A question we get asked on a regular basis is “are there long distance walking routes on Tenerife?” This is usually followed up with “I want to walk from A to B, staying at hotels/pensions/hostels along the way. Can you advise me how to do this?”
The answer we give to the first question is yes. The answer to the second is no, although worded a bit more diplomatically than just an abrupt ‘NO’.
On the face of it, that might sound curt and unhelpful. But to understand why we can’t help people when they ask these sort of questions involves understanding what ‘long distance routes’ are and what creating one involves.
Across Europe there are various ‘ready-made’ long distance routes, trails that you can walk day after day, covering as many kilometres as you want. The various routes which form the Camino de Santiago is a famous example. There are many others, some crossing different countries; the Alpe-Adre route starts in Austria and ends, 750km later, in Italy, passing through Slovenia on its way south.
In the Canary Islands, the GR131 is a, mostly, well marked long distance route which runs across all the islands except Gran Canaria. On Tenerife it covers around 86km between El Rosario (near Santa Cruz) and Arona in the south. Many long distance paths have a logical purpose, the GR131 isn’t one of them. It seems to join two arbitrary points, and subsequently isn’t what most of the hikers who ask us about long distance walking trails are looking for. Walkers who enquire about long distance paths tend to have specific routes they want to follow, ones which are unique to their personal preferences.
You don’t need ready-made long distance trails if you want to walk for a number of days in a row, following a trail which takes you from where you want to start from to where you want to end. Tenerife is a big enough island to have any number of possibilities for long distance paths. I’ve seen people refer to it as a small island, but it’s nearly 100km long from the eastern tip to its western one, and that’s only as the crow flies. The Scottish island I grew up on, Bute, is 25km long. That’s a small island.
On Tenerife there are hiking trails everywhere. Unlike the likes of Scotland, and some other European countries, there is no ‘right to roam’ in Spain. However, on Tenerife it feels as though there is as there are so few places where you can’t walk. And that’s where part of the problem lies. It’s possible to piece routes together from numerous starting points across Tenerife, creating trails where you can walk day after day, staying in characterful accommodation along the way.
But creating just one short walking route takes time and effort. Obviously we know this as we’ve produced a series of walking routes on Tenerife and are aware of exactly how long it took us to do each. There’s all sorts of other information included as part of our routes, but even without these and not including physically walking and recording the routes, their preparation alone eats up time.
As it happens, as well as writing directions for stand-alone walking routes for Tenerife, we also do specialise in designing itinerant walking packages, where people walk from hotel to hotel over a number of days. These are basically long distance trails.
In fact, this aspect of our writing work is thanks to our Tenerife walks. Nearly a decade ago, UK Slow Travel specialists Inntravel saw our Walking Tenerife website and contacted us to ask if we’d be interested in working with them to check walking route directions in the Canary Islands. ‘Checking’ soon evolved into helping design itinerant walking holidays. To date we’ve helped put together eight walking packages for the Canary Islands. This work evolved further, to designing customised packages in countries across Europe. We’ve now helped create (literally, as many routes don’t exist as single entities outside of the Inntravel holidays) long distance trails in off the beaten track locations in Germany, Austria, Portugal, mainland Spain, France, and Greece.
The amount of preparation, planning, and execution involved in each is epic, involving a lengthy process. We’ve just put the finishing touches to a guidebook which accompanies an itinerant walking holiday we helped design for Peneda-Geres National Park in the north of Portugal. The process started nearly a year ago with a reconnaissance visit to the area. It’s taken since then to pull all the necessary components together. As well as the challenge of making a number of routes ‘work’ by knitting paths together, these components involve identifying suitable hotels, transport links, places to eat and to buy supplies, researching ethnology and history, finding out and sampling local gastronomy, looking for sites of interest, and various other ingredients which, when pulled together, complete a fully rounded itinerant walking holiday package.
So, when anyone asks for help with putting together a customised, long distance trail for them we have to politely have to decline. The alternative would be to say “yes, but it’s going to cost a hell of a lot of money.”