Couple on Los Realejos beach

Some of the best hiking routes on the Canary Islands #SpainNature

As you venture forth these volcanic islands, you’ll find dense laurel forests, black sand beaches, extinct craters, cliffs, seas of clouds, and the highest peak in Spain. For a taste of all of these, here are a few of the best hiking trails in the Canary Islands. They are some of the prettiest paths in Spain, and many of them lead to the highest peaks. Have you got your boots on?

Garajonay: a fantasy forest

Our first route is on the island of La Gomera. Explore Garajonay National Park, a very special place due to its laurel forest, with a combination of plant species which became extinct in the rest of the planet millions of years ago. Walking there is like travelling in time to the Tertiary Period. You’ll feel as if you were dreaming among these moss-covered trees and the phenomenon of horizontal rain (low clouds blowing through the forest so everything is dripping with moisture). The name of the park comes from a melancholy legend: the lovers Gara and Jonay, as their families did not accept their love, decided to throw themselves from the island’s highest mountain. The park organises its own guided tours, which you can book in advance. If you prefer to create your own itinerary, there are 18 well-marked trails, the longest being 12.7 kilometres, which would take about six and a half hours to walk. You can get more detailed information at the visitor centre. And here is a map of the park, mobile apps and an audioguide.

Camino de Jinama: in the heart of a completely renewable island

Next, we go to the small island of El Hierro, the first in the world to be completely self-sufficient and to use 100% renewable energy. Surprisingly, it has more kilometres of hiking trails than roads. It’s hard to choose just one, but we can recommend the Camino de Jinama trail in the middle of the island. There is a challenge: a climb of around 885 metres over 8 kilometres. This is a famous path because it was once used for “mudadas”, when the people of the high hills would come down to the valleys to overwinter with their flocks. Many visitors opt to take the easier route and go downwards rather than up. In any case, you’ll be walking along the crater of a huge extinct volcano, and at the top, from the chapel of La Ermita, you’ll enjoy some unforgettable views. However, that isn’t the highest point on the island - this honour goes to Pico de Malpaso, about 1500 metres high, at the mid-point of the GR-131 trail. Another iconic area: El Sabinar, with its famous trees twisted by the constant winds.

Sea of clouds from Roque de los Muchachos

If you want to see a volcanic caldera 1500 metres deep, head to the island of La Palma. Part of trail GR-131 follows the entire rim of the caldera. And more specifically, we recommend going as far as the viewing point at Roque de los Muchachos, looking over the Caldera de Taburiente National Park, where it’s no exaggeration to say the views are unrivalled, and where you can see the phenomenon of a sea of clouds from your feet to the horizon. Here are all the routes you can take in the park. As well as hiking, in this area you can book an unusual visit. The skies of La Palma are among the best in the world for seeing the stars, which is why the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory is located here, a scientific research centre with one of the world’s largest telescopes, the Gran Telescopio Canarias.

To the highest peak in Spain

Are you travelling to the island of Tenerife? There you can visit Teide National Park to see Spain’s tallest mountain at 3718 metres, the third highest volcano in the world. Sounds good, doesn't it? One of the most exciting experiences in the park is to take the cable car up to an altitude of 3555 metres. But more adventurous hikers can go a bit further… However, to climb to the peak of Mt Teide you will need prior authorisation (if you spend the night in the Altavista Refuge, at 3250 metres, you can climb to the peak without a permit, but you must leave the path before nine in the morning). Once you have the permit, you can take the Telesforo Bravo path (named in honour of the researcher who helped reveal the secrets of this area). Bear in mind that this is high mountain terrain and there is a climb of about 170 metres after a 650-metre walk. At the top, there are sweeping views over the whole park, and in clear weather, you can spot the other Canary Islands. You’ll feel like the king of the world! Here’s a fun fact: the shadow of Mt Teide is the longest shadow over the sea anywhere on the planet. You can see it at sunset and sunrise.

Secret caves on the shore

Next we’re off to Fuerteventura, the Canary Island with the most kilometres of beaches. Some are really special, like Los Molinos beach. What’s so unusual about this beach? It has caves that are only revealed at low tide, including the Herminia cave, and you can walk there. Obviously, you need to take care to stay safe. But apart from the beaches, Fuerteventura also has over 255 kilometres of hiking trails. Where to begin? One of the most recommended is SL-FV 27, in the gorge of Las Peñitas, part of Betancuria Rural Park. Here you can follow the course of the river Palmas and see the famous Canary Islands date palms, the chapel of La Virgen de la Peña (with the oldest geological materials anywhere on the Canary Islands) and Las Peñitas dam and reservoir. Here is a detailed map of this route, which is 1.7 kilometres long and low difficulty. Another recommendation: The Lobos path on Islote de Lobos, an islet only accessible by boat from the port of Corralejo, in the north of Fuerteventura.

A stone window

Now we turn to the island of Gran Canaria, where you can see Roque Nublo, a volcanic rock 80 metres tall, making it one of the largest in the world. It was a sacred place for the original inhabitants of the islands, and it has inspired painters, writers and musician. There is a circular trekking route of about two and a half hours which will take you through all these landscapes and to the rock, which is actually the remains of the conduit of a large extinct volcano. Incidentally, the whole area of Risco Caído and the Sacred Mountains of Gran Canaria is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

One of the most interesting and attractive places to see the Roque Nublo from a distance is the “Nublo window”, a stone arch that frames a view of the huge rock. There is an easy walking route to get to it, starting at the leisure area of Los Llanos de la Pez (where you can also take the Silver Route, a former cattle herding track). Here’s another tip: if you stay at the Parador Cruz de Tejeda, you can have a great view of the rock from your bedroom window.

A walk on Mars

That’s what it feels like when you hike through the landscapes of the island of Lanzarote - the rocks, the silhouettes of the volcanoes, the contrasting colours, the silence... The best-known and most striking natural area on the island is probably Timanfaya National Park, the result of the volcanic eruptions of 1720 - 1736 and 1824. There are several different and very interesting routes and guided activities for exploring it. If you prefer doing your own thing, the Ruta del Litoral (coastal route) can also be self-guided. However, you should be aware that this is a 9-kilometre, maximum difficulty route. The advantage is that as you go along, it reveals how the coastline was formed when the erupting lava reached the sea. Too difficult? You might like a slightly easier path, moderately difficult and taking about three hours. This takes you between lava flows to the Caldera Blanca in the centre of the island, an enormous volcanic cone which is well worth seeing. It’s 1200 metres in diameter where the lava poured out centuries ago!   You can get information about these trails and many more in the Canary Islands here.

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