It resembles something out of an Indiana Jones film and, at least for the last 14 years, it has been considered too dangerous to use, but from the end of this month daring hikers will once again be able to tackle el Caminito del Rey, known as the world’s scariest walkway.
At more than 3km long, over 100 metres high and never more than a metre wide, the King’s Pathway, was closed in 2001 after five people fell to their deaths. But, following a €2.5m renovation, paid for by the local Andalusian government and the city of Malaga, the path has been reinforced and extra safety measures put in place.
Despite the additional protection, sweaty palms are still guaranteed. The renovation work, which began just over a year ago, has tried to remain faithful to the original design of the Caminito and only in a few places, where walkways had become rotten, have new structures been built. For vertigo sufferers, the new steel bolts drilled deep into the rock face might not be enough to overcome the occasional glass floor over the Gorge of Gaitanes, 100 metres above the river below.
Thankfully, the fee that is expected to be charged, and the limited number of daily walkers allowed along the renovated path, might give some the excuse they were looking for to avoid the Caminito altogether.
Construction of the walkway began in 1901 and was finished in 1905. Its original purpose was to provide a way for workers to get to two hydroelectric power plants at waterfalls along the route. It also provided a means of transporting supplies and equipment.
It acquired its name in 1921 when King Alfonso XIII walked the length of the Caminito for the inauguration of a dam at the site. A decade later, Alfonso was forced into exile when the second Spanish Republic was declared and he was still claiming his right to the throne when he died in 1941. However, his great-grandson, the current King Felipe, is expected to cut the ribbon on the new Caminito when it opens to the public on 28 March.
Five walkers lost their lives between 1999 and 2000 with the path having fallen into disrepair. Despite being popular with thrill seekers, it was closed in 2001 and a fine of up to €5,000 has been levied on anyone attempting the walk since – a pretty tricky task given that until the work to restore the Caminito began, bits of the pathway were missing.
In pictures: The stories of the World's Great Wonders
In pictures: The stories of the World's Great Wonders
1/14 NGORONGORO CRATER (Tanzania)
At 610m deep and 260 sq km, this is the largest unflooded caldera in the world. A blue-green vision from above it's a haven for engangered wildlife and Maasai livestock. The crater was formed three million years ago when a giant volcano, which could have been as high as Kilimanjaro, exploded and collapsed. The caldera formed the concentric fractures in the crust cracked down to a magma reservoir deep underground.
2/14 KILAUEA (Hawaii, USA)
The world's most active volcano has been constantly erupting for over three decades on Hawaii creating the fastest-growing land on the planet. Kīlauea extrudes up to 500,000 cu metres of lava a day – enough to resurface a 32km-long road.
Credit: Fuse / Getty Images
3/14 MORENO GLACIER (Argentina)
The Perito Moreno Glacier is a glacier located in the Los Glaciares National Park in southwest Santa Cruz province, Argentina.
4/14 VICTORIA FALLS (Zimbabwe / Zambia)
Explorer David Livingstone named the waterfalls of the Zambezi River after Queen Victoria, but locals call them Mosi-oa-Tunya, meaning ‘the smoke that thunders’. Located on the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia, the falls plummet 108m, creating a mist that is visible from 20km away. The falls were formed some 200-150 million years ago, during the Jurassic or Upper Karoo Period when land masses forming South America, African, India, Australasia and Antarctica were one huge super-continent known as Gondwanaland. Tectonic activity was responsible for the break up of this huge continent causing volcanic eruptions and dramatically altering the landscape. Over time the falls acquired their current shape through steady water erosion.
5/14 GIANT’S CAUSEWAY (Northern Ireland)
Legend claims that this rocky peninsula is the handiwork of an angry giant, but the real story behind the striking basalt columns is even more extraordinary. The remarkable hexagonal columns formed around 50 millions years ago during a period of intense volcanic activity deep underground. Molten rock was forced to the surface cooled, contracted and cracked apart into 40,000 vertical basalt columns.
6/14 POTALA PALACE (Tibet)
An architectural wonder and the spiritual home of the Dalai Lama, the World's highest palace - at 3700m rises 13 stories and contains more than 1000 rooms. The 13-storey building took thousands of labourers and artisans more than 50 years to complete.
7/14 GREAT RIFT VALLEY (Ethiopia)
The world’s largest rift system stretches 6000km from the red sea down to Lake Malawi. Up to 75km wide in places, it’s cradled by a series of cliffs, rising from the valley floor to the top of the highest escarpments, up to 1.6km above. The Great Rift Valley is not one single feature but a series of linked faults – the Ethiopian Rift Valley, and the western and eastern branches of the East African Rift.
8/14 GREAT BLUE HOLE (Belize)
310m wide and 125m deep, this azure submarine sinkhole is a paradise for divers in search of crystal-clear water that hides treasures in its depths. When it first formed thousands of years ago, the sinkhole was not underwater. Scientists know this because stalactites exist inside the sinkhole, and yet stalactites cannot form underwater, only in dry air.
9/14 HAGIA SOPHIA (Turkey)
Cathedral, Mosque, Museum. The Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofya) has withstood the ravages of war and earthquakes as a testament to Istanbul's tumultuous past. The present building is the third incarnation of the Hagia Sophia. The first was built by Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, but it was destoyed along with its replacement in AD 532. The building reigned as the largest cathedral in the world for almost 1000 years.
10/14 THE GRAND CANYON (USA)
Layers of colour crack open the Colorado plateau, up to 1.6km deep and 29km wide in places. Its sheer immensity makes it one of the most impressive gorges in the world.
11/14 TERRACOTTA ARMY (China)
More than 8000 soldiers, 130 chariots and 670 horses form this vast, life-size clay army, protecting China's first emperor in the afterlife. During the 3rd century BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang commissioned the army over the millennia hidden away underground they were forgotten about. Their discovery was entirely accidental. In March 1974, some peasants hit something hard. As they dug around the object, they unearthed a decapitated head made of terracotta pottery. They called the authorities who uncovered the vast army beneath the ground.
12/14 KAILASA TEMPLE (India)
The breathtaking Kailasa Temple is dedicated to the god Shiva, it’s the world’s largest monolithic sculpture, hewn from the rock by 7000 labourers over a 150-year period.
13/14 TAJ MAHAL (India)
This marble-clad mausoleum, considered the most beautiful building in the world and said by its creator to have made the sun and moon shed tears, is the jewel in india’s crown. The Taj Mahal was built in the 17th century by the ruler of India’s Mughal Empire, Shah Jahan, after the death of his third wife Mumtaz Mahal.
14/14 GREAT WALL OF CHINA
The stone dragon weaves 6500km across mountaintops and plunges deep into canyons. But its magnificence hides its tumultuous history
The original path had no safety rails and in recent years holes have appeared in the walkway itself. A cable ran alongside the path allowing walkers to clip a safety harness to at least something nailed into the rock face. Even those who have been given access to the Caminito since it was closed have described it as ready to crumble at any moment and nobody was charged with maintaining the site.
Adventure blogger, Matthew Karsten, who has completed the Caminito with the help of ropes and harnesses, wrote on his blog about the experience: “large gaping holes in the concrete are common. Sometimes whole sections of the treacherous walkway are completely missing, after they’ve crashed down to the bottom of the canyon 100 meters below. If you’re afraid of heights, it’s the stuff of nightmares.”
But while the purists may begrudge the safety improvements, the area around the Caminito is one of outstanding beauty and the Lonely Planet guide for 2015 has it was a leading recommendation for visitors to the Costa del Sol, in case they want to see something other than a beach.