Adventure #22: Walking Fun for Everyone
It’s funny how history has a way of changing. Historically, the prime destination in the Canary Islands for hikers and walkers was La Gomera. In 2015, however, Tenerife stepped up by launching a Walking Festival, and now active travelers all over the world have discovered that this island’s varied landscapes is a wonderland for walking and hiking.
When it launched in 2015, the Tenerife Walking Festival drew about 150 outdoor enthusiasts from across the European continent. The second annual festival is being held March 29-April 2, 2016, and features 15 organized, guided tours designed to showcase the island’s diversity and breathtaking beauty — especially magnificent as the countryside comes alive in the spring. Depending on where you are on the island, you can find anything from dramatic cliffs, lunar-like lava fields, and surf-pounded beaches to dense laurel forests, tiny hamlets, and flower-filled fields.
Complementing the festival’s hiking opportunities are a number of other activities, including cycling, diving, kitesurfing, stargazing — and of course, unwinding at the end of the day with a glass of sangria.
But you don’t have to visit the island during the Walking Festival to enjoy a good hike here. Tenerife boasts 932 miles of tracks and trails, accommodating all levels of experience and challenge. Guided tours are available throughout the island year-round, and you are also welcome to set off on your own, whether you’re interested in a rigorous climb or a gentle family walk.
With such a wealth of walking and hiking options available, we’ll just touch on a few. The most popular hiking destination is also the island’s top attraction: Mount Teide. Parque Nacional del Teide (Teide National Park) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site — and also one of the best walking areas in Spain. A trail connecting Montaña Blanca with Pico Teide is the park’s most popular one — perhaps because it is also one of the easiest. Enjoy views of the park, its lunar landscape, and the Las Cañadas mountain range from the peak of Montaña Blanca. You can also ride the cable car up Mount Tide and hike to Pico Viejo for views of the volcanic crater and the islands of La Gomera, La Palma, and El Hierro. Get a closer look at the crater on a walk through La Fortaleza.
Also set in the central part of the island is La Orotava Valley, with its pine forests, stone cottages, and carpet of clouds. If you venture to the top of Montana de Limon, you can enjoy views of Mount Teide’s snowy peak. Or start halfway between Teide and La Orotava, in the village of Aguamansa, where a number of gentle walking trails suitable for the whole family are well marked.
On the island’s north coast, a popular area for hiking is Teno Rural Park. In this mountainous region, almost entirely surrounded by the sea, you’ll find leafy forests, cactus plants, and the Masca Gorge, where you can enjoy an exhilarating descent. Another good north-coast hiking region is the Anaga Peninsula, whose volcanic ridges offer wonderful sea views and thick vegetation. A circular route between Cruz del Carmen and Chinamada here is often acclaimed as the island’s best walk. In Chinamada, behold homes dug directly into the mountain, and perhaps pass herds of goats along the way.
Of course, Tenerife’s southern coast also offers excellent hiking and walking opportunities. The Adeje mountain range is not far from the island’s most popular resort areas. A route between Arona and Adeje that follows goat-herding tracks is a good choice for beginners, while more experienced hikers might opt for a trail leading from Ifonche to Adeje. And several trails radiate out from the picturesque mountain village of Vilaflor, including one that leads to Paisaje Lunar, a lunar-like pumice rock formation.
Perhaps you’ll get a jump on the festival by arriving early in the year. If you do, you’re pretty assured of experiencing the scent of almond blossoms, as the almond trees bloom from mid-January to mid-February. Your best bets for delighting in a pinkish-white haze of almond blossoms are the Ruta del Almendra (Almond Route) from Santiago del Teide to Arguayo and the Chinyero and Volcan de Garachico route from San Jose de Los Llanos.