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Walking in the Canary Islands

Our ultimate guide to walking in the Canary Islands

The Canary Islands are like the misunderstood, slightly wild and wayward member of the family who acts unexpectedly, dresses a bit rebelliously but always turns up with the coolest gifts at Christmas. Except that in the Canarian family, there are eight members all vying for attention and many worthy of it too. So, if you thought that the Canary Islands all just ticked the traditional tourism boxes of resorts and raucousness, look again. These volcanic islands, just 100km off the coast of Morocco, have a whole other side to them, bubbling with biodiversity, laden with a love of nature and wide open for exploration and adventure. If you haven’t been before, walking in the Canary Islands is simply a revelation, each offering its own slightly radical but utterly ethereal sides. 

Walking in Tenerife

The largest island of the archipelago, at just over 2,000km2, Tenerife is dominated by the often snow-capped Mount Teide, a dormant volcano which is also Spain’s highest peak, at 3,715m. On our Walking the highlights of Tenerife holiday, you get an opportunity to climb to the summit, but as it’s in Mount Teide National Park, you need a special permit to do so, which you need to book in advance

Even if you don’t manage to bag a permit, you can lose yourself in Tenerife’s wild, volcanic landscapes on a walking holiday here. Not literally, of course, as we give you detailed maps and guidance on how to navigate your way around this hiking haven. Such as through the otherworldly rock formations, also called ‘fairy chimneys’ along the Camino de Chasna, an ancient trade trail. Or to ​​the Laurisilva woods in Anaga Nature Park which line the cliffs of the north-eastern corner of the island. In addition, you can take on another sublime summit of Guajara (2,730m), with superb views over Mount Teide, the caldera and some neighbouring islands. One of which is La Gomera, where there is more incredible walking to be had, and which you can hop over to on this holiday that combines both hiking havens in one trip. 

Trekking up Mount Teide on Tenerife takes you up to cloud nine.

Walking in La Gomera

La Gomera doesn’t have an airport, which has been its saving grace in terms of avoiding mass tourism. Accessible by ferry from Tenerife, this is the greenest member of the family, with a sub-tropical outlook and a commitment to protecting its biodiverse beauty with much of it designated as Garajonay National Park. Of all the country’s national parks, this is the hidden jewel right at the bottom of Spain’s protected pinãta on the island, a landscape of elevated, misty sub-tropical rainforest, made up of beech trees and ancient laurel trees covered in lichen. It’s one of southern Europe’s most luscious and stupendous hiking terrains and still so unknown. Get to know it on a week of self-guided walking in the national park and in other gorgeous spots on the island, including the terraced slopes of Vallehermoso, or combine it with hikes in Tenerife, as mentioned above. 

A hiking break in La Gomera’s Garajonay National Park to take in the view of Mount Teide on Tenerife.

Walking in La Palma

Otherwise known as La Isla Bonita, if walking trails through deep gorges, laurel forests and dramatic seascapes are your thing, then get your boots ready for walking in La Palma and, in particular, in Caldera de Taburiente National Park. Named after the massive volcanic crater at its heart, with a diameter of 9km and depths of 1.5km, the park is also rich in pine forests, streams and waterfalls. It competes with La Gomera for the greenest island title in the archipelago. On our walking holiday here you can trek to the crater’s ridge, explore the Ruta de Los Volcanes, climb up ancient lava flows, and cool down in a multicoloured waterfall or Cascada de los Colores. It gets its name from the vibrant colours visible on its rock face, created by a magical mix of minerals. Just one of many bewitching places on La Palma. 

Hiking in Caldera de Taburiente National Park, La Palma.

Walking in Gran Canaria 

Gran Canaria is the most populated of the Canary Islands, but it also has some of the highest numbers of mountains, so there are plenty of exquisite escape routes. Gran Canaria is also big on biodiversity, as white sandy beaches are contrasted with pine-covered hills, laurel forests and volcanic craters. Walking here takes you along the island’s many donkey paths, or camino reales, which translates as royal paths because they were used as pilgrimage trails to holy sites, rather than royal ones, in ancient times.

Your natural pilgrimage on Gran Canaria starts on richly fertile terrain such as the banana and avocado plantations of the Agaete Valley, on the island’s north coast. You then explore more inland idylls such as Pinos de Galdar pine forest, the Tejeda Valley with its highland town of the same name, and a trek up to Roque Nublo, an iconic 67m tall volcanic rock at 1,813m, with views across the island’s jigsaw of ravines. 

Roque Nublo, a must see on a walking holiday in Gran Canaria, one of the most mountainous Canary Islands.

Lanzarote

If you want to understand Lanzarote, then read up on César Manrique, a Lanzarote artist and nature activist who successfully fought, in the 1960s, to protect much of the island from development. His eco-sensitive architecture can be seen throughout the island, and you won’t fail to share his passion for landscape when you go exploring there. At present, our natural adventures on Lanzarote are for cyclists rather than walkers but watch this space. You’ll want to do wheelies of pure wonderment, however, when you go cycling in Lanzarote, taking on its volcanic undulations and speeding through lunar-like landscapes. You will want to slow down to take in the vineyards sunk into the black picón volcanic ash, where bright white traditional houses, offer the prettiest of contrasts. As does the sea, of course, which beckons at the end of so many trails. 

Best time to go walking in the Canary Islands

Our Canary Islands walking holidays are available all year round, thanks to the archipelago’s annual average temperature of around 24C. As they all vary geographically, there are differences, of course. Such as on Tenerife where average temperatures on Mount Teide are 11C, with some fierce winds too. On the island as a whole, the temperatures are very warm, even in winter when temperatures can be 21C, although there is more risk of rainfall. The more sheltered side of Lanzarote, however, gets less rain in winter months than the more exposed northern side of Gran Canaria, but you are still unlikely to experience a whole day of rain. 

La Gomera enjoys year-round mild weather with average maximum temperatures ranging from 15-25C. Its topography means that you can get some foggy weather at elevations, but you also get the joys of cloud forest hikes. For swimmers, seawater temperatures hover around 19C off Tenerife and Gran Canaria in winter and spring months, going up to 23C between August and October. Visiting whales like these warm waters too, basking around the islands between March and November, with La Gomera being a favourite land sighting point for fin, sperm and Bryde’s whales. Given that they are some of the planet’s smartest mammals, you can trust that they know the right places to go. 

La Gomera is simply stunning all year round. One of the Canary Island’s least known hiking havens.

La Palma keeps you on your toes, not just walking-wise but temperatures-wise. The east tends to be cooler and shadier than the west, especially in winter. But on our walking holiday you cover bits of the whole island, so you can experience moments of all seasons depending on the trail. This also means that seawater is warmer in the west, reaching temperatures of as high as 22C even in winter. The other tip in La Palma is that temperatures lower by one degree for every 100m of elevation, so always layer up when crossing the natural mountain divide on the island. In general though, for rain-free and scorch-free holidays, hiking between May and June, or September and October on La Palma is perfect.

If islands are your thing, we have many more adventures on offer, as you can see in our blog Island walking holidays. And if Garajonay or Caldera de Taburiente National Parks were unknown to you, you may also be interested in our blog on Spain’s national parks, featuring holidays that you can enjoy there. For more archipelagic joy, check out our Ultimate guide to walking the Balearic Islands, and Reasons to go walking in Madeira.