La Gomera, the second smallest of the islands, is a subtropical paradise where lush greenery abounds. The steep mountainous terrain has characteristic jagged edges that give this place an other worldly feel, to the point you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d landed on a Hollywood set. There are two trails that make this terrain easier to cross: the first takes you to the laurel tree forest in the centre, and into the Garajonay Nature Park and the 1,487-metre (4,879-feet) mountain with the same name, while the second take you in a circle around it. Make sure your camera is fully charged as you won’t want to run out of juice tramping through this super-photogenic landscape.
Around 4.5 million years ago a massive eruption reshaped Gran Canaria and left a lava landscape on the island’s surface. Over time, this lava eroded, leaving dramatic outcrops such as the iconic Roque Nublo. Standing at 80 metres (263 feet) tall, it is one of the world’s largest free-standing rocks and the second highest peak on Gran Canaria after Pico de las Nieves. It is possible that that Roque Nublo is the volcanic shaft or pipe where the lava would have erupted from all those millennia ago. It was also considered an ancient worshipping site for native islanders and became a protected site in 1987. It’s about a five-hour hike from the start in El Garañón, but a fantastic reward for those who reach the summit.
If you pay a visit to the highest peak of La Palma – climbing up to 2,426 metres (7,959 feet) – you’ll find the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory. One of many telescopes situated above the cloud layer, with wide clear skies in all directions, you can see why this summit was selected as an observational site. There’s also something eerily futuristic about the glittering white domes dotting the dark arid landscape. It’s about three-and-a-half hour hike, and is not too strenuous, though the trail is also used as a running path for the ultra-fit.
Starting in 1730, Lanzarote experienced six years of volcanic eruptions. These eruptions created a lunar landscape complete with 20 new volcanoes and produced some of the earth’s newest land through solidified lava fields. The area is still active and you can visit these volcanoes of Timanfaya and feel the heat under your feet. You can even have a barbecue using the earth’s natural heat with temperatures reaching 600°C (1,112°F) just 10 metres (33 feet) below the surface. While you are there head further south and pay a visit to the famous vineyards of La Geria. After the volcanic eruptions of 300 years ago, the locals realised the black grit that was now all over their seemingly spoilt land, had in fact made it more fertile and they set to work making wine, naturally.
Nature is the earth’s greatest artist and nowhere is this clearer than at the Cascada de Colores, a colourful waterfall made up of minerals, moss and algae of differing greens, oranges and yellows. This special site is accessed via the trails in Barranco de la Angustias – it’s quite a difficult five-hour round trip, scrambling over rocks, perhaps with wet feet if it’s been raining, but you’ll pass other waterfalls on your way and be rewarded with the stunning Cascada at the end.
Located on a rocky outcrop in the middle of a steep ravine are a handful of houses that make up the tiny and ancient Masca village. It was only connected by a very windy road in 1993, and before then inhabitants had to make do with a simple dirt track. Now it is a popular spot for visitors who come and start the three-hour walk from the village and head towards the little black sand beach below for a well-earned swim.
To the south of Tenerife you’ll find the Parque Natural de la Corona Forestral, the largest nature reserve in the Canary Islands. A wonderful area to walk around and steeped in history, it is also home to the captivating sight of the lunar landscape. The hillside of soft volcanic beige ash has been eroded over hundreds of years to form conical landscapes of other worldly illusions. The walk here is over ancient trails – former trade routes between villages – and through pine forests, starting out at Vilaflor, Tenerife’s highest village.