Outstanding Universal Value of the Project
Protected Site on an Andalusian, European and Worldwide Scale
El Caminito del Rey Path is one of the hydroelectric constructions which have been kept in the Desfiladero de los Gaitanes Natural Beauty Spot, declared this way by the Andalusian Regional Government in 1989. Deep gorges stand out in these surroundings, with three rivers and varied plant and animal life, which together make an exceptional ecological niche.
The nature site is in the middle of the Province of Málaga where Antequera, Guadalteba and Guadalhorce areas meet. It is placed at the same distance from Málaga, Ronda, Marbella and Antequera.
Large rivers and cliffs of the gorges were used in hydroelectric power industry at the beginning of the 20th century for supplying the town of Málaga with power and water. The path 'El Caminito del Rey' was a walkway that stretched across this industrial complex and allowed its maintenance.
Outstanding Nature Site
Three different but connected issues make this site an outstanding location regarding its geographical features: there have been settlements since prehistoric times and it is of industrial importance.
Unique Geographical Features
The first and the most important characteristic of this area is its geographical uniqueness. The sources of the rivers are in the northern sides of the Baetic System, and channel almost all the flow towards the Atlantic Ocean, while in the southern part of the range there are plenty of rivers that are shorter and flow into the Mediterranean Sea. However, there are three exceptions – the rivers Guadalhorce, Guadalteba and Turón which meet at the entrance to the Gaitanes Gorge (Desfiladero de los Gaitanes). Their source is in the northern side of the Baetic System but they flow together along the canyons of El Chorro into the Mediterranean Sea. Because of this, the Guadalhorce runs through this site along two gorges, Gaitanejo and Gaitanes, and Hoyo Valley.
Settlements since the Prehistory
Secondly, this nature site has been important for development of some humans' settlements in the surroundings of the Gaitanejo Natural Beauty Spot and El Chorro village since prehistory. There are records about a lot of settlements, above all from the Neolithic. Three details show how important the area was for humankind.
Firstly, there are Neanderthal remains and some cave paintings in the Ardales Cave. The latter is the oldest art in the world as it is more than 66,000 years old.
Moreover, we have the megalithic tombs in Las Aguilillas Necropolis from the end of the 3rd and the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC.
Thirdly, there is Bobastro, a place where Umar ibn Hafsun settled and established his headquarters in 880 AD. These three sites suggest that this place has always been inhabited as it was a strategically important spot that connected areas in the inland with those on the coast. Native populations developed in spite of the difficulties that could arise on this kind of terrain.
The third subject related to this site is its industrial patrimony as the area has witnessed and was a centre of some decisive changes for the Province of Málaga. Once again, several buildings confirm this. This element is the central axis of El Caminito del Rey Path (the King's Little Pathway) as Hydroelectric Industrial Heritage for the inclusion on the UNESCO's World Heritage List. The Nomination focuses on three different milestones:
- El Chorro or the Count of Guadalhorce's Reservoir and Gaitanejo Dam
- the walkways over the waterfall in the hydroelectric power complex El Chorro
- El Chorro Train Station and the bridges over the Gaitanes Gorge.
Dams and waterfalls for generating hydropower were built due to the need for supplying the towns and villages with power, especially, factories, as well as in order to satisfy the increasing demand for transport, above all trams, but also trains.
Therefore, the works on the hydropower complex were performed in this area between 1903 and 1921, when the waterfall and El Chorro Hydroelectric Power Plant were built (1903-1906), in this order, at the lower part of the train station so the flowing water from the river Guadalhorce at the exit from the Gaitanes Gorge could be used for power production. Cambutas Dam, built in 1904, at the entrance of the Gaitanejo Gorge is another important building. This construction was built to channel water to the waterfall and El Chorro Hydroelectric Power Station and stop the water force at the place where the rivers Turón, Guadalteba and Guadalhorce meet. It was turned into the Gaitanejo Dam in 1927 as it had been partially destroyed by the river. El Chorro Reservoir and Dam are the last to be mentioned. The last stone in the case of this construction was placed by King Alfonso XIII on the 21st of May in 1921.
This reservoir was named the Count of Guadalhorce's Reservoir in 1953 by the Ministry of Public Works in honour of the architect who was in charge of its building, Rafael Benjumea Burín. He was appointed count by King Alfonso XIII on 12th September 1921 for his architectural achievements. Mr Benjumea was also the Minister of Public Works during the government of Primo de Rivera in 1926.
Later on, in the 1960s and 1970s, two more reservoirs next to El Chorro were built – the Guadalhorce and Guadalteba, in order to make the most of the resources and hydropower. All these reservoirs created a kind on an inland sea with fresh water. This means that all the reservoirs in the area of Gaintanes are larger then those on Málaga's coast and can be used for sports and help local economy as tourist destinations.
El Caminito del Rey Path
Thirdly, the famous Caminito del Rey, a path that was used as a service way in order to connect the towns around El Chorro Train Station in Álora with El Chorro Dam in Ardales, turned into a fascinating sight that links large hydraulic structures that distinguish the landscape in the areas of the Guadalteba and the Guadalhorce Valley.
This structure, which was initially made of wood and then covered in cement, is the one we can cross today thanks to the the wooden beams fixed in the rock with metal brackets and high-strength bolts. It was reopened after its refurbishing in 2015. The new path goes over the old one along the same way. The former path is an archaeological site, which had a purpose to shorten the distance (a bit more than 8 km) between the train station and the dam as a hanging pathway, which was more than 100 m high at some spots, and went along the steep cliffs over the Guadalhorce River, at the place where it flows through the Gaitanes and Gaitanejo Gorges, as well as along Hoyo Valley. Thanks to this way, local population at that time could avoid walking all around Almorchón Mountain.
El Chorro Train Station
The first to be built was a railway between Córdoba and Málaga (199 km long) which was ended in 1866. Since then, the train station at El Chorro in Álora has played an important role in the development of the area. Firstly, it was important for building the Hydroelectric Power Station and the waterfall there and then for El Chorro Reservoir, which was built in 1921 in order to stop floods and water the Hoya, plain in Málaga, and to turn the Gaitanes area in the centre of the power production in Andalusia.
Moreover, as there were no roads, the railway became necessary and rather important means of transport used for bringing materials and machines to build El Chorro Dam.
All the sites that were previously mentioned were connected throughout history and became unique regarding their conservation and maintenance thanks to their complex geographical features, their strategic position, and the recent commitment to its sustainability showed by different governments and administrations, which turned it into a tourist attraction and the driving force in the local economy.
In order to include our proposal on the Spanish Government List, it is crucial to justify Outstanding Universal Value of each of the above sites. We are convinced they all have it, and that we have reasons to ask you to give your support to our proposal.
Let us present their outstanding value.
If you are interested in getting the book "Caminito del Rey y su entorno. Candidatura a Patrimonio Mundial de la UNESCO", download the file at this link (at the moment only in Spanish). If you also want to know the monuments of this nomination, click here to view the video that we have made in this regard.