I have been to all the main Canary Islands, but my favorite is Tenerife, when talking about hiking in nature: it spans from volcanic landscapes to green forests and mountains in Jurassic Park style. If you plan to travel to Tenerife and you are looking for an adventurous holiday, far from tourists, you can follow my route.
Where to stay
In my opinion, the best area of the island worthing a visit is the upper part, from north-west to north-east. And the central part with Mount Teide, of course. Which means that you won’t even go to the eastern or southern part, especially if you want to escape from tourism and resorts.
So, you will look for an apartment or a room in Puerto de la Cruz, a quiet village on the central-northern side of the island. It’s a strategic point because you have access to everything within a one hour drive: you can go directly to the inside of the island or taking the small streets that lead you to the west side. It’s also the beginning of the only highway, that let you arrive in the southern part (and at the airport) very quickly.
When I went to Tenerife in April 2015, I stayed in an apartment a few kilometers away from Puerto de la Cruz, very nice, big and cheap. It just cost 50 euros per night, divided by 4 people (I was there with 3 other friends of mine).
The only problem: this part of the island is usually cloudy and even rainy. Actually, when I got up the first day, we were in the mist! Since the house is at 500 meters above the sea, it can happen to find yourself in the clouds, literally! But don’t worry: just move a few kilometers and you will find the sun again.
Day 1: Southern beaches
We arrived at the South Airport and we got our rented car from AutoReisen. I recommend this rental company: it’s very cheap (we paid 23 euros per day) and cars are good. And, yes, you have to rent a car if you want to visit the island.
Since we decided not to come back to the south of the island for the rest of the holiday, we spent the afternoon at Playa el Médano and Playa de la Tejita, two beautiful beaches close to the airport, frequented mostly by locals and kitesurfers.
There is a wooden promenade along the first beach and some curious sandy rocks, eroded by the wind that has created strange shapes.
Day 2: trip to north-west
Charco de la Laja
From Puerto de la Cruz you can easily do a car trip heading to the north-west side. After only 20 minutes, you find the Charco de la Laja: a volcanic natural pool, reachable from a nice path down to the coast. If there aren’t too many waves, the water is calm and you can bathe.
Icod de Los Vinos
Next stop: Icod de Los Vinos. It’s a small village, famous for its wines and for a millennial Dragon Tree (El Drago Milenario): a huge tree which is reputed to be over 1000 years old. You have to pay a ticket to see it, but it’s very particular.
I also recommend a walk in the small streets of the village, visit some local wine shop and have some tapas in a bar.
15 minutes from there, you can find the fishing village of Garachico and its stunning lava natural pools, created by a volcanic eruption in 1706.
There are footpaths carved out of the rock to take you all around the harbor. And, of course, you can swim and jump from the rocks. Don’t forget the swimsuit!
Punta de Teno
The last stop of the day is the lighthouse on the west coast, but what is worth too is the street that leads you there (the TF-445). This stretch of road is directly on the cliff, full of curves and tunnels: a paradise for bikers. It’s beautiful, but it can also be quite dangerous, so be careful! In fact, when we went there in 2015, the access to the street was forbidden by a sign (Prohibido!), saying the entrance is at your own risk due to rockfall.
On this road, the first scene of Fast and Furious 6 has been shot! One more reason to enter anyway, right?
A recommended stop is the Mirador Punta del Fraile: the perfect viewpoint to look at the rocky coast and at the western mountains. It’s also famous for a strange huge rocky column that you can also see in the video above.
Keeping going until the end of the street, after about 10 minutes, you will reach Punta de Teno. It’s a headland diving into the ocean: when walking there, you will have the sea on both sides and the view is beautiful. You can appreciate a mix of different colors: from the black of the lava, to the red of the soil, the green of the mountains and the blue of the sea. And, to top it, you might also see a rainbow, if you are as lucky as we were.
At the far end of the street, finally, there’s a small lighthouse, but you will have to climb up some rocks if you want to reach it, as the main gate is usually closed.
If you want to relax, you can chill at the small volcanic black beach or maybe bathe.
Day 3: hiking up Teide
Mount Teide is the Tenerife’s active volcano and its 3,718-meters summit is the highest point in Spain. From there you can see various islands at the same time, with the entire geography of Tenerife at your feet. Moreover, it’s one of the best places to look at the stars: in fact, a major international astronomical observatory is located there. You can understand why the main focus of your holiday should be hiking up that summit!
How to reserve
The first thing you need to know is that you cannot hike to the peak of the volcano during the day, unless you apply for a special permission. Since so many people want to visit this fragile environment, Teide National Park decided to limit the number of people who would be allowed to climb to the crater on a daily basis. You can book the permit on the official website, but you will have to do it more than one month in advance and it’s only valid for a specific time period on the selected day.
Anyway, without this permission, you can still climb up to 3,555 meters of altitude and take some paths, but not reach the top of the crater at 3,718 meters.
Another way to be able to go to the top (and this is what we did) is to book a night in the Altavista Mountain Refuge (21 euros). Included with this reservation, you get the permission to climb up to the crater before 9 am.
Whatever is your plan, you have two ways to get to the first level at 3,555 meters: get the cable car from the base of Teide or follow one of the long hard paths that lead there. I recommend the first way, booking the cable car in advance.
But be careful: sometimes the cable car closes for wind and it can also happen they close the path to the refuge for snow. This is what happened to us! We insisted and they let us go on our own risk (Prohibido!). Try to check your email the day before to be sure to find it open, or check their Twitter account. When the cable car is closed, they don’t refund you and the only way left is climb up walking.
What to bring
We have been there in April and it was a very sunny day, however there was snow once on the top. But when the sun is shining, as the air is very thin at 3,500 meters, it can be quite warm, especially if you are hiking. A sweater can be enough during the day, but you will need your winter jacket during the night, as temperature drops.
What else? I recommend a pair of good hiking boots (suitable for snow, just in case), comfortable pants, a scarf for the wind and a pair of trekking poles. You will also need a good hiking backpack where to put everything, included your meals and a water, but don’t exaggerate as we did! You can buy water, soft drinks and hot beverages in the refuge. And don’t forget a headlight: it will be useful when climbing up in the night! Some pills against headache can also save you, if you are not used to high altitudes.
You can reach the cable car in one hour driving from Puerto de la Cruz and leave your car in the parking over there.
Before taking the cable car, stop a few minutes to take some photos and look at where you are: a huge caldera formed hundreds of years ago that really looks like Mars, where you can see many volcanoes and lava flows.
After only eight minutes by cable car, you will get to the highest part open to the public. There are many paths available, but, if you have booked the refuge, I would suggest going directly there. You can reach it by taking Trail no. 11 to La Fortaleza vantage point, then continue on Trail no. 7, heading for Altavista del Teide Refuge.
This is supposed to be a medium-rated walk (280 vertical meters downward), and it should take one hour, but walking at that altitude can be difficult if you are not trained (and we weren’t) and you will feel the scarcity of oxygen at every step. It took us almost three hours to get to the refuge, but we stopped many times for eating and taking photographs. And there was snow along the whole path.
The Altavista Refuge looks like a typical mountain refuge. It has a common kitchen you can use freely, a bathroom and three heated bedrooms with bunk beds with a total capacity of 54 visitors. You are also provided with sheets, so you don’t even need a sleeping bag.
From there you can see the caldera below, the ocean and Gran Canaria far away. At sunset, the caldera’s rocks turn orange and the Teide’s triangular shadow rises and casts over the sea (or the sea of clouds below if it’s cloudy). It’s a breathtaking view.
But the real show still has to come: when the night falls, stars show up and you can look at one of the best skies in Europe. As everything is dark and the nearest city is many kilometers away, you can appreciate the Milky Way and see many shooting stars. As long as you are lucky and there is no full moon!
Day 4: to the top and down
If you want to see the sunrise from the top, you will have to start hiking at 5 am, so that you will be there when Teide will start to cast its shadow on the other side of the mountain.
You have to take the same path you already took on the way there until you reach the cable car upper station and then take the steep path up to the crater. The real challenge is now: walking in the night, among the snow, 440 vertical meters upward. It’s not for everyone, but once you are there it’s rewarding.
It took us more than two hours to reach the top and we missed the sunset on the other side, but we did it! It felt like to be on the roof of the world: you can see the whole island around you and the other Canary Islands far away.
You can almost walk into the mouth of the volcano: the rocks around the crater are yellow and white, hot to the touch, while wisps of sulfurous steam escape from fumaroles, a reminder that this is a dormant volcano, which last time erupted in 1909.
Now sit and relax, but remember you have to be out of the restricted area not later than 9 am.
From the cable car station, there are other paths you can take, like the short one to Pico Viejo, another volcano close to Teide.
Roques de Garcia
Once down, you can get your car and head to Roques de Garcia, just 10 minutes away. It’s a complex of rocks, where there is one of the most famous natural monuments of the island: Roque Cinchado.
Even if you are tired by the hiking, a visit there is worth: you can walk among these particular rocks with strange shapes and take really good shots.
As a reward for your two days hike, you deserve some relax. Why not going directly to Los Gigantes’ beach and chill on the black sand?
The name means The Giants and it refers to the huge 800 meters cliffs overlooking the sea, protecting the city as silent guardians.
On the way home, you can stop by Masca, a small village among the mountains. Its houses perch precariously on the narrow ridges of dramatic rock formations.
Reputed to have been a pirate hideaway, the small Bay of Masca on the coast is a three-hour walk from the village, but maybe you can come back here another day, right?
Day 5: Anaga
Do you remember Jurassic Park‘s mountains? Well, Anaga Mountains in the northern part of the island really look like those, covered by green and full of forests.
There are many paths you can follow. We decided to seek an easy one, that time: the so-called Sendero de los Sentidos (Path of the Senses), starting from Cruz del Carmen. It’s just a one hour walk on a wooden runway in a Laurel forest.
In the first part, your senses will be awakened by smells and humidity, while in the second part, you will be surprised by the history of the place, walking the ancient path among the mountains. Finally, in the third part, you will discover the secrets of the place, arriving at a point a view from where you can see the green mountains of Anaga.
From Cruz Del Carmen you can head to Benijo, near Taganana on the coast in the far north. There you can leave the car and start an easy two hours hike (5,5 km) from where you can admire the cliffs of Anaga from above.
After the hike, I recommend you to have dinner at Casa Africa, a nearby restaurant where you can find good tapas and good fish. In front of it, there is a little headland on the sea from where you can see better the Roque de las Animas.
Day 6: Barranco del Infierno
The Barranco del Infierno (Hell’s ravine) is a canyon where you can hike following a small path between mountains, rivers, waterfalls and ravines.
When I went there in 2015, it was closed due to a fatal accident happened years before. But we bypassed the fence and we entered anyway (Prohibido!). Nowadays, the access has been restored and you can enter (book in advance), paying 8 euros and wearing a helmet, just in case some rock falls on your head.
The path is easy and not dangerous, despite its name and the recent history. Well, you just have to be careful with rockfalls and to not to fall down the ravine…
After a one hour walk in the canyon, you will reach a small pond with a nice waterfall. You can then come back from the same path.
Day 7: Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The last day you can go to the capital: Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
I know, this is not about nature and it’s pretty touristic. Actually, I found it quite messy and with a lot of traffic, so we just headed to the city beach: Playa de Las Teresitas, frequented mainly by locals.
If you go during the late afternoon, and especially not on a weekend day, it won’t be too crowded and you will enjoy the sun and the sea.
If you like to hike and be in contact with nature, Tenerife is the right place for you. This was just a 7 days holiday and not even on a tight schedule, but there is a lot more than you can discover! For example, we haven’t been to the Cueva del Viento, a huge volcanic tunnel created by lava. And there are many other hiking paths, like the one in Masca or others in Anaga.
Well, I definitely have to come back!
I leave you with a video of timelapses token by my friend Walter Crispino from the top of Teide.