A visitors preparatory guide
Sample of the rock around the multi-pitch moderate Valentine's Day
El Chorro is a sleepy little town northwest of Malaga. It is the home of El Caminito del Rey, and some of the best sport climbing around. Most of it is single pitch, but some taller routes exist.
View of the gorge from just uphill of "downtown" El Chorro
Climbing can be done year-round, but the Summer is probably too hot to be comfortable. At the end of December and beginning of January the daily high was about 60 degrees, which was perfect. Some crags are in direct sun all day, some are in shade all day, and others have a mix.
It's best to fly to a major European hub (e.g. Paris CDG), and then get a regional flight to Malaga (AGP). From Malaga you can either rent a car (quite cheap) or take a train (even cheaper) to El Chorro. Driving from Malaga you should stay on the A-357 to Ardales before heading to El Chorro. Following signs onto A-343 will take you through Alora on some harrowing streets.
Major mediterranean port of Malaga
Depending on where you stay, you can reach almost all the major crags in under an hour of walking. If you have a car, some approaches are only 5 minutes from the nearest parking. There are a couple more areas (Desplomilandia & Valle de Abdalajis) that are about a 20 minute drive from El Chorro proper.
Map of the area. El Chorro proper is in the bottom right corner.
Plenty of people drive down in their camper vans and are not bothered. Most likely you will want to book a local alojamiento (lodging). The Olive Branch offers mostly tent camping, with the ability to rent one with a mattress. The OB is run by a nice British couple (Mel & Gary), and has WiFi, electricity in the common areas, a pool, a communal kitchen, and the option of inexpensive meals (breakfast, dinner, snacks, and beer/wine). The Climbing Lodge has both dormitory and private apartment options, and it's a bit further from the crags but has the luxury of a sauna.
My "pet" lounging poolside at The Olive Branch
The most common guidebook is El Chorro by Mark Glaister published by Rockfax. However, it feels outdated because it's missing many climbs put up after 2008 and the stated approach for areas north of The Gorge is different. There is a wide variety of climbs, which won't feel sandbagged to a Gunkie, but nonetheless require some acclimatization.
Log steps to Albercones, or stay left toward Frontales
View of Las Encantadas from The Olive Branch
Valle de Abdalajis
This is a sport climber's paradise, so leave the trad rack at home. Some routes require a 70m or even an 80m rope, but a 60m will still give you plenty of options. If you plan to walk El Caminito del Rey, they won't let you in without a helmet.
El Caminito del Rey