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Walking in La Palma

Our guided, group walking and climbing holiday in La Palma Island - March 2008

We travelled to La Palma via Tenerife.  We arrived Tenerife South airport, transferred to the North airport by taxi, 1 hours, and thence to Santa Cruz de la Palma using local small Binter aircraft.  We stayed at the Paradores Hotel, near Los Cancajos about 4km south of Santa Cruz and 2km north of the airport.  We would have done better to stay at either Las Olas Hotel or Hacienda San Jorge apartments which were much closer to the beach.  Guided walking tours are organised by Natour who hire coaches morning and afternoon to take you to the starts of the walks and collect you ant the end of the walks, throughout the island.  You need to book the walks in advance.  Once ready for a walk there are several leaders, who split the party up according to language and then take slightly different routes. The local guides were all very knowledgeable and helpful.


Hotel Paradores, Los Cancajos


Cacti in North West La Palma


The path and a smaller Dragon tree


Well signed GR130 walking path

Saturday: Pick up 9:10am.  Our first walk was called "Dream Paths" in the north west of La Palma from the village of Las Tricas.  Total 6km, 100m climb, 400m down, 3 hours. The initial route was down an ancient stone path amongst many flowers, small cottages, a lady selling local almond nuts, cultivated terraces towards the coast.  The path then turned north and crosses over several ravines, or barrancos, giving good views on the headlands and interesting vegetation and wild flowers in the gorges.  On one headland, after passing a Gofio Mill, we found the oldest, one thousand year old, dragon tree.  We ate our picnic lunch overlooking the sea to the north, watching the white tops breaking on the waves in the bright sun.   In the final gorge we found a number of cave dwellings and colony of hippies living amongst their cultivated terraces.  The weather was good, sunny with light breeze.  Water was essential and we had followed the recommendation to take 2 litres of water per person.  The coach picked us up near Santo Domingo de Garafia, then direct back to our hotel. Return 18:00pm.


Wild flowers and sea views


Climing up towards La Somada Alta


This is not a wild flower as I had thought but a distinctly un-wild flower called Proteas, originally from South Africa, and a popular import some years ago.


Down the path through the enchanted forest

Monday and Thursday:  Depart 09:10.  The walk today was called "Enchanted Forest".  7 km, climb 350m, descend 550m 4 hours.  The starting point was on a forest road in Cubo de la Galaga to the north east of la Palma, following a brief coach ride.  Somewhat cloudy today as we climbed the hill, zig-zagging up the track with frequent stops to note the typical trees and plants. At the top, the viewpoint of La Somada Alta (900m) we had the impressive view of mist - we were up in the clouds and just had to stand around on the terrace pretending that we were enjoying views across the wooded hillside with the sea in the distance, while we had lunch.  The downward return section was really the most impressive.  This was a winding hiking trail down a long gorge, all inside the deep green forest.  You needed to be careful with tree roots but the most hazardous sections, where the path went along the steep sides, was fenced and the dense foliage prevented you suffering from vertigo.  I would not recommend this walk on a rainy day as it could get rather muddy, wet and slippery underfoot.  Back on the road there was a refreshment stop, followed by two options, continue in the gorge right down to the coast (extra 3km, 100m down) or travel in the coach.  About half of the people on the walking tour stopped and used the coach.  Return 17:30pm


On the twisty windy road, about half way up just before the trees disappear and the rocks begin, 1950m

Telescope at 2431m Roque Muchachos.
To get clear view of sky at night.

Looking down into the deep
Caldera de Taburiente

Magic telescope: atmospheric gamma  imaging Cherenkov. 17m dia, watching for faint flashes of light as high energy gamma rays hit the atmosphere.

Tuesday:  Depart 09:10.   "Roof of the Island".  6km, up 150m, down 300m.  All at altitude of around 2426m.  This adventure was particularly exciting and involved a long coach journey up a very twisty windy road, via 423 hairpin bends, to the top of the main mountain of La Palma.  As the height increased the vegetation changes and gradually thinned out.  We had a rest stop in the shade of a pine forest.  Further up the views opened out and eventually it was bare black and red lava rock in all directions, smooth slopes of fine lava gravel amongst hard jagged lava rocks, little changed from when they had cooled.  The high altitude and clear skies here have long attracted astronomers and the top of the mountain has many large telescope observatories and is centre for major scientific research.  All the telescopes are now remotely controlled from universities around the world.  Only recently was the last old telescope automated and the last astronomer sitting at the eyepiece made redundant by CCD digital camera techniques and computer imaging.  The guide for the walking tour today was able to tell us about all the telescopes and about the research being conducted remotely by universities around the world.  Good sun glasses are needed to protect your eyes from the ultra-violet light at this altitude.


2m Liverpool schools telescope

Another astronomical observatory

Recently had its eyepiece removed and a computer camera installed.

GR131 walking path, steep red volcanic slopes.

Visitors centre - Volcano
Start of walk at Los Canarios.

Walking amongst the colourful cacti.

View south toward Volcan San Antonio

Lighthouse with VSAT satellite dish
at Far o de Fuencaliente

Wednesday: Teneguia Volcano walking tour.  6km, 20m up and 700m down. 3.5 hours.
The coach took us to Fuencalientes Los Canarios, towards the southern end of La Palma.  The route was essentially due south down to the coast via recently created volcanic landscape, with open views to the east and west.  After visiting the museum, the first volcano, a neat cone some 660m high, came into view.  It was called Volcan San Antonio, and was created in 1677.  The walking guide Peter explained the story.  The path down led through a landscape of volcanic lavas and debris.  We viewed a scary TV programme, seen before we left home, that suggested that part of the south west corner of La Palma might suffer a landslip into the sea and cause a tsunami with would devastate the east coast of the USA. On seeing the island we concluded that this was complete nonsense.  The hillside there was quite stable, and even with volcanic activity and earthquakes only piece-meal and slow fragmentary rock slides were credible, causing no more that a few local waves.  Some say the TV programme was a publicity stunt to drum up insurance business in Florida.  The most recent new volcano was Volcan de Teneguia, which was created in 1971 was further south, nearer the sea.  There is a visitors centre with geological details, if you want to go there.  Further down we came to the Volcan de Teneguia, where then ground is warm and sulphur smells indicate the presence of lava not too far below.  There is a path up to the top but to preserve the landscape it is requested that people by-pass the peak.

Saturday: Fishing Coast.  Said to be 8km, 200m up and 659m down 4 hours.  Actually 500m up and 1100m down, 6 hours.
Today our coach took us right across to the west of La Palma via the road tunnel and the town of Los Lianos de Aridane, where we stopped for 15 minutes.  The coach then took us across the giant gorge of Las Angustas, with Puerrto Tazacorte at the coast.  We were told the gorge had been created by water erosion over many years, but I wondered if liquid lava might also have been a factor as the whole gorge appeared to be the side opening of the main Caldera de Taburiente volcano. After crossing this barranco the coach climbed up the other side to the look out point at Mirador el Time.  A few km further on we stopped at El Jesus where we started our guided walking tour.  With the coast behind us we climbed upwards via cultivated small fields and terraces towards Lomo de los Barreros.  Here, at Torre del Time, at 1107m, we stopped for lunch on the ridge with views down into the Angustias valley. After lunch was all downhill, first along the ridge to Mirador el Time, 550m, and then via a very steep zig-zag path down the cliff face to sea level to meet up with beach holidaymakers, cups of tea and ice creams.  The path down was quite safe, but hard work. You definitely need two sticks.  We were pretty well worn out and slept most of the way back. There were supposed to have been a boat trip, possibly to see the dolphins, but our trip guide, in English, was out of date and this boat trip had been deleted more than a year ago from the actual Spanish version.


Walking along the ridge
GR131.

Ready for our decent into
the Angustias valley.

Looking 500m down our walking route
to Puerto Tazacorte. Scary !

Finally down to the beach
Puerto Tazacorte.  0 m altitude!

If you fancy doing a walking holiday like this we would recommend that you arrange to stay at either Las Olas Hotel or Hacienda San Jorge apartments in Las Cancajos and book the group walking trips with www.natour-trekking.com   The large group hiking arrangements were good with well informed guides, wooden walking poles and even boots for hire if you needed them.  Well done to the hardworking organisers who have put in a lot of effort. Thanks to all for good company.  Another suggested walking tour company, with guide, and good for smaller groups of 2 - 6 people, is Tagalguen Trekking.

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Page created 6 April 2008 Copyright Satellite Signals Limited all rights reserved.  Amended 14 Sept 2015
Additions and corrections please to eric@satsig.net