Trail Running around the Canary Islands

Do you like exploring trails, powered by your own two feet? If so, read on. If you’re a runner or hillwalker, who prefers offroad to tarmac, climbs rather than pancake flat, uneven ground to smooth surfaces, read on.

If your reward is a tasty meal or drink in a small remote bar, rather than PBs, medals or times, this is for you. If you want to discover places most tourists will never be able to reach by car, bus, bike, boat or even helicopter, two feet are your best bet.

This is an alternative travel guide to the Canary Islands. I don’t know much about the best beach bar, the best fried breakfast, where to watch the Premier League, or where they serve the best pint of Guinness.

But I can offer some advice on getting off the beaten track. This is a guide to following the marked trails, caminos and senderos on 4 of the 8 Canary Islands. I’m only a novice, there’s 4 more islands to discover, and lots more on those I have visited which I am eager to untangle in the coming years.

Read my blog: Curiosidades Canarias – Canarian Curiosities

Source: http://www.charterexpert.com

Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria has a famous race, Transgrancanaria, which crosses the island each March, covering over 130km from the capital Las Palmas in the north, to Maspalomas in the south. I haven’t done it, but do know both end points.

Las Palmas is probably one of the best beach cities in Spain, with a 4km promenade and long beach, great for swimming, snorkelling, surfing, volleyball, sunbathing or running along. I’ve used LP as a base to take the trails up towards the historic towns of Arucas, Teror and Firgas.

The Caldera de Bandama is also a nice destination, following the trails from Vegueta. It takes a while to leave the urban surrounds of the city, but you rise quite quickly on any of the trails, so have great views.

What I like is the ease of getting a bus home, so one-way runs are possible, plus you get to finish in a nice historic town. You get to see the importance of water to the people, with complex irrigation systems for housing, crops and animals evident on aqueducts and channels on all sorts of remote places.

In the south, I haven’t ran much (other than the beautiful Maspalomas beach & dunes), but I’ve mountain biked and road biked most valleys and peaks, including Pico de las Nieves at 1,949m. The network of trails from Playa del Ingles will get you out in quiet valleys quickly, although you might be best taking a bus further west or inland and starting from there to really escape touristville.

Read my blog: Cycling in Gran Canaria: North vs South and Winter Training in Gran Canaria

All smiles at the summit – Tenerife is hidden behind the clouds. It was cold – about 6C

Tenerife

I’ve only discovered Tenerife in the last year, having visited the north twice. Anaga Parque Rural in the north is your number one destination for exploring trails and wild nature. It’s another world from the bustling tourist beaches of the south, which are less than 2 hours away by bus.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a good base, with regular buses around the north, although you are probably better heading west to Puerto de la Cruz, Punta del Hidalgo or somewhere like Taganana where I based myself. It’s a small town, one of the oldest on the island, with links to Portugal, Cuba and other Latin countries going back centuries.

The Anaga park is stunning, so remote and so lush. You’re never far from the sea, rising fast on daunting trails above the crashing waves below. Vines grow on these steep, arid slopes, producing some of the most sought-after vinos afrutados (fruity wines) from Tenerife.

Harvesting methods haven’t changed in centuries. Lots of manual labour, not too much automation here. Back breaking work, whether it’s men sowing crops like potatoes, bananas, avocados, oranges or tomatoes.

Down south, I did a race in Vilaflor, one of the main towns about the beach resorts in the south. The trails around there are great. I also took the bus up to Teide National Park, starting a nice downhill run from the Las Cañadas visitor centre at 2,200m, passing through a raw volcanic landscape, past a Paisaje Lunar (lunar landscape), pine forests and back into Vilaflor.

I would like to do the sea to summit climb of Teide, from Playa de Socorro, rising to 3,718m of Teide in 27km. Pau Capell has the record, although I’ve heard from a friend that it’s a long day out and you need to be self-sufficient.

The big race in Tenerife is Tenerife Bluetrail.

Read my blog: Running in the Rain in Tenerife: Trail Vilaflor

Anaga Parque Rural – northern end of Tenerife

La Gomera

The smaller islands are less visited, which makes them even more authentic and rewarding to visit. I spent a week there in December 2021 and can’t wait to return. You can take the ferry from Tenerife, so it’s easy to reach. I took a Binter flight, but that’s not necessary as the airport is a bit remote and there aren’t many flights.

Trails are stunning here. Valle Gran Rey on the southwest is a good base. I did looped runs, heading up very steep climbs on marked trails. I also took the bus to Vallehermoso in the north, which offers fabulous trails reaching high up through laurel forests into the centre of the island.

San Sebastian is the pretty capital, with strong links to Christopher Columbus’s exploits in 1492. You could easy use it as a base for a few days, with a variety of trails, plus you can get the bus back.

I haven’t raced there – the big race is Gomera Paradise.

Read my blog: La Gomera: nature’s paradise in the Canaries

A ermita perched above Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

La Palma

La Palma hit the news in September 2021 when a new volcano erupted for 2 months, causing widespread devastation, covering homes, roads, farms, crops in a layer of black volcanic ash. The famous race Transvulcania crosses the island from bottom to top, over 72km. I’ve done most of it, but not in one entire go. It’s a race I’d love to do.

The famous Ruta de los Vulcanes is indescribable, like nothing else I’ve ever done. I’ve also followed the Reventón Trail Race route, completing 42km on an epic run around the giant caldera, getting up to 2,400m at Pico de la Nieve and then having a 17km descent back to sea level at Tazacorte. I was never so parched at the end and so happy to get a cold beer and food.

You can also base yourself in Santa Cruz, the charming capital city. The climbs out of there are viciously steep, plus you can get buses to explore the northern side of the island.

I raced the Garafia Navidad Trail on the northwestern side in 2019. There’s also a nice race called Acantilados del Norte that I’d like to do.

Read my blog: Exploring La Palma

A Volcanic Smile – Ruta de los Volcanes, La Palma

Where to next?

So much yet to explore. I know nothing of Lanzarote, El Hierro, Fuerteventura or La Graciosa. El Hierro is top of my list to visit next. It’s even more remote than La Gomera, but accessible from Tenerife by ferry or plane. I’m less curious about the others, as they are less mountainous with less extreme scenery and climates.

Please share your experiences, races, tips or recommendations – this blog is just scratching the surface.

Learn more

Race organiser calendar www.canaryrun.es

Ferry companies: www.fredolsen.es or www.navieraarmas.com

Airlines: www.binter.com

Trails

Senderos La Palma

Senderos de Tenerife

Senderismo Gran Canaria

Senderos – Valle Gran Rey (La Gomera)

Buses (guaguas)

La Gomera  (guaguagomera.com)

Tenerife  (titsa.com)

La Palma TILP

Gran Canaria Global SU – (guaguasglobal.com)

Blogs

Blog La Gomera – Trekking the GR 131 and GR 132 | Budget Explorers (thebudgetexplorers.com)

GR 132 in La Gomera report – Hiking Is Good

Map Hiking map of the trails and footpaths of La Gomera (senderosdelagomera.com)

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