Finishing the GR131 in Fuerteventura

Fuerteventura is the last of the Canary Islands on my list to do the cross island GR131 trail. I did my homework, and most hikers who blog about the route detested significant chunks of this walk – as it goes on tarmac through resorts. Doing a bit more homework yielded some excellent alternative routes around the mountains so I came up with a route that joined the parts of the GR131 I wanted to do and some excellent side hikes. The original route was 150km, mine was 130km but with a lot more ascent

Accommodation in the mountains is a bit tricky, and there is a network of trail shelters in which it is illegal but tolerated to camp, as the locals understand it is impossible to hike across the island without having to wild camp somewhere.

Day 1 – tour of Mt Cardon and then onward to Pajara (18km and 800m of ascent)

I stayed at the premier inn at Gatwick as there is nothing worse than a 4am wake up call. At 5.45 I woke up, had my coffee and breakfast in hand after security at 6.15 and was in the lounge at 6.30 ready to board the 7.15 flight. I was even organised enough to fill up all my water bottles at Gatwick after security. The flight was packed with British package tourists like normal and I suspected I was the only one who didn’t have any accommodation booked for the duration of my stay and was planning on bivouacking where I could

On landing, my only shopping requirement was to get some fuel for my stove (I bought an alcohol stove as there are few stockists of gas canisters on the island), so I got my taxi to stop at the hardware store to buy ‘alcohol de quemar’ and I was set

The nice taxi driver dropped me 50 km from the airport in a deserted parking area near mt Cardon and asked me if I was sure….. and was surprised when I told him I was planning to walk more than 150km to corralejo.

The 7km return trip up the mountain was delightful, with nice views down to La Pared and the ocean. The mountain is a pilgrim route with a lovely cave church at the top.

I returned to Cardon ‘town’ after the mountain hoping the bar I had passed would still be open at 2.30. Alas it was not to be – so no lunch apart from a protein bar, and some rationing required on the water to last until the next morning

The 3km after Cardon seemed very hard – it was hot, the wind had dropped, so I was sweaty, thirsty and hungry as I climbed a steep hill. I stopped near Morro de Moralito at 420m for a coffee and a protein bar and stuck my sun hat on

After that the trail did take a while, but it was mostly easy walking, albeit with quite a lot of ascent and descent rolling along the ridgelines. The views out to both sides of the island were spectacular.

The sun started to noticeably drop at 5pm so I hoped I would make a good campsite by nightfall. There weren’t obvious pitches en route and I knew there was a shelter near Pajara – which would have the bonus of a table so I could cook sitting up (handy with an alcohol stove) and sleep out of the wind

I got to the shelter at 6pm and it was situated on a gravel road I had seen three cars drive down and it was only 1.5km from Pajara – so hardly off the beaten track. However I would be entirely hidden from view sleeping on the bench behind the big stone table and it was wonderfully sheltered. I needed the shelter as the winds were 30kph and it would be a bugger to pitch a tent. I reckon I ruined one hikers day though – as a young guy strolled to the shelter with a full pack and a bag of food, clearly hoping to stay, and he kept walking when he saw me (thank goodness, I don’t like strangers).

I had a lovely beef stew for dinner, a lot of rehydration salts and a hot chocolate and hit the hay at 7pm. Or I tried to. I couldn’t quite get comfy but I reckon I finally fell asleep at 10pm. Amusingly the rubbish bin in the shelter which I was happy to see (saves carrying rubbish), seemed like less of a good idea during the night as the loud rustling from said bin confirmed the existence of a rat or a mouse – but I wasn’t inclined the leave my sleeping bag to check. The stars were lovely and it is quite nice sleeping in the open air, although with 35k winds I was pretty happy to have the thick rock walls of the open sided shelter keeping the worst of the wind away

Day 2 to Degollada Marrubio via Ermita de Penitas and Gran Montana (28km and 1700m ascent)

I was awake at 6, but as the sun doesn’t come up until 7.35, I made a coffee and read the newspapers on my phone in my sleeping bag. I was surprised by a passerby and his dog out for a stroll around 7am – they didn’t see me fortunately as no doubt they weren’t expecting to.

I packed up my bed roll, finished my muesli and headed into Pajara, hoping that somewhere would be open to buy water. Fortune smiled on me and a tiny shop was open. And then I got even luckier as one of the cafes was open for coffee – and full of old Spanish men chatting with vim and vigour at 7.45 on a Sunday morning

From Pajara it was a couple of km gentle stroll along a dry river bed then a lovely manageable climb up through agave and tabaibal to the Degollada los Granadillos. The winds were fierce (40km an hour) and heading towards me verses aiding me up the mountain but it was still a nice walk. After the pass (degollada), it was an easy meander down to Vega de los Palmas, where I did a detour off the GR131 to head down to the Ermita de los Penitas (a worthy 3.5km detour). The damn was lovely and the views down the ravine to the tiny church were gorgeous.

After that I was in need of sustenance and more water. The first three establishments I passed were all closed, so I was delighted to see the Don Antonio open. The fed me like royalty and let me charge my battery – heaven

After lunch I took another detour off the trail – 7km and 500m of ascent to climb Gran Montana at 670m for fantastic 360 views across the island. The trail was straight up but I didn’t go too fast as I had a full tummy from lunch

The route detoured back close to Vega where I rejoined the GR131 and headed towards betancuria – stopping for a cup of tea at the sheltered and deserted Castillo de Lara (a recr

After that it was a hard grunt up to the degollada de marubio at 60where there was a trail shelter that was home for the night. The wind was up and the roof was made of branches, so I tried to see if I could get my tent up within the confines of the shelter for more cover but there was no room and the picnic tables were fixed firmly to the ground. And it was too windy to pitch outside. So I did what previous hikers had done and slept on the picnic table after a dinner of soup and a hot chocolate.

I prepared for a windy night – put my dry night clothes on, made sure the quilt was well secured to the Therm-a-Rest and slept with hat, gloves and my down jacket. What I wasn’t prepared for was lifting my head in the middle of the night and the pillow blowing down the mountain. I was well secured in the quilt so it took me a moment to get out of bed and start chasing. The pillow was restored and I weighted it down by putting it in a dry bag with my clothes to keep it from blowing away again

Day 3 to Sargento 29k and 975m of ascent

I woke up at 6 and stayed in my sleeping bag until the caffeine cravings forced me to move. After breakfast of muesli, I headed down the hill to the village of Betancuria. It is clearly a village for day trippers as there were tonnes of restaurants (all closed at 7.45 this Monday morning) and no hotels. With no coffee in sight, I continued up over the pass at Corral De Guise (past a bizarre statue) and down to Valle de St Innes to pick up supplies and have two excellent cafe con leches

From St Ines it was a hot flat walk through Llanos all the way to Tefia – mostly on roads. Not my favourite walking but at least there were few cars. I stopped at 11.30 for lunch after 15km at the trail shelter under the lovely Mt Bermeja – the highlight of the morning

Then it was a more entertaining 9km walk through Tefia to the town to Casillas de Angelos (a gr131 detour), which had nicer views back to the mountain ridge line I had left this morning

I arrived at Casillas at 13.35 to find all the restaurants closed and the minimart had shut at 13.30 and wouldn’t reopen until 6pm. Fortunately there was a gas station so I bought more water and had an icecrean

Leaving Casillas I headed up a grey rocky hill side with steep steps and rubbly ground to reach the degollada de La sargenta at 479m which had lovely views out of Tetir and a nice view of the trail shelter which was my home for the night 200m below

I arrived at the shelter earlier than I normally stop – at 4pm – but with the wind forecast I decided to stay here for the night as the next shelter was 20k away. I dried my sweaty clothes in the sun and pitched my tent (there was room in this shelter). I typically only pitch my tent 20 mins before sunset in case of passerbys (wild camping is illegal in Spain although tolerated apparently in some places). I didn’t think I would be disturbed so pitched at 5pm and then was promptly surprised by two trail runners charging by. I suspected they wouldn’t call the rangers on me, and was right, I had a very peaceful night with my head down by 8pm (which did lead to a 4am wake up but no matter)

Day 4 to La Oliva 31k and 1300m of ascent

After the 4am wake up and two coffees, I was packed and ready to go at the first inkling of light. It was a lovely stroll up the valley passing over the degollada de facay and then a good mountain path back down to tefia. Sadly I was too early for the cafe so I kept going to the village of La Matilla – where the cafe was also closed. I was fantasising about a bocadillo.

I kept going to Vallebron over an excellent rugged pass where the winds were so strong I was getting buffeted sideways but I managed to keep my feet and eventually made it down to Vallebron where the only shop was also closed

It was another 6k to Tindaya and the winds were howling and the air was very hazy (normally it is dust coming in the storms from Africa), and I was super excited after 22km to make it to bar Maria at noon for two Coke zeros, a large bottle of fizzy water, an omelette sandwich and some chicken wings (they had a very limited menu).

I headed back out into the storm and had hoped to climb Mt Tindaya but the sign said the path was closed. So I continued the 8km to La Oliva, walking on a sideways slant to the wind, keeping my glasses on to keep the dust out, and trying to keep my spirits up by singing cheesy songs at loud volume (no one can hear you in the wind, and I hadn’t seen anyone on the trails for days).

I finally made it to La oliva around 2.30 and decided to find a b&b as pitching a tent in the winds would have been near impossible. There was nothing available in town so I hopped on the hourly bus for the 30min ride to Corralejo and stayed at a package tour hotel (full of pensioners sitting on their balconies drinking and doing crosswords). The bath was excellent and I managed to get some fresh vegetables and fish from the local supermarket. All clean and I had a good night sleep (once I put ear plugs in to drown out the loud British teenagers next door)

Day 5 La oliva to Corralejo – 23km and 850m ascent

I was up early so rather than wait for the bus I took a cab back to La oliva and started walking. The ‘badlands’ or ‘mal pais’ area was stunning in the morning light and there were lots of good camp spots if I ever come back

I got to Lajares in under two hours and it was a bizarre surfer hippy town but not on a beach. I detoured off route for an excellent coffee and sat and listened tot wh aging French hippies around me complain about covid

Heading out of town I took the choice to detour off route to visit the Calderon hondo (a huge crater). The winds were up and there were moments as I walked around the crater that I was buffeted sideways and I wondered how embarrassed I would be if Canarian mountain rescue had to come bail me out if I fell in. This are always quite busy – the first time I had seen any people on the trails for days (the only time since ermita las penitas). It was worth the detour

From there the trail was essentially a flat gravel road into Corralejo, so I took another detour to go up Bayuyo (278m) which had stunning views down to the sea, but there were moments were I was less than comfortable on the ridge line with the high winds.

I stumbled down the hill hanging on to the sides to rejoin the gravel road. From there it was an uneventful few kilometres to town. I went to the beach to do my customary feet dip in the sea, to find a sign advising against bathing due to water contamination – blech. Instead I made do with rinsing my toes under the public shower (if there had been less of a crowd I might have had an actual shower)

I had a yummy lunch of squid, canary potatoes and melon, and then as I had time to kill took the bus to the airport (I do quite like buses, there are always interesting people on them). While not my favourite hike of the canaries it was worth doing. Taking the late flight back to Luton and then to work in the morning

Puerto del Rosario, February 9, 2022

Additional notes

The government has an excellent website that has maps gpx and trail notes to download. They have the shelters marked on each of the maps. I also used the cicerone guide to walking in Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

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


Light and fast in Lanzarote

Time for stage three of the GR131 in the Canaries, this time to Lanzarote. Its an easy 75km, so fine to get done over two days. Most of the reviews I read of the trail weren’t amazing, so I have low expectations….. but the canaries haven’t disappointed so far.

I landed on Friday night in an easyJet flight stuffed to the gills with Brits looking for summer sun, cleared the airport in nine minutes and got a taxi to Orzola. I stayed at the lovely Perla del Atlantico with a view of the sea, and was amused to meet a Canarian who had been an exchange student in NZ – in Invercargill of all places, which as she pointed out what’s about as remote as Orzola. It was blustering like mad, with 25mph winds, so I stocked up on provisions and retreated to the apartment for supper and an early night.

Orzola harbour

Day 1 39k from Orzola to San Bartoleme and some extra bits, c. 950m of ascent

The wind blustered all night and I had decided to sleep in as the distances didn’t look very long. The sun was up before I was, so I had coffee and a muesli bar and started strolling up the road around 7.30. Although the winds were still blowing a gale, thankfully they were blowing from behind. The first section was a nice stroll from Orzola to Haría, over a small pass. The light was lovely and it was fascinating to see the farming practices – lots of retaining walls to keep the wind off, and I passed several ancient farmers in dapper hats doing tough physical labour, bending from the waist to plant seeds in the black volcanic dirt (my job feels easy in comparison).

Near Orzola
Typical Lanzarote country house
Boat on a dry dock inland

I arrived in Haría around 10 and had a look around the market before stopping for a cafe con leche. It was a delightful town


Strolling on, next up Teguise, but only after climbing up the side of an excellent hill (Valle del malpaso) with the hiking trail cross crossing a vertiginous switchbacked mountain road, which was beloved of cyclists – I must have seen 50 coming down. Reaching the top of the hill, the views would have been epic on a clear day with the beaches on both sides of the island in view. But I had to make do with just ‘pretty good’ views through the haze.

I arrived at Ermita de las Nieves, the high point of the trail, and was surprised to see a big group of hikers (after only seeing two people all morning). It was a popular spot, with a gang of motorbikes and many lycraclad mountain bikers.

Ermita de las Nieves
View from Ermita
Field near Teguise

I moved on swiftly, meandering down hill to the lovely town of Teguise. All of the villages appear uniformly white and pretty. The central church was lovely, and there must have been a festival on as there were about 30 boys dressed as what looked like bulls with bells on their backs chasing kids around. I sat in the sun admiring the town square and had a coffee and a toasted bocadillo.

Man dressed up to chase kids

The final section of the day was a short 10k to San Bartoleme, which you could see across the valley from Teguise. It was a flat easy stroll across a blasted dusty desert wasteland.

I arrived at Casa Natur around 2pm having clocked 33km. I checked out the maps and decided to stroll some of tomorrow’s trail so I could take a short cut in the morning. It was a nice little bonus 6km stroll around a small peak and a caldera. I couldn’t find any good restaurant so I had a bocadillo and a piece of cake and retired early to bed to listen to the wind blustering outside

San Bartoleme
San Bartoleme

day 2 37km to Playa Blanca with c. 450m of up

I slept in until seven, had two coffees a muesli bar and a banana and headed off into a quiet Sunday morning. There wasn’t much movement around town, and it was mostly road walking until coming over the little pass near Montana Blanca. Road walking is my least favourite type of walking, followed by dirt trails. But surprisingly it isn’t irritating me that much as I am enjoying the quite bizarre volcanic scenery and I have my most padded trail shoes on.

The villages came relatively close together… after Montana Blanca, I skirted Tias, then Conil and then La Asomada. None of them had cafes, and nothing makes a hiker sadder than a town with no cafes. The road was skirting along the side of several volcanic hills, so the views down to the Arrecife coast were lovely. I remember to put my hat on as my forehead was sizzled from the day before.

The highlight of the day was coming over a small pass between La Asomada and Uga – the farming creativity is extraordinary – the terracing to carefully protect the trees from the high winds was lovely . The route was slightly marred by excesses of mountain bikers coming by without much warning.

There was a bar open in Uga so I grabbed a coke but kept going to Yaiza. I was unlucky and didn’t see the camels that regularly patrol that section of the trail. The route picks its way through mounds of volcanic rock. My morning endeavours were rewarded by an exceptional bocadillo ‘racing’ (with egg, cheese, ham and chicken), and a coffee at Miguel’s in Yaiza.

Heading off into the increasingly hot sun, it was a flat dusty stroll to Las Brenas, which was a ghost town baking on a hill about 7k from the coast. I was so hot by this point that I took refuge in the bus stop for ten minutes to get some shade.

I summoned up the courage to keep going and strolled the final 7k to town (taking my time as I was parallel processing and doing a work conference call at the same time (thank goodness for modern communications).

The town of Playa Blanca was everything I don’t like about the canaries – heaving with tourists and cheap Italian restaurants. I had a callipo and stuck my feet in the water -and drank several litres of fluid. Then back to the airport to get ready for work tomorrow

The verdict – definitely my least favourite so far of the islands, mostly due to the road walking, but I enjoyed the scenery immensely. I wouldn’t do it again, but am glad I did it

March 8, 2020, playa Blanca, Lanzarote

Hiking style – This time, I decided to go fast and light, with less than 3kg of gear and hotels booked every night.

Maps and guides – Paddy Dillon’s cicerone guide is excellent as usual But you can download the full maps here . The full maps and trail notes are available for free here. I load the gpx files onto gaia, onto which I had pre-downloaded the OS maps for spain

Packing Given the hours of daylight, I told a headtorch with me, but kept my overall pack very light.  Full packing list here

Hotels – I stayed at Perla del Atlantico in Orzola and Casa Natura in San Bartoleme.

Trailhead transport I took a taxi direct from the airport to Orzola to stay the night before starting the next day. I finished the hike in Playa Blanca – a busy resort, from where you could either get a bus or a taxi to the airport. (This is partly the reason I hiked north to south, as finding transport from Orzola would have been a pain). As it turns out north to south makes even more sense as, at least when I was there, the prevailing winds came from the north

Flights – Direct flights from Gatwick to lanzarote with Easyjet.

Trails in Tenerife

I am working a few more hours than normal this year, but to ensure I keep sane I have planned monthly hiking trips to get some exercise. This month, I am off to Tenerife to continue the GR131 trail which covers the Canary Islands, which I started doing over Christmas, completing the trail in La Palma. Its February so the weather is perfect

day 1 – Arona to Villaflor 18km, 1400m of up

It was an unpleasant 5.45am wake up call to get to Gatwick, but worth it. I flew to Tenerife on a heaving full easyJet flight full of elderly packaged tourists, I felt like a teenager but did have to carry some bags up the stairs. We landed in Tenerife 90 minutes late, so I threw on my shorts, grabbed a couple of bottles of water and high tailed it to the cab rank. My driver was bewildered that anyone would want to walk from one end of the island to the other and seem to think it was an incredibly dangerous proposition. I got to Arona (a lovely little village) and the starting point of the trail, just after two hoping for coffee and lunch, but it was not to be, as the only restaurant had just seated a table of 15, and there wasn’t a shop. Oh well, fingers crossed I would find something en route.


The first section of the gr131 is through the lovely ilfonche preservation zone. The best views were obscured by the clouds, but the glimpses of the craggy cliffs were lovely. There was also stunning desert flowers and cacti. It was hot as hell and I was sweating buckets going up hill. As luck would have it, I passed a bar in Ilfonche (6km in) and had three bottles of Aquarius (my secret Spanish hiking weapon – it is like Gatorade but nicer and the Spanish had it for at least 15 years before Gatorade was invented).

Trail marking
Barranca near arona
Excellent plant with clouds obscuring the cliffs in the background
Terraces on the hillside

After that the trail to Vilaflor was through a lovely pine forest on beautiful red soil. I started late, so only arrived in town as the sunset, which meant I had some lovely views as the sun lit up the trees. The best views were down on the clouds which were c400m lower down, and it wasn’t possible to see the sea at all.

Lovely scented pine forest
Clouds below and sunset
Clouds down far below

I had a lovely welcome at the El Tejar, where for a bargain €15 they served me tomatoe and avocado salad, soup, grilled tuna and cake. The canaries really are a bargain. And I was asleep by 10pm

Day 2 38km to la caldera with 1700m up

It was a brutal start to the day, primarily due to the absence of coffee. The hotel had made me a breakfast the night before but there was no kettle in the room, so no coffee, in spite of me having some with me. I was awake at six and left at 6.20 with the head torch on. The mornings endeavours consisted of a 1100m climb up to the Degollada de Guajara, and I love seeing the sunrise from the top of a hill. The paths here are gentle even when climbing and the Spanish sensibly put nice switchbacks in place (unlike NZ where we save money and mileage by making the trails go straight up the hill).

Sun coming up

I took it slowly, pacing myself for a hot day and the views were epic. Starting by climbing through delicious smelling pine forest and then eventually hitting barren red volcanic rock and sand, with stunning barrancos (ravines) cut through them.

Trees in the dawn light

I had the entire trail to myself for the three leisurely hours strolling up to the Degollada and when I crossed over the ridge line the views of Tiede (the highest mountain on Tenerife) were spectacular.

It looks flat but it wasn’t, looking back down the hill
Morning haze

The next section of the trail was a flat but spectacular 13.5km stroll to el Portillo, with tiede to the left and cliffs to the right. After the uphill slog, the flat was nice, though I was disappointed to actually see some humans (8 trail runners and 4 hikers) in that section. It was hot and the windy and I was hungry (not much breakfast and I hadn’t packed many snacks), I was ready for it to be done….

First view of Tiede from Degollada
The long flat bit to El Portillo

Arriving at el Portillo was a blessing and a curse. I mistakenly went to the visitors centre in search of food and coffee. After waiting 15 minutes they sent me 150m down the highway to the restaurant. That was the most dangerous bit of my day….. bloody frightening with cars zipping by.

I was delighted to see the restaurant but horrified in equal measure at the mass of humanity – tonnes of men in leather with motorbikes and lots of Lycra clad cyclists of both genders. I had two coffees, a Diet Coke, a roll and a donut as big as my face. I shovelled food in my face looking like a hobo, and then headed out buying three Aquarius for the road.

My spirits were well restored with food, and made even better by a hilariously eclectic mix of music that kept me dancing and entertained for the 13km to aquamansa, where I didn’t see a soul. Just as well, as I was singing along to meatloaf, Dire Straits, Glen Campbell and the Moana soundtrack among other things, and I can’t carry a tune

I arrived at 16.20 in time to catch the bus down to Orotava, which is another lovely Canarian town on the hill with beautiful colonial architecture. I suspect the beaches here are horrendous and full of resorts but the hills are lovely. I’m staying at the delightful Hotel Rural Victoria, in a beautiful building but the rooms have probably seen better days 🙂

Sun 9th 30k hike to la Esperanza 1500 up, 1870 down

Another early start, thankfully with coffee! And I had a taxi take me up to La Caldera at 6am (no buses until 8am). It was a glorious morning and I meandered up the hill in the still darkness. After about an hour I started hearing cocks crow, and at one point I turned around to see lovely views of El Tiede in the south peeking through the trees looking like it was in fire.

There is an excellent few km of trail hanging off the side of the caldera. There is a sheer drop down the side into the ravine, and fortunately there are sections where the trail has handrails to stop you falling. The views out over the ocean were lovely

Path zigzagging on the other side of the ravine
Peligroso = dangerous

For the first 20km, I didn’t see a soul. The path was lovely, but not spectacular, as it was all in the forest so there were limited views.

The last 10 of the trail was a fairly uninspiring forest road which was largely an obstacle course in dodging Spanish mountain bikers. It was nice but not amazing

My feet were ready for the end when we hit la Esperanza, and google maps reliably led me to an excellent establishment where I refuelled with carne machado (pulled pork), multiple coffees and a piece of red velvet cake.

9 February 2020

Additional notes

Hiking style – The key issue on Tenerife is lack of water. Originally I had planned to wild camp the route, but I didn’t enjoy lugging 5-6kg of water when I hiked the GR131 in La Palma, together with a tent, sleeping bag and mat, as well as food and a cooker (with 17kg in total on my back). This time, I decided to go fast and light, with less than 3kg of gear and hotels booked every night. There is very little water on the trail, only at Vilaflor, Parador (a 7k detour), El Portillo, La Caldera and Siete Fuentes (not guaranteed).

Maps and guides – Paddy Dillon’s cicerone guide is excellent as usual but to be honest, quite a lot more information than you need. The full maps and trail notes are available for downloading at this site and are very good and detailed, and you can download all the gpx files also. Caers Bart wrote the best blog that i found, here . I load the gpx files onto gaia, onto which I had pre-downloaded the OS maps for spain

Packing Given the hours of daylight, I took a headtorch with me, but kept my overall pack very light. Full packing list here

Hotels – I stayed at El Tejar Hotel in Villaflor and Hotel Rural Victoria in Orotava. To get to Orotava from La Caldera I took the last bus down from Caldera. The buses are good and reliable, and details can be found on the amusingly named Titsa website.

Trailhead transport I took a taxi direct from the airport to Arona to start hiking (I landed at 13.35). I booked a pick up from La Esperanza with I was a bit sceptical about it arriving as I paid in advance, but it arrived

Flights – Direct flights from Gatwick to Tenerife with Easyjet. Annoyingly the late flight landed too late to take the Gatwick express, so I Addison Leed it home, arriving at 1am in time for a few hours sleep before heading to the office

Next time – I probably wouldn’t do the section from el Portillo to La Esperanza as I suspect there is better hiking in the Tiede national park, particularly on some of the ridge lines. The forest walks are lovely, but the landscape at altitude is stunning

Gr131 and the Caldera on La Palma

This is the first winter in years where I haven’t retreated to the Southern Hemisphere to go hiking and I desperately needed some long days walking and some tent time. I did my homework and decided to give the Canary Islands a go. They have never been high on my holiday list (although I have been previously for work), as I imagined them to be overrun with package tourists. However there are some epic trail races on the islands and the weather should be great as the islands are only a few hundred miles off the coast of Africa.

I am headed to La Palma, which has the most rugged terrain. The plan is to do the volcano route from Fuencaliente to Tazacorte (about 70Km), and a few routes in the national park of Caldera de Taburiente (about 40km) over a total of four days. I have my tent and a permit to sleep in Taburiente for one of the nights and will make up a plan for the other nights on the fly

I came to La Palma via Gran Canaria airport (which was candidly my idea of hell, heaving with package tourists) and I hoped like hell La Palma wouldn’t be the same. Arriving at La Palma the excellent taxi la Palma were there to pick me up and had bought me a bombona (gas canister for my stove), as it is the one thing you can’t fly with. He dropped me at the hostel in Fuencaliente, a bargain 30 euros per night for a private room with bath, albeit not much in the way of soundproofing, and I grabbed some supplies from the shop and hit the sack.

Day 1 Fuencaliente to Puenta de las roques (32km, 2200m of climbing 17kg pack)

I got up at six-ish and finally left at 7 in the pitch black with a head torch on. The sun doesn’t come up until 8, but I knew it would be a long day and the early bit wasn’t that scenic on the map.

It’s been so long since I hiked with 17 kg on my back that I have forgotten how hard it is!!!! All my gear is very light but I was unsure what conditions would be like on the tops so had bought a winter tent (1.8kg vs my normal O.4kg), and spikes for the snow (0.3kg), but nothing can make water ultra light and I wasn’t sure there would be water for the whole route so I took 6 litres with me! It was bloody heavy hauling it up the hill (and unsurprisingly I was over prepared but better to have than not have)

Heading up from Fuencaliente
First volcano through the trees

With the sun on my back I eventually got in a rhythm, albeit a really slow one as I slogged up the hills. I had the first three hours in blissful solitude. I had succumbed to putting some music on and was singing away happily to myself really enjoying the views when I passed the first of the many day hikers I would see coming the other way. I lost count at 60, by the speeds they were going I didn’t expect them all to make farocaliente before dark. The landscape is surreal and alternates between pine forest and pitted volcanic craters and pointy mountains. The nicest peak was The Volcan of Deseado which I could see for most of my day, it’s a distinctive point on the southern part of the islands spine

The volcanic rock paths were really well marked
One of the craters

I made it to El Pilar (after about 18km and 1400m of climbing or 450 flights of stairs according to the Garmin and 500m of descent) just after lunch where it turns out there is a tap so I carried an extra 4 kg for 18 km for nada. But I still need it for the next leg. Even better there was a snack truck! Two Aquarius (an excellent nonfizzy Spanish soft drink) , a cafe con leche, a hot dog and half a packet of biscuits later and I was a new woman!

After snoozing in the sun for a bit I strolled the 6km rolling path to reventon which was nice and easy as it was all in the forest. I stopped for a break and some food again when I got there (it took me an hour and a half, I swear I have never walked so slowly!). Apparently there is a good natural fountain at Reventon but I didn’t see it

After that it was a slow grunt up the final 700m climb over 6km to the punta de Los roques, punctuated by many breaks ostensibly to check my email, but really cos I was knackered. I saw the refugio de Los Roques peeking through the trees with the setting sun shining on it and I tried not to be too hopeful it was empty or not crowded. I was happy to tent but it was going to be cold at 2000m and I hadn’t seen too many flat spots. I eventually made it up the hill and the refuge looked delightful and was happily inhabited by a solo danish guy. So more than enough room for me (it probably sleeps 16 or 20 at a push).

Can finally see the refuge on the hill
The refuge well disguised

I set about hydrating, soup, decaf coffee, hydration fluids, cooking and eating in front of the refugio watching the amazing view. The sun went down and the light was breathtaking on the caldera. A bit more food and a good gossip with Soren (environmental law professor from Copenhagen) and we retired to bed at 8pm after checking out the stars (which are quite famous here as there is limited light pollution)

Sun going down from the refuge
The view down the island to Deseado from the refuge balcony

I had a mild fright at 10.30 when I woke up with someone crashing through the door of the refugio. Two spanish guys who had had a long day, they were suitably quiet while they ate and went to sleep so I managed to get back to sleep for awhile until one of them started making the weirdest snoring noises I have ever heard. I thought he was going to die as he kept stopping breathing. I gave up trying to sleep at 6am and got up to have a leisurely breakfast.

Luxury refuge – yes that’s all my gear, it explodes out of my pack
There was even solar power

Day 2 Refugio to Mirador El Time and then a shower (29km, 900m ascent, 2400m descent, 15kg pack)

The sun started to peak through the darkness around 7.15 so I went outside with my coffee for an epic sunrise with a stunning view of Tiede summit on neighbouring Tenerife.

The summit of Tiede on neighbouring Tenerife peaking through the clouds

I strolled out slowly at 7.30 less weighed down than yesterday but it was slow going. The route was stunning, for the first two hours I saw no one and the views out to the caldera with the sun hitting them were amazing. The walk meanders up and down the spine of the island though in most places the ridge isn’t narrow enough to give any cause for concern but I wouldn’t want to be up here in the fog.

The pine trees persist until about 2100m of elevation, and are lovely
Narrow path on the ridge

At some point after Pico de la Nieve the route comes close to the road and car parks, so I started running into ill equipped tourists skidding on the trails which were a tricky blend of sand, volcanic rubble and scree and rocks. I was already tired, so found a quiet spot to take a break and cooked up an early lunch.

It took me quite a while to hit the summit of Roque de los muchachos at 2430m, every summit was a false one, and I was low on water and thirsty. And I took a lot of breaks! When I did get there I didn’t stay long as there were about 500 tourists. There was a water tap next to the information booth marked ‘agua non potable’ which technically means it’s not drinkable but I was desperate. I had a litre and then saw the ranger and asked him if itnwas drinkable. He said they mark it that way to deter the tourists from drinking it, but the hikers ‘should know’ it’s ok as they block the tap if there is a problem (hmmmm not sure how I would have ‘known’, but was grateful nonetheless).

Part of the extensive observatory complex at Los Rocas

I left the summit at 13.30. My original plan had been to hike all the way down to the coast and then back up into the caldera. Checking out the map, the section from el time to Los llanos was entirely urban and not pretty and the route up from los llanos looked long and hot. So I decided to hike down to el time, bus to Los llanos and sleep in a hostel for the night for a shower and then head up to the caldera the next night.

That plan though did mean I had to book it down the hill to get the bus. It wasn’t far – 16km, but it was a 2200m drop. The path was rocky and while it eventually dropped under the tree line and had shade, the shade came with very slippery pine needles. The views on the first 8k were epic though, and there were very few people

Steep cliffs dropping down to the caldera with the trees holding on

The last 4km down (with 450m of descent) from the Torres to El time was interminable and without redemption. Rocky, steep, no shade, no view, and just the type of gradient where your toes get slammed into the front of your shoes (I’m pretty sure both big toe nails will be dropping off in a month). The only positive I could find about this interminable section was that at least I wasn’t walking up it. I had a mild sense of humour failure about 1km before the end as am sunburnt (forgot sunscreen and a hat) and was thirsty, so I stopped and downed my last litre of water and hoped like hell there was water at EL Time. Better than that, there was a bar with homemade cake. Two more Aquarius and an awesome slice of the owners banana caramel cake, and I whiled away 45 mins waiting for the bus to Los Llanos (and yes I know I can afford a taxi but I like buses)

Ok the bus was late, but I did get chatted up by a retired Swiss farmer on the bus who rents a room down here for six months in the summer. He was worried about me so walked me to the hostel. The hostel Vagamundo was all I needed, not as good value as Fuencaliente as it is shared bath and I had to rent a towel for €2, but €30 is fine. Then off to the important business of getting some fluid and calories in – off to the Argentinian steak house!

Day 3/4 into the caldera

After the gr131 the most recommended hiking on the island is in the caldera de Taburiente, you can hike into the crater and then take different routes up the sides. I had a campsite booked (free, see below) and had a plan for different hikes). After a leisurely 6km stroll into the camping from the mirador los brecitos, I was checking in and the ranger told me all the routes were closed due to landslides. I feel like this is the universe’s way of telling me to have a day off, so I pitched my tent, made some lunch and spent the afternoon reading and intermittently admiring the views

View from my tent up to Los Roques de muchachos
View from the playa de Taburiente
My new akto hilleberg getting its first outing

When I arrived this morning there was a loud party of Spanish people leaving – around ten of them with shiny gear, and I was hopeful they wouldn’t be replaced. Fortunately the campsite is vast and I pitched at the remotest end with the best view. I did go for a late afternoon stroll to check out the hills in the afternoon light and there was one other couple camping about 200m away, but still blissfully peaceful

Same view, different light

After an excellent and quiet sleep I extricated myself from my tent to watch the sun come up, had a coffee and slowly packed up. It was a delightful walk back to Los brecitos, though I passed about 20 people on their way in, and on the way back to Los Llanos I passed ten heaving van loads of tourists on their way to the trail so I had made a good choice on what day to visit (apparently Sunday is always quiet as the tourists go to the market)

Sun coming up hitting the top of the peaks
Same view in the morning

Day 4 afternoon chilling in Los Llanos

I spent the afternoon strolling around the lovely town of Los Llanos, stopping from time to time to have some tapas and a drink! There isn’t much to do but it’s quite lovely. I will be back as the hiking here is excellent and the infrastructure works quite well (taxis will drop off and pick off easily at trail heads and the buses work well).

Los Llanos de Aridane, December 30, 2019

Additional info

  • Water is the most problematic part of La Palma at least on the volcano route, so plan accordingly
  • Paddy Dillon’s cicerone guide to walking on La Palma is a good one, but is more set up for day walkers than long distance, and it doesn’t helpfully outline water sources
  • was an excellent resource and had most of the gpx trails to download
  • Buying gas for my stove was my one issue that I couldn’t figure out, so I asked the taxi company to buy me some and bring it with them to my airport pick up, and tipped them generously as it saved me a lot of hassle. (Note it turns out cooking of any kind is illegal in the national parks.). They also provide drop offs to trail heads, or if you have more time and less money the island bus service (guaguas) is excellent
  • It’s easy to book a campsite in the caldera de Taburiente for free, and bookings open 15 days in advance
  • Mountain weather forecast for the high route here (I was worried about snow when I went, as it has happened in December before)
  • Stayed at the hostel pension in Fuencaliente and the hostel vagamundo and hotel benohoare in los llanos