Located down in southern Spain is probably the most nerve-wracking walking trail in the world, which was closed for safety reasons a while back, but is now reopening. Made only for the brave, this walkway is known as “El Caminito del Rey,” which translates in English to the King’s little pathway. Only the fit and strong should try this route, and anyone who has the very slightest fear of heights should most definitely give it a miss.
The path winds around the steep walls of the gorge which has been carved by the Guadalhorce River in the El Chorro area, close to Álora in Málaga province. The pathway was originally built between 1901 and 1905 as a means for workers, employed at the Chorro Falls and Gaitanejo Falls hydroelectric power plants, to move between the plants and run maintenance work in the area.
The walkway got its name because back in 1921, King Alfonso XIII of Spain walked the path when inaugurating the Conde del Guadalhorce Dam and the name, sometimes shortened to El Camino del Rey, stuck from that moment on.
For many years, hikers with nerves of steel have traversed this heady and rather scary walk, but in the meantime the pathway had fallen into a dangerous state of disrepair, as pictured on the right.
Between 1999 and 2000, five people fell to their deaths from the damaged pathway and the authorities decided it was time to close it to the public. By imposing fines of anything up to €6,000 ($7,800) on anyone caught breaking the law and walking on the pathway, it was hoped this would be a deterrent and save a few more lives.
George Mills, editor for The Local Spain, an online news service, even tried it apparently. He said that even wearing a helmet and harness it was incredibly dangerous, saying that the narrow concrete path was full of holes. He said that in some sections the pathway is missing altogether and that you have to scramble up over the rocks, with a massive drop right next to you. He did say that it is not actually that difficult, and that it is more of a mental challenge than a physical one, but the photos and video included in this article might tend to disagree with him.
Thousands of dare-devil hikers, both from overseas and living locally, have in the meantime continued to take the challenge of the hair-raising hike, and have managed to dodge the police in doing so.
Authorities have intended to fix up and renovate the pathway for some time, but with the severe economic situation in Spain, as well as budget cuts in local government, it hasn’t been possible until now. However, the ongoing risk of people killing themselves for a fun day out has forced their hand and Spain will soon be reopening the world’s most nerve-wracking walking trail to the public.
Allocating a budget of 2.2 million euros ($2,889,367), renovations have begun with a whole heap of new concrete and around 500 tons of metal sections, workers are gradually replacing the damaged portions of the pathway. They have even managed to fix the most hair-raising portion of the cliff-side walk which is dubbed “Desfiladero de los Gaitanes” or Los Gaitanes Gorge, to make it safe for walkers once again.
The local Málaga government has now announced that the safer and newly renovated “Caminito del Rey” will be open to the public in around January 2015. They are hoping that Spain’s latest monarch, King Felipe VI will be able to attend the inauguration and take the plunge, or rather walk, himself.
Elias Bendodo, president of Málaga’s local government, has told the media that approximately 70 percent of the repair work is already done.
While dare-devils and hikers will be happy to hear this news, there is some trepidation among local conservationists, who fear that the improvements will bring in an excessively high number of visitors to the area, which might have a negative impact on the natural park itself.
By visiting the official website of “El Caminito del Rey” following the link included below, it is possible to enjoy truly panoramic views of this extraordinary area of southern Spain and anyone with nerves of steel can enjoy watching the progress of some daring hikers along the broken and dangerous route in the video below. While sometimes it looks easy, with concrete stairways and quite normal-looking paths, in other sections watching the hiker’s feet move over sheer drops is positively hair-raising. Anyone visiting southern Spain and wishing to enjoy the action will be thrilled indeed that the world’s most nerve-wracking walking trail is reopening early next year.
By Anne Sewell