Tenerife Hikes

You can detect the general shape of Tenerife's terrain from the map: the island is dominated by the huge bulk of the 12,000 ft Teide volcano (currently dormant)on the southwest end, which tapers off to a mere 3,000ft ridge to the northeast; everything slopes out to the coast from these heights.

We're staying in Puerto de la Cruz on the North side of the Island. Trade winds bring a layer of cloud in almost every day but the cloud layer varies: sometimes dark and threatening; sometimes no more than a light covering that moves in and out during the day. The coast may literally be clear while the heights are socked in; yet on top of el Teide it may be sunny...or snowing!

1. El Teide basin - Hike 1

Up: 200m
Down: 200m
Distance: 8Km

Now this is different!

The Tenerife hiking experience was "heightened" by the two Teide hikes. On this, our first hike to Teide, we hired a private bus that picked us up at 9:30am. [Later we take the public "SITSA" bus system, which is efficient, clean, and dirt cheap; we are suitably impressed]. However, for today's hike the schedule of the SITSA bus is unsuitable, becaus the time between the first and last buses is an hour less than we need. of what we need.

The trip up is impressive enough that we are in no hurry (which is a good thing because the private bus driver is apparently in no hurry either). We start almost at sea level and wind our way steadily up through vineyards and villages, with impressive views over Puerto de la Cruz and the whole Oratavia valley. Eventually, we pass through the cloud base at about 2,000 ft (Brian has an altimeter on his watch) and soon enter cool pine forest; we'll climb another 2,000 feet before we emerge in clear sunshine and then continue up into the basin which is at an elevation of about 2,000m.

Near the top, although the road is now level, there's no clear demarcation of when we leave the pine forest and enter the basin proper. Yet we are clearly in volcanic terrain by the time we emerge at el Portillo (the Gate?). There are groups of pine here and there around us. But there's nothing but a moonscape of reddish volcanic rock between us and the dome of Teide, which sticks up a further 2,000 meters to the south-west of us. We are in the basin of the volcano and its southern rim—a line of small peaks rising a mere 600 meter higher than where we stand, is still 10km away by road!

The basin itself is a carefully preserved national park. We hikers (there are significant numbers of us) are confined to limited designated trails across the basin. Today's hike takes us out in a westerly route across the north of the basin for a look over the western rim of the crater. The trail is over a rolling, treeless expanse of relatively flat, desert-like terrain, to our first lookout point. We then do a quick climb of some 100m, through a small copse of pines, and up to a low ridge where we get great views of Teide and the surrounding area. We retreat to the shade provided by the pines, and entertain ourselves by feeding the local lizards pieces of sandwich. Then, a short fast hike back (it is hot but not oppressively so) to spend a half hour or so looking around the Information Centre at el Portillo.

Then back to the bus and home, driving again down through a cloud layer that is quite thick as it presses against the higher slopes, but is thinner once we reach the coast and home.

2. Garachico etc

Up: 100m
Down: 900m
Distance: 8K

Lost the photos of this hike, but see hike 5 at the bottom, which was somewhat similar at the beginning. This is our first taste of the public transportation system. Forewarned of the idiosyncrasies of the system, we arrive at the bus station 15 minutes early and form the front of the line. When the bus arrives and the doors open, we find ourselves...no longer at the front! Half of us jostle our way on but half are left behind, which is a bit disconcerting. But it turns out to be no problem as a second bus brings the others up just behind us. The bus ride is worth 20 times the fare. We make our way steadily upwards through ancient villages, teeter across the top of breathtaking cliffs, and as we motor increasingly higher, are exposed to increasingly panoramic views of the coastline and towns below.

We alight from the bus in a small, picturesque village west of Puerto de la Cruz, and at an elevation of about 3,000 ft according to our guide book. As on La Gomera, we plan to hike down the ridges and valleys and end up on the coast road; from there we'll take a second bus back into Puerta de la Cruz.

But these Tenerife hikes are quite different from those on La Gomera. There isn't much wind even though it is cool, and we are seldom far from one village or another. We drop onto a dirt road that curves back, through cool woods, around the upper end of a steep valley, and then take a trail on the right that continues around across the valley and we emerge into open grass and bush. We pass clumps of larger trees, such as eucalyptus, in all very different from the hardy dense brush of La Gomera.

As we descend further we approach the coast road, and encounter small farm lots, dwellings, and eventually the villages that are strung like beads along the coastline.

3. El Teide 2

Up: 900m
Down: 900m
Distance: 14K

We are back in the moonscape of the Teide basin but this time take the public bus to the main bus stop at the Parador Hotel, at the far southern edge of the Teide basin. We have to finish our day by about 3:00pm to get a seat on the bus back into town.

The group splits up: the stalwarts would hike 1800' up to the top of the peaks making up the Southern rim of the crater for a look over; the others would take a gentler walk around some interesting rock formations on the floor of the crater.

The stalwarts cross the stony crater floor and make our brisk climb to a col on the southern crater rim about 7,500 ft above sea level. We reach the top in under an hour and can see look down over the south of Tenerife towards the Aeropuerto Sur, although we can't see much because of the haze. To the northwest, we have spectacular views of el Teide, and beyond on the western horizon, across a stretch of Atlantic Ocean, we can make out the hazy outline of La Palma.

Lynda and I, told that we could buy lunch at the Hotel Parador today, opted to do so without realizing the implications of our choice: when the rest of the group took out their sandwiches, we had to hoof it back down to the Hotel for our lunch leaving them there!

We made it back to the modern cafeteria in about half an hour and ran into some of the others. They had enjoyed the morning walk, and it hadn't taken them too long so I thought I'd give it a try too. So after a quick lunch, I started out on the second hike not entirely sure of the route and less sure of how much time I had to spare until bus departure.

As it turned out, this was a magnificent 10K hike, filled with great views of some very interesting geological formations (I wish I could put that into meaningful words) and still ended up with time to spare for the exhibit at the Parador Hotel. Then another 'public bus' experience to take us home!


4. Punta del Hidalgo

Up: Not worth a mention

Down: 1000m

Distance: 12Km

Another totally excellent day, as they say in California. This time, two public buses to our starting point, taking us out to the Northeastern tip of Tenerife; the second bus takes us up the South side of the ridge, and up into a National Park of Carmen de Cruz with impressive southern views over Santa Cruz (in theory: the haze was too thick). But we hike back over to a destination on the North Coast.

Our route initially takes us down a path and onto what we Canadians would know to be a logging road (the only reason there would be a road in the middle of any forest!) , and then back out onto a main road. Suddenly there are ambulances and police in abundance: some event is taking place but we can't tell what it is; we continue heading down, past more preparations and after a few kilometers finally see the runners heading up. There's only about two dozen or so of them (left? it must have been a 10K run with a 3,000 ft vertical!) and we cheer our fellow athletes heartily as they come past...and then we dive off the road down a proper trail when we finally locate it.

We have the sea on our left in the long distance, and our trail is initially a mild amble around curves at the top of two valleys. We are often in the cool tunnel created by overhanging trees and hedges. The first curve brings us out at what seems to be a goat farm located at the crook of a ridge; we cross the ridge and now head in another 5Km or more, swing down to the village of Chinamada and have lunch. We find ourselves in the midst of a throng of dayhikers (creating a line-up at the loo) who have made it up from the coast. We have hardly dropped any distance at all from the goat farm, but we can see the hard work lies ahead!

After lunch we begin the steep ascent to the sea. The terrain is changing now as we move out to the end of these very high ridges that reach out almost to the sea. We are back in cactus country and the nearby rocky hillsides are dotted with caves and other consequences of weather erosion.

Our path brings us first out onto a rocky point (photo above) with a precipitous drop right at the edge of the trail to the sea below. And having skirted the knob at the end of the point, we begin a steep descent to the bus stop almost at sea level, in the middle of nowhere.

After the two buses back, we know we've had a day out today. But it sure seemed worth it.


5. Icod de los Vinos

Down: 1000m
Distance: 12Km

This is our last hike, and similar to our second on Tenerife: a bus ride to a village to the northwest of Puerto de la Cruz, up to about 3,000 ft mark, from where we do a very pleasant hike down. We begin with a short walk down through some planted fields—again, covered with wildflowers—to a dirt road (photo at left; we go left) that goes back around a long curve at the head of the valley, dropping slightly. We hike down the road for a kilometer or so, and then plunge off on a trail to the right, taking us directly down the valley through colorful brush, past a couple of old abandoned houses, then up a distant bluff for lunch at a pleasant plaza in a village at the end. From here we drop rather sharply down a trail that turns towards the sea down a narrowing gorge with surprise rock features. We come across a band of locals—men and women—who seem to be employed in cutting the brush from the trail. An hour or so later, we are on the coast road, waiting for the bus....

But to add a few Km and some variety, we take the bus only half way back, and walk the last 5Km or so along a coastal trail into Puerto de la Cruz and home. This is almost an urban trail, winding along the coast through sometimes very elegant streets, and providing almost continual views of the restless Atlantic coastline.

A German woman here tells us with some weariness that she thinks that La Palma is the best place for hiking now. I hope she wasn't tired of hikers walking down her street.

By now, the vocabulary of "splendid", "pleasant", "...beautiful flowers", "quaint cotttages" etc have had a long day; it is time to put them to bed!

Misc other Canaries photos