Hill walking in Tenerife

A gigantic dormant volcano and an extraordinary range of landscapes make this Atlantic island appealing to walkers of all abilities.

With over 1,500km of stunning nature trails, hiking is a deeply rooted sport on the island of Tenerife. Local guide Valerio del Rosario describes the richness that is attracting more and more walking enthusiasts to Tenerife every year.

Tenerife, the biggest of the Canary Islands, is located in the Atlantic Ocean, 300km off the west coast of Africa and spread across an area of just 2,000 sq.km – about the size of the English county of Surrey. The island features a vast array of beautiful trails, settings and landscapes ideal for a hiking holiday. And the great advantage that Tenerife has over other destinations is the mild spring-like temperatures all year round, which make hiking a delight both in summer and winter.
 

High and dry on the volcanic slopes of Mount Teide

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There are three principal areas for hiking: the protected Teide National Park (dominating the centre of the island), Anaga Rural Park (in the northeast) and Teno Rural Park (in the northwest).

I personally love the route that goes up to Mount Teide as it offers amazing views from the very start. It is also easily accessible from the south of the island, where most visitors tend to stay. After that, I would recommend Anaga and Teno for more experienced ramblers. Other regions such as the Malpaís de Güímar and the Orotava Valley are becoming more and more popular for hiking, too.
 
Teide National Park
Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, covers an area of 20,000 hectares and is Tenerife’s most popular hiking destination. It encompasses a remarkable volcanic landscape, and ascending up to the top of Mount Teide (3,718 metres above sea level) is a truly rewarding experience everybody should include in their bucket lists. Teide, a dormant volcano, is in fact the highest peak in Spain. I also must say that this a very demanding hike, with up to 1,325 metres of vertical gain and significantly reduced oxygen on the upper slopes.

This epic hike to the summit takes around five hours and one of the most common routes is the number 7 hiking trail, which starts in Montaña Blanca (from km 40.2 of the TF-21 volcano road), easily accessible by bus and car. The first part – my favourite – involves traversing an impressively weird landscape with unusual rock formations.

After 1.5 hours, the hike gets more strenuous and the views better and better. The trail (no.7) ends up at La Rambleta, close to the upper station of the Teide cable car (3,555 metres high). Those who want to reach the summit, a further challenging 200 metres on, need to apply for a permit in advance. On a clear day the stunning views from the very top extend to the neighbouring islands of Gran Canaria and La Gomera. Often you can look down to a bank of clouds extending to the north, far below the peak.
 
The view from Santiago del Teide
An experience I always recommend is to do the hike over two days, spending the night at the Altavista Refuge (3,270 metres altitude). As well as resting weary limbs, hikers can also enjoy some of the best stargazing on the planet, before climbing the remaining stretch to reach the summit before dawn (there’s no need to apply for a separate permit if you’ve booked a night at the refuge). Watching the volcano’s gigantic shadow projecting out into the atmosphere as the sun rises is one of the most extraordinary sights you can witness anywhere on Earth.
 
Laurisilva forest at Anaga
Anaga Rural Park
This park is one of the two examples of so-called laurisilva remaining in Tenerife, a stunning subtropical forest made of ancient laurel trees and ferns which is only found in the Canary Islands and the Azores. It covers almost 15,000 hectares around the northernmost part of the island, and an extensive network of footpaths makes it accessible to all kinds of walking enthusiasts.

Of all the hikes available in this area, I strongly recommend the one that goes from the picturesque town of Taganana (at the very north of the park) to the fishing village of San Andrés, via the Barranco del Cercado. This is a moderate route (much easier than hiking up Mount Teide) of around 12km, which takes around 4 hours in total. While hiking, don’t forget to pay attention to the rocky crags and outcrops, natural breakwaters, jagged peaks, palm trees, beaches and spectacular cliffs that you will be able to view along the way.
 
Los Gigantes cliffs
Teno Rural Park and south to Los Gigantes
In the northwest of the island, Teno Rural Park is home to Tenerife’s second example of laurisilva and one of the oldest parts of the island. Centuries of erosion have carved the Teno Massif, leaving a stunning landscape of deep ravines and razor-sharp ridges.

Most walkers love to include in their itinerary the scenic hamlet of Masca, testament to the traditional way of living in this remote part of Tenerife. The route PR - TF 59 (Las Portelas – Masca) gives hikers fantastic views of the Masca Valley and the surrounding Teno mountains. The hike, with a length of 4.5 km and a medium difficulty, starts from La Portela Baja, crosses the impressive Lubes Gorge and climbs up to the top of La Cancela Mountain. The descent route ends at one of the typical caseríos (rustic stone houses) of Masca.
 
A short distance south of Masca are the dramatic cliffs of Los Gigantes on the west coast, towering up to 600 metres above the crashing Atlantic surf. The cliffs mark the southern edge of the Teno mountain range, and there are some exhilarating (and easy) walks along the tops.

TOP 5 EXPERIENCES

1. Teide National Park

At 3,718 metres, Mount Teide is Spain’s highest peak and the third largest volcanic cone in the world. It is without question Tenerife’s number one hike, and one of the most exciting anywhere in Europe. The path 7 from Montaña Blanca to the summit of the volcano will take you from a barren desert landscape to the cool heights, with stunning views across Tenerife and its neighbouring islands.

2. Anaga Rural Park

Hiking through one of the world’s last indigenous laurel forests (or laurisilva) is a wonderful experience. A recommended path in this area is the PR TF 10 Cruz del Carmen – Punta del Hidalgo (10.4 km), offering rugged landscapes and towering cliffs battered by the Atlantic Ocean.

3. Malpaís de Güímar

The Malpaís de Güímar, covering an area of 290 hectares on the eastern side of the island, was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions. The biggest volcanic cone here is Montaña Grande (“Big Mountain”), 276 metres high, which provides a great vantage point to view the lava flows that shaped this magnificent landscape.

4. Oratava Valley

The lush Orotava Valley on the northeastern flanks of Mount Teide occupies a place of honour in the geography of the island and offers striking views of the volcano, best seen from the PR TF 35 Mamio – Pinolere route. The 13km route is fairly challenging.

5. Garachico - Montaña Chinero

This path (PR TF 43) starts in the northern town of Garachico and takes you to Tenerife’s most active volcanic area, where Montaña Chinyero is located. The mountain’s cinder cone was formed by an eruption that took place in 1909.

WHEN TO VISIT

Best times to go:

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It may seem a cliché, but with springlike temperatures all year round, any month is good for hiking here. Having said that, I would personally recommend the spring and autumn, when the island is quieter, and visitors may catch the spectacle of Teide National Park in bloom, for example. Also, those belonging to a professional hiking association should definitely come in March 2015 for the first Tenerife Walking Festival. Those interested can register online. Whenever you visit Tenerife, there are plenty of companies offering guided hikes with local experts to help you make the most of the trip.

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