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Caminito del Rey - Andalucía, Spain
Boardwalk along the Guadalhorce river gorge
If on holiday in Málaga and surroundings, make sure to schedule a hike along the magnificent Caminito del Rey. The views from the valley are beautiful and the walk along the Guadalhorce river gorge is spectacular. The route includes gorge, valley and canyon walking on pathways or boardwalks. This walk has wide appeal, in particular for those interested in geology and geomorphology. The valley sections of the route are perfect for a leisurely picnic.
Beautiful landscape with abundant geomorphological features
This path was first opened by King Alfonso XIII in 1921. By the early 2000s, it was in terrible condition and it was closed following the death of several hikers. The boardways were completely renovated in 2015 so it is now completely safe. In fact, the renovation work has been awarded several design/architecture prizes. The height of the boardways might look scary in some photos; however, I know vertico sufferers who were happily surprised at how safe they felt and how much they enjoyed it. Believe me, it is worth every minute of it!
The route is slightly under 8km long and it will take most people between 3 and 4 hours to complete it at a leisurely pace. This is a very easy walk involving very little climbing/descending; however, if you have mobility problems or have young children which you carry in pushchairs, this is not a walk for you.
View of boardwalk looking north
Access is possible using both public and private transport. It takes roughly 1 hour by car from Málaga. Most people start the hike from Restaurante el Kiosko, which is located along road MA9006. In this direction the hike is mostly downhill. Once you finish the hike, you can take a shuttle back to the starting point (note that you can book the entrance ticket with or without shuttle). If arriving by train, hike in the northerly direction and then take the shuttle back to the train station at El Chorro. Alternatively, it is possible to take the shuttle to the north entrance and hike south. Toilets are available at either ends of the walk. A visitor centre is currently under construction.
Guadalhorce river bridge
This walk is extremely popular so make sure to book well in advance. The number of visitors is restricted and booking is necessary. You have to book a designated slot; hence you have to show up at the starting point at a particular time. Note that if the weather is very bad, you will get rescheduled. From Restaurante El Kiosko it takes about 30-45 minutes to reach the official starting point, where you will be given helmets and a short briefing, so take this into account when making your plans. The official information and booking is available here.
These suggestions are based on my personal experience on this trail. The selection criteria is based on quality and weight. My assumption is that this will not be your last hike on a trip and that the lighter your backpack, the more you will enjoy hiking.
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Last section of boardwalk heading south
Shoes/socks. This is a very easy walk on pretty flat terrain; therefore hiking shoes are perfect because they are comfortable and their soles offer excellent grip (see examples: male or female). A good quality light-weight hiking sock with extra padding is essential to avoid blisters (see examples: male or female).
Clothing. Zip-off water repellent stretch hiking trousers are a comfortable and convenient option (see examples: male or female). If the weather is warm and sunny, a thin long-sleeve base layer will help avoid getting burnt (see example: male or female). As a minimum, take a lightweight wind jacket (see examples: male or female). However, if it’s likely to be a bit cold, add a fleece (see examples: male or female). If it’s likely to rain, a good (as opposed to high) quality waterproof jacket will suffice since low weight on the daypack won't cause a reasonably good jacket to leak in the shoulders (examples: male or female).
Photographic equipment and power. An ideal hiking camera should be lightweight, have a large aperture for handling low light scenes and should have a wide angle lens with a minimum full-frame equivalent focal lens of 24 or 28 mm. If you opt for a heavy camera, there are camera straps combining neoprene and elastic to absorb the shock of movements. These straps are so comfortable that they actually make the camera’s weight seem much lower. If you want to record the track using your phone and plan to take photos with it as well, take a powerbank along to avoid running out of battery power.
Other supplies. Since the number of people entering and leaving the trail is controlled, emergency is a lower concern here than in most other trails. Nevertheless, I still recommend carrying at least a first aid kit, a headlamp capable of at least 150 lumens, a whistle, a compass (a global compass works in both hemispheres), a map and if cold temperatures are expected, an emergency blanket . Finally, protect your face and lips using sun cream lotion and chap stick.
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