Volcanic mountains

The rock stars of Tenerife! See the island’s dramatic volcanic landscapes and lava sculptures

A miracle happens as we sit munching on our sandwiches in thick fog on the rim of a volcanic crater.

The wind changes direction, a cascade of clouds pours silently over the cliff, and the evidence of the strangeness of the world unfolds. For, suddenly, we are in the sun, looking across a vast caldera at tongues of solidified magma miles in length, meandering from the slopes of snow-capped Mount Teide from which they spewed eons ago.

The scene is supernatural, unlike anything I know.

Walk on the wild side: Martin Symington embarks on a walking tour of Tenerife, with Mount Teide National Park (pictured) featured on the itinerary There he takes in views “across a vast caldera to tongues of solidified magma miles in length, winding up the slopes of snow-capped Mount Teide from which they spewed eons ago.”

We are in Tenerife. Yes, the Grand Canary of mega-resorts, water parks and nightlife. The (pre-pandemic) holiday choice of over two million Britons a year.

People snorted when I mentioned where we were going. That’s because they didn’t know that three-quarters of Tenerife is a national park or protected reserve, and the island has ancient forests and a volcano three times higher than Ben Nevis.

To gloat in these marvels, a companion and I came with independent walking specialists, Inntravel. Following an itinerary designed by the company, we will stay in three contrasting parts of the island. There will be a week of day walks, as well as hikes between hotels. Luggage is transferred by taxi.

Martin's first base is a 'rural hotel' huddled around a courtyard in the heart of the farming town of San Miguel de Abona, pictured

Martin’s first base is a ‘rural hotel’ huddled around a courtyard in the heart of the farming town of San Miguel de Abona, pictured

At the airport, we hop in a taxi and drive down winding roads to San Miguel de Abona. Our first base is a “rural hotel” huddled around a courtyard in the heart of this agricultural town.

We first venture down a path of black ash past sun-scorched brush, dotted with paddle-lobed prickly pears. Following the water culverts, we weave through a jagged maze of stone walls encircling potato plots and vines strewn across crumbly gray soil.

Our route notes guide us to the rock carvings left by the native Guanches, who lived here long before the arrival of Spanish settlers nearly 600 years ago.

After dining on a supper of gofio – a Canarian roasted mixed grain dish – Martin spends a night in Vilaflor, the highest village in Tenerife, pictured

After dining on a supper of gofio – a Canarian roasted mixed grain dish – Martin spends a night in Vilaflor, the highest village in Tenerife, pictured

For supper that night, we try gofio – a roasted grain mix that has been part of Canarian cuisine since Guanche times. It’s savory, spiced with a peppery green mojo sauce, and tastes best with the straw-colored local wine.

Our second stay is in Vilaflor, the highest village in Tenerife. To reach it, we zigzag on stony mule tracks. Across a deep indigo sea, neighboring La Gomera appears on the horizon.

The temperature drops noticeably and the terrain changes. The path plunges into magical forests of moss-draped pines and gnarled laurels.

The four-star Hotel Spa Villalba, pictured, in the woods above Vilaflor, offers Martin a soothing welcome after his walk

The four-star Hotel Spa Villalba, pictured, in the woods above Vilaflor, offers Martin a soothing welcome after his walk

Above, the swimming pool of the Hotel Spa Villalba.  Describing the landscape of the area, Martin says it is a

Above, the swimming pool of the Hotel Spa Villalba. Describing the landscape of the area, Martin says it is “farmland where orchards are laden with brilliant oranges and velvety-skinned fruits called nesperas, or loquats, which taste like apricots. “.

“We hike a network of trails through Tenerife’s famous hiking region, the Paisaje Lunar (pictured), its arid highlands dotted with craters created by a volcanic eruption,” writes Martin

Above, the view of the crater of Mount Teide National Park.

Above, the view of the crater of Mount Teide National Park. “From the rim of the caldera, we meander down to the bottom of the crater and to the vast area that is the park,” Martin writes.

TRAVEL INFORMATION

Inntravel (inntravel.co.uk, 01653 617001) offers a seven-night To the Top of Spain itinerary from £875pp including breakfast, picnics and five dinners. Ryan Air (ryanair.com) London to Tenerife from £59 return.

We emerge into farmland where orchards are laden with bright oranges and velvety-skinned fruits called nesperas, or loquats, which taste like apricots.

The four-star Hotel Spa Villalba in the woods above the village offers a soothing welcome after our walk.

We hike a network of trails through Tenerife’s famous hiking region, the Paisaje Lunar, its arid highlands dotted with craters created by a volcanic eruption.

The scenic drama intensifies even more on our dizzying ascent to Teide National Park in the heart of the island. From the rim of the caldera we meander down to the bottom of the crater and the vast area that is the park.

A single road crosses the lava field, leading to a single hotel, the Parador Cañadas del Teide. We meander from the doorstep into a strange landscape of solidified magma in bizarre arches, cathedral spiers and hooked noses.

These rock stars played a haunting role on our last night. Wrapped against the cold, we sit outside and watch the shadows turn into ogres and giants as a half moon rises over the dark carcass of Teide. In the silence, we decide that we came to Tenerife for the nightlife after all.