Why You Need Directions for Walking in Tenerife

Every week I write a summary of the quirkier aspects of the news in Tenerife for Tenerife Magazine.  Picking out stories involves keeping an eye on a number of news reports from the Spanish press so it keeps me informed about all sorts of things going on around Tenerife. Every week there are news reports about hikers on Tenerife, nearly all of them involving visitors to the island.

This week there were at least two. One involved a 70 year old walker injuring himself after falling from a path just outside Puerto de la Cruz. There’s not much anyone can do about accidents apart from exercise as much care as possible…but every walker knows that.

The second story was about a visiting walker having to be rescued from Las Cañadas del Teide by helicopter after becoming completely lost. There is something everyone can do about this type of situation. Don’t head into Tenerife’s countryside unless you’re prepared.

Tenerife offers fantastic walking routes through a dramatic scenery and sometimes demanding landscape. Despite welcoming millions of tourists to its resorts each year, much of Tenerife is wild and untameable. Steep and deep ravines where farming is nigh on impossible characterise the length of the island. The wonderful climate that attracts visitors also has forests and plants growing at a rate you wouldn’t believe – paths can quickly become overgrown and difficult to spot.

We’ve followed pilgrims’ routes to find ourselves trapped by a thorny sea of brambles feet from our destination, a cave where the resident saint (a sculpture of at least) looked on pitifully at our progress. We’ve followed routes through ravines that were officially recommended to come to dead ends and spooky abandoned mining camps. We’ve even followed a route that suddenly ended where the path had collapsed into a deep, black abyss. The very first time we went walking in the Anaga Mountains armed with a map issued by the visitors’ centre we got hopelessly lost in dense forest where it was so thick that every direction looked exactly the same (in truth the map was so poor that you wouldn’t have been able to use it to find the visitors’ centre from the car park). We’ve followed signs to find that whoever put them up had obviously gotten bored half way around the route and simply stopped putting signs up.  And we’ve followed signposts that actually take walkers away from what we consider to be the highlight of the route.

All of these and many more have been adventures. It’s exploration and involves the satisfaction of feeling you’re taking on nature. But we live here; we have the time to invest in testing out routes that may lead to a ‘WOW’ sight or, alternatively, nowhere. And, importantly, we know the terrain. We know the lie of the land and where things are, or where they should be. Take down a signpost or even a lone hut that acted as a helpful landmark and we can still figure out which is the right way to proceed… with or without a compass.

Someone on holiday for two weeks doesn’t have that luxury and heading into the wilderness without preparation when you’re not familiar with the terrain could be asking for trouble. It doesn’t matter whether you buy our routes or someone else’s but the reality is that the freebie walking map in the tourist office isn’t actually going to help you when the way ahead becomes unclear.

You’d think that it would be difficult to become lost walking in Las Cañadas del Teide where Mount Teide mostly acts as a guiding beacon… but people manage it.

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