Walk Tenerife

by AndyMont

Year-round sunshine, direct flights and a breathtaking diversity of paths make Tenerife the ideal walking destination. Add to that trails with barely another soul and you’ve found walking Nirvana

Whether you’re looking for gentle coastal paths to stretch your legs and work up an appetite for lunch; family-friendly footpaths where lizards scuttle underfoot and kestrels reel overhead; or testing trails that twist through ancient forests and skirt deep ravines beneath Mount Teide’s ever watchful gaze, Tenerife has it all.

Walking in the south

Although there’s no denying that the very best of Tenerife’s walking lies in the interior and in the north of the island, there are wondrous trails to be followed in the south and you don’t have to travel far from the main resorts of the south coast to find them.

One of the most popular walks on Tenerife, the Barranco del Infierno (Hell’s ravine), begins behind the small, traditional town of Arona and takes you along a deep ravine carved out of the ancient mountains to a high waterfall. But you won’t be alone on your hike.

Escape the crowds and stay in the sunlight by exploring the hills above Barranco del Infierno. Take the 382 or the 486 bus from Los Cristianos into the hills to the small hamlet of Ilfonche and follow the path that takes you through pine forests to the top of Barranco Infierno. From here you witness the remarkable transformation of the south of Tenerife from the steep terraces and cactus desert where you stand, to the shining hotels, golf greens and sparkling marina of the coast far below. A skittish descent of the barranco (gorge) takes you past wind-eroded rock formations and along a path worthy of a Playstation game, to an amazing pinnacle with a dizzying, widescreen view over the vastness of the Atlantic.

A family-friendly experience

For a more family-friendly and less vertigo-inducing experience, begin at the rural village of San Miguel and follow the old trading route that takes you through the charismatic streets of the hamlet into its agricultural outskirts. With just the lizards and the kestrels for company, the trail skirts fields of potatoes and vines to a once-abandoned village where life is just beginning to return, before zig-zagging its way steadily uphill to an amazing viewpoint over the volcanic landscape of the south.

The real joy of this route is discovering the hidden gem of La Tasquita de Nino (Calle Estanco, 3; (0034) 922 700 463) when you finish; a small, charismatic restaurant in San Miguel village. The former post office and home where he grew up, Nino’s is the perfect venue to unlace the walking boots and enjoy his delicious tapas and a glass of local wine.

La Orotava Valley

The real walker’s paradise on Tenerife are the Anaga Mountains across the island’s north east tip where ancient laurisilva forests thrive, people still inhabit caves as they have done for 500 years and GPS is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. But you can find stunning walking within easier reach of the resort of Puerto de la Cruz simply by heading to the upper reaches of the La Orotava Valley.

The 345 bus takes you from Puerto de la Cruz to its terminus at La Caldera; a huge volcanic crater which serves as a picnic zone and is the starting point for a multitude of trails through the upper valley. A path leads past the rustic La Caldera restaurant, skirting the crater picnic zone, and heads into the scented pine forests along a wide, easy path. Giant pines draped in tattered lichen cast dappled shade along the path and present tantalising glimpses of Mount Teide through their branches. Lined with scented broom, sculptured rock roses and lilac heathers, the path weaves its way through the forest with the Los Órganos rock formation, like giant stone organ pipes, on the horizon ahead.

At a junction in the path, you can choose to climb up to the ridge and traverse the dense forest above Los Órganos, tracing a path around the edge of an abyssal barranco and a sea of clouds, and descending back through the forest on a slalom run of dead pine needles.

Alternatively, you can drop down through the forest to the outskirts of the hamlet of Aguamansa where eagles circle overhead and hedgerows spill wild crimson poppies, delicate blue forget-me-nots, jaunty yellow daisies and soft pink geraniums onto the path.

En route back to La Caldera pop into the trout farm and bird of prey sanctuary ( Aguamansa s/n; (0034)922 330 701; open daily 10am to 3pm) at Aguamansa – it's a bit of a secret and not many visitors know about. It's free to get in and you can wander past the fish tanks and the duck pond to the small collection of owls, buzzards, eagles and a raven.

Whichever route you chose, you'll find yourself back at the forest terrace of the La Caldera Restaurant (La Caldera s/n; (0034) 922 333 654) where you can kick off the hiking boots and watch the robins, canaries and chaffinches while you enjoy a well deserved cold Dorada beer. They do a nice fresh trout here too – unsurprisingly.

You can get PDF downloads of all these routes and more at:
http://www.realtenerifeislanddrives.com/Walking%20Tenerife.html

Where to stay

South Tenerife – opt to stay in the lovely village of San Miguel and you get the best of both worlds; real Canarian culture and an idyllic rural setting just 20 minutes away from the busy southern resorts. La Bodega Casa Rural (Bethencourt Alfonso, 4) has four immaculately restored self catering cottages within the bodega walls in the heart of the village.

Hotel Rural San Miguel (Calle Las Morales, 2) is also in the heart of the village. This 17th-century restored mansion names its very individual rooms after their original purpose so you could be sleeping in the henhouse!

North Tenerife – the traditional resort of Puerto de la Cruz gives easy access to the best walking on Tenerife. Hotel Tigaiga (Parque Taoro, 28) is set within a tropical oasis above the town with fabulous views. The Tigaiga is a family run hotel where people return year after year.

AndyMont

I have lived and worked on Tenerife as a freelance feature writer and travel guide author for 7 years. I am Editor and Co-Director of Tenerife's premier online lifestyle magazine – Tenerife Magazine.

I first set foot on Tenerife in 2002 with a mindset that was predisposed to hating the place.
It is to Tenerife's eternal credit that what I found was so far removed from my prejudices that one year later I actually upped sticks and moved here.

Since then I've made it my business to uncover every gem in Tenerife's hidden treasures in my quest to tell the world about the 'other' Tenerife – the one that's really quite cool.
My Road to Damascus revelations have been chronicled in Traveller, Ling and Living Tenerife magazines, in various travel websites and blogs and in the two guide books I have authored; Real Tenerife Island Drives and Going Native in Tenerife.

I believe that to get to the heart of a place you have to throw yourself headlong into all it has to offer, so when I'm not researching or writing you can find me at Carnaval 'til dawn, sipping mojitos in a Cuban bar or clinging to some vertigo-inducing outcrop by my fingernails to see if an ancient path still exists.

My Tenerife

Where I always grab a coffee: in one of Cafe Ebano's big wicker chairs in Puerto's Plaza Iglesia for a café americano and a slice of chocolate cake.

My favourite stroll: Along the Rambla del Castro coastal path in Los Realejos to the little fort of San Fernando with views back over the palm groves and Casona de Castro hacienda.

My favourite beach: Bollullo on the border of Puerto de la Cruz and La Orotava is too remote for all but locals to access. There are no regimented sunbeds or water sports, just black sand coves, one cliffside restaurant and wild Atlantic rollers.

Fiction for inspiration: Agatha Christie's The Man From The Sea, part of the Mysterious Mr Quin collection was penned in the La Paz district of Puerto de la Cruz. Not her best but the location descriptions haven't changed all that much.

Where to be seen: at the Ítaca Terrace of the Faro Chill Art Bar in Costa Adeje.

Most breathtaking view: From the Pico del Inglés mirador in the Anaga Mountains. Looking south Mount Teide dominates the centre of the island with the Aguere Valley, La Laguna, Santa Cruz and the north airport spread below it. Looking north the Atlantic Ocean shimmers beyond the ancient Anaga Mountains.

Best spot for peace and quiet: the upper La Orotava Valley where trails thread through fragrant pine forests with only the sound of birdsong and the scuttling of lizards in the undergrowth to disturb the silence.

Shopaholics beware! The streets around Calle Castillo in the capital city of Santa Cruz have high street names and independents cheek by jowl with shady pavement cafés and tapas bars – a shopper's paradise.

Don't leave without: visiting Teide National Park and taking the cable car to within 200 metres of the summit for satellite views over the Canarian archipelago.