Curious Canary Islands

  • Monday, December 20, 2021

Setting out on my journey, a bleak midwinter’s morning, the prospect of some much-needed sunshine forefront in my mind. Beyond the appeal of that blissful winter sun on my face, the opportunity to explore more of these beautiful volcanic Isles in the Atlantic Ocean. As I had discovered from previous visits, the Canary Islands certainly have much to offer, with their extraordinary variety of dramatic landscapes, all of which is of course best explored on foot!

There it was…the unmistakable snow-draped peak of Mount Teide, the island sculpted by this imposing volcano at its centre. This was not my first visit to Tenerife, but as I passed by those lively resorts on the south coast, I was intrigued to see what lay beyond… Heading off the main highway, I was soon amongst the indigenous Canary Pine Forest. Up and up, I climbed, a lunar landscape unfolding before my eyes as I entered Teide National Park. Extraordinary volcanic formations around every corner, from mysterious lava fields to fascinating rock pinnacles.

Located at the heart of the National Park is the charming Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide. With spectacular panoramic views of Mount Teide as well as the volcanic scenery of Las Cañadas, this mountain lodge is situated in a truly exceptional location. With numerous trails to explore, New Experience offer a 3-Night extension package here.

Leaving behind Mount Teide National Park, I travelled towards the northern coast and my overnight stop, Puerto de la Cruz. Occupying the coast at the foot of the Orotava Valley, this small city was in fact the first tourist centre on the Canary Islands. We feature two hotels here, the 4* Hotel Valle Mar located on the seafront with rooftop pool and sun terrace and the 4* Hotel Tigaiga, surrounded by extensive subtropical gardens and the tranquil Taoro Park. The heated pool and terrace have spectacular views over the city and the ocean beyond. Upgrade to a Teide side room to enjoy views of Teide and the Orotava Valley.

I continued my journey North to the mountains of the Anaga Peninsula, the road twisting and turning along the backbone of this rugged mountain range. Passing by isolated settlements perched in barrancos overlooking the sea and surrounded by lush laurel forest. Having explored the charms of Anaga, I travelled south to catch my ferry at the port of Los Cristianos. The islands are well connected by ferry, the main companies being Fred Olsen and Naviera Armas.

In just 30 minutes I had arrived at the tranquil bay of San Sebastián, tiny capital of La Gomera. It was from here in 1492 that Cristopher Columbus set out on his voyage of discovery to the ‘New World’. As I wondered the narrow streets of the historic centre, I contemplated my own journey across the island following the route of our trek from east to west. My first stop, sitting high above San Sebastián and overlooking the bay, the Parador de la Gomera. Built in traditional island architecture, its attractive interior design complements its age and style. A lush garden with subtropical plants offers spectacular ocean views with the island of Tenerife and Mount Tiede on the horizon. An excellent base from which to explore the island.

Leaving behind the colourful buildings of San Sebastián, I travelled north through the misty mountains, the road winding up and down along formerly cultivated terraces. Situated at the bottom of a deep ravine is the small town of Hermigua, a striking contrast of white houses, and lusciously green banana groves. Here you spend night 3 of the trek, all rooms offering excellent views of the soaring mountains surroundings. Continuing onwards I reached the charming rural village of Vallehermoso, nestled in a beautiful valley, as the name translates. The town square, full of the hustle and bustle of village life. Our accommodation here is a restored villa, featuring a delightful courtyard surrounded by palm trees. 

My route now takes me inland to the heart of the island, Garajonay National Park, famed for its amazing cloud forest housing flora and fauna unique to this area. As I pass through this mysterious labyrinth of laurel forest, I emerge to stunning vistas of the coastline. Onwards to Chipude, with its 15th century church, one of the first parishes in the Canaries, and the impressive natural monument of La Fortaleza. A warm welcome can be found at the family run Hotel Sonia, as well as typical homemade food using quality produce.

A dramatic descent takes me down the sheer walls of the Gran Rey barranco to Valle Gran Rey. The most popular tourist centre on the island, thanks to its deep green gorge and black sand beaches. Its calm, bohemian atmosphere, quite different to those beach resorts found elsewhere on the Canary Islands.

Set facing the ocean is the 3* Hotel Gran Rey offering comfortable, well-equipped rooms with a balcony or terrace. Sea view rooms are an optional upgrade. The roof top pool and terrace have superb ocean views, with the island’s mountains ever present in the background. Alternatively, we offer the 4* Hotel Playa Calera. Spacious studio rooms feature a balcony, with side sea view rooms an optional upgrade. Just a short stroll from the beach, the hotel has a rooftop pool, the perfect place to watch the spectacular sunsets. 

Bidding farewell to La Gomera, I took the short connecting flight via Tenerife North to El Hierro. There are frequent daily departures between the islands by plane, with all flights under an hour. There are two main companies you can fly with Binter and Canaryfly.

Arriving at the youngest and smallest of the Canary Islands, I was soon entranced by the slower pace of life here. Valverde, the islands capital with merely two streets at its centre, perched on a high plateau overlooking the Atlantic. The island has escaped mass tourism, accommodation is therefore largely atmospheric family-run rural pensions. On our trek you spend night the first night at a clean and simple accommodation in Valverde.

Winding North to the central plateau, I arrived at the tiny rural village of El Moconal. Conveniently situated here is Hotel Villa El Mocanal, which we feature on night 2 of our trek, or as a single centred accommodation. This 2* Hotel features three adjoining buildings, surrounded by orchards and pastures, with beautiful views towards the north coast. A short walk from here takes you to Pozo de las Calcosas, a summer village with small houses made of lava rock. Clustered around are natural coastal pools where you can enjoy a swim. 

Onwards to the La Peña Viewpoint, with breath-taking panoramas of the El Golfo valley, a volcanic plain with vineyards and orchards that end with the coastline way below. Snaking down the escarpment the road leads to La Frontera. This sleepy village is where you spend night 3 of the trek. The Apartments Los Verodes, offer well equipped rooms with a wonderful rooftop terrace, perfect for relaxing and soaking up the awe-inspiring surroundings.

The volcanic landscape soon gives way to the wonderful native pine forests of El Pinar, crowning the summit of the island. Continuing through the forest, I reached the cultural centre of El Pinar, gateway to the south. Here the traditional way of life remains, and our accommodation where you stay on nights 4 & 5 is reflective of this, being very rustic and of typical Spanish style.

Leaving El Pinar through pleasant rural scenery, a familiar landscape of livestock in fields surrounded by dry stone walls. I emerge on the crest of the eastern escarpment, with dramatic views of the small valley of Las Playas and the idyllic setting of Parador de El Hierro. Descending to the sea below, I reach the end of my journey, my reward this elegant hotel situated between volcanic mountains and deep blue ocean.

The wonderful contrasting scenery of these remarkable islands and their people have left me captivated and with a long-lasting impression which before long will beckon me back for more…