Hiking the Badlands of Tenerife

Fri, September 7th, 2012 - By Linda

The first time I visited the Teide National Park is seared in my memory, despite the numerous times I’ve been since – something to do with scorching August temperatures being appropriate to the surreal rock formations and arid terrain. Part of the National Park is known as Malpais, or Badlands; terrain where little of use grows, but it isn’t the only area on the island to rejoice in the Wild-West-sounding name.


Lava bridge

These days I rarely walk in summer, and if I do, I’d choose the cooler slopes of the Anaga Mountains. However, arriving in Anaga one July morning, we were met with drizzle. Welcome as the thought of rain was, we didn’t think there was much point in following the planned route, since the views would be obscured, and so we headed downhill, and to the Malpais de Güimar.

This quite spectacularly desolate area lies on the coast, about five kilometres from the inland town of Güimar (best known these days for its mysterious pyramids).


Parking on the edge of the village of Puertito de Güimar, we were soon on a path which took us along a dirt track across scrubland, surrounded by giant cacti, making us feel like ants in comparison. There are various trails across this arid landscape, and we had chosen to do the circular walk which would bring us back to the village.

The lack of rain in recent years has left the area even more barren than usual, cacti and tabaiba being almost the only surviving plantlife, and, like my experience in the National Park it seemed appropriate to be hot and sticky – more in tune with the landscape!


We began our walk uphill, but it wasn’t taxing, despite the heat, and about a third of the way we stopped to admire the views along the coast in both directions, and unintentionally feed the lizards which appeared from every nook and cranny when I dropped a piece of apple. After that, turning downwards towards a coast dominated by black rocks which contrasted with the infinitely blue ocean, we were traversing what were unmistakeably lava beds. It didn’t take much imagination to sense the eruptions which had left such an impression on the coast. The main volcanic cone is called Montaña Grande, and the last eruptions were something like 10,000 years ago, not that long geologically-speaking.

The area is part of the Canarian Network of Protected Spaces, and like so many walks in the Canary Islands it’s something of a walk with history as well as great exercise. Lava tunnels have collapsed in places giving us a glimpse into the interior of the rock formations. Though not on the scale of Cueva del Viento in Icod de los Vinos, it’s still something like stepping back in time.


Various elements of human history are evident too, particularly the saltpans which were fashioned into the rock close to the sea. In use only decades ago, at high tide the sea would fill the pans and the sun would evaporate the water, leaving behind sea salt which was used for cooking and for preserving food.

Returning to Puertito de Güimar we quenched our thirsts with cold beers harbour-side and feasted on fresh fish, eel and seafood – after a three-hour walk a feast well-deserved I think!

Posted : Friday, September 7th, 2012 at 9:47 am
Category : about tenerife
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