In an attempt to flee from the European winter we decided to jump on a plane to the Canary Islands and go on a 2 week hiking trip through Tenerife and La Gomera. The Canary Islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean, west of Morocco and the Sahara and most of all: they’re having a mild climate year round. It was our best (and at the same time affordable) chance to get some sun in the dark european February.
For the first time in years I decided not to journal. I needed time off. Off media. Off. Just off! So I didn’t bring my phone, didn’t bring a journal. I only brought some small blank papers for a “just in case” bright aha-moment (which indeed happened once. Oh it was wonderful to write something down underneath the pine trees… just for me.) While hiking the PCT I experienced some pressure in “having to” journal, “having to” blog and something that I loved turned into something that I felt like I “had to” do. Not journaling on this trip through the Canary Islands took away a bit of the pressure and that one time I wrote something down I really really enjoyed it and it felt like a relieve.
As for gear, we brought our regular lightweight set up. This time bringing a Zpacks cuben fiber camo tarp though instead of a tent and I used the Gossamer Gear Pilgrim backpack, cause my Base Pack Weight was some 3,5 kg, sub 10 pounds and there was no need to bring the bigger Gossamer Gear Gorilla. (Loved the Pilgrim by the way… I’m gonna try to do a little gear review about it soon ;c)
Anyways. This is gonna be a small trip report. Not too much details, mostly pictures :cP Those who want more infos on hiking on Tenerife and La Gomera are welcome to get in touch and ask. As you know I’m always happy to help.
Also I’ll add some tips and infos for hiking on the Canaries. You can find them below the day by day trip report and pics ;c)
Here we go:
The first 5 and a half days of our trip we spent on La Gomera. Gomera is THE hiking island. It’s small, pretty quiet compared to Tenerife, hitching is soooo frikkin easy (the mostly german tourists all have a rental car and they will pick you up the moment you get your thumb out), and the hiking paths are really well marked.
We arrived (both kinda seasick because of the crazy sea) in San Sebastian de Gomera around noon and immediately started hiking along the GR 132, a hiking trail that goes around the island. After only 15 minutes you leave the city behind you and you’re in untouched (well almost untouched) wilderness with views off the steep cliffs on the Atlantic Ocean. We weren’t lucky in seeing whales and dolphins. But we could have been cause La Gomera is the place to be for whale and dolphin spotting.
Here’s an overview of the stretches we hiked along the GR 132 / on La Gomera:
O ya, what I want to remind you of: Forget about hiking big miles on the Canaries. The trails goes either up or down, mostly steep. Lots of scrambling and some boulder hopping. There are no flat stretches what so fucking ever!!! We mostly didn’t even get 12 miles a day under our belts.
- Day 1: GR 132: San Sebastian de Gomera – Barranco de Machal – Playa de la Guancha – Barranco de la Guancha. Instead of going down to El Cabrito via the GR 132 we took the trail down northwest to Barranco Juan de Vera and back up on the other side. We slept in a goat cave almost up on the Barranco.
- Day 2: GR 132: Cave up in Barranco Juan de Vera- Seima – Baranco de Chinguarima – Playa de Santiago. We were already 3 km north of Playa de Santiago when we wanted to make camp. A bad storm (even the airport got closed) however forced us to go back down and search for a place to stay in Playa de Santiago.
Day 1 and 2 are actually one section if you walk the sections as given. I can however say that is a pretty long one and I’d split it.
- Day 3: GR 132: Back up a few km to the airport from where we hitched up to Alajero. By hitching we skipped a section, which didn’t seem very interesting to us. In Alajero we picked back up the GR 132 – Barranco de la Negra (this was our absolute favorite Barranco and hiking section in La Gomera) – Arguayoda – La Dama – Barranco de Iguala – Playa de Iguala. Playa the Iguala can only be reached by foot or boat and we had the whole beach to ourselves! It was absolutely amazing. We slept in some kind of cave underneath the rocks. Our own private beach. Damn what more can one ask for right?!!!
- Day 4: GR 132: Playa de Iguala – Gerian – Crossing the Barranco de Argaga on the upper part (we decided not to go down there as it is known as a huge scramble… A scramble I’d rather go up than go down… Next time) – decending into Valle Gran Rey via the GR 132. Next time I’d skip this section. The climb up from Playa de Iguala is nice but then the stretch till the descent into Valle Gran Rey is a bit boring. The decent into Valle is beautiful but absolutely steep and exhausting and it killed my knees and hips. I’d rather walk out of the Valle this way then down into it. As everyone says you shouldn’t try to camp wild in Valle Gran Rey, we found a cheap room in La Callera (30€ a night for two persons – Ask for a room in the Zumeria next to the church down in La Callera. That was a tip given to us by hikers we met and luckely the old lady had a room left for us.)
- Day 5: Hitch up to Pajarito – hike up the Garajonay (highest mountain on La Gomera) with great views of Tenerife and the Teide following the Route 18 – onward through the National Park and the El Cedro forest along Route 18 till the only official camping site “La Vista” on the north side of the island. Camping for 6€ a night
- Day 6: Hike down along Route 37, passing the highest waterfall on La Gomera (not veeeeeery impressive but still beautiful) till where the trail crosses the road to San Sebastian – hitch to San Sebastian – Ferry boat over to Tenerife at noon.
On Tenerife we continued along the GR 131 and some local trails.
- Day 1 (=Day 6 La Gomera): Arriving in Los Christianos around 1pm. Hiking out of Los Christianos was the worst. It was hot, busy, full of tourists. We couldn’t stay here for an hour without becoming unhappy. So after resupplying and buying more sunscreen we headed up towards the mountains and the crater of the Teide. We had to walk on paved road and then some local trails till Vueltas de Adeje, then find our way till Vento (where we asked on old man for water) from where we could hike the GR 131 and found a hidden spot to camp in Barranco del Rey shortly before ascending towards the saddle. Mozzies ruined our night. Damn those fuckers.
- Day 2: GR 131: Barranco del Rey – Ifonche – into the Canarian Pine Tree forests till Montana de la vica (some 2 km before Villaflor). We found the most awesome beautiful campspot in the pine tree forest on top of the Montana. An absolutely beautiful day guided by the heavenly smell of fire scarred pine trees!!!
- Day 3: GR 131: Montana de la vica – Villaflor (resupply food and water) – Paysaje Lunar – Campspot on the crater rim, on the saddle between the Guajara and the Morra del Rio. Crazy epic (but veeeery windy and pretty cold) campspot at 2300m with perfect view of the Teide.
- Day 4: Local Trail over the mountain Morra del Rio (2529m) in alpine conditions – crazy descent with lots of snow – down the pine tree forests to a campspot on old terrasses close to El Contador.
- Day 5: Local Trail PR TF 86 from El Contador – Barranco de Puento – Ortiz (sports climbing and boulder canyon) – Villa de Arico – Last 4 km to where HQ’s aunt lives (about 150 m above sea level)
We stayed another 3 days with HQ’s aunt and uncle (they offer a great service “first and last night on Tenerife: They pick you up from the airport, offer you a room (they have supercool cave rooms) in their finca, breakfast and then bring you to the ferryboat that’ll take you to La Gomera or El Hierro…. And the other way around when you come back )and had a wonderful time just relaxing and doing nothing, spending time with the family, going out eating in El Medano, going to the beach in Abades,.
Tips for hiking on the Canary Islands:
- WATER! The LACK of water is the biggest issue you will encounter while backpacking through the Canary Islands. If you have a place to stay and you’re going on day hikes it’s not a problem. Then you just take your water for the day and you’re set. If you’re backpacking and camping (“wild camping” as we call it in Europe is illegal but I’ll get to that later) then you have to act like you’re in the desert, which you kind of are. Most streams (or what used to be streams), especially in the south, are bone dry year round. We were “lucky” there was some stormy weather in the sky and we had some decent rainshowers which filled some puddles. But really expect to find no “natural” water sources along the trail. The villages is where you should fill up your water bottles. Sometimes for 2 days. So we howled lots of water. Up to 7 L. On the crater rim and on our mountain day we melted snow. It can get very hot in the desert vegetation as well as on the exposed rocks and you need lots of water!
- Camping. As said “wild camping” (sleeping in a tent on public land) is illegal on the Canary Islands (as in most parts of Europe). Therefor I cannot openly encourage you here on my blog to camp. I don’t know the spanish law well enough (the Canary islands “belong to” Spain) but I know in most european countries there is something like the right to bivouac (sleep under the stars or in a not enclosed shelter -tarp- for one night. Also and very important if you bivouac: LEAVE NO TRACE. Nobody should know or see that you’ve been there. Take care of the vegetation, pack out ALL of your trash), be aware of the fauna (though there isn’t veeery much big wild life on the Canaries, there are lizards and insects and those you should consider and take care of too!), burry or pack out your human waste in a proper way, carry out all tp,… If you love hiking, if you love this planet, take frikkin good care of it. We want our children and the next generations to experience this beauty too!!!
- Bring sunscreen. You’re on Sahara level here! The sun is high in the sky and is super strong. Also bring a hat and sunglasses. We also brought lightweight longsleeve clothes for protection against the sun.
- We’ve hiked on the Canary islands twice now and each time we brought a tarp. This time however there was a loooot of wind (not so very uncommon for an island haha) and we could hardly sleep because of our cuben fibre tarp flutttering in the strong winds.
- Both HQ and I are fans of trailrunners for footwear. This is the first time in years that we said: Maybe we should have brought sturdier footwear, like with ankle coverage. The Canary Islands are volcanic islands and are very rocky and steep. Some rocks are very loose and wobbly and in combination with the steepness sturdy footwear might be a good idea. It’s not that our trailrunners couldn’t deal with it, it’s that with sturdier footwear you’d be able to move faster and not concentrate as much with every step you take. If you wanna train your ankle and foot muscles, then go for trailrunners. You’ll have some decent training on the Canaries ;cP
- Food: I dehydrated 2 kind of sauces (one tomato sauce and one thai curry sauce) and 1 dish (a veggy chili) and made my own superfood muesli bars and hummus for lunch Because of the fact that the Canaries are part of the EU it was no problem what so ever to take the dehydrated homemade food with me on the plane and across the border. We carried enough dehydrated food for 9 2person meals. In local stores we’d then buy angel hair noodles, tortillas and muesli. That made resupplying super duper easy. Cause even the tiniest stores had noodles and tortillas and some kind of cereals.
- Maps and stuff. We used the Kompass maps and the Gaia GPS app. HQ brought his iPhone with the app on it and we mostly only used this app while on trail. (We brought our suntactics solar charger to make sure the iPhone woulnd’t run out of battery ;c)
We definitely had an amazing time on La Gomera and Tenerife and got the much much needed sun we were longing for. It really is the perfect hiking destination to get away from the cold depressing european winter ;c)
Disclaimer: A reader brought to my attention in Mai 2019 that apparently it is illegal to bivouac, quoting following law text: “Artículo 2. 1. A los efectos de esta Orden, se entiende por “acampada” la permanencia temporal en lugares situados en plena naturaleza, de grupos libres de personas, cuyo único objetivo es disfrutar del contacto con el medio natural con o sin tiendas de campaña o albergues móviles.” Please act accordingly and only camp in designated campsites.