There was a moment during a walk on the Canary Island of La Gomera when I looked down over a scene that encapsulated different corners of the world in the one vista. The palm trees and tiny terraces might have been South East Asia; the mountain tops carpeted with a dense rainforest could easily have been somewhere in South America and at one point the lush slopes morphed into arid curves that were dead ringers for the High Atlas Mountains.
One scene on one Canary Island.
With each of the islands possessing a different personality that’s reflected in the terrain, there’s a diversity of walking routes across the islands that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. We love exploring the islands by foot. Apart from rewarding with drop dead gorgeous views, it gives an insight into life there that you simply wouldn’t experience any other way.
Having walked on five of the seven Canary Islands, or six of eight if you include La Graciosa, we’ve been wowed by every one. Whilst picking out the best walks on each island would involve a lot of head scratching and late night pondering over an unlimited supply of wine, these particular walking trails blew us away – some nearly literally; the wind can really get up at altitude.
The Volcanic Terrain of Lanzarote
We like green, so found that the ruddy dry, volcano pockmarked landscape on Lanzarote provided the least compelling and diverse walking of the islands. But a route that takes in three volcanic cones is a bit out of the ordinary which gives it a unique appeal. Standing on the rim of La Caldera Blanca’s perfectly formed crater is like looking down into a Bond villain’s lair (pre Daniel Craig of course) except that instead of megalomaniacs you’re more likely to see goats. Most memorable though is passing through a melted, jagged tear in El Cuervo to stand in the base of a volcanic crater. It might have calmed down a long, long time ago but there is a quiet, uneasy air of danger in the volcano’s belly.
Green Gran Canaria
We always envisioned the golden sand dunes of Maspalomas whenever anyone mentioned Gran Canaria… until we went walking in the north of the island. Now we think of pine forests and emerald lakes. Walking in the Parque Natural de Tamadaba gives you both of these as well as the occasional troglodyte settlement. It’s simply the stuff of epic landscapes. Plan the route properly and you end up at a finca & bodega that produces coffee, tropical fruit and sweet wines.
Demanding La Gomera
La Gomera makes you work for your rewards. Its ravine riddled landscape means that you’re nearly always going up or coming down. Flat stretches are greeted like old friends that you don’t see nearly often enough. But it’s exhilarating walking. Our favourite route from Igualero to Vallehermoso was badly affected by the forest fires in 2012 so for the moment we’ve bumped the trail from El Contadero to Hermigua into top spot. With ancient rainforest, ermitas perched on rocky outcrops, views of Mount Teide on Tenerife, giant metal bugs and a tree fountain it’s a walk that is full of delightful surprises.
We might be biased but we believe the Canary Island we know the best offers the greatest diversity of walking. Ancient laurisilva forests – check; pine forests – check; wild, dramatic ravines populated by tiny hamlets – check; other worldly volcanic landscapes – check; tropical coastal routes – check, Spain’s highest mountain – check. There’s a lot of choice. The Anaga Mountains are probably the best area for exploring on foot but there’s a similarity to La Gomera. Teide National Park is impressively awe inspiring but for sheer beauty, the Teno Mountains on a sunny day throw up one of the best views we’ve seen anywhere.
Lovely La Palma
Lush and lovely La Palma has softer curves than either La Gomera or Tenerife and boasts two of the best walking routes we’ve enjoyed on any of the Canary Islands. La Caldera de Taburiente is stunning and seeing a river on a Canary Island is a real rarity but the 13 tunnels of Marcos y Cordero turn the route into an extreme outdoor adventure. It’s not often you get a walk that could do with headgear that is a cross between a hard hat and a shower cap. Beautiful, wet ‘n’ wild walking.
Relaxing La Graciosa
La Graciosa is an island but, as it belongs to Lanzarote, it’s not classed as a Canary Island in its own right. However, for desert island walking, this is the place to go. The only taxing element about walking on La Graciosa is the fact that a complete lack of shade means you’re going to be assaulted by an unrelenting sun. Luckily, cooling turquoise seas are never too far away. La Graciosa is the sort of place where you don’t need shoes to enjoy exploring it on foot… hell, you don’t even need clothes.
Sharp eyed readers will have spotted that El Hierro and Fuerteventura are missing. We haven’t gotten round to visiting either island yet. When we do, we’ll update the list.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+