Who would not like to spend winter time where it is warmer and brighter? The Canary Islands invite to explore the landscape at mild temperatures even in January. The islands La Palma, Teneriffa, La Gomera and Lanzarote are all volcanic but with a distinctly different character.
The eruption of the Teneguia in 1971 shaped the landscape far in the south of the island. Apart from the unsightly banana plantations, it is predominantly lava fields with beginning vegetation. Otherwise, the barren landscape on the south tip serves only to harvest sea salt.
The enormous Caldeira de Taburiente originates one to two million years back, so that its slopes are wooded. After passing the capital Santa Cruz de la Palma with miles of parking cars, a longer drive leads through wooded areas to the north rim of the crater. It is highly rewarding to hike along the path near the observatory.
To get from the airport to the north coast, either Santa Cruz de la Palma must be passed again, or the area around Los Llanos de Aridane which is just as busy. When these areas are left behind, the green north will be reached on easy roads. From Barranco Castillo a short but fairly steep hiking path leads to the small beach Playa del Callejoncito.
On the way back through Los Llanos de Aridane there is an opportunity to drive to the Mirador de la Cumbrecita at the south rim of the Caldeira de Taburiente. An easy but remarkable walk to the Mirador Lomo de las Chozas is highly recommendeable. The view from the crest is awesome. From there, the north rim which I visited before can be seen, but in the warm evening light it appears less cragged. A wonderful finish of my small journey to La Palma.
From La Palma, it is only a short travel with the local airline to Tenerife. The airport north is reached within half an hour.
Along the coast highway, Tenerife is densly populated with equally dense traffic. The area around Los Cristianos is extremely touristic with split level houses covering whole slopes of the mountains. Those looking for calm, do not find it in the coast cities, but it is still not necessecary to drive very far to reach hiking areas.
The National Park around the Teide is impressive. It formed the island, and with an altitude of 3700 m it is Spains highest mountain.The top can be reached only by hiking or with the cable car. I did not visit the top; I focused on the plateau in the tremendous caldeira at an altidude of 2200 m. When driving up there in the morning it is surprising to see some hoarfrost on the road. It is getting pretty cold there during the night. The only hotel there – the Parador de las Cañadas del Teide – has central heating for that reason, which is found hardly anywhere else. Staying in the warm south is not quite true during the night even near the coast. Temperatures in the houses range from 16 to 18 °C, only a mini radiator may help a little.
It is advisable to drive early to the National Park; parking spots are scarce. Arriving from Puerto de la Cruz, the first impression is a Mars like landscape. It is covered with pumice, with dark brown lava rocks scattered in between. Most tourists do not walk far; it is worthwhile to go a little further to have the archaic landscape for your own.
It is not possible to stop along the road. The few parking spots may have a free space. A large parking area, also frequented, can be found for good reason near the Roque de la Garcia, close to the parador. Also there, most visitors do not walk far, but only a two hour hike will reveal the full splendour of the landscape. It is not so much the Roque Cinchado which is easily visible from the parking spot, it is rather the view on the so-called Cathedral and the surrounding area. The Cathedral is the remnant of a volcano which stands like a church at the border of a large plain area.
The area on the other side of the parador has also remarkable rock structures. Due to the main attraction on the other side, few tourists go to this area.
Further driving down the road, the Zapata de la Reina (Cinderella’s shoe) is passed, a large area with lava as black as coal, and green trees on black ashes. The Teide is not an extinct volcano; the black lava originates from the last eruption in 1909 which occured on the slope of the main peak.
Making the full circle, the Casa Hamilton is passed on the north coast. It is an abandoned building next to the sea.
The northern part of the island is rather different. The Anaga Mountain is a humid area and covered with laurel forest. During three weeks travel, this was the only day with light drizzle – perfect for this landscape. There are several hiking paths, one of which leads through the dense forest with sunken paths and knarled roots. The way from the Mirador de Cruz del Carmen to the sightseeing point Llano de los Loroshas is quite popular, but on paths slightly off hardly anybody will be there.
A visit of the coast near Benijo and the lava coast between El Sauzal and Punta Hidalgo are also worthwhile. While there are some little inviting buildings and unsightly banana plantations, the coast itself is beautiful. The rough lava rocks are quite spectacular with turbulent water.
The ferry from Tenerife to La Gomera takes about one hour. Starting in the tourist center Los Cristianos and arriving in La Gomera with far less tourism is quite contrasty. My hotel in Imada had no dinner, but the little bar opposite provided a chickpea soup. It is no luxury there, but it is authentic.
I was there for two days only, and I first visited the laurel forest in the Garajonay National Park. It is somewhat different from the forest in Tenerife; less dense but also with numerous beautiful old trees.
My second excursion led to the Valle Gran Rey, a touristic highlight of La Gomera – but not nearly as touristic as Tenerife. A hiking path along the creek to the Salto de Agua was partially a little more demanding, but with a beautiful vegetation and unspoilt nature.
Back from La Gomera with the ferry, I had a short flight from the Tenerife North airport to Lanzarote.
Lanzarote is quite different from the other islands which I visited during my journey. It is even more volcanic than the others, with little vegetation. Even the valley of the thousand palms does not have an abundance of trees.
The island is shaped by the artist César Manrique and his influence on the administration. He achieved that large concrete hotels are absent on Lanzarote; all houses are low white buildings in a common style. The main attractions in Lanzarote carry his signature as well. The volcanic National Park Timanfaya can be visited only by bus, and dismounting is not allowed. This is good for the nature, but not so much for photography. I refrained from taking pictures through the windows.
A hiking path at the coast north of El Golfo leads through lava area, allowing to get closer to the character of the island.
Manrique established also a marvellous cactus garden and made a work of art from a cave in the north. I visited instead the Cueva de los Verdes which is accessible through the lava tunnels. The visit leads to a little lake which does not immediately reveal its true nature.
The northern tip of the island at the Mirador del Rio is also worth a visit. Even from the road there are magnicifent views to the smaller islands and to the coast of Lanzarote.
On the way back to Yaiza it is worthwhile to take little detours to take some pictures of the landscape in the warm evening light.
A visit to the Canary Islands is worthwhile not only due to the pleasant temperatures in wintertime. On Tenerife, the visitor faces high population density and dense traffic, but even there this can be avoided by visiting the National Park or the northern parts of the island. The other islands are less touristic and quite different. Those liking to hike in green nature find the right destination at La Palma or La Gomera, those who like variety will like Tenerife, and those who like archaic landscapes will love Lanzarote. A little journey through the islands will allow making up your own mind. It is worth it.
For those who are photographically interested
There is not much to say: I made the pictures with the Hipstamatic app of the iPhone. I lost my iPhone 6 on a visit to the Azores, so I have no landscape pictures from there. As a consequence, I have an iPhone 7 now, which has an additional normal lens beside the wide angle. However, I still shoot mostly with the wide angle lens. A fairly new iPhone is not required to make pictures like these; my old iPhone 4 can do the same.
I am not interested in documentary photography as it is normally taken with a camera or a smartphone. I do not use the smartphone because I have it with me anyway. What interests me is its capability to capture my impressions better than my Fujifilm X-T2 which I also had with me – albeit for a different reason.