My Dad and I walked the Caminito together and had a fabulous day.We parked up near the Ardales Lakes, walked through the long tunnel near El Mirador Restaurant and then followed the lovely 1.5 kilometres track to the start of the official walkway.
The tunnel was an unexpected bonus: long, cool, dark and spooky – not for anyone who has problems with claustrophobia. (There is another route signposted from further along the road near El Kiosko Restaurant if you want to avoid the tunnel). It is so dark in there, it’s almost impossible to see where you are putting your feet. We cheated and used the torch on my mobile phone, but there are very faint lights on the ceiling so it’s not pitch black. And, even though it’s long, you can see the daylight at the other end.
A short scenic walk took us to the start of the walkway, were we queued with others who had booked the same time slot as us. We all got given hard hats and had a safety briefing – given in English and Spanish. There are toilets here too - the last ones until the end of the walk and some way into El Chorro.
It’s difficult to describe any walk or visit around El Chorro without repeating words like “impressive,” “inspiring,” spectacular,” and “stunning” but this walk was all of these things and more.
The first section took us along a wooden platform, affixed to the side of the rock face with iron brackets. With vultures wheeling above us against a clear blue sky, the river below us with its greenery and flora and the dramatic height of the rockface looming over us to one side, this was a spectacular (there’s that word again!) start to the walk. It did feel high – I have a problem with heights – but not so high that it caused me any anxiety. I was so involved in admiring each new vista as we turned corners that I didn’t worry about it at all.
The second section of the walk took us along a stony track into lush and verdant wooded hillside. An absolutely beautiful part of the walk. We stopped at a small waterfall for refreshments and a rest. Although the walk isn’t that long (it took us about two and a half hours in total) we wanted to take our time and take it all in.
The third section of the walk was even more spectacular. Again, this was a wooden platform, bracketed to the side of the rock face, but much higher and with increasingly dramatic views of the surrounding rock and narrow gorge ahead. It was on this section that I struggled a bit with the height. The fear started taking over from the logic and I ended up having to look straight ahead and concentrate on breathing to get round the final “bend”.
I was then faced with the iconic suspended bridge.
Whilst I could appreciate the sight of the reservoir twinkling blue and gold below us and the general splendour of the surroundings, my fear was in my throat and my heart was pounding. I managed to talk myself out of going back and convinced myself that I could follow others across – all I had to do was breathe and put one foot in front of the other – if others could do it, so could I. I was terrified but made myself do it. The memory I have of that bridge now is somewhat blurry, but my stride was very purposeful and my grip very tight on the top of the metal barrier. The sun was hot against my skin and I the one thing I can remember clearly is the shine of the sun on the hot metal of the bridge.
Dad had no problems at all and it looked to me like no-one else did either. However, once on the other side, the adrenalin rush from having conquered my fear kicked in and I really enjoyed the final section of the walk, down the side of the opposite face of the gorge and into El Chorro.
It was a long walk from the end of the walkway along the side of the reservoir into El Chorro itself where there is a café, toilets and restaurant. From here we got the coach back up the road to where we had parked.
When the Caminito first opened there were two entrances, North and South (Norte and Sur). The one up by El Mirador and the Lakes is the North entrance and the end of the walk at El Chorro was the South entrance. However, with some people starting at the North and some starting at the South, walkers were having to pass each other on the narrow walkway so now you can only start the walk at the North entrance – which is a much more sensible idea.
You can either park at the Lakes, like we did, and catch a coach back up to your car afterwards, or you can park in El Chorro and get the coach to the start of the walk, meaning your car is closer to hand when you finish. Be warned though, when it is busy, which it often is, there are not many parking spaces in El Chorro itself.
Dad and I loved this walk. Indeed, Dad described it as possibly one of the best experiences he’d had. Even with a fear of heights it was manageable. If you suffer from full-on vertigo, it might be a different story, but worth having a go: they do have guides all the way round the walk and apparently if anyone is struggling and needs to go back, they do have an “escape route.”
The walk gets booked up very quickly and it’s best to book tickets well in advance online. Navigating the website to do this in English proved a bit tricky, but we managed it in the end. We paid £11.50 for the walk and the coach fare.
Excellent value for a sensational and memorable experience.