The Canary Islands are one of the few places in the world where you can sunbathe at the beach in the morning and slide down snow in the afternoon. Principally known for their endless beaches and formidable weather, this is another side to the Islands which is no less attractive: a paradise for trekkers and home to some of the oldest forests in the world, moon like landscapes and the third biggest volcano of the planet.
Here are some of the best trails in the Canary Islands which take you from the sea to the sky, and sometimes via the snow:
The 0-4-0 route in Tenerife, from sand to snow in one day
Also known as the 0-4-0 route, because it starts at sea level and goes all the way up to 4,000m, the trail that connects Tenerife’s El Socorro beach and the top of Teide is unlike any other in the world. The first part is a long and slow ascent starting on the beautiful dark sand of El Socorro through green pine forests up to the Mirador del Asomadero. From here the views across the Valley of Orotava and mount Teide, the world’s third tallest volcano, are spectacular. As the ascent continues, the landscape changes colour becoming drier and more open up towards the Riscos de la Fortaleza. The trail continues toward Huevos del Teide, which are huge rock formations that were sculpted during the last volcanic eruption, Montaña Blanca and the top of Teide. Reaching the summit is a sensational trek of around 28km, snow-capped normally from November to February. Suited for medium to expert climbers, it’s also affordable for beginners with the right guide and equipment.
Impressive cliffs and an unspoilt beach in Lanzarote
Los Gracioseros is a delightful walk with splendid views of the coastal area of Lanzarote, and goes downwards, from the spectacular 479 high Mirador del Rio viewpoint to the beautiful Playa del Risco beach. As well as the enjoyable walk, this route allows to contemplate the important fauna and flora of the area which has several protected native species. It’s also the same path the inhabitants of La Graciosa used to take to go back and forth to Lanzarote. It’s 4km long and average to high in terms of difficulty, as the trek along the volcanic rocks is somewhat slippery at times and ends up at sea level. It goes along the cliffs of Famara, in the north, with the island of La Graciosa across the Río. As a reward after the hike, a swim in the blue waters of the Río is a must.
Watching Teide across the sea from la Gomera
The hike from Vallehermoso Beach to Punta de Alcalá (at approximately 500m high) at the north coast of La Gomera offers astonishing views of La Palma to the northwest, and the Teide volcano in the middle of the sea which stands like a gigantic statue. There’s the possibility of making this a circular route by starting and finishing at the beach, which features two public swimming pools. The path which goes from sea level to the beautiful viewpoint at Punta de Alcalá is bordered by lush vegetation and palm trees. It also features views of Los Organos, a cliff of ancient volcanic rocks in the shape of organ pipes falling vertically into the sea. A true hallmark of nature.
From an oasis by the sea to the pine forests of Gran Canaria
Some claim this to be one of the most beautiful hiking routes of Gran Canaria: the one that goes from the Guayaedra Beach to Montaña de las Presas and back, starting and finishing at the beach through an oasis, alpine meadows on top of the cliffs of Agaete, and the lush Tamadaba pine forests. This 17km long route climbs all the way up to 1,087m, but in spite of being quite steep, the tracks are very well kept as are the sign posts, thus making it suitable for all trekkers used to moderate exercise and not afraid of heights: at some points the path runs along the cliffs with big drops but it is still very safe and well-marked.
Sea urchins, bats and wild cats in El Hierro
Despite being the smallest of the Canary Islands, El Hierro is packed with natural wonders like rich forests, sea cliffs, lava features and an exuberant coat of vegetation that make it worthy of UNESCO World Biosphere Status. This affordable 7km long route from the Arenas Blancas beach to Mencáfete allows to discover all that in approximately 6 hours round walk: the former is an area of outstanding natural beauty, peace and quiet where the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean is the only sound to be heard. It has numerous rock pools with urchins, crabs, fish and other wild life. From here the route takes off passing Pozo de la Salud, a medical mineral water spring which has had curative properties attributed to it since the 19th Century, and soon enters the Mencáfete Integral Nature Reserve, home to species in danger of extinction such as the local ‘cabezón herreño’ (a striking purple plant) to the damp juniper and Monteverde forests. The caves hidden among the laurel trees are home to bats and wild cats. The fresh water of fairytale-like Mencáfete spring at 923m altitude is the reward for those who cover the whole route.
From the foot of a lighthouse to a brand-new volcano in La Palma
Walking from Fuencaliente beach and lighthouse to the volcanoes of Teneguia and San Antonio is a must do for those who want to discover La Isla Bonita on foot, from level zero all the way to the rim of the volcanic craters, even if they don’t have much experience. This trail in the south of La Palma is a breathtaking experience and the view from Teneguia, albeit just 437m high, is one of the most impressive sights the island has to offer. The volcano last erupted in 1971, and the southern cape was virtually completely covered by lava. Only a small patch, where the lighthouse is located, was saved from the flows. San Antonio volcano sits at 644m high, and the whole trek amounts to around 10km and 2.5 hours one way.
A bird’s eye over one of Europe’s most beautiful beaches in Fuerteventura
Cofete beach is considered by many as one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe: a section of coast 12km long with no trace of civilisation. What better experience then that bathing in its waters and watching it from above all in one day: the trek from the beach to Degollada de Agua Oveja in the Jandia Mountain Range allows to do so on a trail which is not that long but gets pretty steep at some points. It’s better to wait for a windless day to reach the impressive 230m high viewpoint of Agua Oveja, since it’s located in the windward side of the island. The sea can get rough as well, and it’s better not to venture too far out: the currents are strong and so are the waves. But just watching it is pleasant enough.
La Graciosa, a tiny Island with enormous charm and a red mountain
This is a unique route which runs close to the ocean with fantastic sea views and at parts stunning panoramas of Lanzarote. It also allows you to explore the whole island of La Graciosa, which became the eighth island only a year ago. Starting in Caleta de Sebo beach, the route crosses over to the west side of the island on sandy, wide trails. It then takes you down to the southwest point along the coastline on easy and wide dirt tracks. The route arrives at the volcano Montaña Amarilla, and from here to a second volcano, Montaña Bermeja, in the most north-western corner of the island. Along the northern coast the trails become more volcanic and therefore more technical, but plunging in the crystal clear waters back in Caleta de Sebo will help you fully recover.