A lot of people assume that a holiday in the Canaries is only the stereotypical getaway: package holidays on the same stretch of beach and in the same faceless shopping streets and bars open all night. But the Canaries islands have a diverse range of options – few even realise that there are seven islands that make up the official ‘Canaries’ as it were.
Hiking is one of my favourite options in this region – it is hard to narrow down options, but here are some recommended hiking trails, one for each of the Canaries seven sunny islands.
Tenerife is probably one of the best islands in the Canaries for hikers – with lots of mountainous terrain (of varying degrees of difficulty), it is easy to hire a car and get out into nature. The hike through the Masca ravine is a popular one, but popular for good reason. Masca is surrounding by picture postcard views of the terrain typical of Tenerife, and there are lots of services – restaurants, cafes, etc. – nearby that make the experience quite enjoyable.
The ravine is a 6 hour return hike, but those who don’t feel like their fitness levels are up for it can catch a boat ferry from the bottom that will take them back to civilisation. Either way you choose, it is bound to be good.
Gran Canaria is another hugely popular tourist spot in the Canaries, yet few realise that it’s considered a ‘miniature continent’ given the diverse representation of landscapes and flora found here. So much unique biodiversity is here that a 3rd of the island is under UNESCO heritage protection. Thus it’s a guaranteed deal that any hike here will be an interesting one.
Tejeda is a great starting point for hikes in the area. Most will head for the Cruz de Tejeda, a carved stone cross that marks the centre of the island, but there are other easier hikes – all heading from the main village. The scenery is spectacular, which explains why many films have been shot in this region.
The government on the island of Lanzarote actually established a “Footpaths Plan” in an effort to promote hiking and tourism on this island. Because of this, you can walk virtually anywhere on the island explore all sorts of terrain on marked paths.
Perhaps the most interesting or unique of these footpaths is the trail that takes you over the lava fields in Timanfaya National Park. These volcanoes have left a surreal landscape behind, with strange colours and shapes where you wouldn’t expect them.
La Palma is one of the more undisturbed islands of the Canaries. This is good for some, looking for a quiet setting that is more like what the islands once were before tourism took hold. Having said that, this means that the facilities and trails are not as developed. This means that hikers heading to La Palma must take good footwear and gear appropriate to the trails.
Trails are signposted and standard across the island. You could walk any portion of the Coastal Trail, which circles the entire island (it is split into “official” segments but you can choose to do whatever you like really). Los Tilos is another popular option – you’ll have to pass through some very wet tunnels before getting great views of waterfalls.
Similar to La Palma, La Gomera isn’t a very popular tourist stop, but it does have some great hiking opportunities. One option is to take one of the two road paths to the Santa De Aqua waterfall. It isn’t as magnificent as waterfalls you’ll find elsewhere, but in this case it is the journey not the destination that really is worthwhile.
El Hierro is the smallest of the Canary Islands, which means bad news for hikers: the trails are shorter but they go straight up, from the sandy shores up to El Sabinar, the island’s peak. One of the nicest routes is to go from village of Sabinosa to the church ‘Ermita de los Reyes’ and back. Again, good footwear and caution advised – it can be windy in spots year-round.
Last but certainly not least we have Fuerteventura. Some say this is like going on a hike to Mars, given the reddish rocky terrain that goes on for miles and miles. Hikes to this island tend to base themselves near Caleta de Fuste, as it has relatively decent bus service to connect pedestrians to other parts of the island and back.
Posted : Wednesday, July 14th, 2010 at 10:04
Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not criss-crossing the world to have his next travel adventures, he is spending time hanging out on his own website, Sharing Travel Experiences.