Located off the coast of Northwest Africa in the Atlantic, the volcanic Canary Islands are in fact a Spanish archipelago consisting of seven islands (Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, La Palma, Lanzarote, El Hierro, La Gomera) and the Chinijo Archipelago of which only the island of La Graciosa is inhabited. Each of these exotic islands has its own distinctive character.
The large island of Tenerife offers breathtaking hiking, for instance up the Teide (3718 m). But there are many other trails, both marked and unmarked. Try the much greener island of La Gomera, famous among hikers, or the spectacular trails around the Caldera de Taburiente on the larger island of La Palma. These three islands, including El Hierro and Fuerteventura, have the best developed trail system, including multi-day GR’s, circular trails and smaller local routes. They are usually marked, and indicated on maps or in guides. Nevertheless you can easily get lost, in mist for example.
The trail system on the other islands - Gran Canaria, Lanzarote - is lagging behind, but also these islands offer some great hiking across stunning volcanic terrain.
The Canary Islands can be visited all year round. To avoid the heat, travel between November and May. These months bring more rain, but still in modest quantities. Your boots should give your ankles support. The islands get crowded in tourist season with beach lovers.
Here's a list of islands, in order of size:
- Tenerife, 2.034 km2: superb walking in the immense caldera, highest volcano: El Teide, excellent trail network
- Fuerteventura, 1.660 km2: exotic and arid island, great trail (GR131), unique nature, great in winter
- Gran Canaria, 1.560 km2: day hikes into the rugged mountain interior
- Lanzarote, 846 km2: day hikes in the interior
- La Palma, 708 km2: excellent hiking, coastal GR and one crossing the impressive crater in the center of the island, laurel forests in the north, excellent trail network
- La Gomera, 370 km2: world famous lush laurel forests in the moist centre, popular with hikers, excellent trail network
- El Hierro, 268 km2: dramatic eroded coastline, good hike over central ridge
- La Graciosa, 29 km2: feel alone on a small ocean island, linger over lava fields and climb pumice cones