end. The walkways are just barely wide enough for 2 people side-by-side so bringing a large backpack will make the trek difficult.
The Craziest Train Ride
To get an entirely different view of the Caminito del Rey- from a hundred mile an hour, take the train north from Malaga toward Ronda, the site made famous by Hemingway and the largest bull rink. The train snakes through the center of the gorge a few minutes after leaving the El Chorro station. Hold onto your stomach and look out the left side of the train as you enter and exit tunnels faster than a roller coaster ride. We booked our tickets through Eurail.
What do you think? Has the new Caminito del Rey lost the excitement or is this a necessary step toward sustainable tourism?