With some of the longest sunshine hours on Tenerife, spectacular sunsets over the neighbouring island of La Gomera and a calmer, less commercialised feel to it than the larger southern resorts, the south west coast has long attracted families and couples to its shores.
But before the conglomeration of apartments and villas that lie at the foot of the giant cliffs of Los Gigantes were constructed, before the dolphin watching trips, the swathes of banana plantations and the development of the resorts that line its shoreline, the communities above the south west coast had a thriving agricultural life and tile production industry. Today those field are overgrown, the threshing eras are filled with weeds and the tile kilns lie derelict.
Criss crossed with the trails that used to take workers to the fields and tiles to export points, the south west hills provide some splendid walks through the ghosts of its past and spring some surprises along the way.
Walking Routes and What To See
Lost Worlds and Lava uncovers some of the best scenery the South West of Tenerife has to offer, along with a fascinating look into a former way of life.
The first of three very different walks covered in the guide, The Lost World follows a trail past disused water tanks, discarded tile kilns and a derelict cottage which, with a great deal of patience and most of B&Q, could be someone’s idyllic island getaway, to a hidden, abandoned village where 150 people lived up until the 1970s. Once a thriving cereal growing area, the village began to die when, led by market forces, its water sources were diverted to the coast for banana and tropical fruit cultivation. One by one families left their homes and followed the work to the coast, leaving their pretty cottages with their tiled roofs to dereliction and their hard worked terraces to grow wild.
Today life is returning to the village as one or two people reclaim their past.
The Lost World is a linear route of some 6 kilometres which takes around 4hrs 15mins to complete. Terrain is not difficult and there are no overly demanding ascents and descents (with the exception of one, optional, short burst of climbing), making it well within the range of reasonably fit walkers.
By contrast, An Explosive Landscape follows the path of Tenerife’s last volcanic eruption in 1909 when, for 10 days, Chinyero Volcano sent rivers of molten lava heading towards the hamlets of the Santiago del Teide valley. The solidified fields of pumice and obsidian lend the landscape a surreal beauty and one which can rarely be matched anywhere on the planet. In spring particularly, an abundance of wild flowers add yellow and pink flashes to the blackened earth, framed by emerald pine forests.
Wooded paths, panoramic views and a surreal landscape are constant companions on An Explosive Landscape‘s 6 kilometre route which takes around 2hrs 15 minutes. The terrain provides easy and level walking, apart from those pesky lava fields which can be footsore but are mercifully short lived.
The third route, Cereal Killers, explores the heart of the cereal growing and tile producing industry country where the path is lined by a string of derelict brick kilns, overgrown threshing eras (circles) and abandoned terraces filled with the swaying and bowing heads of wild wheat and barley amidst the grasses. Quaint hamlets and picturesque cottages keep the camera snapping all the way to a popular mirador (viewpoint) where vast views over the south west coast lie below the landscaped terraces with their tables and umbrellas.
Cereal Killers is a circular, 2hr route covering 6.2 kilometres and is uphill pretty much all the way to the mirador – not in a pass-me-the-oxygen-mask way, but enough to bring on a sweat. To compensate, the return journey is almost entirely downhill yay!
Getting to the Walking Routes
All the Lost World and Lava routes are easily accessible by car from anywhere along the south and south west coast and with a bit more effort and time, from Puerto de la Cruz and the eastern resorts of El Médano and Golf del Sur. Lost World and Cereal Killers are readily accessible by public transport from any of the resorts along the south west coast and from Los Cristianos. An Explosive Landscape is not accessible by public transport.
Lost Worlds and Lava is one of a series of seven Island Walks sets of detailed walking directions in PDF format available to buy online.