Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Tenerife Guided Walks – Erjos Pools to Portela Baja

Arona council are organising a guided walk from the Erjos Pools to Portela Baja on the 25th April. The route is classed as being of medium difficulty and is about 8 kilometres long; it should take around 4-5 hours.

It’s €10 to take part and there’s a maximum of 25 places.

Call 922 761 600 to register.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Tenerife’s Most Popular Walk – The Barranco del Infierno (Hell’s Ravine)

It’s got a great name and it’s known as Tenerife’s most popular walk.

The Barranco del Infierno’s proximity to the main tourist resorts probably has more to do with it earning the title of Tenerife’s most popular walk than anything else. Lying at the top of Adeje old town, it’s easily accessed from Playa de las Américas, Costa Adeje and Los Cristianos and for that reason it attracts people who may not normally venture too far into the countryside. It’s not uncommon to see people arrive at the entrance to the walk dressed as though they were about to spend a day at the beach.

Basically the route involves venturing deep into a ravine, criss-crossing a trickling stream until it ends at a magical little grotto where there’s a small waterfall; anyone expecting Angel Falls might be a tad disappointed. Along the way it’s worth looking out for falcons, kestrels, wagtails and tiny green frogs in the little pools that run parallel with the path. The walk to the waterfall and back again takes around three hours.

There are a few factors which set this particular walk apart from hiking in other parts of Tenerife – some positive, others less so. Firstly for conservation purposes the number of walkers is limited to 200 people per day, so booking a reservation is recommended, if a bit at odds with walking most other places on the island where you can just more or less go where and when you want. There’s also a charge of €3 to enter the ravine; another unique aspect. Having a kiosk marking an entrance to a walk makes me think of the toll gate in Blazing Saddles.

The walkway itself has been nicely developed, but if you like your countryside paths to be more of a ‘walk on the wild side’, you might find it borders on being a tad manicured.

The big difference for me is the ‘kit inspection’ before you’re allowed to enter the ravine. Seeing the state of some people who turn up, I understand the safety reasons behind it, but it’s very ‘nanny state’ and it just doesn’t happen anywhere else on Tenerife.

However, saying all that, it is a very pleasant walk and the existence of streams, pools and a waterfall on the arid south coast is fascinating in itself. Serious walkers might find it not particularly challenging, but it’s a good introduction to exploring Tenerife on foot.

For me, walking the Barranco del Infierno is akin to reading an abridged version of a classic book.

Barranco del Infierno official website: There’s a downloadable pdf about the walk here.

Spring: A Magical Time for Walking in Tenerife

If you happen to be staying on Tenerife at the moment, take my advice and head into the hills at the first opportunity, the landscape is ablaze with a spectacular display of wild flowers. Possibly one of the best areas to experience nature’s artistic hand is in the northwest hills around Santiago del Teide, El Tanque and above Garachico.

It’s a few weeks since we walked in that area and at that point the hedgerows and borders of the little agricultural allotments were just beginning to fill with profusions of scarlet, violet and buttercup yellows.When we travelled the road the other day there were stretches where carpets of vividly coloured wild poppies covered the verge; it was stunning and I wished I’d had my walking boots in the car so I could just park up and head off along the first path I saw.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Walking on Tenerife - San Miguel to Mirador Centinela

One of the factors which makes Tenerife ideal for walkers is that, within reason, you can pretty much walk everywhere. You don’t tend to get red faced farmers jumping up and down waving sticks at you.

Camino Reales (old trading routes) and goat trails from past centuries have left a network of paths across the whole of Tenerife. Some are quite short and perfect when you want to stretch the legs, but aren’t in the mood for a 20 kilometre hike.

One of these is the camino real linking San Miguel de Abona and the Centinela Mirador in the south of Tenerife.

Armed with a route guide we picked up free from a tourist office we headed up hill to the starting point at San Miguel.

I’ve got a soft spot for San Miguel. It was the subject of our first location report for Living Tenerife Magazine and it was the place that made me realise that even in the main tourist areas in the south, you don’t have to travel far to find the Real Tenerife.

What happened next highlighted something we’d been saying ever since we started exploring this island on foot. Many of the officially produced guides are nice enough to look at, but are little more than guidelines in practice.

We couldn’t find the start of the route. There were no signpost and the directions in the guide didn’t match reality. We saw a postman so decided to ask him where the camino real was. You’ll never guess his reply…

“Hmmm, sorry…I don’t know where it is,” then he added a classic. “I don’t know this area very well.”

Talk about instilling confidence. We searched the area and eventually, after exploring a couple of back streets, settled on a road which looked promising. Within a few minutes we knew we’d chosen well. A tell tale cobbled path led into a barranco and soon we left the town behind and had descended into a barranco where the only sounds were the haunting cries of a pair of kestrels.

It was fascinating to think of the traders who had treaded this path in the past. Despite being able to see the airport and some of the modern coastal resorts like El Médano way below us, it felt as though very little had changed up here in 100 years. The path snaked past old jablé terraces and rundown cottages emerging onto a tarmac road with no signs. It took a bit of searching to find where the camino real started again near a place called La Hoya where there was a small, mostly abandoned, settlement of traditional agricultural architecture and an old tile kiln.

Just past La Hoya there was a wonderful little rural hotel. It was in a beautiful location, but we wondered how much business it would get out here. However, when you think about it though it might be ideally placed; feeling as though it’s in the middle of nowhere, yet it’s only short drive from Tenerife’s modern resorts of Los Cristianos and Playa de Las Americas.

We continued along the path until we emerged just below the Centinela Mirador. If you were starting the walk from the mirador, you’d be hard pressed to notice where it started as whoever landscaped the area around Centinela had completely obscured the path.

Conveniently placed benches below the main building were ideal for having a rest and some lunch. We tucked into our bocadillos whilst also feasting on some of the best views of the south coast you’re likely to find.

It’s a great little walk and opens up a very different face of the south of Tenerife. One note of warning; the Centinela Mirador is a wonderfully scenic spot for lunch, but the second you unwrap the bocadillos you’ll find yourself starring in a lizard version of Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.
The San Miguel to Centinela walk is part of The Old South Island Walks, delivered to your email within 24 hours.