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Walking in the Canary Islands: Tamaimo's Cross of the Missionaries

Updated on September 11, 2015

A cross on a mountain

High on a mountain overlooking the Tenerife town of Tamaimo stands a white cross. It is known as Cruz de los Misioneros, which in Spanish means "Cross of the Missionaries".

Tamaimo, on the south-western side of Tenerife, is surrounded by mountains and has a selection of footpaths for anyone who wants to explore them. One of these paths leads up the Cruz de los Misioneros on the Guama Mountain and gives some wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. It is an excellent place for anyone who enjoys walking in the mountains.

Cross of the Missionaries

Cruz de los Misioneros in Tamaimo. Photo by Steve Andrews
Cruz de los Misioneros in Tamaimo. Photo by Steve Andrews

How to get to the Cross of the Missionaries?

Tamaimo is easy enough to get to by car or bus and is situated on the road that leads from Playa de las Américas in the tourist resort areas of the south all the way to Icod de los Vinos in the north of Tenerife. Tamaimo is above Chío and Guía de Isora and below Santiago del Teide. On the coast below is Los Gigantes, famous for its 'giant' cliffs, and a road zigzags its way down to this popular holiday spot too.

Once you are in Tamaimo look out for or ask someone how to get to the Church of Saint Ana ("Iglesia de Santa Ana"). Carry on past it you will find a road called Calle del Agua, which is apt because there is a spring supplying public drinking water here. Off this road you will see a signpost for the footpaths ("senderos").

After a short walk of less than half a kilometre, there is another signpost with Cruz de los Misioneros on it. You will soon be passing an old threshing circle and you can also see the white cross high on the rugged mountain peak above.

View over Tamaimo and valley. Photo by Steve Andrews
View over Tamaimo and valley. Photo by Steve Andrews
La Gomera is in the distance. Photo by Steve Andrews
La Gomera is in the distance. Photo by Steve Andrews

The pathway to the cross

Be prepared for quite a steep climb so wear suitable footwear and walking sticks will come in handy too. The path winds in a zigzag as it makes its way upward and is mostly clearly defined though some brief stretches are over more or less barren rocky ground that you need to scramble over.

Bring enough water and maybe a packed lunch depending on how long you are planning to be out. It takes an hour to 90 minutes to climb up to the cross from the signpost below. Also remember that this is the south of Tenerife and the sun can be very strong so take precautions.

You will get some wonderful views over the valley below as you ascend the pathway. You can see the tiny buildings of Tamaimo and the winding road going into it. You can also see the mountain chain with Mt Teide in the distance.

The path is best described as 'medium' when it comes to estimating how difficult it is. I found myself wondering who the missionaries were and what had motivated them to climb all the way up here when it presumably was nowhere near as easy as it is today!

I expect they said a prayer when they reached the peak at a height of 877 metres and planted their cross. Surveying the amazing scenery around could only have increased their religious devotion.

Looking in the other direction to the one you started from you can see over some of the Teno mountain range and down to the sea. The neighbouring Canary Island of La Gomera can be clearly seen in the distance on a clear day.


Guaydil (Convolvulus floridus) Photo by Steve Andrews
Guaydil (Convolvulus floridus) Photo by Steve Andrews

Red Spurge

Euphorbia atropurpurea. Photo by Steve Andrews
Euphorbia atropurpurea. Photo by Steve Andrews

Of interest to botanists

Botanists should look out for what they can spot amongst the interesting flora that grows on the mountainside below the Cruz de los Misioneros. What is in flower and at its best will of course vary depending on what season you are there and how much rain the island has had,

Amongst plants that grow here are the pretty Guaydil (Convolvulus floridus ), a tall shrub in the bindweed family that can reach some two metres or more in height, and is often grown as an ornamental bush in gardens because of its bunches of white flowers. Here it is to be seen in its natural habitat.

Several spurges or "Tabaibas" as they are known in Spanish grow in the mountainside scrub-land too. Watch out for the attractive Red Spurge (Euphorbia atropurpurea ). In Spanish it is called "Tabaiba Roja", referring again to its attractive reddish-purple flower-heads.

Houseleeks (Aeonium species) also flourish on the rocky ground here, as do Prickly Pear (Opuntia ) cacti and many other drought-resistant plants adapted for a dry habitat. One of these in particular to look out for is A. sedifolium. This small but very twiggy species is known for growing in this area, as is a hybrid between it and the larger A. urbicum, which has been described by some botanists as a distinct species of houseleek known as A. burchardii .

There are also large patches of Century Plant (Agave americana ) with their massive spiky succulent leaves and very tall flowering spikes. This invasive but attractive plant is well-suited to terrain like this and untended has colonised the land in many parts of the island.

Tamaimo Mountains

A mountain view of Risco Blanco from Cruz de los Misioneros. Photo by Steve Andrews
A mountain view of Risco Blanco from Cruz de los Misioneros. Photo by Steve Andrews

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Other footpaths

When you have finished your climb up to the Cruz de los Misioneros, or maybe for another day, there are several other footpaths that can be taken that provide excellent views of the mountains and countryside around Tamaimo.

You can take the one that leads upward to the charming town of Santiago del Teide, the capital of the borough. This footpath goes past the mountain villages of El Retamar and El Molledo. Santiago del Teide is well worth visiting anyway. It is surrounded by mountains, including some covered in pine forest. There is an attractive square with a statue of a Guanche and church with one of Tenerife's Black Madonnas. Santiago del Teide is also your starting point if you intend taking a bus or driving to the incredible mountain village of Masca, known for its "Shangri-la" image as the village that was cut off until fairly recently when an amazing roadway was constructed.

Or, of course, taking the easier option downhill, you can go in the other direction and make your way down to the coast on the pathway that leads to Puerto Santiago and finally into the coastal resort of Los Gigantes. That track will take around two hours but is an interesting one with a great final destination to relax in with a meal and a drink after you finish your day's walking and a convenient bus station to take you home.


© 2012 Steve Andrews


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