Winter Walking in Tenerife
Santiago del Teide, set 1,000 metres above sea level in the lovely, dramatic Valle de Santiago, is the capital of the municipality of the same name, also including Puerto de Santiago and Los Gigantes.
It is said that the conquistadores, who wanted to set up sugar cane plantations, gave the land back to the local Guanche Mencey (native king) because the area was not suited for this type of cultivation and therefore of no interest to them. There are still examples of Guanche names in the area and Guanche blood still runs in the local veins. Local women can be seen wearing traditional garb, typically black dresses, with the men having a liking for black fedoras. However, when I mentioned this to a gentleman I met wearing this apparel, it turned out he hailed from Venezuela!
Probably best known as the gateway to Masca, Santiago del Teide is also famous for the almond festival. Each year, the Ayuntamiento (local authority) sponsors the Ruta del Almendro walks, which are very popular with both Canarians and tourist visitors alike. There are a few different routes you can choose from, dependent on how far you wish to walk and transport is normally provided with a small fee payable. Whichever trail you choose, the lovely pink almond blossoms can be seen. I chose one of the longer routes, which totalled 7.2 miles.
The trail starts from the North of the village where you pick up a well-trodden camino, working its way up through almond fields, dry stone walls and shrubs to an altitude of 4,200 feet. This is not a huge climb, about 900 feet, but a good work-out, mostly due to the thin air at this altitude. There is a point where, approaching the highest point, the trail rises in front of you and Mount Teide emerges, framed between dry-stone walls, on the horizon (see picture). Shortly after this point, you reach the lava fields of Mount Chinyero. This volcanic vent erupted on the 19th of November 1909, the last eruption reported on the island. It is said that two streams of lava moved slowly towards, and threatening the villages of El Tanque and Icod. Legend has it that the lava eventually halted when the villagers removed religious statues from their churches and placed them in the path of the lava.
As you follow the very well defined but rocky trail through the lava fields the track swings round to a southerly direction around the east side of Montaña Bilma. Eventually the track moves increasingly downhill and you have to watch your step carefully on the rough path. Views from here on in are dramatic, sweeping from from Sugar Loaf Mountain and the new trunk road tunnels on your left, all the way round to the Teno mountains. There you can see the road to Masca and Buenavista del Norte zigzagging its way up from Santiago del Teide. Before this road was built, the only access to Masca was either by sea followed by a tough climb up the barranco or by donkey across the mountains.
Our trail becomes much narrower in places, as it winds its way along terraces and dry stone walls down until you cross the road to find the tiny chapel, Ermita del Santo Angel de la Guarda, a cute little chapel by the side of the road. Here the now very steep path, probably used by worshipers from the nearby village of Las Manchas, winds its way from the back of the Ermita down to the village itself. This is a typical Canarian village, worth a few minutes to look round and perhaps visit the attractive little church.
From here the walk back to the start point follows a couple of back roads, entering the village through almond trees, emerging near to the church. Sometimes on Sundays or festivals you may encounter a market where local produce is on sale, featuring wines, including banana wine which is delicious, almond biscuits and more.
There are a number of bars and restaurants in Santiago del Teide where you can slake your thirst and, or, take some lunch before your journey home.
The best time to embark on this walk to enjoy the blossoms is at the end of January into the beginning of February. If you decide to register with the Ayuntamiento and join the crowd, be aware that this is a slow affair starting at 0830 in the morning and there could be around 200 people of all shapes and sizes on the trail.
|Length of walk||7.2 miles|
|Time||3-3.5 hours dependent on rest periods and time exploring.|
|Maximum Altitude||4,136 feet|
|Accumulated elevation uphill||930 feet|
Directions for the walk can be found on the Internet or from Wikilok if you are a subscriber and have a smart phone or GPS. The browser link for my walk on Wikilok is as follows