Tenerife, Canary Islands of Spain

Tenerife: An overlook off the side of the road on our way to hike.
Tenerife: An overlook off the side of the road on our way to hike.

The Air is Sweet with Salt in Tenerife

Hiking on the northeastern end of Tenerife.
Hiking on the northeastern end of Tenerife.

By Andy Christian Castillo

The air is sweet with a hint of salt midst wildflowers in Tenerife, Spain’s Anaga Rural Park. My boots follow a rough trail over sandstone rocks into the dense fog.

It suddenly lifts. The landscape materializes and I get my bearings. Ahead is a white lighthouse at the bottom of a hill. The world ends there, dropping into the endless ocean.

The trail zigzags its way down, sometimes precariously close to a cliff’s edge on my right and left. Waves foam at the bottom, crashing on jagged rocks..

The flowers are the same color as the ocean, hiding in thick grass that’s buffeted by a strong wind, rustling in angst.

Rapid Landscape Changes

“The landscape changes rapidly here, going from forest to arid climate very quickly,” the words of my guide, Javier Chirivella Costa from Guia de Turismo de Canaries have proven true.

“When people think of Tenerife, they think of the sea and the sun. But there’s no place more unique,” he’d said as my group of about 10 hikers cinched backpacks and slathered on sunscreen.

Adobe structures built into cliff faces.
Adobe structures built into cliff faces.

Our trek more than two hours before started in an arid landscape at the northeastern-most end of Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s seven Canary Islands. To get here, Costa had driven nausea-inducing roads, overlooking expansive ocean vistas. We’d traveled hours until the road ended. Then, continued on foot.

Dipping into Forest

Cresting a steep hill overlooking a quaint white village, the trail had suddenly dipped into the thick forest, deep in shadow. With it rose birdsong, and the temperature dropped noticeably.

Now, just miles away, there wasn’t a tree in sight and the ocean lay in front.

Tenerife: An “Eternal spring”

Tenerife’s climate is mild, subtropical. Formed by volcanos, it’s incredibly mountainous with rocky beaches — booked by Tenerife No Limits, a tourism brand that promotes the region, as a place of “eternal spring.”

Over the years, its alien geology has been a desired location for Hollywood movies including Furious 6 and Clash of the Titans.

A small village where our hike started from.
A small village where our hike started from.

Tenerife is about 770 square miles and boasts a population of roughly 900,000. Forty percent live in urban centers like Santa Cruz (a slick, modern city with crisp angles and a lot of glass), an hour away by car.

Out here in the wilderness sun, though, it’s hard to believe anyone lives on the island at all. Small adobe structures, built dramatically into cliff faces, indicate a native population. But there’s no one around.

Monstrous Tangles

Instead, cacti dominate the rocks, monstrous tangles of green spikes. Mountains stretch out like a wrinkled rug. Ravines cut sharply down to the sea, mimicking the waves. Mountain goats sprint effortlessly through it all.

Across shale rocks, carefully, I reach the lighthouse and sit on a stone wall nearby, pulling out water. It’s hot, quiet, peaceful. Nothing but the wind on my burning skin and sweet smelling sea.

A small lizard skitters out from beneath a rock. Then another, and a third. Suddenly, I’m surrounded by curious lizards moving toward me in quick dashes. When I look, they freeze and creep forward when my back is turned.

“Lizards arrived at the islands on tree trunks from Africa,” Costa says, leading the rest of our tour group to the lighthouse just then. The lizards scatter into harsh shadows.

Formed by Volcanoes

The author, pausing from the hike.
The author, pausing from the hike.

Millions of years ago, the Canaries were three islands. They became separated into seven by lava flows over the years. More recently, and that being relative, two volcanos erupted here a few thousand years ago, Costa continues.

Ridges and lowlands were formed, which are now plentiful with banana trees, the island’s main crop.

Unique Foods in Tenerife

“Instead of shipping from far away, they planted closer to Europe, here in the islands,” Costa explains.

The food here is also unique. Because of Spain’s influence, salsa abounds. But there’s also influences by natives, potato dishes from Latin America (also colonized by Spain), and imports from Africa which is closer than Europe.

I put away my water, say goodbye to the lizards, and follow Costa away from the lighthouse down a narrow trail winding along the coast. Low slung stone walls line the trail, soon.

Eventually, we reach a small village. There’s no electricity here. Certainly no roads, and maybe no running water.

Multicolored adobe houses overlook a black stone beach. A few hikers strip down and jump into the waves. A man who lives there emerges from a house and offers us beer. I decline, but others don’t. His dog, a collie, runs yapping toward us looking to play.

With waves at my feet, I sit against driftwood taking it all in.

Tenerife Travel Tips

A rugged landscape in Tenerife.
A rugged landscape in Tenerife.

Wear long pants. It gets cold in the mountains, very quickly, even if it’s hot down below.

Rent a car. There’s not all that much public transportation, especially not in the mountains.

Book in advance. There are so many fantastic hiking, cycling, and other outdoor opportunities in Tenerife that it’s impossible to hit them all. Research beforehand, figure out what you want to do, and plan your trip before you arrive.

Places to Stay

Montes de Anaga Hostel

Carretera El Bailadero Chamorga, 38129

Santa Cruz de Tenerife


Meliá Hacienda del Conde

Calle La Finca, s/n, 38480

Buenavista del Nte., Santa Cruz de Tenerife


Things to Do

On Tenerife’s coast, I tried surfing in the ocean for the first time, and also took my first lesson in kitesurfing (which is learning to fly the kite). From stand up paddleboarding to paragliding, Tenerife’s a place for the adventurous. So come prepared.

Anaga Experience

TF-12, 28, 38139

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

A small village by the coast.
A small village by the coast.


Cardon NaturExperience

Calle La Finca, s/n, 38480

Santa Cruz de Tenerife


Find a full list of possible activities, and companies to book through, click here.

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