Tenerife—and the Canaries in general—have always seemed to me a place where retired people go on holiday. A nightmare mix of hotels and time share apartments. After two visits that image is alive and intact. It is indeed a geriatric haven full of tasteless concrete monstrosities and tourism practices that actively repulse me. But at the same time, it’s complemented with an entirely different idea. That of absolutely beautiful, remote and rarely visited canyons, ridges and villages where, to use that oft abused cliché, time seems to stand still.
Once you remove yourself from the coastline, and you should, especially the south/northwest, you enter a very different world. Make no mistake, there will be plenty of rental cars, motorcycles and bikes on nearly any paved road you take, but they tend to limit their photo stops and exploration to the usual suspects. And they tend to respect nature a bit more. Go a bit further and you’re on your own.
La Gomera on the other hand is an island where the best of Tenerife exists on its own. Not many tourists and even fewer facilities to cater to them. The short visit there made me want to visit the other two small islands of La Palma and El Hierro even more. I have no doubt surfers will keep their Fuerteventura as it is so there’s no rush to get to that one.
This time around the visit was of a different nature, a bit shorter and much more packed so there wasn’t nearly as much time or freedom to explore the unknown. Surfing was out of the question as the only waves (and decent wind) was on the northern side (and I’m not good enough on a board to handle those conditions) so climbing was the main distraction. We only went out into the canyons around Arico on two mornings. As I haven’t climbed in over 4 months due to an injury, we stuck to the easiest routes. We explored two new areas, Las Bovedas in Barranco del piedra bermeja and Arico arriba/abajo in Barranco de los albarderos. The later is without a doubt the most developed and visited climbing area in Tenerife with a very nice mix of boulders as well as short, easy (arriba) and long, hard routes (abajo) in a canyon offering sun and shade all day. Well, the heat does get a bit intense and shade scarce around mid day. Las Bovedas is another area in a extensive range of lonely canyons where it’s more than likely you’ll be the only person around. With several nice water-washed basalt narrows it’s a sight worth seeing on its own even if you don’t climb.
For the more intense canyoning experience there’s the Barranco del Rio around El Sotano climbing area. The approach itself should be done with plenty of caution and a bit of a head for heights. Certainly not to be taken lightly. As we didn’t come properly equipped we turned around when we came to the point where a descent on an old rope was the only way down towards an unseen bottom.
Cañada del Capricho, the first climbing area on Tenerife, is much easier to approach, plus it comes with excellent views of Pico del Teide. We only walked around to scout as there was not enough time, plus there aren’t that many routes graded below 6. As I said, not really in shape to bother with those just yet.
Overall my verdict on Tenerife, confirmed yet again, is that it’s definitely worth a visit but only if you get a really sweet deal on the flights and the place to sleep. Trust me that helps when you need to ignore the masses of tourists. We seem to have been successful in avoiding them as a family friend pointed out several times while looking at all the photos. There were hardly any people in them. I never really noticed it until she said so as I had the exact opposite image in my head.
Oh, and don’t forget to spend a few hours at Jardín de Aclimatación de la Orotava. Just trust me on that one.