This post is sponsored by TopCar.
With an average annual temperature of 24 degrees, generally not falling below 20 Celsius even in the middle of winter, the Canary Islands are very popular holiday destinations for those of us living in cold Great Britain and the rest of northern Europe.
It’s easy to book a package holiday to a hotel resort by the sea in Tenerife, Gran Canaria or Lanzarote, or indeed one of the smaller islands in the archipelago, and not leave the comfort of the complex for a week. But I always recommend making an effort to get out and explore the local area; and what better way than by heading out on a short hike in the sunshine?
Six Short Hikes in the Canary Islands
In this post I recommend six short hikes in the Canary Islands – two in each of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and Lanzarote, these being the easiest to get to from the UK. I say recommend; I’ve hiked four of them, and two are still on my to-hike list. Each of these is easily reachable by hire car (more on that below).
Of course, there are hundreds of hiking options throughout this beautifully rugged set of Spanish islands, but here are just six short hikes to help encourage you away from the resort and out into the wilderness the next time you enjoy a trip away.
01 Roque Nublo, Gran Canaria
Roque Nublo is one of the biggest natural crags in the world. Of special significance to native islanders, the butte is of volcanic origin – as is much of the island landscape – standing 80 metres into the sky. The mountain itself is 1,813 metres above sea level and, I’m told, is situated bang in the centre of Gran Canaria. It’s been a popular spot for centuries; an ancient place of worship for the aborigines, it was declared a protected natural space in 1987 and a rural park in the mid-90s. It towers over everything in the vicinity, although isn’t quite the highest peak of Gran Canaria, that accolade goes to Pico de las Nieves (Snow Peaks) which is 1,949 metres high.
We parked our hire car at La Goleta, which is on the GC600 road in between San Bartolome de Tirajana and Tejeda. Our route was signposted, and there were plenty of people around making use of this trail making wayfinding simple, but of course we had a map as a backup just in case.
The path began as a well-made and reasonably flat affair, turning rocky underfoot and getting steeper after about half a kilometre. There were a couple of particularly steep sections that required the use of my hands (I have short legs, I often need to use my hands when others can step up a little easier), but nothing that was particularly technical or difficult. Everything underfoot felt solid and even though the hike is all about going uphill, it wasn’t particularly strenuous.
The views from the plateau atop the mountain, where Roque Nublo and its baby brother Roque de la Rana stand, are nothing short of amazing. It was a little hazy in the distance, but we could still see for miles and miles around, it was stunning. A short hike well worth the effort.
02 Caldera de Bandama, Gran Canaria
The Caldera de Bandama is a huge kilometre-wide crater in the Gran Canaria mountains over on the east of the island, formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago. We drove from Roque Nublo over to the Caldera (after doing the hike above), through the ravines of Las Goteras and Guiniguada, which was in itself a beautiful drive along winding mountain roads.
The crater is 216 metres deep, 574 metres high and 1,000 metres wide, and you can drive all the way to the top making the view accessible to everyone. For those who wish to put in the effort, it is possible to follow a rugged path all the way around the rim of the crater, and to get down into the basin, but before you do that make sure you view the crater from a distance, where it’s possible to take in the full scale of the hole in the ground.
The short hike I recommend here goes right into the caldera. With a reasonably steep descent at the start (and ascent at the end!), the lollipop route follows a volcanic gravel path which is loose in places, but easy to navigate. There are some truly lovely views, and despite never being far from the mountain road, it feels like you are in deep wilderness.
03 Roques de Garcia, Tenerife
Roques de Garcia is where you’ll find the remnants of an ancient volcanic crater wall within Teide National Park. The strange red rock formations and desert landscape is more than a little bit lunar, it is rugged, wild, barren, and beautiful.
You can, of course, pull up in the parking area (at Mirador de los Roques), and walk the short distance to the viewpoint to see the landscape without putting any effort in at all. But if you can, I would highly recommend heading out into the landscape to see it properly – from within it. This 3.5km loop around and in amongst the rocks does have a reasonably significant descent and ascent involved, but it is well worth the exercise.
The trail, which is easy to navigate (pay attention to the signs where the path splits), takes you past amazing rock formations in the first few hundred yards, including Roque Cinchado, El Torrotito, El Burro and Roques Blancos. There is also a great view of Mount Teide itself, assuming it’s not in cloud (which it often is!).
Once down in the basin of the caldera, you really get a sense of where you are – and when you are. There are rocks that look like waterfalls, steep cliffs and jagged rocks rising up out of the ground, hoodoos, and miles and miles of valley. The temperature changes significantly as you cross from sunshine into shade, and there is silence. A really beautiful place, and a short hike that should be at the top of your list when you visit Tenerife.
04 Montana Roja, Tenerife
Montana Roja is a sandy nature reserve with beaches, coves, rocks, a volcano and great views. Not just confined to the “red mountain”, the nature reserve covers 410 acres of inorganic sand and wetlands.
The Montaña Roja volcano sticks out of the landscape 171 metres (561 feet) above sea level, and is apparently the result of a coastal eruption that became joined to the island by lava – it literally erupted from the sea! There’s even an ancient salt flat here, nothing on the scale of those in Utah or Bolivia of course, but super interesting to see.
This peak stands out so significantly on the landscape, it absolutely must be climbed. It looks big but it’s not a difficult hill to summit, this 5km loop is beautiful, especially if you can make it up around sunrise. It’s a short but reasonably energetic hike; you’re walking on sand in the main, then up a reasonably steep hill.
The views from the white pillar atop of the rock are truly lovely – ocean to the south, La Tejita to the east, the airport and Mount Teide to the north, and El Medano to the west.
Don’t miss out the smaller Montana Bocinegro, an outcrop of the red mountain that points east and extends towards the bay of El Medano. You’ll find a second white pillar here, and if you come in the afternoon or evening will be able to sit and watch kit surfers enjoy the windy shoreline this side of the rock.
05 Montaña Colorada, Lanzarote
These last two recommendations are from my to-hike list, as while I’m yet to visit Lanzarote it’s most certainly somewhere I would like to explore. This first suggestion is just 3km and will take less than an hour, meaning you can do it and another one on the same morning – hiking doesn’t have to take all day.
Montaña Colorada is known as the red mountain, taking its name from the reddish colour formed by iron oxides in the lava that once flowed here. It was formed in the last eruption that created Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote back in 1730. Unusually, the ring of the volcano is intact (it hasn’t collapsed into a horseshoe), and it is well worth summiting to see that as well as the amazing panoramas all around.
This short hike goes up to the summit, then down, then back round a different way. My research tells me that the path is easy to follow (it is well signposted with information boards along the route), and well made in the main, with some slippery sections – especially when going downhill.
Another unusual sight here is the volcanic bomb that sits on the plateau beneath Montana Colorada. It’s a massive ball of solid lava, which occurred when the eruption cooled in the air before it reached. This is potentially the biggest volcanic bomb in the world at 16 feet tall, which definitely makes me want to see it for myself.
06 Cuervo Volcano, Lanzarote
My final recommendation is a short hike which I’m told is perfect for the whole family – easy going but with heaps of interesting features. Just down the road from Montana Colorada (both these hikes could be done in a single morning), at Caldera de los Cuervos you get to go into an actual volcano.
Better known as the Cuervo Volcano, this hike is within the Volcanoes Natural Park. This was the first volcanic cone generated during the Timanfaya eruption, which changed the landscape of Lanzarote, giving it an almost lunar appearance. It is not only a classic example of a simple crater, but it is also a symbol of the transformation of Lanzarote.
The 4.2km short hike takes you around the perimeter of a volcanic crater, and right inside it. There are information boards all around, and the views in the photos look utterly wonderful. Even though it is short and with relatively little ascent or descent, this really does look like a fabulous short hike, and is said to be a must-see.
Hiring a Car
Hiring a car is a must for me when holidaying somewhere like the Canary Islands. It increases our independence, and helps provide opportunities to properly explore – at our own pace.
Yes, there are buses on the Canary Islands which can get you to some of the starting points for these short hikes, but the benefit of hiring a car is that you have the ability to do your own thing. Get up early and hike at sunrise, leave it until late in the evening when it’s cooler, or hit up several short hikes in one day. All without relying on someone else or having to work out timetables.
We hired a car in Gran Canaria with TopCar, a company based in the Canaries, for our trip in 2018. We booked our car online in advance and it couldn’t have been easier. It was easy to pick up our car up from the airport, and we were off into the mountains in no time. On that occasion we stayed in a very rural hotel which meant a car was an absolute must, but the freedom it offered us to explore meant we won’t do a similar holiday without one now.
A Note about Hiking in the Canary Islands
I shouldn’t need to offer up a disclaimer, but I will… Each of these routes varies in distance and difficulty, and you should always research and choose routes that match your fitness (and how you like to spend your time outdoors). An added benefit of having a hire car is there is no excuse not to be prepared – don’t forget your hiking shoes, plenty of water, sun protection, and snacks. Take your time, don’t hike in the hottest part of the day, and be sure to practice and leave no trace.