Think of Tenerife and I’m willing to bet my handbag collection that fitness won’t be the first thing to spring to mind. Or in the top ten for that matter. But it should be.
5 million tourists flock to the volcanic island of Tenerife each year and for most holidaymakers, the Canaries tick the package holiday sun, sand and Sangria boxes. That’s great if you need some beach-shaped relaxation but, as host to four of Spain’s impressive 14 national parks, the islands have everything fitness fans need for an active holiday, with spectacular scenery and the balmy embrace of the sun to boot.
Where to trek North of Tenerife is slightly further off the tourist trail and is as close to the ‘real Tenerife’ as you can get. Think thick, evergreen forests, leafy pinewoods as well as contrasting volcanic scenes, banana plantations, soft, sandy beaches and dramatic cliffs and you’ve got the picture. With an ever changing landscape at every turn and beautiful sights to behold, getting lost (not literally) in the natural landscape is a better distraction than an ipod any day.
Many historic tracks that criss-crossed the island have now been turned into trails for avid walkers so there are endless routes you can take, even if you’re not exactly the most athletic type (ahem). For somewhere to trek that’s naturally scenic but also away from the glare of the sun, the Anaga Rural Park, on the north east of the island, is as far from touristic Tenerife as you can get. Parts of the park are estimated to be 7 million years old so trekking here is a rare opportunity to check out one of the oldest parts of the island, a world away from the bustling resorts and crammed-like-sardines beaches we associate with the Canaries.
Pick a route, any route There are so many itineraries to choose from but my guide opted for the trekking route “Ensillada” which takes about 3 hours for the moderately fit and, although shaded by trees for the most part, there are many stop off points on the way to view the incredible scenery of the island so keep your camera handy. Spot small hamlets and have a bird’s eye view across many inviting beaches. Nature fans will love Anaga for its Laurel forest where certain types of plants, including a rare violet flower, exist only in this park. Keen trekkers can aim for Anaga’s highest point, Cruz de Taborno, standing at 1024m high. Your thighs may ache afterwards (oh, they will ache) but the breath-taking views of the coastline, brightly coloured villages and view above the clouds make it worth it times a million.
Need to know The rural parks of Anaga and Teno are protected natural environments so you need a permit from the local tourist office to walk here but don’t let that put you off, the permit is free and easy to get hold of. For somewhere cheap and cheerful to stay, the Albergue Montes de Anaga hostel is right outside the park and guests can stay from just €15pp per room.
Mount Teide A holiday in Tenerife is not complete without a visit to Teide, the island’s famous dormant volcano. Teide National Park is one of the most visited in Europe, with between 2 – 3 million visitors a year descending on this sprawling World Heritage Site .
At 3,718m high, Teide is the highest mountain in Spain and centuries ago it was considered the highest mountain in world. With a free permit, you can trek up to Teide’s summit and the park itself is a playground for nature and fitness lovers. Like everywhere on Tenerife, the park is a contrasting mix of evergreen plants and dramatic sandy desert marked by rugged rocks. On a clear day, you can spot other Canary Islands on the horizon.
With the endorphins flowing and the sheer beauty of the island all around you, you’ll never look at the Canaries the same again after you’ve trekked there. Just don’t forget to pack your sunnies.
The important stuff:
Stay: The Hotel Rural Costa Salada, Tenerife is a rustic Canarian treat beside the sea www.costasalada.com.
Getting there: Aer Lingus fly direct to Tenerife from Dublin. Go to www.aerlingus.com for fare info.
Click on my pics below to check out some gorgeous Tenerife scenery: