Caminito del Rey Construction
El Chorro Gorge
Embalse Conde de Guadalhorce
Embalse del Guadalteba
Views of the Lakes
New Caminito del Rey
Malaga Lake District
El Chorro, Guadalhorce Lakes, Ardales Nature Park
These 3 lakes are the most famous in Malaga Province and by far the largest reservoir in the province. They supply water to the Guadalhorce valley and Malaga city but also provides great deal of activities such as swimming, canoeing, pedalos (no motorised sport is allowed), fishing and walking/hiking routes and cycling tracks. The famous Vuelta cycling tour of Spain (Spanish version of Tour de France) regularly comes through this area, and the challenging roads provide ample opportunity for those seeking serious Road Cycling or Mountain Biking treks.
Prior to 1920s 2 rivers of Rio Teba and Rio Turón joined the larger Guadalhorce River just before the El Chorro Gorge. El Chorro (meaning “spout” in Spanish) is a very narrow and deep cut through the mountains (200 meters in height and only a few meters wide). This caused regular flooding upstream and enormous damage to the local area. The growing need of the province for water and electricity also needed satisfying, so in 1911 the decision was made to build 4 dams one on each river to control the downstream flow and a final one just before the entrance to the El Chorro to produce electricity.
El Chorro Gorge & Caminito del Rey
The original walk way was built in 1901-1905 to carry materials for building of the Power Station between the 2 waterfalls that produced the electricity.
To this end a walkway was built linking the exit part of the El Chorro to the entrance of the gorge where the power station and the dam were being built. This was for its time an engineering feat. Working 100-150 meters above the ground, suspended from ropes whilst building the walk way was not a normal job for your average builder. So the construction company employed and trained Sailors to carry out the work as they were used to working at height dangling from ropes!!
The project finally finished in 1921 when it was inaugurated by King Alfonso XIII and during the opening ceremony he walked down the El Chorro Walk to inspect the finished project. This led to the walk way to be called the “Little Road of the King “El Caminito del Rey”. So despite the stories you hear, the walkway was not built for the king but was for the workers!
During 1980s the Caminito del Rey fell into disrepair and after many deaths due to fall from crumbling walkway it was closed with heavy fines for those who attempted it. It soon became world famous (or infamous) as the “Walkway of Death” and despite regular accidents and loss of life, adrenaline junkies kept on coming! Finally in 2012 money was made available by the Federal Government to rebuild the walkway, which was finally finished in 2015. This has become incredibly popular so do not attempt to go for this without a pre-booking your ticket. Some local restaurants have concessions for selling tickets but you have to buy a meal in order to qualify for the ticket and they might not be available for the same day. You can pre-book tickets by clicking here
The three newly formed lakes in 1920s were officially named after their contributory rivers:
- “Embalse Conde de Guadalhorce” at the Ardales end where Rio Turón enters the valley
- “Embalse del Guadalteba” at Teba end where Rio Teba enters the valley
- “Embalse del Guadalhorce” at the Gudalhorce entry to the Valley
All tourism and water activities are only allowed in “Embalse Conde de Guadalhorce” where you will find restaurants and activities areas (set up in different Zones). For canoeing, pedalos and Picnic area you want to head for Zone 3, but remember from June to end of September no open fires such as BBQ are allowed in these forests as they are tinder try and could cause serious fires.
In 1960s the original electricity power station was closed and the dam at the entry point of El Chorro Gorge was decommissioned once a new dam was built at the village of El Chorro after the exit point of the gorge. The new dam “Embalse Tajo de la Encantada” now controls the flow and supply of water to the valley as well as generating electricity via ingenious water system at Bobastro.
There are two places of interest at Bobastro, both of which are amazing technical achievements separated by 11 centuries, namely the ruins of the 9th Century church of Bobastro and the mountain top reservoir.
Half way up the mountain is the Bobastro church and village that now lays derelict and abandoned. It was the fortified base of a major revolt by “Umar ibn Hafsun” against the Moors Caliph based in Cordoba. Drive to Bobsatro demonstrates the difficulty the Caliph army had in putting down the revolt and in fact even finding the place to begin with.
Hafsun rebelled against Caliph of Cordoba as a protest over new taxes and Hafsun’s deportation to North Africa on the basis of very suspect murder charge. Despite his exile, he returned to Al Andalus and gathered an army of volunteers of both Muslim and Christians. He expanded his domain from Malaga to Cadiz and north to Antequera. He had become a menace to the Caliph who ordered his capture and distruction of his base, although nobody knew where his base was other than some legendary location called Bobastro.
Hafusn was a Mozarabe which meant he was of mixed religion (Christian mother and Muslim father) but by 899 Umar ibn Hafsun converted to Christianity and commissioned the amazing church carved from single pieces of stone. The church was built facing Mecca, so all his followers could worship at the same place and together as he believed they were praying to the same God of Abraham.
Hafsun remained at large and after his death when his sons took the leadership of his army and rebellion. Unlike their father who never really engaged in a full frontal battle with the much larger armies of the Caliph, his sons were more reckless. Finally their dominion shrank back to Bobastro alone and the location was discovered by the Caliphs army who had the orders to “Wipe Babstro off the face of the map and history”.
They did so after a long siege after which all the rebels were killed, the village burnt down (except the church which was carved from stone) and the Castle of Bobastro was completely pulled down. Today you will only see the foundation of some of the garrison and watch tower at the end of the road to Bobastro.
Once the rebellion was finally put down by the Caliph of Cordoba and Hafsun’s body was dug up and hanged at the gates for Cordoba for his crimes against the Caliphate and conversion from Islam. His name was nto allowed to be mentioned and Bobastro became a legend and unmarked location until 1960s when it was rediscovered due to the work for the new electricity generation project.
The second amazing sight at the top of the mountain is the water reservoir high up in the mountain! During the night when the demand for electricity falls, water is pumped to the top of the mountain from the Guadalhorce dam using the excess electricity. During the day-time and the periods of high electricity demand, water is allowed to return down to the dam, hence generating electricity. The reservoir has an unreal feel but provides a fantastic view of the valley and the occasional sites of Eagles and Vultures. May be Umar ibn Hafsun has not completely vanished from Bobastro, reminding everyone that over 1000 years ago Christians and Muslims united voluntarily to fight for a common cause!
Visiting the Area
The best way to visit is via Alora following signs for El Chorro. From Malaga take the A357 to Campillos and then turn off for Alora (also sign posted for El Chorro and El Caminito del Rey). Follow the sign for El Chorro & El Caminito del Rey up the mountain to Alora and then turn right at the top of the mountain otwards El Chorro.
Continue on this road for about 12 km until reaching the Dam on your right (“Embalse Tajo de la Encantada”). Continue straight on and DO NOT cross the Dam and within 300 meters you see El Chorro Gorge on your right. There are plenty of parking areas for you to stop and take photos, specially safe area is the bay in front of the Ice Cream kiosk on your right opposite the Tapas bar “Venta el Pilar” (good place for light lunch).
After this pit-stop, you should continue on towards El Chorro gorge on this road. After about 3 km, take the turning on your left signposted to Bobastro (Brown Sign). If you want to visit the place that the legend of “Umar Ibn Hafsun” was born you need to make another pit stop but be aware that this is only open to visitors between the hours of 10:00-14:00. To find the entrance look for wooden fences and the wooden hut two-thirds of the way up. Park your car at the parking area on your right near the hut. If you want to visit Bobastro and the church, you should park here and buy a ticket which includes a guide and walk the rest of the way. Please note, this is not suitable for small children and those with restricted mobility.
After your pilgrim to “Umar Ibn Hafsun”, you should continue on the road towards the top of the mountain. This is a rewarding drive and when you reach the top you will see the reservoir on your left. Continue past the reservoir and climb up to the end of the road. Stop at the end and just look at the views!! This is how Eagles see the world we live in.
Just to your right you will see the faded steps accessing to Bobastero’s wathc towers and fortifications. Climbing up to the fortifications of Babsotro is not too difficult as you are using the old steps. There is not much of the building left other than the footings of the main tower but the 360 degrees view is amazing.
Once you have caught your breath, drive back down to the main road and at the T-Junction turn left (away from El Chorro & Alora). Continue on this road until you come to another “T-Junction” and turn right towards “National Park” (Paraje Natural). Continue on this road and about 2 km from the junction you enter the densely wooded area with the lake on your left. You can either park on any safe area on the road or follow the sign for any of the Car Parks on your left (Zone 3 if you can), which offer an easier climb down to the water front. Have a splash, relax and just enjoy the water and the views. Once you have had enough or when you are hungry, get back to the main road (tuning left out of the car park). Follow the road always keeping the lake on your left. There are plenty of restaurants and bars for you to choose from and all of them provide good food and excellent views of the lake.
After your meal, you have to make a decision:
a) Continue on the road following the lakes and once you go over the main dam over “Embalse del Guadalteba” take the causeway to your left and cross the water. This is a beautiful drive to join A357 (Campillos-Malaga) road. This access road winds through the edge of the lake with small roads off to your left that take you to the reed beds and the edge of the water (great for birdwatchers). Do not swim here as the reeds and currents are dangerous.
b) Do you go for more adventurous longer drive?! Those who want further driving inland should continue on the road again keeping the lake on your left and follow the signs to “Antequera” (Ignore the causeway to your left). You see a definite change in the scenery with the woodlands thinning out and eventually giving way to barren landscape due to high winds here. Continue on this road following the signs to “Antequera and Valle de Abdalajis”. After approximately 12 km you arrive at a T-Junction with A343. Turning right towards Valle de Abdalajis & Alora will bring you back to Alora and you can then join the A357 towards Malaga. Turning left will take you to Antequera (25 km) and some of the most fantastic roads and scenery that you will not find anywhere else in Europe. At Antequera you can join the motorway (A92) heading east towards Granada and then taking A45 to Malaga and the coast.