Endless hiking possibilities at Refugio El Pilar

24th and 25th of December, 2020

Just south of the Cumbre Nueva and at 1450 meter on the Cumbre Vieja a variety of hiking trails are starting at Refugio El Pilar. It is a large recreation area where the island people also meet up for a picnic or a barbecue. The trees provide sufficient shade during the warm summer days and it is a perfect playground for children.

The Cumbre Vieja is a large chain of volcanoes that emerge in the form of a ridge. It is possible to hike over the Cumbre Vieja all the way until Los Canarios. You do need transportation back! Our hikes will be a bit shorter.

El Pared Vieja is another smaller recreation area and connected with Refugio El Pilar via route PR-LP18. A nice 7 km hike with an elevation of 250 meters. The narrow path brings us quickly down and goes mostly through laurel and pine forests. It is a perfect hike for today, as the weather is cloudy and there are not many viewpoints. The 250 meters up are a bit more challenging!

As we love the area around El Pilar, we decide to go for another hike the day after. This time we park the car at mile marker 4 on the road towards El Refugio.

From here the views over the valley and the mountains are magnificent! The signs give you the choice which trails to take. The blue sky is inviting and we decide to go for a route of 10 km.

This is an amazing trail! It is part of Ruta de Los Volcanoes and the San Juan Volcano and we hike first over fields of old lava. After, the landscape changes and we walk through the woods. Suddenly, our shoes touch pure volcanic rock and we have to cross a whole field of these black stones. Don’t try this on Flip Flops!

Again the scenery changes; we go through an ancient and colorful lava flow, until we have to climb all the way up the mountain, along the old stream. It is a very steep climb!!! Finally, we reach a wider path and can relax. The view down on the old eruption is impressive.

Later in the afternoon, we drive down the mountain to Puerto de Tazacorte. We will have our Christmas meal at our favorite restaurant  “El Trebol”,  with a view over the sea. There are just a handful of tourists at this time a year and no reservation is necessary. A very relaxing place, where they serve tasty fish and other dishes for low prices. A wonderful ending of our two week visit to this impressive island!

 

The colonial town of Santa Cruz de la Palma

21st of December, 2020

A visit to the capital city of La Palma is a “must”! Santa Cruz is not only an important port, but also an architectural heritage and one of the most beautiful towns within the Canarian archipelago. Colonial-style houses, cobblestone streets, the famous balconies on the Avenida Maritima and plenty of plazas and palaces.

We spent around half a day climbing up and down the stairs of the old city, discovering hidden plazas, colourful houses and tiny stores. At the Plaza de la Alameda you will find the replica of the Santa Maria ship; the ship of Columbus in which he reached America in 1492. It houses the Museum of Navigation.

Plaza de España is the most important square of Santa Cruz. It is surrounded by Renaissance buildings and the famous Church of San Salvador. Civic ceremonies take place here and people gather to exchange the latest gossip! The door of the town hall (Ayuntamiento) was open and we quickly sneaked into the council chamber.

On the Avenida Maritima we admired the famous Casas de Los Balcones, decorated with plenty of pretty flowering plants.

We definitely forgot to visit a lot of other historic and interesting buildings, but maybe next time?

 

Roque de Los Muchachos and the ravine of La Zarza

20th of December, 2020

From El Paso we drive through the “tunnel de la Cumbre” to the other side of the island. Just before we enter the capital Santa Cruz de la Palma, we turn left and drive up the hill towards the small, but important 17th-century Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Las Nieves. The 14th-century sculpture of Virgin Mary is the oldest religious statue in the Canary Islands.

After our visit to the church, we drink a coffee on the central square and continue our trip to the mountain top Roque de Los Muchachos. The scenic road goes like a snake higher and higher and slowly the landscape is changing from green fertile land to dense forests and finally to the bare volcanic mountain ridge of the Caldera de Taburiente. The colours of the rock formations are intense and we park the car to get a closer look. It is extremely cold and windy outside and we quickly change our summer coat for a warmer one. Temperatures drop easily with ten degrees on top of the mountain.

Our next stop is at 2396 metres above sea level, on the rim of the Taburiente National Park. From far you can see the Astrophysics Observatory, which hosts the largest optical-infrared telescope in the world. The conditions of the sky above La Palma are exceptional and therefor all kinds of studies take place with different telescopes and instruments.

At 2426 meters the famous Roque de Los Muchachos can be find. Experienced hikers arrive here by foot, via the trails. The view is panoramic and very impressive. There is a trail over the rim to a point where you can see into the crater, but I give the camera to my partner. It is way too high and too steep for me!

Too bad there is nowhere a place to get a coffee or be able to have a sanitary stop. It was a long drive up and it will be a long drive down! Ah well, there are plenty of bushes beside the road….

Our next goal is Parque Cultural La Zarza in Ville de Garafia. This is an archeological park built around important finds of petroglyphes. The Visitor Centre gives insight information about the native population of La Palma. We pay the fee of around 2 euro a person, have a short look around and start our hike into the ravine of la Zarza. According to our travel book it is an impressive path to explore and we fully agree!

It has been a very busy day, full of new impressions, tons of pictures and a great hiking experience in a gorge and we still have to drive all the way back to Valle de Ariadne!

 

 

Hiking from the Cumbrecita to the chapel of Virgen del Pino

18th of December, 2020

Again we drive towards El Paso and continue to Caldera de Taburiente National Park. We leave our car on the parking-lot and call a taxi. The driver brings us, together with two other tourists, all the way up the mountain. It only costs 9 euro for the four of us. Many people make a reservation for a parking spot up the mountain, admire the view and return again, after a small walking tour. We decided to go for a long hike all the way down, to the chapel of Virgen del Pino. It is a distance of around nine kilometer and more difficult than the earlier hikes we undertook.

I am very happy with my walking poles! Descending the mountain is at times very steep and I feel more safe and secure using them.

We walk into dense Canarian pine woods, through barranco’s (gorges) and have to watch our steps continuously. At times the path becomes very narrow and rocky. Not a hike you should do in the heat of summer!

At a certain point there is a road junction; from here you can go straight back to the information center or you go left to the chapel. We take the left road and start climbing again. It seems the road  never ends! I thought we were nearly at our destination, but we continue going up and down through the pine woods. Finally, the landscape changes and we reach Ermita de la Virgen del Pino.

It is said that one day “Our Lady” has appeared in the large pine tree on the grounds of the chapel. This conifer served as a sanctuary for her and gave the virgin her name. In 1876 the chapel was built and it seems that during the construction one of the branches of this special tree was cut and it spilled blood after the cut! This is one of the stories, but there are different versions. Celebrations, processions and masses are taking place in and around the small, but important chapel.

We get some rest on the bench beside the famous pine tree and  continue our hike back to the place where we started in the morning. The last kilometers are mainly over a rough path, full of big stones, but with nice views over the pasture. It reminds me of the Irish landscape!

 

 

Fuencaliente; volcanoes, salt fields and a lighthouse

16th of December, 2020

Our trip today brings us to the southern tip of La Palma, to the village Los Canarios, situated in the community of Fuencaliente. Such a difference with the northern side of the island, where frequent rainfall encourages the lush growth of ferns and trees. The south is dry, warm and windy!

Fuencaliente derives its name from “fuente caliente”, that means “hot source”. Once there was a medicinal sulphur source, Fuente Santa, which disappeared under lava during an outbreak of Volcán San Antonio in 1677. Over the years the soil became fertile and winegrowers discovered the area. Nowadays, the Malvasía grapes are famous!

We drive from Los Canarios, via a small and curvy road, all the way down to the huge parking place close to the lighthouse. We leave the car behind and walk to the bus stop. According to the local time table, the bus should arrive soon. The plan is to go all the way up again by bus, grab a coffee in Los Canarios, visit the information centre and walk all the way down to the lighthouse. The only problem is that there is no bus! There are only four other vehicles on the parking lot. We see three young ladies, who are walking in our direction. Have they seen a bus during the last half an hour? No, no bus, but why don’t we hop in their car and we all go up together? I look at one of the girls, who is twice the size as her girlfriends, and try to imagine how we all five will fit in the very tiny vehicle. My partner and I are squeezed in the back of the car with the enormous lady. The girls are from Gran Canaria and very familiar with driving on small curvy roads. They go fast! By the time we arrive in the village, my face mask is soaked!

Finally, we are on our way down again. We pay our fee at the visitors centre and my partner is going up to see the crater of Volcán San Antonio. The climb is pretty high and crowded with people, so I decide to stay down. Beyond the entrance, the path downhill starts towards Volcán Teneguía and the Lighthouse.

It is a spectacular hike over fields of old lava with amazing views. Definitely, not recommended to challenge in windy or rainy conditions! Volcán Teneguía is 493 high and its last eruption was in 1971.

While having lunch, the blue-bearded lizards are begging for food!

At some points the views go all the way to the islands of La Gomera and El Hierro.

We finally arrive at the salt fields, the Salinas Marinas. The contrast of the white from the salt, the blue from the ocean and the black from the volcanic earth is one of a kind.

We end the day at restaurant Jardin del Sal, where you can sip your drink on a terrace with on one side the old and new lighthouse and the salt basins on the other side.

 

 

 

 

 

Solidified lava at the foot of Mountain Las Moraditas

15th of December, 2020

From our rental place it is only a short drive to the information centre at the foot of the Caldera de Taburiente. A great place to get familiar with the layout of the impressive volcanoes, the national parks, the various hiking paths and other points of interest.

Today we choose another easy hike, in preparation of a more difficult one tomorrow. This one starts just on the other side of the road, opposite the Information Centre and the area is called Las Moraditas. Our feet are touching a 15th century old lava stream from Mountain Quemada and it feels like walking on another planet.

Our hike runs through fertile fields, pine forests and vineyards.

Some people in this area own a small bodega made from volcanic rock. We also see abandoned cottages, like a piece of art in the countryside.

We have lunch sitting on an old wall overlooking fields full of bright orange flowers; this is the Protea, originally a flower from South-Africa and now also cultivated on the island La Palma. The flowers will be transported to Aalsmeer in The Netherlands and from there exported all over the world.

Although Las Moraditas is not well known as a hiking area, we fully enjoy the varied landscape and the views on the Pico Bejenado, a mountain top of 1844 meters and part of the Caldera de Taburiente.

 

 

Dragon trees and Buracas Caves around Las Tricias

14th of December, 2020

We drive up North, following the coast line, to the rural hamlet Las Tricias. On top of mountain El Time is a restaurant with a small parking place, where you can take pictures and admire the view. From this point you can see the banana plantations on the western coast and at the far end the volcanic ridge.

We continue our scenic drive, admiring the high mountains on one side and deep down the ocean on the other side. Although we left this morning with sunny weather, it seems that by now we entered a different climate zone. Las Tricias is surrounded by a formation of thick clouds and temperatures dropped significantly.

We start our hike of around five kilometres just down the road of Las Tricias. It will take us at least three hours, as the small walking paths are going up and down. The mist and the light drizzle give a spooky glare over the enormous dragon trees. This is the indigenous tree of the Canary islands.

This area is known for its fruit- and almond trees, wines and goat cheese. Some foreigners arrived here years ago and live a very simple life in one of the few rural huts and houses. Some are even living in the Buracas Caves, the former living-caves of the Guanches.

At some point the drizzle is becoming rain and we have to watch the slippery stones, but it makes our trip very special. We are the only hikers deep down in the Barranco. We follow the path on the other side and I have to challenge a very steep hike over the rocks! It is the only way out or we have to return the same way, but that is not in the plan. I take a deep breath and go all the way up without looking down! My fear of heights will never disappear…..

Like a goat....

Once we return to the village of Las Tricias, we notice restaurant Camu Camu, beside the church. Here they serve local food and drinks for a very reasonable price. A great way to finish our visit to this area in Garafía, where life is still very peaceful.

 

Puerto de Tazacorte and colourful Pueblo de Tazacorte

13th of December, 2020

Today we visit Puerto de Tazacorte, a small beach town situated on the western tip of the Caldera de Taburiente. After studying the local map, we decide not to take the main road, but a shortcut. The local road drives us via very narrow streets straight through the banana plantations. I cross my fingers that there will not be any oncoming traffic! The trees continue until you reach the colourful houses of Pueblo de Tazacorte. From here it is only a short drive towards the harbour.

Puerto de Tazacorte has a port on one side and a long stretch of volcanic black sand on the other side. We walk the promenade towards the little plaza and start our day with a nice coffee. The weather is sunny and the beach still empty. Our plan is to hike the path at the foot of El Time all the way up, but the road is blocked due to fallen rocks. No hikers are allowed today.

After a quick change of plans, we decide to explore the harbour and later hike along the winding footpath all the way up towards Pueblo de Tazacorte.

The water in the port is clear enough to see some interesting fish!

Colourful boats, a few cozy restaurants and views over the cliffs are all part of the port of Tazacorte. The impressive landscape bordering the harbour has been moulded by the lava of different volcanoes.

 

The path towards the Pueblo of Tazacorte follows the main road all the way up. With temperatures around 18 degrees it is a nice hike. We pass a ruin of a former sugar factory. It reminds me of Cuba!

In the quaint little town we find an abundance of Canarian style houses. Narrow streets go up and down, plenty of plants decorate the small alleys and many houses are painted in bright colours.

The famous church is named after La Palma’s Patron Saint. Here you find an Andalusian-style pergola with Sevilla tiles.

San Miguel Arcángel

Later in the afternoon we return to the beach again and have a wonderful early dinner at Bodeguita del Italiano right at the seaside.

We finish our day sipping wine and witnessing a fabulous sunset!

 

La Palma, before the eruption of the Cumbre Vieja

12th of December 2020

Although the Dutch government advised people to stay home during the Christmas holiday of 2020, my partner and I decided to leave. We both enjoy spending Christmas in a quiet environment, away from the shopping madness. A friend of mine frequently visits volcanic La Palma and told me about the endless hiking possibilities on this impressive mountainous island, which is part of the Canary Archipelago. We both got curious and investigated if flights were going to this non-touristy part of the Canaries. As most flights were cancelled in The Netherlands, we looked at possibilities just over the border. From Düsseldorf a flight was going with Eurowing, straight to Santa Cruz de La Palma. We didn’t think twice and booked. In December 2020 we were not yet vaccinated, so the preparations for the trip were a bit stressful; Covid apps, Health Declarations, QR barcodes and most important the Corona test, which had to be done within 72 hours before departure. We were packed and ready to go, but without the negative test result we couldn’t travel. Our flight was going early Saturday morning and on Friday afternoon the results were finally sent to us! Hurray!

We had arranged a rental place via http://www.lapalma-oceaanzicht.nl. Villa Laguna was situated not far the village Todoque, on the western part of the island. That village is now completely destroyed by the eruption of the volcano Cumbre Vieja.

After collecting our car from company Narki, at the airport of Santa Cruz, we drove the curvy road to the other side of La Palma. The house didn’t have an official address; you just count the side streets!

Our house was a typical Spanish holiday home, but with a huge terrace, garden and covered (freezing) swimming pool. The best part was the view; the banana plantations (which are now covered by molten rock!) down below and fabulous sunsets at the end of the day.

Our adventure started!