We’ve lost count of the kilometres we’ve notched up walking through landscapes where nature has done its best to compensate for a year which, politically, has seemed a bit of a mess.
Lots of open-mouthed, hands on hip moments have proved welcome distractions and reminders that despite the best efforts of a media, mainstream and otherwise, which appears to revel in pouring fuel on the worst elements of human nature, the planet remains a wondrously beautiful place.
To choose only twelve scenes which have wowed and humbled us this year isn’t a fair reflection on the pleasure travel has given us. To try to make the selection process easier, I’ve picked a scenic highlight from each month.
January – Teide National Park, Tenerife
In over a dozen years of living on Tenerife, the vistas inside Teide National Park have never lost their impact to put an appreciative smile on my face. It’s a vast volcanic world with a surprising variety of colours. If Turner had ever captured it on canvas people would have believed he’d embraced the abstract style. This view of Mount Teide and Roque Cinchado is such a popular image it once featured on a Spanish banknote. It’s a view millions of visitors to the park will enjoy, but that doesn’t make it any less special.
February – Las Salinas, La Palma
Caramel salt pans bordered by miniature white hillocks with a backdrop of the Atlantic on one side and a brace of lighthouses towering above a stark volcanic landscape on the other. Man and nature must have shared a joint to come up with the ingredients that make up the area around Las Salinas on La Palma in the Canary Islands.
March – Los Tilos, La Palma
We helped create two slow travel holidays on La Palma in 2016 so the island featured a lot on our travels during the first part of the year. As it’s also known as La Isla Bonita (the beautiful island) it’s more than able to supply a variety of wildly diverse landscapes. One of the most magical is the lost world scenes found in dank, dark and delectable ravines in the Los Tilos Forest, a land of giant ferns and a gentle birdman.
April – the path to Artenara, Gran Canaria
We also visited the walking Nirvana known as La Gomera in April; however, one of our favourite routes of the year was on a neighbouring island during the month, walking from a frontier-like crossroads above Tejeda at the heart of Gran Canaria to the cave village of Artenara. I could have chosen any number of images which stopped us in our tracks on a regular basis along the route. The island’s original inhabitants chose to live in caves at this spot. It doesn’t take a genius to see why.
May – Drago tree forest, La Palma
Our third visit of the year to La Palma rewarded with even more surprises than the previous two trips as we explored parts of the island that were new to us. This included a trippy, hippy valley trail near Las Tricias which was full of curios like this alien-esque drago tree forest.
June – cerulean Corsican seas
Amidst a tsunami of beautiful scenery, the coast around Saint Florent on Corsica stood out like a sparkling jewel. Quite simply one of the most stunning coastlines we’ve seen in a long time. We bitterly regretted not packing swimming costumes in the rucksacks.
July – classic Spain, Segovia
A charming, historic city surrounded by rolling, golden fields. All that was needed to complete a package which was a banquet for the eyes anyway was a gorgeous masterpiece of Roman engineering skills to view the luscious landscape through. Segovia is picturesque in the extreme.
August – a shanty town at the end of the world on El Hierro
Las Calcosas is one of El Hierro’s oddities, of which there are a few. Basic houses with thatched roofs give the settlement a shanty town appearance. It remains hidden from sight until you stand on the cliffs directly above it, giving it a slightly illicit feel. Deserted in winter it comes alive in summer months when locals head to the coast to enjoy the fresher breeze and to cool down in volcanic sea pools.
September – a Bavarian fairytale
If we’d spent one more day in Berchtesgaden in Bavaria I’d have been able to choose an image for October as well, although that still wouldn’t do justice to a part of Germany renowned for its outstanding beauty. Almost top in more ways than one was the Eagle’s Nest, a scenic vantage point which was a birthday present for Hitler. However, Obersee secreted away a shortish walk from the bottom of Lake Königsee was a vision from another realm.
October – a month at home, Tenerife
With work schedules piled up we spent the month banging away at keyboards in our house in a bid to catch up. One rare venture out was to pay the quarter’s taxes on a typically warm and sunny day. Trips to the bank are no hardship when it happens to be located beside the harbour in Puerto de la Cruz.
November – Mother Nature’s got Photoshop, Quelat, Chile
Another month where picking a single image proved a nightmare. We haven’t written much about Chile yet, but it was a roller-coaster of unforgettable experiences with side servings of knockout views. The route to this milky, turquoise lagoon was exceptional, but crossing a ridge to view waterfalls cascading from a brilliantly white glacier into a luminescent lake was worth travelling across the Atlantic for in itself.
December – through the icebergs, Tortel, Chile
Appropriately the standout experience and scenery of the year came at the end of 2016 in a small boat negotiating an ice field to get close to another Chilean glacier near Tortel. In one direction the views were lush rainforest, looking the opposite way it was a wintry wonderland of ice fields and snowy peaks. We toasted the world with whisky and ice hacked from a mini iceberg. It was one of those travel experiences which will be difficult to top.
But we’ll endeavour to try in 2017.
Jack is co-editor, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to online travel sites and travel magazines. Follow Jack on Google+