The Caminito del Rey route is one of the most popular day-trips near Malaga and is something I’ve been wanting to do ever since I first arrived here. The walk is very easy but it’s far from boring because of the dramatic backdrop.
What is Caminito del Rey?
It’s a 2,9 km long path, latched on vertical cliffs, with a marvelous view of the gorge and the river, winding far below. El Caminito del Rey was built in 1905 to provide access to the El Chorro hydroelectric plant and the Gaitanejo waterfalls. It connected the two and allowed for the transportation of materials between them. In 1921 Kind Alfonso XII walked the pathway in celebration of the Conde de Guadalhorce dam being inaugurated. Ever since the route has been known as El Caminito del Rey or “the king’s little path”.
How to Book Tickets for El Caminito del Rey
We booked our tickets about 3 weeks in advance because everyone kept saying how quickly they get sold out. That’s actually true just about the so-called general tickets (without a guided tour), which are €8 cheaper, and especially for the weekends. Since we wanted to go on a Sunday, there weren’t any general left and we had to get the guided tour, which set us back €19.55 (bus from El Chorro train station to the starting point of El Caminito del Rey included).
If you are able to, I’d suggest going on a weekday. It would then be fairly easy to find the cheaper general tickets (€10), even if you book just a day in advance. The friend that I went to El Caminito del Ray and I definitely think that a guide is not necessary at all. You can book on the official website.
How to Reach El Caminito del Rey from Malaga
I couldn’t figure out if there is a bus from Malaga to El Chorro – the train station which is also the starting point for the Caminito del Rey route. There are, however, 2-3 trains per day from Malaga. You can check out the timetable and buy tickets on Renfe’s official website.
El Chorro is a great starting point for several hiking routes, as well as rock-climbing, so it’s a great spot to mark on your map. There are also campgrounds in the area.
Lots of people choose to go to the El Caminito del Ray route by car, although the train from Malaga only takes around 40 minutes and the ticket costs a bit over €6 (€5 per direction if you buy a roundtrip ticket). We got one-way tickets because the only available slot for the Caminito del Ray route on that day was at 1 PM and we weren’t sure we’d make it back in time for the 4 PM train.
*The Renfe website only lists one morning and one afternoon train, although in the cafeteria by the train station hangs a greasy piece of cardboard, which claims there is an evening one at around 8 PM.
From the El Chorro Train Station to Caminito del Rey
We took the 10:15 AM train from Maria Zambrano in Malaga and arrived in El Choro at 11:00 AM. First, we went to the information point, about 400 meters down from the train station. There we were told that we’d need to take a bus (the stop is at the train station) to Caminito del Rey’s entry point.
When you book your tickets to Caminito del Rey online, you can choose to include the bus ticket from the train station to the starting point (an extra €1.55 charge) or buy your bus ticket on-site.
At the information point, we were told that we could take an earlier bus, even though our tour was scheduled for 1 PM.
The buses from El Choro to Caminito del Rey run every half an hour, and by the time we’ve had coffee and a couple of bocadillos at the train station café, it was time for the 12 PM bus so we just hopped on that one. Even the bus’s route is quite beautiful so we were very excited about what we’d see next.
At the Caminito del Rey bus stop there are several cafes/restaurants and a small sign signaling the walking path that takes you to the actual starting point of the Caminito del Rey route. It didn’t seem like there was anybody who could provide more information, so we just started walking down the path, thinking we’d catch an earlier tour. Surprisingly, we ended up at the starting point exactly at 1 PM, when our tour was scheduled for anyway.
It was a lucky coincidence but it also seems to me that nobody really cares whether or not you go for the time slot you’ve actually booked. If you have any experience with that please get in touch with me or leave a comment below – I’d love to know about it.
At the gate to Caminito del Rey we just showed our tickets on my phone and said that we’d prefer a tour in English, so we got sent to the smaller group of people waiting to enter. They handed out helmets, headphones and walkie talkies. Dressed like sexy construction women, we were off.
Do You Need a Guide for El Caminito del Rey?
The short answer is ‘no’.
We got guided tour tickets just because the general ones were sold out for our date. Although there are places where a guided visit can make a big difference, I personally feel like it’s completely unnecessary for El Caminito del Rey.
Our guide didn’t speak the language
Most of us can only admire the confidence of our guide Rocio. Being a tour guide in a language you don’t actually speak takes balls! Our dear Rocio seemed to be equipped with just a few words, which she would repeat over and over. Watching her struggle to answer questions was just painful, so even though there were a few things I wanted to know about the region, I couldn’t bring myself to ask.
And we wanted to do the walk at our own pace
Also, the guide set an incredibly slow pace for the group. On the one hand, I get that this way the walk works for everyone, regardless of age and physical fitness. However, for my friend and I having to move this slowly was just a drag.
We put up with the tour for a while but at some point just couldn’t do it anymore and thought we’d make a run for it. Literally. We found a corner that would hide us from Rocio, and bolted. “Finally free!”, we laughed. Although we did worry that someone would stop us and make us go back, it turned out that nobody really cares. The next park ranger we met on the way just asked for our walkie talkies back, because every guide gets a certain amount of those.
Even though El Caminito del Rey used to be one of the most dangerous hiking routes years ago, now the path is very well secured so it seems completely safe to do it on your own and we were very happy with ourselves for ditching the guide.
My Favorite Spots at El Caminito del Rey
The Way Back
Thanks to ditching the group, we finished the Caminito del Rey route an hour earlier than we thought we would, and so we had an entire hour before the 4 PM train back to Malaga. We didn’t have tickets for it anyway, so we thought we’d try hitching a ride back into town.
Off to a good start
The very first car we tried it with stopped immediately and we jumped in. The backseat had a lived-in vibe and the cluster of knick-knacks hanging from the front mirror would play a little jingle at every bump on the road. Jose and Maria (I know it sounds like I’m making it up but these really were their names), the local couple who gave us a ride, were very sweet and we even managed to talk a bit with the help of my basic Spanish. They dropped us off at Alora – the town after El Caminito del Rey.
As we crossed the street and put our thumbs up, once again the very first car to drive by immediately stopped. A father, driving his son back to university in Malaga, from a village near El Caminito del Rey. The son rushed to collect his guitar and tons of food supplies from the backseat, while my friend and I smiled at each other: “Going back to school with a bunch of food from mom, just like people do back home.” Here, the basic language skills went both way – my Spanish and the boy’s English, so we managed to talk a bit more and even throw in a few jokes, which I see as a sure sign that the language barrier has fallen.
Ditching the guide gave us plenty of time to do other great stuff
They left us about 20 minutes away from my flat, so we had a whole extra our, which we then proceeded to fill with sunset-gazing from Malaga’s Gibralfaro castle, 1 euro tapas at “100 Montaditos”, and vermouth at “Roadhouse” – one of my favorite bars.
If you have a bit more time in and around Malaga, the Caminito del Rey route is definitely worth it, and you can also combine it with hiking or rock-climbing in the El Choro region. The app Maps.me can be really useful, as it shows you mountain trails as well as roads.
Even if you haven’t been to Caminito del Rey I would be very curious to learn what you think about hitchhiking. It’s one of my favorite ways to get around but I would always do it with a friend (although I did hitch short-distance rides in Ecuador). You’d make me really happy if you share down below what you think about Caminito del Rey as well. I am always excited to connect to more people on Facebook and Instagram as well.
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