Get your hardhats and trekking boots on for a truly unique expedition located 105 metres from the ground within a narrow limestone canyon. Popularised initially by adrenaline junkies who had no fear of heights or danger, the Caminito del Rey was renovated and restored back in 2015, so that everyone can now enjoy the stunning view of the El Chorro gorge.

Based in the Betic Mountains, this walk was originally created back in 1901, where works were undertaken for a period of four years. Translated into English, the trek became known as ‘The King’s Little Path’, as King Alfonso XIII used the route to get to a nearby hydraulic power field. The route was originally created in order to carry out works on the Salto Hidraúlico del Chorro (Hydraulic Precipice of El Chorro), created by Rafael Benjumea in 1903 to provide Málaga with electrical power. It was during this time that the King was on his way to mark the opening of this structure that his walk across Caminito del Rey actually became its namesake!

This area had become more accessible since the completion of the El Chorro train station in 1866, with direct links to Cordoba, which is one of the main reasons for its increased development at this time. The train station can still be seen during the walk today, where a few trains stop by the exit of the walk. For those travelling to the site by train, buses are conveniently available to take you to the start of the walk for a small additional fee. If driving to the trek by car, these buses can also take you back to the start once you have completed the journey; the ideal place to park your car with plenty of parking on offer.

This trek hasn’t always been a walk in the park though. It became severely neglected due to lack of maintenance, and given its location in the mountains it was inevitable that the route would become run down from subjection to the elements, including heavy winds and rain in the winter. Areas became corroded and worn away, including the handrails, making the walkway dangerous. This didn’t deter thrill seekers though, and actually made the hike more of a popular site; a challenge for the most advanced rock climbers.

A cable previously ran throughout the route to give hikers the option to clip themselves on by their harnesses for the most perilous areas where the concrete had crumbled away, leaving large gaps in the walkway and just a narrow, rusty beam to balance upon. Looking down at this point would have been an absolutely horrendous experience for anyone suffering from vertigo. The cable itself was not maintained, so rock climbers used this at their own peril.

Following the deaths of five daring mountain climbers during 1999 and 2000, the Spanish government made the decision to close the site in 2001. It reopened again in 2015 following an extensive renovation, where a healthy cash injection of €3.12 million turned one of the most dangerous hikes in the world into what it is today. Wooden planks and glass panelling with handrails have replaced the eroding concrete and perilous, rusty beams. Helicopters were used to clear rubble and ensure that tourists and locals alike are able to enjoy this peaceful walk with breathtaking views.

The amount of people allowed to enter per day has been capped at 1,100 persons, to ensure that the trek does not become overcrowded. Following such a great effort to restore the pathway, Caminito del Rey received an award in 2016 for Contribution in Tourism, given that it had brought so many people to the Málaga province (a record-breaking 300,000 in its first year) each keen to attempt the new and restored trek.

Those managing Caminito del Rey also continue to arrange fantastic incentives, including walks for the visually impaired. Accompanied by a sighted companion, the incentive encourages the blind to use their other four senses on the walk;

Touch: a scale model of the gorge is used so the group can touch the path they are about to walk along so that they can picture it in their minds.

Hear: participants can enjoy the sounds of the water moving through the canyon, as well as those of the many birds that frequent the area.

Taste: carob powder is tried on the walk, the product of a tree that was planted in the area in the 13th century. Participants compared the taste to that of cocoa.

Smell: the group is able to enjoy the smell of nature, including the many different plants and trees present on the trek.

Although most of the route has been fixed, there is one thing that remains: an old, abandoned house in the middle of the valley, which makes you wonder who used to live there, and what they did when they ran out of milk! It is likely that whoever did lived off the land, as the nearest village would have been a long walk away.

There is still evidence of old parts of the walkway along the route, which puts into perspective the complete lack of safety precautions and the deteriorated state of the walk previously, making you appreciate being able to walk along it safely today. Old fossils can also be found in various areas of the walk, rightly protected by glass panels to ensure they are preserved.

The esteemed footpath also does its bit for the conservation of bats, now considered an endangered animal. A former tunnel has been converted into a bat refuge, where the night-loving mammals can come and rest during the day when the area is heavily frequented. Bats are very useful creatures, especially in this area, given that they snack on insects, thereby ensuring they do not overpopulate the canyon. The trek concludes with a suspension bridge over the Chorro gorge. While totally safe, be sure to hold onto your hardhats, as quite a few of these tend to end up at the bottom of the gorge as a result of people looking over as they walk across.

Top Tips for a Super Day Out

Pack yourself a bag of supplies, such as a good helping of fruit and water. As fruit is biodegradable, you won’t have to worry about accidentally leaving behind bits of rubbish. Take a spare bag for any wrappers you may have so you can keep these safely until they can be disposed of after the walk.

Get there half an hour early. There is a 30-minute walk from where you park the car to the start of the walk. Tickets are purchased online, so be sure to arrive for your allocated slot in good time. Wear comfortable shoes. This may seem like an obvious one, but after hours of walking, you do not want to develop blisters caused by ill-fitting shoes.

Wear your hard hat at all times. There is always the risk that bits of rock could come loose during the walk that could cause injury.

Be sure that if you are coming with your young family, that children are no younger than 8 years old. As you can imagine, prams are prohibited on the walk. Animals are also unable to join the walk either for their safety.

Smokers beware that smoking is not allowed so be sure to avoid lighting up during the walk. Patrollers are dotted over the walk itself so if caught you could be fined.

Stick to the path. Daredevil hikers looking to recreate the old conditions of the hike and diverging from the standard path can be fined up to €6,000 for doing so.

Due to the sheer heights of the walk, you may want to consider a Gopro with a selfie stick for taking photos, so that you can have a good grip of the camera. Smartphones do not have the same grip, and you may risk dropping it while leaning over to take photos down below. Oh, and do remember to charge it beforehand, unlike one member of our hiking group, who was a little disappointed to find she could not take any photos of the beautiful scenery.

Once the route has been completed, take advantage of the reasonably priced ventas nearby serving delicious food. After all that walking you will have more than likely worked up an appetite! The one we happened to stop by was Restaurante El Mirador. This provided a great, relaxed environment with beautiful views of the nearby Guadalhorce reservoir to enjoy some hearty tapas (portions are very generous here!). The perfect spot to come with a large group to replenish after all the trekking!

The 8km walk takes three to four hours to complete, so be sure to venture off with an entertaining group of people who will make the walk that more enjoyable.