El Caminito del Rey - Historic Photo - Photo Credit Diputacion de Malaga.
HISTORY OF EL CAMINTO DEL REY
The original path was built between 1901 and 1905 by the Sociedad Hydroelectrica del Chorro (Chorro Hydroelectric Society). A pioneering project to take advantage of the 100m drop in the river Guadalhorce required the construction of a small dam, a canal, an arch-supported aqueduct across the gorge, and 1,400m of aquaduct- tunnels. Additionally a path way to provide access for workmen and materials between two hydroelectric sites, namely Salto del Chorro (Chorro waterfall) and Salto de Gaitenejo (Gaitenejo waterfall) was constructed. Work was challenging and sailors from Malaga were called in to hang from ropes fixed at the top of the gorge. Popular (unconfirmed) stories claim that convicts, including those condemned to death, undertook the riskiest parts.
As demand for electricity increased, work on a new and much larger, nearby dam to form the Embalse del Conde de Guadalhorce (Count of Guadalhorce reservoir) began in 1914. The chief engineer, Rafael Benjumea Burín, decided to upgrade the nearby path and include the aqueduct that spanned the gorge. He did this even though it was not a necessary part of the nearby dam construction work. The view of this bridge, named Balconcillo de los Gaitanes, spanning the gorge, become one of the most emblematic images of Malaga province in its day. One legend says that a pretty English girl with flowing blonde hair riding a white stallion committed suicide from this bridge.
When the dam was officially opened on a misty 21 May 1921 by King Alfonso XIII of Spain, sat in the Sillon del Rey (Kings seat) on the dam to sign off the works. He was also invited to walked along the nearby path, (reports of how far are contradictory) which thereafter was known as El Caminito del Rey.
These reservoirs were hugely important as sources of electricity to the development of Malaga. The project was also emblematic at a national level and the King bestowed on engineer Rafael Benjumea Burín the title of the Conde de Guadalhorce (Count of Guadalhorce). The Count had a house on the edge of the Guadalhorce reservoir, and was also a politician who went on to be Minister for Development and President of the national train company, RENFE.
The path was open to the public and was a popular attraction, especially for those living in the city of Malaga. The reservoir at the lower end of the path, Embalse de Tajo de la Encantada, was built in 1978 as a pump storage hydroelectric scheme. Its upper reservoir can be visited near the ancient village of Bobastro. The Caminito de Rey path gradually fell into disrepair and after a number of accidents it was officially closed in the 1980s.
The Camino del Rey, as it had become known, remained a popular (unofficial) attraction. As the path was closed off by little more than some wire and a sign, it could be easily reached by crossing the "Von Ryan's express" iron girder railway bridge, while keeping a sharp lookout for trains coming out of the tunnels at either end. Aparently this included groups of summer school children supervised by monitors, sadly on 27th July 1993 Rosa Polo from La Rinconada, Sevilla fell through a hole in the platform. (PDF). Question were even asked in Congress in Madrid.
|El Caminito del Rey, pre-restoration. Photo: Diputacion de Malaga.|
Following a fatal accident in 1999 and another three in 2000 (see memorial plaque on near the Ignacio Mena bridge), the authorities completely removed the first 30m of the path next to the railway bridge and at the lake end, making it impossible to 'walk' along the path. Such was the determination of local mountaineers to carry on using the path, that they set up a safety cable and acted as unofficial guides to take visitors along it. Missing sections had to be traversed either by scaling the cliff face above the path or tightrope-walking along a supporting rail. As you will gather from the video below, climbing and trekking on this old path was only for experienced climbers with proper equipment. Using the path was a finable offence although never enforsed. Websites advertised guides for the experience. Another plaque remembers a fatalaty on 14 Feb 2010 whilst others on 6th March 2013 fell 80m had to be rescued by helicopter and lived to tell the tale. Some unconfirmed reports state 27 deaths and 74 serious injuries on the path.
A video documenting the re-construction work.
The authorities had talked for years about restoring and reopening the path. When, in 2006, the Junta de Andalucia proudly announced that funds were available in the budget that year, local people could not be blamed for reacting with scepticism. Finally in 2012 the Diputación de Malaga took the initiative. A new aproach was to build a new lightweight path just above the old one, this signifantly reduced the cost and, and by splitting the cost with the Junta de Andalucia the project became viable again. A contractor called Sando was appointed in 2013 and the actual works were completed in 12 months. In late summer 2014, a Spring 2015 re-opening was anounced and actually kept to. Just before Christmas 2014 Malaga actor Antonio Banderas and new girlfriend Nicole Kimpel visited the works with President of the Diputacion of Malaga and Mayor of Malaga City.
It is worth noting that the original 'Caminito de Rey' name of the path changed over time in popular usage and in the printed press to 'Camino de Rey'. When the path reopened the original name with logo was trademarked and heavily publicised, and is returning into use.
The new (third) path was due to be inaugurated on 26th March 2015 but the ceremony was cancelled out of respect to the deaths in the Germanwings plane crash two days before. It actually re-opened to the public as planned on the 28th March 2015 and included a very low key ceremony. The plaque can be seen in the cliff near the Alora control point.
Free ticket controversy
All the tickets had 'sold out' on the morning the online system opened. The demand was unprecidented. An additional availability that appeared on the website for the 1st to 4th April turned out to be a hacking attack and caused some issues when 300 walkers tuned up on these mornings for the 50, ten o'clock slots, all with valid reservatons in hand. The free website ticket allocation was controversial. Originally planed for six months it continued for a year and tickets were released in batches of three months at the beginning of the year to one month towards the end. The tickets were released only a month in advance and ‘sold out' in hours at the beginning of the year, fueled by local radio and social media. By the end of the year the allocation lasted a few days. It became almost impossible for foreign tourists to obtain tickets for planned holidays.
On the actual footpath, there were 23.000 visitors in the first month of operation. In the first year of operation there were 300.000 free tickets issued. The Malaga provincial council would not report how many tickets were actually used as it is known a high percentage of the free tickets that could not be re-dated were 'no shows'.
The Diputacion de Malaga have reported that whilst the investment was 5.5m € the annual economic benefit to the area is 20 million euro annualy local press reported this headline verbatim. The reports basis was 74.135 tourists, staying on average 1.7days spending on average 64.88€ equals 8.2 m € spend annually. In adition 172,980 day trippers spending on average 26.20€ equals 4.5m € spend annually. The report adds another unexplained 7m€ for indirect expentiture to arrive at the 20m€ return. Andalucia.com views these numbers as inflated and administration spin and never received requested detailed breakdown. This figure was mysteriously revised upwards to 40m € anually on the anniversary of the opening of the path.
The number were revalidated by an internal SOPDE study a few years later. Source.
Secret ticket allocation
Tourists also reported being able to obtain tickets from local hotels and restaurants. On 27th October 2015, the secret parallel system was revealed in the Malaga press. The town halls of Alora and Ardales have been each issued with 100 tickets a day, increased to 250 on 1st October 2015. These tickets were given out at Ardales tourist office and given to local business on the justification of 'activating the economy'. The Diputacion de Malaga appears to have tolerated this system although it is forbidden in their own path's by-laws.
The Diputacion de Malaga approved tender documents on 20th January 2016 for the four year contract to manage the path commencing on the 1st April. Eight companies returned offers within the 15 day deadline. The contracts documents state the maximum entrance fee will be 10€ and the maximum number of walkers in a year will be 300.000 and per day 1.100. An annual minimum canon (fee) of 75.000€ is to be paid by the managing company.
On the 30th March, two days before the start of the contract, the name of the winning bid was announced as a joint venture between Hermanos Campano SL and Bobastro 2000 SL. The winning bid included a canon of 409.565 € and commitment to spend 17,25% on maintenance. The late handover resulted in the path being closed from the 28th March until 22 April 2016. Marina Bravo (Diputada de Media Ambiente y Promocion del Teritorio) of the Diputación de Malaga announced the following day that 37% of the advanced ticket allocation is for organised tours via tour operators, 37% for individuals sold by tourism business (hotels restaurant etc.) in the local area, 16% for school, cultural, and protocol visits and 10% for individuals sold on the on-line booking system. This is a deliberate policy to ensure that a higher percentage of the tourist spend is diverted into local business than has been the case to date. Since the contract allows a maximum of 1,100 visitors a day one would expect to see only 110 being sold on the on-line booking system. However in practice there are 660 tickets a day available on the official website.
Prizes and Awards
In 2015 the Consejo de Ministros in Madrid awarded Caminito del Rey the Placa al Mérito Turístico en Destinos Emergentes. The Junta de Andalucia awarded the Premio Andalucía del Turismo 2016. At Euoropean level the Caminito del Rey won one of the 28 EU 'Europa Nostra', prizes in 2016 in the conservation category. This EU prize recognizes European patrimony. In the XIII Bienal Española de Arquitectura y Urbanismo, the Caminito del Rey was considered one of the best 22 projects carried out in Spain in 2015. In São Paulo (Brazil), the Caminito del Rey was awarded one of the 26 prizes during the X Bienal Iberoamericana de Arquitectura y Urbanismo. The Bienal Iberoamericana de Arquitectura y Urbanismo is a Spanish government initiative.
Since the walk was opened that have been a number of improvements. A shuttle bus service was added to help walker return their cars at the start of the route. A small car park and the refurbishment of the visitors centre at El Chorro railway station was undertaken. The car parks near El Kiosko were also improved. On the path, the old aqueduct was cleaned and lit, this alternative walking route in the gorge section is intended to keep the path open to visitors during high winds, walkers who want to take a short cut (and miss some views) can use it. The 500 m2 Ardales visitors centre car park for 200 cars and 17 coaches was constructed in 2017 but never opened.
In October 2018 heavy storms affected the Malaga area. The path was only closed for a few days and there was surprisingly little damage. The road connection was damaged and until mid December the shuttle bus was forced to make a large detour taking over an hour and a quarter. Tourist were surprised to find that the shuttle bus fare was increased to 4€ as this was never mentioned on the official Caminito del Rey website.
New Visitors Centre remains closed
The award winning new visitors centre whose construction started in May 2017 was due to open in the Autumn of that year. The building was complete in January 2018 but was never furnished nor opened to visitors. It remained that in 2019 and 2019. Whilst not announced officially it became obvious that the government were waiting for the renewal of the path management contract in April 2020 to include the furnishing and running of the centre within the contract.
on 02-06-2000 Ardales town Council has formally requested the Malaga Provincial Council to manage the Caminito del Rey Visitor Reception Center. The mayor of Ardales municipality, Juan Alberto Naranjo, explained to SUR newspaper, the City Council would like to take over the space until its future management is selected by tender. The aim is to avoid the saturation of the current entrance area to the Caminito, since the visitors centre will be used as a car parking, as well as as an information point for the path's candidacy for Unesco World Heritage. "We would like to open it as soon as possible, we are finalising the details with the Provincial Council," he said.
The path closed on 13-03-2020 along with most government run attractions. The following day the Prime Minister announce the national lockdown in Spain due to the Coronavirus pandemic. On the 6rth May Fransisco Salado the president of Malaga provincial government announced in the first prescential press conference since the lockdown began that the path would open on the 25th May. However being dependent on national government's de-escalation plan this did not happen. On the 20th May the opening was rescheduled to the 12 June.
The path had closed for the second time on 10th November when Andalucia Coronavirus measures were introduce that closed all municipal borders. The path had previously re-opened on Friday 12th June 2020. The number of visitors a day in June was limited to 50% being stepped up to the normal 1.100 in September. It was not difficult to buy tickets online at short notice.
On the 09-12-2020 Caminito del Rey website offered tickets for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 18 December 2020 to 28 February 2021 plus Monday to Thursday between Christmas Day and the Three Kings. Strangely this preceded any announcement on the reopening of municipal borders in Andalucia, since it is impossible to walk the Caminito without crossing the Ardales / Alora municipal border.
On the 11-12-2020 The Andalucia president announced the removal of municipal mobility restrictions and the relaxing of other Coronavirus measures enabling the Caminito del Rey to reopen from Friday 18th December 2020. Tickets were available for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 18 December 2020 to 28 February 2021 plus Monday to Thursday between Christmas Day and the Three Kings
On the 16-01-2021 the Caminito del Rey was forced to closed for the third time from 17-01-2021 (to at least 14-02-2020). This is due to coronavirus restriction which closed the municipal perimeter of Alora whose AI(14d) rate was greater than 500. Tickets were available for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 5th February to 28 February 2021 plus (unusually) Monday 1st March.
On the 05-03-2021 it was announced that the The Caminito del Rey would open again from 12-03-2021. Tickets went on sale at 18.00 hrs that day for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays until 4th April. Additionally every day during Semana Santa (29-03-2021 to 04-04-2021). They were later extended to 16-05-2021
Renewal of Management Contract
The provincial government council meeting on 9th March 2020, approved an extension to four year contract of the current management company which would expire in 13-04-2020 whilst it prepared tender documents for the next contract. No reason was given why those document had not been prepared in advance. The new five year contract would allow for the price to increase to 12€ and the number of visitors a day to increase from 1.100 to 1.400 and will include management of the visitors centre. Sadly with no new contract in place the path's down time in April and May was not used to invest in long term improvements by a consession holder that had no security.
After nearly a year long silence, on the 06-01-2020 the Diputación de Málaga called an extradordinary council meeting to approve the process to renew the concession of the extention to the Caminito de Rey Management Contract. Favourable votes from PP, Ciudadanos, PSOE, and Juan Cassá (Independent) and abstention of Adelante Málaga ensured that it was passed. The tender documents were published on the 16th Novemeber 2020. Proposals were to be returned by a 11th December deadline. The new contract was due to begin in March 2021 and 03-03-2020 was a last date tickets were available. No announcement has yet been made. The minimum annual canon fee was set at 100.000€ and the maximum set at 350,000 euros. The current contract's winning bid was 409,565 euros. The diputation hoped this upper limit will encourage applicants to keep the ticket price at 10€ instead of raising it to the 12€, the maximum permitted and the increase that had been indicated by the diputation for years. Tender evaluation points would be awarded on both these items.
Of the total annual tickets, 65% will be sold directly to individuals online or at the ticket office, while 35% will be sold though tour and other agencias and etablishments. Maximum number of visitors is set at 1,100 per day during the first year (as at present), and can be expanded to 1,300 visitors the following two years and 1,500 people in the last two years if authorized by the management of the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes Natural Park. Back in March 2020 the diputation had announced this as a very profitable concessions. The most favourable scenario for 95% ticket sales of 3.7 m euros per year, with an after-tax profit of 751,340 euros; the 85% ticket sales scenario would be 3.3 million sales and an after-tax result of 481,759 euros.
The company that takes over the concession will have to meet the maintenance costs of the Caminito and the long empty visitor center (which will become the start and end point of the walk supported by the shuttle bus), quantified at 94,000 euros per year, as well as a countryside use fee, which in 2019 amounted to 31,497.69 euros.
New Management Contract
21-04-2021 After months of silence Malaga provincial council awarded the management of the Caminito del Rey to a joint venture company formed from SANDO construction company, Salzillo Servicios Integrales and the events company Mundo Management. The concession is for five years and the winning bid stated it will keep the ticket price at ten euros.
The council vote was supported by PP, Ciudadanos and independent Juan Cassá with the PSOE and Adelante Málaga abstaining as they were in favour of management by a municipal company.
The new awardee (where Sando has 55% of the ute, Salzillo with 35% and Mundo with 10%) replaces Hermanos Campano-Bobastro 2000, who had been providing the service under the first contract. The annual canon to be paid to the council is 350,000 euros and 46% of the income must be spent on maintenance.
Eight companies submitted requests tender, of which two were excluded and one resigned. The tendering companies were Sando-Salzillo-Mundo (awarded), JV Hermanos Campano-Bobastro 2000 (previous contract); Rain Forest; Ferrovial Services; JV Viajes Transvia Tours, Autobuses Paco Pepe and Intur Esport.
Likewise, other subjective criteria grouped into three types of proposals have been assessed. On the one hand, on the management, including the integration and operation of the visitor reception center, a program of actions for environmental sustainability and monitoring programs for the evaluation and continuous improvement of the quality of the service. On the other hand, on the improvement in training and education of workers and in health and safety at work. And finally, proposals for a technological platform to improve service management.
The award established that 60% of the tickets will be sold directly to individuals through the online platform, 35% will be sold through authorized agencies and establishments; and 5% is reserved for visits of a teaching, scientific cultural and tourist promotion.
Through the summer and autumn of 2021 tickets were released in batches of only two or three months at a time. Most tickets were sold out in the first two weeks. As of 5th October all tickets up to end of November were sold. There was still no news about the opening of visitors centre. The building was completed in January 2018 and in June 2020 Ardales town council were "finalising the details with the Provincial Council" for running it until the new walk consession holders were appointed and ready.
News was released that an appeal by the incumbant management company to the tender award decision has not been sucessful. Malaga provincial council finally voted to award the new contract.
After a delay in the handover to the new management company and a period of closure, tickets for the Caminito del Rey go on sale again on 17th December 2021 for dates to end of February 2022. The car park and starting point is now at the new Visitors Center (Junction of MA-5403 and country road to Ardales Reservior. GPS 36.91464175, -4.807614262. The suttle but will take you to the start of the walk and collect you at the end of the walk.
The new managament company now in place. Tickets for the Caminito del Rey went on sale on 12-01-2022 for dates to 19th June 2022. The car park and starting point at the new Visitors Center (Junction of MA-5403 and country road to Ardales Reservior. GPS 36.91464175, -4.807614262 was anounced on 18-01-2022 to open 'very soon'. The shuttle bus will then take you to the start of the walk and collect you at the end of the walk.
On the 12th April the next batch of tickets from 20 June to 6 November went on sale. This was later increased to 18th December. This was the first time such an useful advanced ticket reservation has been made available since the path was opened. No mention of the opening of the new visitors centre.
August 2022 - Still no mention of opening date for the new visitors centre.
Guided tour Camino del Rey
Private Guided tour Camino del Rey
Guided excursions from other destinations to Camino del Rey
Private guided excursions from other destinations to Camino del Rey
Caminito del Rey Tour from Costa del SolTour from Costa del Sol
Caminito del Rey day tour with guide and transport from Costa del Sol to start of path and collection from exit. This tour helps you walk the path without any of the logistical complications. Wednesdays and Fridays or Saturdays. (Bookings to March 2020) From Marbella, Torremolinos, Fuengirola and Malaga. Price 45.00€
Caminito del Rey - Small Group Tour from Malaga or NerjaSmall Group Tour from Malaga or Nerja
Caminito del Rey small group tour with guide and transport from Costa del Sol to start of path and collection from exit. This tour helps you walk the path without any of the logistical complications. Everyday except Mondays. From central Malaga, Nerja & Torre del Mar. Price 45,00€
Caminito del Rey - Private Tour from Costa del SolPrivate Day Tour from Costa del Sol Hotels
Caminito del Rey private tour for just you and your party with knowledgeable guide. Pick up from established Costa del Sol Hotels, travel to start of path and collection from exit. Everyday except Mondays. Hotel pick-up on Costa del Sol from Puerto Banus to Malaga 09,00 hrs. Price from 82 € pp (for nine).
Caminito del Rey Entrance TicketCaminito del Rey Entrance Ticket
Caminito del Rey entrance tickets are curently only available for some dates in October 2019 can be booked online here for the official 10€ per person ticket price. Booking here via Viator includes a full refund if cancelled more than 24hrs in advance. Everyday except Mondays. Price 10€
Caminito del Rey - Morning Guided TourMorning Guided Tour
Caminito del Rey three hour group guided tour. Meet at El Kiosko restaurant near the start of the walk at 11:45 hrs. This time is suitable for catching the train from Malaga city to El Chorro and the shuttle bus to El Kiosko. Thursday to Saturday. Price 32€
Caminito del Rey - Private Full Day Tour from SevillePrivate Day Tour from Seville
Caminito del Rey private tour for just you and your party with knowledgeable guide. Pick up from Seville city Hotels, travel to start of path and collection from exit. Everyday except Mondays. Hotel pick up in Seville 10,00 hrs - Price from 165€ pp (for six).
Caminito del Rey - Private Full Day Tour from Cadiz, Jerez or El Puerto de Santa MaríaPrivate Day Tour from Cadiz, Jerez or El Puerto de Santa María
Caminito del Rey private tour for just you and your party with knowledgable guide. Pick up from hotels in Cadiz, Jerez, or El Puerto de Santa Maria. Also Chiclana, Sanlucar de Barrameda or Rota with an extra fee. Travel to start of path and collection from exit. Everyday except Mondays. Hotel pick up at 09,00 hrs - Price from 165€ pp (for six)
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