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Now don’t get us wrong – we love winter in the UK. Cold, crisp mornings, roaring fires, hearty stews and if we’re lucky, a covering of soft fluffy snow. But here’s the thing – winter lasts
quite a long time. And it’s not always blue skies and frost – a dark, cold morning with the sleet stinging your face is enough to make the most ardent winter-lover dream of warmer times.
That’s where a winter walking trip to southern Europe comes in. A week or two soaking up some warm sunshine, topping up the vitamin D levels and experiencing some fabulous food, nature and culture is the perfect way to break up the winter. Plus, a winter walking holiday will help you burn off some of those comfort food calories.
So, as you reach for your slippers and turn the central heating up a notch, take a look at our top picks for a warm winter break.
Best known for its gourmet food and wine, year-round, mild, sunny climate and breath-taking scenery everywhere you look, Madeira is the ideal destination to visit at any time of year. Our walking holiday in Madeira is focused on the south and eastern parts of the island, where you’ll have the chance to stay in small charismatic villages full of friendly locals, explore lush green levada walking trails and feel on top of the world as you perch on the highest peak in Madeira.
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Available as an
8-day or 11-day trip.
La Gomera is a spectacular volcanic island, away from the hustle and bustle of the busier neighbouring islands. Because of its relative lack of beaches, La Gomera has escaped the levels of development that other parts of Spain and its islands have experienced. As a result La Gomera has an old world, rural feel to it with homesteads, small vineyards, layers of terraces and large rocky peaks set in an amazing crown of Laurisilva - a laurel cloud forest.
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Walking in Tenerife is hugely varied and the aim of our walking holidays is to show you as much as possible. From the ancient university town of La Laguna, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the elegant resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast, we have selected a programme of varied walks. Your trip includes a walk to the crater of Mount Teide, a spectacular 3,718m high volcano.
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Cyprus may be best know for its popular, and busy, seaside resorts – but head a few kilometres inland and you’ll find an older, sleepier world of villages, farms and forests. The trip is focussed around the Akamas Peninsular, a beautiful nature reserve populated by friendly, welcoming people. If you’re there at the end of winter, you’ll witness the bloom of wild flowers that cover the landscape from February onwards.
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This walk along the Vermillion Coast starts in France and finishes in Spain, taking you along the coastline where the mountains of the Pyrenees meet the Mediterranean. You’ll experience pretty fishing villages, amazing French and Spanish cuisine, and spectacular coastal landscapes. This is also a region with a strong artistic heritage – from the French sculptor Aristide Maillol to Spanish master of surrealism, Salvador Dali.
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The daily walks on this trip are relatively short, giving you plenty of opportunities to relax or try some of the many activities available on La Gomera, such as swimming, snorkelling, kayaking or whale-watching. The places you’ll visit are peaceful and unspoilt, with plenty of family-run restaurants to help you sample the delights of the local cuisine as you make your way around the south of the island.
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To give you a deeper understanding of our cycling and walking holidays in Europe, we like to introduce you to the On Track feature. This is a
series of quick Q&A’s on a specific trip from the Sherpa Expeditions offer.
Today’s FAQs (frequently asked questions) are answered by
resident guide John, who is one of our experts on walking in Tenerife.
#1 What aspects about the weather make Tenerife great for walking?
Tenerife has a pleasant sub-tropical climate with average daily maximums of over 20°C throughout the year, but it rarely gets too hot outside of high summer because of the prevalent north-easterly Trade Winds and because the island is cooled by the Canary Current. This means that temperatures are slightly cooler than would normally be expected at this latitude and keeps temperatures in the high-twenties rather than the mid-thirties.
The sun is very strong so you do need to use sunscreen and wear loose fitting clothes. The island is pleasant for walking year-round. Trekking on the coast and up in the mountains in winter time can be slightly colder due to winds and the altitude you gain.
#2 What is special about walking in Tenerife?
Clean air, fantastic lapis blue sea views over to other islands, extensive well waymarked trails, and the chance of finding a small bar or restaurant to take in a fish dish or tapas while drinking a nice glass of wine or golden beer. There is a great cheap bus service on Tenerife which enables you to really explore and do some full day walks. It doesn’t take too long to get to starting points and really get walking on some great mountain and coastal trails.
#3 What language do people speak?
Spanish is the language of Tenerife, with local dialects. It would be worth learning a few phrases in Spanish such as greetings, but many people who work in the hospitality sector speak some English. Being polite and asking if people understand English is always a virtue.
#4 As Tenerife is such a well-known island, are there still quiet places?
The island is quite densely populated on sections along the coast such as Los Cristianos, Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. There are also vast sections of cliffs and coast where there are just small holdings or wild terrain, you’ll discover these while walking in the Canary Island. In the interior of Tenerife, where the slopes of Mount Teide and the volcanic Caldera rise, there are very few settlements and it becomes a barren moonscape.
#5 Will we encounter other walkers on this trip in Tenerife?
The island of Tenerife is very popular with Dutch, German and British travellers. They usually come either for the beaches or for hiking and some of the paths do get a lot of traffic, but you will rarely feel as if you are in the crowds. At times around Mount Teide it can get busier due to the arrival of coach tourists.
#6 To what other region in the world can you compare Tenerife?
Well, you can compare a walking trip in Tenerife to the other volcanic islands around: such as
La Gomera, La Palma, Hierro, Gran Canaria, and of course Madeira and the Azores, although these latter are much greener islands. Then globally, you can compare the landscape to the volcanic areas in Central America: Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and parts of Mexico, these also have similar Spanish or Portuguese colonial heritage.
#7 What extra costs will I have on Sherpa’s Tenerife walking trip?
You can find very keenly priced restaurants and well-priced drinks as well as some very expensive places. What is nice is discovering a traditional restaurant that the locals are using and having a meal with a local wine for under EUR 25. Buses are cheap and you can purchase a
Bono travel card for EUR 15-25 on arrival and keep it topped up for bus transfers. There is 1 bag transfer to Puerto de la Cruz (EUR 75) on day 3 of our Tenerife walking holiday, this has to be paid directly to your hotelier on arrival.
We hope this information has indeed answered some of the questions you may have had on walking in Tenerife. If you have other queries, please
get in touch with John and the Sherpa team via phone or email.
Did you like this Q&A and would you like to get similar details of one of our other active Europe holidays? We’d be happy to
hear about your suggestions.
Or if you like to be among the firsts to hear about the latest On Track Q&A destination,
sign up for our monthly e-newsletter here.
Self Guided Walking Holiday: Tenerife on Foot
Watch this short video in which Sherpa Expeditions shows you what it's like to go walking in Tenerife.
Are you after some days of leisurely walking in Tenerife? Up for an active inn to inn Tenerife hiking trip? Or are you looking to mix your active walking days with a day of relaxing? On the 8-day self guided walking holiday on the Spanish island, '
Tenerife on Foot', you have plenty of freedom to adjust the days to your wishes. Spend your rest day at the beach or exploring towns and coastal paths and have the opportunity to use the network of buses to shorten your walks.
>> Learn more about Tenerife, one of Spain's Canary Islands
>> View the 8-day self guided walking holiday Tenerife on Foot
The Iberian Peninsula remains a firm favourite for many holidaymakers and not just during the summer months. Actually the coming months of December to February are an exceptionally good time to travel to Spanish and Portuguese destinations like Madeira, La Gomera, Andalucia, and the Sierra de Aracena. With pleasant temperatures around 20 degrees C, sunny days, and a landscape that ranges from subtropical greenery, to pine forests, and barren flatlands you have all the ingredients for a welcoming winter holiday. Ah, and the flights to Tenerife, Santa Cruz, and Seville have competitive rates for the winter months as well. So if you want to beat the tourists and enjoy a crowd-free break here are some tips for things to do in Spain and Portugal.
Canary Islands: Southern Trails of La Gomera
Despite being easily accessible from Tenerife (the boat trip takes just an hour), La Gomera remains largely untouched by mass tourism. The southern part of the island is also the sunnier part. The landscape is surprisingly lush green, with deep gorges densely wooded at the top, covered by mountain rainforest. Columbus’ last port of call before crossing the Atlantic in 1492, La Gomera is home to many friendly and small resorts. What you can do on the island is taking coastal walks, enjoy a view of Tenerife from Mt Garajonay, visit waterfalls, or take a historical walk of San Sebastian town.
Madeira Island Walking
Rising steeply from the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Europe and Africa, Madeira offers both a mild climate and a 1,350-mile network of
levadas through which you can discover the island on foot. Madeira island enjoys an impressive year-round flowering season thanks to its subtropical climate and rich volcanic soil – you can even find a dedicated Orchid Garden with more than 7,500 species here! Another thing to do is take a guided tour of a Madeira wine lodge - and try some local libations...
Hiking in Hidden Andalucia
There's a part of Andalucia that is a bit more off the beaten path: the unspoilt sector of the Alpujarras east of Trevelez. A visit in the winter months of December, January or February is great for walks on sunny days. There can also be snowfall and it can get a bit chilly, but the landscape is rewarding these months. Walking the southern fringes of the Sierra Nevada, following the Camino Real (Royal Trail), and staying at charming villages of Berchules, Yegen an Mairena make for a
fantastic winter break, even when the sun doesn't show its face.
Beat the European Winter!
Are you looking for an active break combined with some winter sun? Here are some of our trip destinations that enjoy a much milder climate and warmer temperatures in the winter.
La Gomera is a year-round breathtaking destination. The variety of the landscapes that you will see in such a small area is amazing and Gomeran hospitality is truly memorable. This trip covers the south – and sunnier! – side of the island and the shorter walking days will give you the opportunity to do other activities such as relax by the sea, snorkelling, kayaking or whale watching. La Gomera has a good infrastructure of roads, amenities and services, including good restaurants and small, family-run hotels.
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The Portuguese island of Madeira lies well out in the Atlantic, where the Gulf Stream affords it a mild and equable year-round climate. Volcanic in origin, the rugged interior rises abruptly to over 1,800 metres/6000 feet. A characteristic feature of the island is the elaborate system of ‘levadas’ (irrigation channels), which over the centuries has extended to more than 2,000km of channels and 40km of tunnels. Many of the levadas can be followed on foot and these together with a network of local trails make even the most remote parts of the island accessible. Find out more >>
Tenerife is the highest island in the Atlantic and the largest of the Canary Islands. Your first view of the great volcano Mount Teide, Spain's highest mountain and the third tallest volcano in the world will probably be from the aeroplane window… and a few days later you will be there, walking across the massive crater of Cañadas del Teide! Hiking on North Tenerife is hugely varied – from banana plantations to pine forests and from laurisilva cloud forests to lava fields – and our aim is to show you as much as possible. Find out more >>
Cyprus is an island of natural beauty in a region with an abundance of ancient and modern civilisations and cultures. Away from the cosmopolitan towns and beach resorts you will find large areas of natural, unspoilt countryside. Rugged, conifer-clad mountains, woodland and gentle orchards and vineyards are interspersed with tranquil, timeless villages. The people extend a warm and friendly welcome and their hospitality will add greatly to the enjoyment of your tour.
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If you have been walking on the Spanish mainland, or have been to The Canaries before and you come to La Gomera, you will probably notice that this, the second smallest island of the Canaries is something special, altogether quite different. Some people liken it to Spain in the 1970s, but if you have travelled to countries of Central or South America, there are certainly Latin American elements that you will recognize in the villages and landscapes.
Due to the fact that most Spanish tourism has been beach focused and that Gomera has little flat land and only a few small beaches with deep water and sometimes strong currents, it has survived from the frenzy of development seen elsewhere in the Spanish territories. As a result the island has an old world rural feel to it with homesteads, small vineyards, layers of terraces and large rocky peaks set in an amazing crown of Laurisilva - a laurel cloud forest. A remnant of the last Ice Age and Tertiary period, the Laurisilva is kept alive by trade wind rains and the sound conservation by the Garajonay National Park (which enjoys UNESCO recognition),where other islands have been largely deforested.
The upper reaches of this densely wooded region are often shrouded in cloud and swirling mist, which has maintained this lush and diverse vegetation. In ancient times the local population (Guanches) used to collect the water dripping from the trees into jars and fill their reservoirs with it. Even today the tap water on the island comes from the ground water aquifers and although it is treated, it is drinkable – you don't need to keep buying bottled water.
Landscapes of La Gomera
La Gomera is of volcanic origin and the mountainous Gomeran slopes are criss-crossed by paths, presenting varying levels of challenge to walkers and stunning views to reward the energetic. The island is roughly circular, about 22 km (15 miles) in diameter and rising to 1487 m (nearly 5000 feet) at the central peak of Garajonay. It is shaped rather like half of a peeled orange from which the segments have been parted, leaving deep ravines or barrancos which are coated with laurisilva.
Between the extremes of the high cool vegetation and the warmer sun-baked cliffs near sea level, the Gomerans have for centuries farmed the lower levels, channelling water for the irrigation of their vines, fruits and vegetables, such as bananas. Because of the narrow barrancos, Gomerans have a unique way of communicating across the valleys by an amazing kind of whistled speech called Silbo. Silbo Gomero is an indigenous language, whose existence was known since Roman times. Invented by the original inhabitants of the island, the Guanches, Silbo was adopted by the Spanish settlers in the 16th century and survived after the extinction of the Guanches. When this was about to die out early in the 21st century, the local government required all children to learn it in school.
Eating your way around La Gomera
Canarian cooking is Mediterranean in style but with its own unique character. There is a distinct preference for traditional farm produce and meats, with low reliance on fatty foods. Gofio, a traditional staple of the Islands, has its roots in Spanish Canarian culture. Made from ground and toasted maize or wheat, gofio is highly nutritious and can be eaten as a dough mix, with savoury foods such as fish, or as a drink in milk. There are also a number of excellent cheeses made on the island, the best are those white cheeses from goats. There are a lot of pigs kept and pork is a common ingredient of succulent stews and hearty soups. Fish is probably the most common Canarian staple, be it fresh or salted and usually accompanied by one of a large selection of ‘Mojo’ sauces which range in flavour and strength, from the extremely hot and spicy to medium or very mild. ’Sancocho’ is one of the traditional fish stews made from salted sea bream, stone bass or wreck fish (this species has no English equivalent) which should be tried.
Potatoes are another common ingredient and come in a variety of ways. Outstanding are the potato stews orthe ubiquitous and aptly named ‘Papas arrugadas’ (wrinkled potatoes), which are boiled in extremely salty water and eaten with hot ‘Mojo’ sauce. To round out your taste experience, there are shellfish and a variety of tropical fruits. Atypical product of La Gomera is ‘Guarapo’, the sap taken from the countless palm trees dotted around the Island which is cooked to make ‘palm honey' The local wine is 'distinctive', and complements a tapa (snack) of Gomerian cheese, roasted pork or goat meat. The better ones are the whites such as 'Asocado'. Brands to look for include 'Garajonay' and 'Roque Cano.'
Self-Guided Walking Holidays in La Gomera
Sherpa Expeditions offers three different trips designed to help you get the most out of your self-guided walking holiday in La Gomera.
Getting to/from La Gomera
The easiest way to get to La Gomera is to fly to Tenerife (not Tenerife North Airport – further out of the way) and then get the ferry or catermaran to San Sebastian. If you are pushed for time you can take a taxi from the airport to the "Ferry Los Cristianos" (25 Euros approx) which is the port at Playa de Las Américas, for onward ferry to La Gomera taking 40 minutes approx. If however, you are not pushed for time, there is a bus service that leaves from directly outside the terminal to Los Christianos interchange building, 2 Euros each way (approx) you need to check times locally. There are two main ferry operators between Los Cristianos and San Sebastion, with a number of daily departures.