A miracle occurs as we sit munching our sandwiches in duvet-thick fog on the rim of a volcanic crater.
The wind changes direction, a cascade of cloud spills silently over the cliff, and proof of the world’s strangeness unfurls. For, suddenly we are in sunshine, gazing across a vast caldera to miles-long tongues of solidified magma, snaking from the slopes of snow-capped Mount Teide from where they spewed aeons ago.
The scene is unearthly, unlike anywhere I know.
Walk on the wild side: Martin Symington heads on a walking tour of Tenerife, with Mount Teide National Park (pictured) featuring on the itinerary. There, he admires views ‘across a vast caldera to miles-long tongues of solidified magma, snaking from the slopes of snow-capped Mount Teide from where they spewed aeons ago’
We are in Tenerife. Yes, the big Canary of mega-resorts, aquaparks and nightlife. The holiday choice (pre-pandemic) of more than two million Britons a year.
People sniffed when I mentioned where we were going. This was because they didn’t know that three-quarters of Tenerife is national park or protected reserve, and the island boasts ancient forests and a volcano three times the height of Ben Nevis.
To glory in these marvels, a companion and I have come with self-guided walking specialists, Inntravel. Following an itinerary the company has devised, we will stay in three contrasting parts of the island. There will be a week of day walks, plus hikes between hotels. Luggage is transferred by taxi.
Martin’s first base is a ‘rural hotel’ huddled round a courtyard at the heart of the farming town of San Miguel de Abona, pictured
At the airport we hop in a cab and drive along twisty roads up to San Miguel de Abona. Our first base is a ‘rural hotel’ huddled round a courtyard at the heart of this farming town.
We venture first onto a black cinder path skirting sunbaked brushland, sprinkled with paddle-lobed prickly pears. Following water culverts, we weave through a ragged tracery of stone walls enclosing potato plots and vines straggling in crumbly grey soil.
Our route notes guide us to rock carvings left by the indigenous Guanche people, who lived here long before the Spanish settlers arrived nearly 600 years ago.
After dining on a supper of gofio – a Canarian toasted mixed grain dish – Martin spends a night in Vilaflor, Tenerife’s highest village, pictured
For supper that night we try gofio — toasted mixed grain that has been part of Canarian cuisine since Guanche times. It is tasty, spiced with a peppery green mojo sauce, and best enjoyed with the straw-coloured local wine.
Our second stay is at Vilaflor, Tenerife’s highest village. To reach it we zig-zag up stony mule tracks. Across a deep, indigo sea, neighbouring La Gomera appears on the horizon.
The temperature drops noticeably and the terrain changes. The path plunges into magical woodlands of moss-draped pine and gnarled laurel.
The four-star Hotel Spa Villalba, pictured, in woods above Vilaflor offers Martin a soothing welcome after his walk
Above is the pool at Hotel Spa Villalba. Describing the area’s scenery, Martin says that it’s an ‘agricultural land where orchards are hung heavy with glossy oranges and velvety-skinned fruit called nesperas, or loquats, which taste like apricots’
‘We thread through a network of trails through Tenerife’s celebrated hiking region, the Paisaje Lunar (pictured), its barren uplands pocked with craters created by volcanic eruption,’ writes Martin
Above is the view of the crater at Mount Teide National Park. ‘From the caldera-rim, we snake down to the crater floor, and the vast area that is the park,’ writes Martin
Inntravel (inntravel.co.uk, 01653 617001) has a seven-night To the Top of Spain itinerary from £875 pp with b&b, picnics and five dinners. Ryanair (ryanair.com) London to Tenerife from £59 return.
We emerge in agricultural land where orchards are hung heavy with glossy oranges and velvety-skinned fruit called nesperas, or loquats, which taste like apricots.
The four-star Hotel Spa Villalba in woods above the village offers a soothing welcome after our walk.
We thread through a network of trails through Tenerife’s celebrated hiking region, the Paisaje Lunar, its barren uplands pocked with craters created by volcanic eruption.
The scenic drama ratchets up further on our dizzying climb to Teide National Park at the island’s heart. From the caldera-rim, we snake down to the crater floor, and the vast area that is the park.
Just one road crosses the lava field, leading to a single hotel, the Parador Cañadas del Teide. We meander from the doorstep out into a weirdscape of magma solidified into bizarre arches, cathedral spires and hooked noses.
These rock stars put on a haunting act on our final evening. Wrapped up against the cold, we sit outside and watch the shadows transform into ogres and giants as a half moon rises over the dark hulk of Teide. In the silence, we decide that we have come to Tenerife for the nightlife after all.