Adventure travel rules, and certainly the Canary Islands have a lot to offer when it comes to extreme sports, but if you want holiday bragging rights without facing extreme danger, then Tenerife has the answer for you in the Teide National Park. How about going home to brag about a high altitude hike through the heart of a volcanic crater?
This route, named Siete Cañadas, which translates to something like “Seven Plains,” takes you from the Parador roughly to the visitors’ centre near El Portillo, and encompasses a slice or two of Tenerife history on the way, yet compared to many island hikes, it’s flat, rising only around 150 m over 16 km, making it quite do-able. Including stops for photo ops, it took me about five hours, walking at a medium pace, not dawdling unless photographing.
The route follows what was originally camino chasnero, the road constructed by the Conquistadors to connect north to south. Over this route came chestnuts and pigs from Icod de los Vinos and the island’s north, and in return potatoes and figs travelled from Granadilla and Vilaflor in the south.
We set out early, leaving a car at the parador, and timing our walk to arrive in El Portillo in time for the return bus. A word of warning: local bus service, TITSA, is infrequent. Check the times carefully, especially if you are coming up from the coast by bus. There are services from Puerto de la Cruz, in the north and Playa de las Americas in the south.
Next time I plan to begin at El Portillo. Why? Well, because that gives me a long stretch with no shade in the early morning before it gets too hot. There is little shade on the walk at all, and even if you don’t plan to picnic you should take plenty of water and snacks.
Although it’s flat, the trail is littered with rocks of all shapes and sizes, reminders of the huge volcanic forces which forced them from the earth, and if further reminders are needed, the walls of rock which enclose the caldera are surreal shapes, more like the moon than earth.
The middle part of the trail is dotted with the abandoned remains of simple dwellings, some goatherds’ cottages and goat pens, and others used by the sick, who used to come to breath the pure mountain air. Nearby we came across skeletons of an army of tajinaste, evidence of the plant’s abundance the previous year, for we saw only a scattered few on this occasion.
Walking north to south you also save the best, most spectacular landscape for last. Shortly before the end you spy El Capricho, a volcanic formation so other-worldly it made me gasp the first time I saw it. Its weirdly-twisted peaks totally different in colour from its surroundings, it’s no surprise to learn that Guanche mummies were found in its caves. Behind it rises Alto de Guajara named for a Guanche princess who allegedly threw herself from its heights. The area overwhelms with its natural history, and intrigues with its legends.
Almost all the length of the walk El Teide seemed to be watching us, the world’s third largest volcano reminding us that we were trespassing on his domain, and hinting of the power of volcanoes.
Category : days out
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