With an estimated investment expected to exceed 5 million Euros the restoration of the Caminito del Rey seems to be on schedule and is due to open in January or February 2015. It is hoped that king Felipe of Spain, like his great grandfather Alfonso XIII will open the hanging footpath high above the Gaitanes Gorge. Once completed, the 6 kilometre path will take about an hour to walk.
Von Ryan’s Express Starring Frank Sinatra and a host of film stars of the day achieved this films success using (at the time) state of the art special affects using aeroplanes, trains and tanks. It was shot on location around Northern Italy in Cortina d’Ampezzo and Firenze Santa Maria Novella railway station in Florence. But the railway sequence at the film’s conclusion was filmed in the limestone gorge of El Chorro and the area around the Camino del Rey. The voice over for the trailer just makes you want to get out to the cinema!
The Boutique hotel Posada del Conde is located between the Conde del Guadalhorce and Guadalteba Reservoirs in the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes natural park. It offers 24 spacious double rooms (and 1 suite) with huge beds. Scenic forest views and the peace and quiet makes this hotel a very special place to spend a few nights. It is an ideal place for travelers exploring Andalusia and it is definitely off the beaten track. If you are on a road trip across Andalucia this hotel should be on your list for at least of 1 or 2 nights.
If you stay in this hotel the staff can arrange your entry permit for the Caminito del Rey and thus you avoid the difficult booking system
The 2,016 hectare Natural Park of the “Desfiladero de los Gaitanes” has a unique natural setting and is an extraordinary site of geomorphological interest. Set in one of the most stunning locations in the province of Málaga, the famous El Chorro Gorge has been carved by the river Guadalhorce and is made up of Jurassic limestones and dolomites. The canyon is around three kilometers long and it’s walls reach dizzying heights of 300 meters narrowing to just 10 metres apart in places.
The rock here is of different origin and age and the river has carved and eroded fascinating geological formations, caves and chasms. There are over 20 caves in the area of great geological and archaeological significance, (In nearby Ardales, for example important paleolithic rock art can be seen with over 1,000 drawings in its more than 1,600 meters of galleries.
The terrain around the gorge at El Chorro and across to the reservoirs of Guadalhorce are protected natural areas and are covered in Aleppo pines, wild olive and holm oaks make up the backdrop on the hills either side of the gorge, with an undergrowth of rosemary, rock roses, dwarf fan palms, thyme and lentiscus. Closer to the river are rushes, reeds, tamarisk and oleander, as well as poplar, willow and eucalyptus trees.
The rare Bonelli’s and golden eagles are here though you need to keep your eyes to the skies to see them, The easiest bird to spot here is the ever present griffon vultures which are present all year round. There are also red-billed choughs, crag martins, blue rock thrushes and crested tits, as well as numerous swifts, swallows and house martins in spring and summer.
Spanish ibex can be seen peering down at you from the heights and other mammals present that you may see are badger, fox and red deer.
Because of the proximity to the now famous Caminito del Rey the area has become a very popular area for climbers with people coming from all over the world to sample the very difficult climbs and to “walk” the kings path. However, you don’t have to be a climber to visit and enjoy this beautiful area of Andalucia. There are some lovely walks along the river and of course the small village sitting on top of the Conde de Guadalhorce dam is fascinating and a great place to spend an afternoon exploring and sampling the local food. Our recommended restaurant is the “Meson del Conde” adjacent to the beautiful boutique hotel Posada del Conde.
The three Reservoirs known as Guadalhorce – Guadalteba are nestled in a stunning area of outstanding beauty close to El Chorro and the Camino del Rey and withing the boundaries of the Natural Park area called “Desfiladero de los Gaitanes”. The natural environment corresponds to the village of Ardales but only one of the reservoirs, the Conde de Guadalhorce, is in the municipality of Ardales. The two lakes are in the municipalities of Teba, Campillos and Antequera .
Conde de Guadalhorce Reservoir:
Construction began on this reservoir in the autumn of 1914 under the direction of the famous engineer Rafael Benjumea and was initially called Pantano del Chorro. It was completed in 1921 and inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII. It was at this time that the Caminito del Rey got it’s name as the king walked this pathway at the time. For some unknown reason, in 1953 the name of this reservoir was changed to Conde de Guadalhorce.
Guadalhorce – Guadalteba Reservoirs
Construction of these two new reservoirs began in the spring of 1966 and completed in 1971 and 1973 respectively. At the same time as building these dams, a new the railway line and three road sections were also constructed, as both a large stretch of the railway line and roads were flooded by the rising waters. Also, the residents of the village of Peñarrubia and its neighborhood, Gobantes (where the railway station was) were evicted and their homes lost under the water.
House of the Engineer and the Kings chair
One of the most iconic artifacts from the construction days of the reservoirs is the King’s Chair located just before the dam wall of the Conde de Guadalhorce. There is a chair and table carved out of stone and this is where King Alfonso XIII sat and signed the completion of construction document for the Conde de Guadalhorce reservoir.
From the Chair of the king, if you look to the other side of the reservoir, you can see the very impressive and grande chief engineers house or “Casa del Conde” which is closed to the public but would make an amazing place for a hotel, museum or even a house for me when I finally win the lottery! If you walk along the dam wall you will come to the small church which was also used as a school. A stroll across the dam is lovely and if you continue along a few hundred meters more you will come to the hotel and restaurant La Posada del Conde, a fantastic place to eat or stay for the weekend.
There are several signposted footpaths in the area where you can enjoy the wonderful pine forest scenery with interspersed eucalyptus,thyme,rosemary and broom …The biggest fish populations in the lakes are barbel and carp. Look out for Kingfishers, red billed chough, the ever present griffon vultures and if you are very lucky you might catch a glimpse of a European eagle owl. The mammals present in the area are Spanish Ibex, otter, rabbits, hairs and wild cat.
Another of the attractions of the reservoir is the “Mirador” or viewpoint located a little further up the hill from the restaurant “El Mirador”. From this point you get a bird’s eye view of the whole reservoir system and the panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
If you really want peace and quiet, the best time to visit this area is during the week in spring and autumn as during the summer months and weekends the lakeside becomes full of people swimming and kayaking whilst the cliffs around the El Chorro and Camino del Rey areas are a haven all year round for climbers. That said you can visit this area at any time of year and you won’t be disappointing. It truly is a wonderful part of Andalucia and the construction of dams is quite remarkable.
Tourist information – Hotel booking – Activies – The Guadalhorce lakes