Escaping to El Hierro

El Hierro is hard to get to – its the last Canary Island before the Americas, Columbus stopped for 17 days on the way apparently (back when El Hierro was the outer reaches of the western world), and El Hierro is the second smallest of the 8 islands. El Hierro – like 6 of the other Canary islands – has a cross island trail – the GR131 – though it is a lot shorter than the others.

I had been umm-ing and aah-ing whether it was worth the 9 hour trip each way from London to El Hierro to tick off doing the GR131 trail. But given I had ended up in Tenerife on an unscheduled holiday and Tenerife was only a 2.5 hour ferry away from El Hierro, it was an easy choice.

There are a number of good hiking trails on El Hierro pdf which are probably nicer than the official GR131 trail, so I have put together a variant of the GR131 route, with some sidetrips and an end in Sabinosa which looks like a nicer walk than down to the Faro de Orchilla

Day 0 – Tamaduste to Valverde – 4km, 600m of ascent

It was a workday, so I only had a couple of hours of daylight to get some of the trail done, starting from 4.30 pm at the seaside town of Tamaduste. It was an easy 1 hour 15 mins to knock off the first ‘stage’ of the hike. It would make the first day a whole lot easier, and I was back at the hotel in Valverde by 17.45.

Day 1 – Valverde to a wildcamp in the hills – 18k, 1100m up

I had a substantial breakfast in the hotel and started the slog uphill. Valverde is a steep town and I had climbed 150m up before even leaving the last house. The path then became slightly more gently on the way to Tinor, weaving through cultivated fields and along a ridgeline with nice views of the sea before coming to a lovely wee village.

From Tinor, the path meandered through the forest, and I stopped at Quatro Escuinas where there was a fountain and a picnic table and I had morning tea. Then the path cut through scrubby grazing fields which were divided up with tumbling down walls (it was like Yorkshire), and I did see a couple of farmers. Eventually, passing San Andres, I made it to the Mirador of Jinama – apparently the very best views in all of El Hierro. But alas it was not to be as I had finally reached the altitude of the clouds, and that was it for views for the rest of the day.

From Jinama it was a nice stroll to Fuente de La Llania through lovely green damp forest. It was raining but I stopped for lunch at La Llania and had a cup of soup and some bread to warm up. And then another 4 km stroll in the mist with no views to Cruz de la Fuente. The winds were at about 35km, visibility was c. 20meters and there was sideways rain (my favourite kinds as it gets under the poncho).

By this time, I was soaking wet and pretty cold and it was 3pm. I decided to pitch up for the night and get warm. I (briefly) contemplated calling a cab and going back to my nice warm hotel room, but it is good for the soul to sleep in a tent. I pitched my tent (not well as it would turn out) and got into some dry clothes, cooked a hearty supper and drank tea and read books until 8pm then had a long sleep

Day 2 – Onwards to Sabinosa 10k, 400m up, 1200m down

Oh my, there is nothing quite like having to wring out your clothes and then put them on soaking wet on a rainy misty morning with 30km winds blowing. I had cheated and not brought my tent pegs with me (which means i can take all my gear as carryon). However that kinda required good weather, as my freestanding tent was pitched without stakes. That was an error in the rain, as my DIY option of trying to loop the ties around the neighbouring brush didn’t quite work, so the bottom of my tent was a veritable swimming pool, and in the middle of that pool were all my clothes (which to be honest would have been wet from yesterday regardless, but soaking wet was another matter entirely).

Oh well, nothing to be done. It is always tempting to keep your dry sleeping clothes on but that is always a safety error. If I wore my dry clothes they would be wet within five minutes anyway, and then i wouldnt have dry gear to put on if I needed to stop and bivvy.

I headed out into the mist and could literally see nothing. Apparently the views are epic, but I could only see about 20 metres in front of my face, and the rainy misty clouds were blowing hard at me sideways. Given there was nothing to see, I decided to detour down to Sabinosa early, via the El Pinar route, so that there would hopefully be better weather as I dropped down in altitude.

The path down was delightful – wet, green, and damp – but delightful. Mossy trees and lots of nice places that would have been good tent pitches. I stopped for a sodden cup of tea after about 7km at an old well. Eventually after descending 800m I finally made it below the clouds and there were some lovely views up and down the coast.

It was a nice meander into town, and I had called a taxi to pick me up in Sabinosa to the hotel, where I stood under the shower for 20 minutes to warm up and spent the afternoon trying to dry out all my gear – it was all totally sodden.

Day 3 — bonus day Mirador de Las Playas to the sea – 10km, 1200m descent

I was torn this morning whether to head back to redo some of the gr131 sections and hope for better views (the forecast was better) or head to the east of the island to try something new. I went east and that was the right call as we passed through the clouds on our way which were persisting in fogging up the highlands around San Andres but the sun came shining through as we arrived at the Mirador de Las Playas (look out point). The views were spectacular- so much so that my cabbie decided to stop for a cigarette and to take in the view too

From the mirador the trail meandered through farmland to another wonderful mirador a few km away in Isora. I saw two cars and one farmer in that 5km section. The view down to the rugged east of the island was mildly sickening – I have terrible vertigo – but the path was mostly well made. The trail dropped about 600m in 1.3km…. But it was mostly pretty stable even if steep

At one point I took a wrong turn and had to back track. I had missed the PR 3 as it required an all limbs to the ground scramble up a scree slope. I only figured it out as i saw a faint yellow mark at the top of the ridge. Oh well. I am not a huge fan of scree but I picked my way up the slope holding on to big rocks and hauling myself over a few boulders.

From there the path was poorly marked (thank goodness for downloaded gpx tracks) but I eventually found my way to the sea and the road . I arrived at the bus stop about ten minutes before one of the four daily departures to valverde, which was convenient as it avoided having to call a cab.

That’s it – I have to head back to work via Tenerife tonight and to London tomorrow

Valverde, El Hierro, January 8, 2022

Additional notes

Articles here and here, I used the Cicerone book – Walking on La Gomera and El Hierro, and the government has a good website

Buses are infrequent but reliable and moovit works well for planning public transport

Getting to and from El Hierro is a faff – either 2.5 hours on the Armas ferry from Los Cristianos on Tenerife (inconveniently not running Saturday. And the Sunday ferry gets you back to Tenerife too late for the London flight. Or you can take the Binter flight which goes to Tenerife North airport (a 40 minute drive or a one hour bus to the main airport at Tenerife south – where flights depart to London). Note Binter flights don’t appear on skyscanner. I ferried out and flew back but had to overnight in Tenerife before catching the flight home.

Trails in Tenerife 2022

Aaaaah Covid, you have taught me to be infinitely flexible, responsive and on my toes when it comes to holiday plans. A positive covid test for my husband scuppered our Jordan holiday plans, and it didn’t make sense to go to Jordan by myself (as I had been before). Instead, with 48 hours to go before christmas, and an infectious husband to escape from, I am en route to my favourite winter hiking destination to discover some new trails. Hubby will join when he gets a negative lateral flow test. The trails of the week were…..

Anaga National Park

Roque de Bermejo loop from Chamorga (8km – 800m ascent)

This walk is at the top of the island, after a harrowing drive on windy narrow roads, with a mild heart attack every time a car comes the other way. The route is a variant of walk 3 in the Cicerone guide or PR TF 6/6.1

Chamorga was quiet at 5pm on xmas eve, and i wandered down the Barranco – passing a few tourists returning from the beach.

The tiny church in Chamorga
The view up the Barranco

After an hour….I was keeping an eye out for a place to pitch my tent and there was pretty much nowhere flat….., so I settled on pitching at the Casas Blanca – an abandoned house on the cliff overlooking the Roque and looking up to the Anaga lighthouse. It wasn’t particularly clean, but someone had clearly pitched in the ruins before as there was a clean flat bit looking out the window. I crossed my fingers that the other half of the roof wouldnt fall in on me during the night. The walls did keep the wind out, but the roof didn’t keep the rain off so it was good I had the tent up

My salubrious digs for the evening

It got dark at 6.15pm, so I cooked supper, read my book, and then fell asleep at 9pm after adjusting to the lighthouse flashing in my eyes (for a while I kept thinking someone was flashing a torch in my eyes). I woke up at 3am and the moon was so bright that it was like daylight.

The view from my tent at 3am

I was well rested by 6am, so I had a coffee overlooking the sea and a leisurely breakfast (M&S apple hot cross buns). It was light enough by 7.30 am to head out, so I wandered down to the sea and then back up a steep slog to the lighthouse.

Faro de Anaga

As I hit the ridge line above the lighthouse, the path was a little vertiginous (and i had to abbreviate the route as the cliff path to El Draguillo was closed. the views out over the Roques de Anaga were spectacular

I stopped for a leisurely coffee and enjoyed the views. From their it was a lovely hike up to the Casas Tafada along a ridgeline with spectacular views. And then a nice amble back to Chamorga.

I arrived in Chamorga at 10.30 on christmas day and was delighted the cafe/bar was open, and i treated myself to a luxurious morning tea of donuts, coffee and coke zero. And then I headed off to Afur on more windy roads

Barranco de Afur – Playa de Tamadiste 6km

I was feeling pretty lazy this afternoon after the mornings hike, so I just strolled down to the beach and back – a nice 2 hour loop.

The barranco de Afur is the most lovely barranco I have encountered in all of my hiking around the Canary Islands.   The barranco has water flowing through it all year round, and is green and lush  – very rare for the Canaries.   It was a busy-ish trail (I saw probably 20 people) but well marked and stunning vistas up the cliffs, amazing cacti, and better views to the coast around every corner

I arrived at the beach to find a couple of enthusiastic nudists engaged in some lively snogging…. So I faced the other way and enjoyed the spectacular views of the waves crashing down the coast.  

The wander back up the barranco was equally delightful, and I stopped for a coffee at the local bar on my way back.

I then headed into La Laguna for a shower and a meal not from a dehydrated pouch. 

Taganana to Tamadiste beach (12km – 700m ascent)

I came back to finish the broader loop from Afur to Taganana with the husband – so we also did the Taganana to Tamadiste beach section

The initial climb out of Taganana was a brutal calf warm up, but then the trail was just a lovely meandering undulating trail up and down the side of the cliff down the north coast.

It was 5km to the beach where we contemplated life and Steph misjudged a wave.

We wandered up and down the barranco for a little bit and then headed back to Taganana. The views were utterly stunning

Back in the quiet hamlet of Taganana – a light lunch of salad and croquettes. And then we drove down the coast to Benijo, which was overrun with cars and vans and half naked surfers.

Pico de Ingles to Valleseco – 8km – 900m descent

We hopped a taxi up to Pico del Ingles -so named as an ‘englishman’ (who was actually Austrian) fell to his death from the peak.   The views were stunning down to the capital on Tenerife and the sea.  This route is Walk 1 in the Cicerone Guide or PR TF 2

I headed down the trail through lovely lauresilva forests.  It was a Sunday and Boxing Day, and the locals were out in force. I passed several hiking groups (including a bunch of 70 year olds), and a lot of people in Santa hats.    

The photos down the barrancos don’t really do the views justice as it is all a bit hazy in the hot sun.  The path weaved in and out of the forest for the first half of the route, and then eventually weaved down into a barranco through spiky cacti.  

It was a lovely and easy stroll, and I arrived in Vallseco and caught the bus for the few km into the capital.  I found a place for lunch, but there were too many people in the capital for my liking so I headed back up to Laguna for an afternoon nap.  

Cruz del Carmen to Punta del Hidalgo – 11km, 1000m descent 200m ascent

This is one of the highest rated walks in the guidebook (map here pdf or walk 7 in the Cicerone). Husband had arrived for this bit – so we started at Cruz del Carmen after a 20 minute cab ride from La Laguna. I was pretty underwhelmed for the first 4km and wondering why we were doing this trail and not redoing the Valleseco route – which had amazing views. It was nice but all in the forest.

But about 1km before Chinamada the views opened and there were stunning views down the barranco to Punta del Hidalgo.

We stopped in Chinamada hoping for fluids but everything was closed so we continued down the side of the cliff where the path for much of the route was cut into the side of the cliff and there were some spectacular caves which would have been extraordinary places to pitch a tent for the evening (albeit no water)

The temperature kept climbing as we descended and it began to feel like we were cooking in a furnace. While the scenery was pretty green and lovely, there was no shade at all.

The route was relatively quiet but there were some bonkers people climbing up in bikinis from Punta – not sure how far they would have made it.

We hit the beach and a bunch of surfers after about 9km and then we had a hot and sweaty road walk until we arrived blessedly at an open shop and i knocked back 1 litre of cold drinks and cooled down. The bus was due in half an hour, so we headed back to La Laguna for an afternoon snack and a siesta

The Teno Region

Chinyero loop – 12km 380m ascent

Todays hike was a lovely 12km figure of eight loop around Montana Negra and the Chinyero Volcano (the youngest volcano in Tenerife having erupted 100 years ago).  Map here in pdf (as only the short version is in the Cicerone)  

We started from arenas negra carpark so the first half was all a gentle uphill and then back down again (always my preference).  And we started both loops on the north side, which was a good call as it was a lovely stroll in the forest to begin with and then the best views were saved for the second half.

It was a stunning walk with Tiede (Spain’s highest mountain) popping into view from time to time.  The walk was either on lovely pine needle paths through trees or across rugged lava fields.  

The contrasting colour of the baby pine trees with luminous green leaves was magical against the black volcanic rock and the blue sky.

It was an easy 3 hour stroll and we didn’t see many people until the last part.   When we left the carpark ours was the sole car, and there were 30 cars when we left

Feeling virtuous from our stroll we headed to the historic town of Garachico for squid and salt cod at an excellent local restaurant – Tasca de los Pinos

Callejon de Teno and Baracan summit loop

Starting from El Palmar, the ‘capital’ of Teno Rural Park, which is a small collection of houses around a very bizarre mountain that is like a pie with pieces cut out of it.

From the village, we schlepped up a big hill with a bunch of hikers, many of who overtook me on the way up, and then I over took them again when they stopped for a break. Its all about the average speed 🙂

After a meandering trail around the side of a hill, we arrived in Teno Alto – a tiny village famous for cheese. It was too early for lunch so we stopped for a coke and then restarted up the steep road.

We continued over some lovely terraced hillside with amazing views out over La Palma and an excellent cloud inversion onto the ridgeline of the Cumbre de Baracan where the views were spectacular

From the mirador of Baracan we dropped down the hill into El Palmar marvelling at the side of the pie. And then we headed to the excellent Bodega Patamero for chicken, cod and fried mushrooms.

And then it was a stunning drive home around the winding roads to Masca and back to Santiago del Teide. We got stuck behind a bus who had to keep reversing on the hairpin corners.

Tiede National Park

Volcan de Fasnia Loop – 8km

We headed up to the national park this morning, stopping at lots of the miradors to take photos.   Steph is still recovering from the rona, so we did a leisurely 8km stroll around Volcan de Fasnia (Walk 26 in the Cicerone guide or sendero 20 in the national park map).  The view of the observatories on the top of Izana were quite surreal.

The terrain meandered through white ash, red ash and then past the fabulous black Volcan de Fasnia.    Tiede popped into sight multiple times throughout the trail and it was just a nice wander in the sunny chilly air. 

Roques de Garcia – 4km

The national park is heaving during the day, but after about 5pm everyone vanishes back to the resorts and we had the place to ourselves. So it was the perfect time to meander around the Roques de Garcia, next to the Parador where we are staying (walk 33 in Cicerone Guide or sendero 3 in the national park map).

January 4, 2022

Additional notes

I used the Cicerone guide to hiking in Tenerife and also the Walk this Way Tenerife book (written by locals), both available on amazon

Trail notes – PDFs for most trails can be downloaded from the government website here with an overall map showing the location of the trails here. The Tiede park has its own trails – the map is here.

Where to stay – distances in Tenerife are long, so we were based in San Cristobal La Laguna (Hotel Gran La Laguna) for when visiting the Anaga, in Santiago del Tiede (La Casona del Patio) for the Teno, and then there is only one place to stay in the Tiede National Park (The Parador).

Getting around – we used a rental car but the buses are reliable and frequent

Gambolling around Gran Canaria

I have completed the GR131 (cross island trails) on four of the Canary Islands – Lanzarote, Tenerife, La Palma and La Gomera, still three more to go ……, and this weekend my buddy Lucy and I are headed to Gran Canaria to knock off no. 5.

Day 1 – Agaete to Tamadaba – 1200m up, 12km

We arrived in Gran Canaria at lunchtime after a long flight from London. We took a cab to Agaete to get started. There were 40kph winds but the sun was shining. The paths were lovely and relentlessly uphill, zigzagging up through the scrub and cactus on a rocky slope. The views down the sea on the South Coast were stunning.

The path meandered around some vertigo-ing paths along the sides of steep hills, and then up a very long and beautifully maintained set of mules paths to enter the forest at about 1100m. It is a kind of odd feeling climbing out of the desert to enter the pine forest, I am used to climbing through the forest and then out of the tree line.

The path got a little more gentle in the forest and we meandered through lovely trees, which seem to be recovering from the 2019 fire, and passed the Camping ground.

Eventually we hit the road and we arrived at our pick up spot for the taxi 1h45m early. We called Carlos the cabby and he said he was en route. Unfortunately we didn’t realise he was coming from San Mateo – 45 mins away. Unfortunate as we were in 40kph winds with zero shelter. It was bloody freezing. I have never been happier to see a taxi.

Waiting for Carlos

It was a 30 minute ride on windy mountain roads to arrive at the lovely and warm Parador de Cruz de Tejeda where Lucy and I both had long showers to thaw out. And then we hit the restaurant to load up on calories :-).

Day 2 – Tamadaba to Cruz de Tejeda – 1000m up, 15km

We had arranged for Carlos’s buddy to come and get us at the hotel and take us back to yesterday’s end point. She was due at 8am and we had prepaid for breakfast which started at 7.45, so Lucy and I made a valiant effort to eat a lot of bacon and down a lot of coffee and also added some extra treats to the backpacks for later (donuts omelette and banana for me, Frosties donuts and Nesquik for Lucy). It was tough to leave the hotel as it was pissing with rain with zero visibility

When we arrived back at Tamadaba after the cab ride, I was reminded of yesterday’s wind as was almost blown off my feet when I exited the cab. Lucy and I swiftly got under the trees and from there it was a pretty lovely up and down stroll through the trees to the mountain village of Artenara

We luckily found a cafe that was open and ducked in out of the wind for a quick cafe con leche

From artenara to Cruz it was an amazing hike up and along the edge of a steep cliff. The views over Roque Nubio were spectacular when the clouds lifted from time to time.

We made it up to about 1600m before the rain really started again in earnest and there were a few gusty moments hanging on to the path around the cliffs

We had some lovely fall foliage at the top of the hill. The most remarkable thing about these islands is how much variety there is in the terrain

We arrived back at the hotel in just under four hours, cold and wet and with no views. I persuaded Lucy to abandon our plan to walk further and instead enjoy a longer day 3 with the sun out (the forecast was good).

We had a lazy afternoon reading and watching mountaineering movies and then a light dinner (as we were still stuffed from last night.

Day 3 – Cruz de Tejeda to Ayagaures – 800m up, 28km

We were up at 6.45 and on the way out the door with headtorches on. It was freezing and there were still 40kph winds but we could see the views. The first grunt up to Morro de la Armonia more than woke us up, and we enjoyed the views out to Roque Nubio for about an hour and a half including fro the lovely Degollada Becerra – at that point the sun was hiting the top of the rock.

Freezing dawn start

From there we meandered through the forest down to Llanos de Garanon, past some keen campers in their tents and then we headed up to Degollada de Hornos at 1730m where we had a break for a coffee and breakfast (banana and hot cross buns for me, frosties for lucy).

Heading up to Degollada de Hornos
Degollada de Hornos

From the Degollada we transitioned from stunning high pine forests out into red rock wild west. The descent down to Cruz Grande was an epic well engineered mule path. There must have been a hiking outing, as after seeing noone all morning, we passed c. 100 people of all shapes, ages and sizes grunting up the hill and they were all super friendly and saying ‘buen camino’ as they walked past. It was a truly stunning walk down the hill with amazing views down to Tunte.

The mule path down to Cruz Grande
The roads near Tunte

We reached Tunte after 4 hours (the guide book said 6 so we were happy), and we stopped in the town square for a hot dog, a spanish omelette and some fish croquettes. I turned down (but kinda wanted) the local coffee – made with licor 43, coffee, milk and condensed milk – it looked yum

‘Light’ lunch in Tunte

After that we headed out of Tunte on some not lovely roads for c. 4km, and then we grunted up another epic mule path to the stunning Degollada de la Manzanilla which was absolutely stunning

Winding mule path up to Degollada de la Manzanilla

From the Degollada it was a long and rocky trail along vertiginous paths that towered above the forest with amazing views until we hit Ayagaures – which did take longer than we thought. The book said 5 hours, it took us a little over 3 but we were pretty tired when we got there.

We scarffed an icecream and waited for our taxi to take us down to Maspalomas – not a place I wanted to go but there was nowhere to stay in Ayagaures so off we went. Maspalomas is overrun with british packaged tourists, and Lucy and I were in a hilarious but cheap holiday village for the night

Day 4 Ayagaures to Maspalomas – 18km

I read the description of the today’s route and was pretty uninspired.  It was all on the road, and the last 6km were though busy town roads.  Hmmmm.  To be honest I was only doing it as I am too much of a ‘completer’ to not finish the coast to coast trail 

We got a taxi at 7am back to the church in Ayagaures and started the steep walk up the hill.  The sun was coming up and our calves were creaking.    The views were nice but the road was hard.  

Looking down to Ayagaures
Sunrise over the hill
Letterboxes at Pedro Gonzalez

After about 8km we reached Montana de dato and stopped to make a coffee beside the road.   It was sunny and lovely but the car traffic had increased and it was slightly hairy with the cars narrowly missing our butts (there were no footpaths.)  

We were both dreading the hot dusty road walk from aqua land into town so after 12km we flagged down a taxi for the last 6km stretch into town.   We were glad we did, and celebrated with a coffee and a Coke and ham and omelette on the sea front

To make up for the lost miles we instead strolled through the dunes at Maspalomas – which turned out to be more brutal than the road – the wind was up and we took a sand hammering.  There was a fair amount of rubbish too, and more than a smattering of aging nudists.  Not the visual highlights I was going for.    

I wouldn’t recommend today’s hike, next time I would probably do three days overall – day 1 from agaete to Cruz de tejeda, day 2 looping around tejeda to Roque nubio, day 3 to ayagaures. 

Next stop Fuerteventura 

Maspalomas, December 5, 2021


Taking the high and dry route in Mallorca

The GR221 Dry Stone route is an emerging trail on the island of Mallorca, which is c. 140km long but with some sections which are better marked than others. I only have a three day weekend, so am walking the section from Valledemosa to Pollenca – about 60 km.

Day 1 Valledemossa to Soller; 18km, 1000m of ascent

Todays section in the guide looked like it mostly meandered through forest, going from Valldemossa over to the lovely village of Deia and then on to Soller. I took a good look at the map and did some googling and found an alternative route that stayed high in the mountains, passing the high spots. So, after an excellent breakfast of coffee, and toast with serrano ham and avocado, I head off out of Valldemossa

I climbed up through Ses Fontanelles seeing a lot of goats and sheep and eventually came out in the fog at Pla Dets Aritges. Then I abandoned the GR221 and followed the route up to Puig Gros. A fence needed to be jumped (ignoring the no entry sign as instructed by the google advice) and then on past Puig des Teix and followed the cairns over to Puig des Vents. The sun came out so I stopped for lunch and had a cup of tea.

Then a nice wander past Puig des Vedell and finally hitting the peak of Sa Galera which had stunning views down to the Port of Soller.