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Why Tenerife in the Canary Islands is a paradise for walking and hiking?
Much more to Tenerife than just beaches and resorts
Tenerife is a very popular holiday destination in the Canary Islands but there is so much more to the island than its tourist resorts and beaches. Its mountain ranges, forests and picturesque countryside are a fantastic place for walking and a paradise for anyone who loves exploring the great outdoors and the natural world.
With its many micro-climates and different terrains it is ideal for experiencing the wonders of nature and the environment, as well as keeping really fit. There are all sorts of footpaths and hiking trails to suit every sort of rambler. You can climb very high mountains on rugged and rocky paths or take a far more leisurely walk through the forests or on the coastal plains below. The choice is yours.
Snow on Mt Teide
Mt Teide is the highest mountain in Spain
Of course, Mt Teide, which is the highest mountain in the Canary Islands and mainland Spain too, is probably the most exciting location to choose. Up in the highlands is really like entering another world and the views are breathtaking.
The ascent of this mountain and of Pico Viejo (both of which are over 3000m) can be tough and are only for people who are very fit. You also need a special permit to climb the last stretch to the summit of Mt Teide. It is best to go with an experienced hill-walking guide who will be able to point out many interesting features along the way, and to be on the safe side as well because people can get into difficulty at these very high altitudes.
In winter Mt Teide is often covered in snow on its peak and the temperature up there is very different to what is down on the coast. This applies to all the mountains and suitable clothing is a must before you set off. Enough water to drink and adequate protection from the sun are also very important when climbing the mountains of Tenerife and also for hiking in general on the island.
La Catedral in Las Cañadas del Teide National Park
Two islands in one - Tenerife North and Tenerife South
Tenerife has often been thought of as two islands in one because the north and south really are that different. The south is usually hot and dry and has very arid, almost-desert landscapes while the north is far cooler, greener and where you are more likely to experience rainfall. This means you get very different types of vegetation and scenery. Farmers in the north grow many fruit trees and vegetable crops that need a damper climate.
Walkers will find it fascinating seeing what is being cultivated on the island. In the warmer coastal areas there are vast banana plantations but up in the higher and cooler ground of the north you will see fields of lettuce, cabbages, potatoes, leeks and trees like apples and plums that it is too hot and dry for down in the south.
View over Masca
The Ponds of Erjos
Erjos is a mountain village in the northwest of Tenerife that is a favourite starting point for walks. Take a bus on Sunday mornings from Icod de los Vinos (the city of the Dragon tree) and you will usually find lots of the seats taken by obvious ramblers with their walking sticks and backpacks. They all get off in Erjos which has several ponds down in the lower ground but is surrounded by forests and high mountains.
Freshwater habitats in Tenerife are rare and so this makes the location a wonderful place for nature walks. Water birds such as coots and moorhens can be seen on the ponds and frogs can be heard croaking in spring. Many wild flowers grow there and also in the evergreen laurel forests or ‘laurisilva’ woodlands that can be easily accessed from here. This is very different to the arid coastal and mountainside scrub-land elsewhere on the island where prickly pear cacti and “tabaibas”, which are a semi-succulent shrub in the euphorbia genus grow.
Erjos is in Teno which is also known as la Isla Baja (“the low island”) even though much of it is mountainous. Much of it is forested too, such as the area known as Monte del Aqua (“Mountain of Water”) which is where one of the footpaths from Erjos leads.
It is also possible to climb the mountains above the ponds of Erjos and then descend into the tiny hamlet of Masca. This village has been likened to Tenerife’s answer to Shangri-La, and indeed it was cut off from the outside world for many years by the high mountains that surround it. There is an incredible walk from Masca down a steep ravine that brings you eventually to a beach from which you can take a boat to the resort of Los Gigantes.
Erjos is just into the north of Tenerife and there is a lot of visual contrast between the countryside around it and that of Santiago del Teide, which is just a few kilometres into the south and another place popular with walkers.
A real variety of walks
Tenerife really has a fantastic variety of walks available. The extreme north of the island offers walks up in the Anaga Mountain range and here you will visit remote villages and see some of the best laurel forest on the island as well as enjoying breathtaking views over the rocky coastline.
There are really lengthy trails such as the the long distance route known as the GR-131 Camino de Chasna trail. This is a walk that shows you a lot of the mountain scenery and gives some incredible views. The GR-131 in total actually runs from the north to the south of the island and can be as long or as short as you wish to make it because you do not have to walk all of the route.
That is the case with all possible walks on the island. You can take a very long one possibly with some difficult climbing or a much more leisurely stroll. Any good guide to walking on the island will grade the ease or difficulty of the routes available.
Most trails on the island that are frequently used by hikers and ramblers are signposted and you will find them marked on maps and in guidebooks but there are pathways and shortcuts known to locals too. There is so much to explore and discover in Tenerife.
© 2013 Steve Andrews