Canary Islands

Writing is a key way to refine my thoughts and keep a clean record of my experiences. I love composing thoughtful post ideas and choose and work on the photos that best go with the topic. However, sometimes I just want to share my thoughts, goals and the little things that make me smile on a day to day basis.

At the end of each month, I will put together a behind the scenes post in which I’ll give you a peek of my weekends, business travels, goals and favourite links.

Click here to read my previous Behind the Scenes.


On the road

Tenerife from above, Spain

August was shorter than May, June and July all combined. How is that even possible? The past month still feels like one big blur. So much beauty. So much sunshine. So much food. So much wine. Each time I return home for a few days, it becomes harder to leave. As I arrived at the airport to check in for my return and couldn’t find my passport, I felt a guilty relief. I thought that it was just meant to be.

Fortunately or not, life has other plans. We found my passport and I left Tenerife once again – but not without plenty of great memories and adventures, such as watching the sun rise from the highest peak in Spain.


Weekend scenes

The Power of Summer - Outdoor Cinema, London

Whenever I feel grumpy about London, I remind myself of the amazing things you can do on a sunny weekend in the city.

One of my summer favourites has been The Power of Summer – a pop-up food & film festival set at one of London’s coolest landmarks – Battersea Power Station (an old power station south of the Thames). After working our way through the food market, we grabbed a mojito and entered the silent cinema area, filled with colourful bean bags and set with the power station as a trendy industrial back drop.


Mantra

“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

– Thomas Jefferson

July goals

View from Guajara, Tenerife (Spain)

  • GMAT. August has definitely seen me struggle. While some days I thought I could totally beat it, others I felt like giving up. It just felt disheartening to spend so many hours devoted to something, only to see you fail. But there’s one valuable thing I’ve learned from this: making  mistakes is not a bad thing – it’s actually a good thing, it forces me to learn something new! I’m repeating this over and over until I breathe this new mantra.
  • Hiking. My two weeks in Tenerife were adorned with great escapes to the outdoors. Aside from watching the sun rise from the top of an active volcano, I also peaked over lava fields (picture above) and watched the sun set in between lunar landscapes. I just love volcanic landscapes!
  • Photography. I have a confession to make. I forgot to pack my camera! I think I’ve gotten so used to not carrying one that I don’t miss it. And that’s not a good thing. Instagram may do miracles, but I really want to get back to the time in which I had photo memories of my travels that I could print in large size if I wanted to.

September goals

Sunset in Tenerife, Spain

  • More GMAT. I can’t believe I’m half way through my GMAT course already! There’s still plenty of new material and revisions to do before the exam though. I aim to take my first test end of October-Mid November, so I really need to speed up during the next two months!
  • School selection. and am starting to get a better sense of what exactly I’m looking for, so it’s time to dig deeper into my top programs and develop an application strategy to describe my story. This month, I aim to narrow down my selection to 4 programs I truly love and reaching out to at least one current student or alumni.
  • Getting back to the habit of running. Can you imagine what I enjoyed even more than hiking? The lunches and dinners afterwards. Spain, I love you to bits – but these 3-course late lunches that last the entire afternoon have serious side-effects! So I want to make use of the (still) late sunsets and (occasional) rain-free evenings in London to head to the park before it’s too cold. P.S.: No. I don’t run outside in winter. I hibernate.
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Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

One of the many reasons I love to return home to Tenerife is to decompress from the 24-hour buzz of life in London and reconnect with nature. Sure, the city has plenty of beautiful parks I love – but there’s nothing that really compares to a 3-4 hour hike in the mountains or even a 1-hour stroll along a sunny coast.

In the heart of the Tenerife, lies El Teide, which at 3718 M (roughly 12,198 feet) above sea level is the highest point in Spain and also the 3rd highest volcano in the World as measured from its base on the Atlantic floor (right after Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii). You might be surprised to read that El Teide is still active – with its most recent eruption as late as 1909.

After a few months of regular training, I was ready to take on a new challenge: climbing Mount Teide to watch the sunrise from the highest peak in Spain.

First Section – From Montaña Blanca to the Base

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Our path began at roughly 4:00 PM the afternoon before at the car park located on km 40.3 of the TF-21 road. The track is a very easy walk that offers impressive views of the volcano and its surroundings – largely covered with pumice (a light coloured volcanic rock). After about 30 minutes, we reached a set of volcanic bombs known as the Huevos del Teide. These solidified lava balls rolled down the mountain side from the front of advancing lava flows during the volcanic eruptions.

45 minutes later, we arrived at the bottom or base of the volcano itself – where the real adventure began!

Second Section – From the Base to Refugio Altavista

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

The road we had been following throughout the past 5KM turned into a steep, narrow and rocky path (Route 7 – La Rambleta).

The ascent from the base (at roughly 2700 M) to Refugio Altavista (at 3260 M) is short in distance, but quite tough because of its slope (almost 600 M hight in roughly 2 KM). With each step, I noticed the increasing lack of oxygen – What would normally take me 30 minutes to hike, took almost double the time.

Occasionally, we were overtaken by some super-humans who probably spent every one of their holidays racing up and down volcanoes. I wasn’t there to compete though – so I walked my own pace to allow my body to adjust to the height and avoid running out of breath.

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Roughly two hours on, we arrived at what would be our accommodation (Refugio Altavista) – right on time to quickly freshen up before watching the sun set over the mountains.

The Refugio Altavista consists of two buildings with a capacity of 54 people. Everybody staying in the refuge had one common goal – to reach the crater before sunrise! For this reason, the maximum stay is one night only and you asked to leave the Refuge before 8:00 AM (who stays until that late anyway?).

I was in bed by 9:45 PM.

Note: The panoramic picture above is the view from the refugio – showing the shadow of the volcano.

Third Section – From Refugio Altavista to the Crater

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

I didn’t sleep much that night. I’m not sure if it was the excitement, the altitude or the snoring (or maybe a combination of all three) – but time flew and it felt like only minutes had passed when I started to hear the first early-risers getting ready for the big climb. At 5:15 AM I slowly climbed down my bunk bed, put on my headlamp and packed my backpack.

At 6:00 AM, after a light breakfast and a strong coffee, it was time to go!

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

Starting at over 3200 M above sea level and having another 500 M height difference ahead of us, we calculated we’d need one and a half hours to reach the summit. I thought I’d have a tough time getting up early to go out for a challenging hike in the dark, but I was wrong – I felt like a kid on a very important mission.

The wind had picked up a bit, which made the walk in the dark even more interesting. Every now and then I could catch a flickering headlamp and hear low voices drifting from above. Sometimes, I stopped to look back just to confirm that I indeed wasn’t alone up there. 

When the sun began to rise, I was still a short walk away from the summit. I had to stop for a picture, though – the panoramic view was breathtaking.

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

One final push and I reached the summit on time for the grand opening!

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

My hands were trembling (it was cold!) and my heart felt like it was going to pack up and leave. While I attempted to recover my breath, I explored the rest of the summit and found the the other side of the sunrise – the shadow of the volcano.

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

The skies began to transcend from pink to yellow. Some hikers (probably those with another long day of adventure ahead of them) began their descend. Others (me included) didn’t really want to leave at all. I could have stayed all day, if it wasn’t for the strong smell of sulphur!

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

Fourth Section – from the Crater to the Cable car

It was only once we began to descend the crater that I could fully appreciate the lunar landscape. The trip down wasn’t easy as there was plenty of loose rock and gravel – another perfect excuse to stop to take photos.

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Many hikers (me included) took the easier way back down the volcano by getting on the cable car. The first one runs at 9:00 AM, which gave me some more extra time to capture the rocky landscape.

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Too soon, it was 9:00 AM and we hopped on the cable car together with another 20 glowing hikers – all of us sharing photos and experiences of that crazy time we watched the sun rise from the highest peak in Spain.

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Note: while a number of enthusiastic hikers challenge themselves to reach the crater before sunrise, this is far from being the only way to go. From the Upper Station of the cable car, Route No. 10 (Telesforo Bravo) also leads to the summit. This hike, while still challenging because of the altitude and the loose rocks and gravel, is much shorter! Remember: you will need a permit to access the crater during daytime (you can request the permit here). 

Practical Information

Route: Montaña Blanca – Pico del Teide
Elevation gain uphill: 1450 m approx.
Elevation gain downhill: 170 m approx.
Length: around 12 km
Duration: from Montaña Blanca to the Refugio Altavista, around 2.5 to 3.5 hrs // from Refugio Altavista to the summit between 1.5 and 2.5 hrs (depends on how you cope with altitude).
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult (depends on your shoes and condition)
Wikiloc: Ruta Montaña Blanca-Pico Teide (does not include the descend to the cable car)
Accommodation link: Refugio Altavista

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.


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Last September, I promised myself to return to Terrazas del Sauzal when I was back in Tenerife. Several flights back to the island and I finally got around returning to one of my favourite terraces on the island.

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

I never get enough of this view. 

As we sat down and scanned through the menu, I noticed that, since last year, the menu had taken a twist, offering some new and refreshing choices. As much as I enjoy their tuna tartare (ah, one of my favourite picks from last time!), I was on the mission of trying out their latest creations.

The first thing that caught my attention was the tuna goldbrick. I pictured a brick of tuna – carefully decorated, resting on a delicious avocado puree and was immediately sold. After each of us chose a starter and main, we waited, expectantly, for the food to come.

It didn’t take long for our appetiser to arrive.

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

I’m a big fan of small portions, and this cherry tomato and mozzarella brochette dipped in home-made pesto sauce was no exception.

Shortly after, our colourful starters were placed on the table. We ordered a vegetable tempura salad with iberian ham and prawns, decorated with mango sauce and caviar, and a foie strudel with goat cheese, topped with caramelised apple and combined with duck ham and papaya. The foie brick (which to be honest looked like a crema catalana) was an incredible combination of flavours that I hadn’t expected at all!

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

By this time, I had eaten so much of their delicious bread and starters that I was a bit worried about being able to eat the tuna brick. Note to self: put a limit on the amount of bread you want to eat that evening and actually stick to it!

Anyway, when our mains arrived, I was pleasantly surprised with my choice.

Terrazas del Sauzal, Tenerife (Spain)

My tuna goldbrick was actually, well, gold!

I had read before about the trend of using edible gold in restaurants and always thought: “Well it can’t be actual gold. Who would eat gold?”. The truth is, using gold in cuisine has become more and more popular – and there are different types of edible gold. If you’re living in NYC (or like me, are just curious about the crazy things some people do for marketing) – you might have heard of the Douche Burger (a burger sold for 666 USD – which, among many other luxuries, includes gold leafs).

My tuna was not covered in gold leafs (I doubt I’d be able to afford a meal at a restaurant that did!). Instead, it was sprayed gold – a much more affordable version of decorating your meal. While there was no difference in taste (it didn’t taste metallic, by the way), it was a creative touch that made me smile. 


There’s a lot of debate about the trend of adding gold to food and drinks – although these debates do refer to the much more expensive gold leafs (which are, in fact, thin pieces of the metal). For some, eating gold is an act of inexcusable opulence. For others, the ultimate in gourmet luxury. 

Would you try edible gold?

PS: I’m linking up on Treat Yo’ self Thursday with Treasure Tromp and The Happy Type!


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Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

As much as I like to cozy up next to a fire in a warm gastro pub in London, I was very much looking forward to be able to trade my layers for a bit of sunshine. Scratch that – if there was one thing I was determined to do in Lanzarote, this was sunbathing. Every. Single. Day. Yes, I would need a lot of sunshine for that.

Of course, as someone who grew up in the Canary Islands, I am well aware that even Europe’s year-round beach destination can’t guarantee impeccable weather – specially not in February. So every day until the day we flew south, I wished for uninterrupted sunshine at our arrival.

And as we arrived, we realised that for once, weather was on our side.

With an average of 23-25ºC during the day, we woke up early to stretch our time out in the sunshine. We lunched on sunny terraces overlooking the sea and spent lazy afternoons drinking cold gin tonics next to our pool.

And then there was the day we visited Playa Papagayo.

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Playa Papagayo, hidden away in Los Ajaches Natural Reserve, is a crescent of natural white sand protected by rocky cliffs. It is said to be one of Lanzarote’s most beautiful beaches – and I have no doubt about it.

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

The entire island boasts a lot of natural (and unconventional) beauty because of its volcanic nature. During the 18th and 19th centuries, a series of eruptions created over 300 new volcanic peaks which can be found spread around the small island. Its volcanic nature also accounts for the different colour layers in its earth – ranging from black to red to almost white.

While we did sunbathe (a lot) in Papagayo, I’m an antsy pants and can hardly ever hold still for more than half an hour, so I set off to explore the surroundings.

Playa Papagayo might be the best known beach in the Natural Reserve, but it’s got some tough competition out there. It’s neighbouring beaches Playa Mujeres, Pozo, Congrío and Muelas, all compete with its beauty. Their further distance from the main car park and lack of beach hut serving cold drinks guarantee a much quieter stay away from the tourists.

Perfect for beach hopping!

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Practical Information: There is a 3€ charge to access Los Ajaches Natural Reserve – but believe me, it’s well worth it.

While others might study the beach possibilities, I researched the best hiking adventure in Lanzarote. And by the best, I mean one that includes lava fields and volcanoes without requiring advanced hiking skills, an excellent condition or two cars on two ends of a trail.

I chose Canldera Blanca because it was short, didn’t require alpine boots but still seemed to offer an authentic volcanic experience. And I don’t regret the choice – it was probably the easiest most rewarding hike on the island!

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

The starting point is a car park close to the tiny town of Mancha Blanca. Following the signs, we spent the first 45min or so walking through a lava field. While this part of the trail doesn’t offer any views, it’s still an interesting walk – we inspected the lava stones and glimpsed into the inside of a smaller crater (Montaña Caldereta) on our way.

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Once at the bottom of Caldera Blanca, we faced a gentle diagonal climb and soon reached the top of the crater.

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Caldera Blanca, Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain)

We turned to the left to walk up to the summit, from which point I believe is a descent back to the bottom of the crater and I also spotted some more adventurous hikers walking round the crater in the distance. Unfortunately it became very windy and decided to return via the same route we had come up (safety comes first!).

Practical Information

Route: Caldera Blanca (round trip)
Elevation gain uphill: 300m approx.
Elevation gain downhill: 300m approx.
Length: around 7km
Duration: 3 hrs (including break)
Difficulty: Easy (closed shoes necessary)
Wikiloc: Caldera Blanca – Lanzarote (This one is the trip around the crater).

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.

On a sunny day like this one, the circular route of La Caldera and El Topo in the north side of Tenerife offers some of the most impressive views of the valley and the volcano.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Starting at the Parking of La Caldera (or at the nearby bus stop) at already 1200m altitude, the path is well signalised through a yellow and white mark. There are common sections with a GR route (which you’ll recognise by the white and red mark). PR stands for pequeño recorrido (distances between 10 and 50 km) while GR stands for gran recorrido (distances over 50 km). You might want to leave the latter for a day you’ve packed to stay in a mountain hut somewhere!

Following the wide path at the beginning, you already get a chance to see one of Tenerife’s landmarks – Los Organos (meaning, literally, the organ pipes). As of landmarks, it’s probably one of the most hidden ones – only best to be seen when doing this loop trail. They are massive pillars of rock stretching about 100m – 150m high, resembling a Church’s organ pipes.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

After only about 2km, the forested trail starts to climb evenly, sometimes allowing for a gaze at the impressive volcano: El Teide, which at 3718m height is the highest mountain in Spain.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

The path climbs into a forest of laurisilva and pines. Forests of laurisilva are one of my favourites worldwide – they smell great and look magical, as if taken after a fairytale. This section is a continuous climb of about 550m height difference over around 3km.

At the top of the climb, the trail becomes narrower, with rock formations on your left and a barranco (or gorge) on your right. While most of the trail transcurs through forested paths, it occasionally brings you to these exposed cliffs. But don’t worry – usually fencing, handrails and cables are provided for safety.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Here, you can feel (and touch!) the humidity in the ground. Everything around you is a strong green.

But green landscapes are there for a reason: it rains quite often. In fact, this part of the island is often set in clouds, fog and sometimes, heavy rain (something you’ll need to take into account before starting your day hike!). We were aware of the weather predictions (95% chance of rain), but still ventured into it for two reasons: a) weather forecasts in Tenerife aren’t always right and b) we had rain capes anyway.

This was where the trail became misty.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

I can hardly see the team leader anymore…

Although the clouds took away some of those great views over the valley, I liked their mysterious effect. I’m also convinced that clouds bring cold colours such as greens and blues alive!

And just as the weather forecast had predicted, after the foggy clouds, there came the rain. I didn’t mind though – most of the time, it was just a refreshing drizzle (although those that started a bit later that day were caught pretty badly by a proper rain storm). Most of the time, the weather in this area is better early in the morning and gets worse around 2pm – 3pm. At that time, we were already having a massive lunch next to the fire. Talk about good timing!

Practical Information

Route: La Caldera – Ruta del Agua – El Topo (circular / loop trail)
Elevation gain uphill: 777m
Elevation gain downhill: 777m
Length: 14 km
Duration: 4.5 hrs approx.
Difficulty: Moderate (steep climb and occasional narrow paths)
Wikiloc: La Caldera – Ruta del Agua – El Topo Hike

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.

If you like almost private black sand beaches, big waves and enjoy an adventurous walk – then you’ll quickly fall for this beach as much as I did almost 15 years ago.

Playa Ancón, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

Starting at the far-end of La Paz (in Puerto de la Cruz), I took a small path leads into local agricultural land filled with canarian banana plantations. Shortly after, the same path gifts me with uninterrupted views of the ocean. The first beach on sight is El Bollullo – a familiar, beautiful beach protected from the ferocity of the ocean. I can see local families having a picnic and the occasional tourist venturing into the water (they must be nordic, I think).

I continue walking along th same path and realise that there are fewer people in sight. Venturing through more plantations (and fighting the temptation to grab a banana), I soon get sight of Playa Los Patos.

Playa Ancón, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

Los Patos is a beach frequented by surfers and the occasional nudist. By having its access restricted by the tides, it ensures an almost private getaway. Even with low tides, it’s very easy to get wet while climbing slippery stones to reach the sparkling black sand.

I watch the beach from the top and spot one adventurous soul and his dog, and one brave surfer. It’s a harsh day today. The waves are high, the water is irregular and the current is at its strongest.

I continue along the path, which, at this point, is less obvious. After a short ascent through land of nobody, and a short descent a few minutes later I reach the access to Playa El Ancón – my definition of paradise.

Playa Ancón, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

Playa Ancón, Tenerife (Canary Islands)

The beach-long waves have an hipnotic effect on me and I loose track of time watching them come and go. So predictable, but extremely captivating.

When I snap back I realize I’m smiling at the memory of spending nights around a campfire and waking up early to the sound of the waves. Feeling the burning black sand between your toes. Being caught by one of those waves that turn your entire World upside down and still wandering out triumphantly, wanting to do it all over again.

Practical Information

Route: From Calle Aceviño (in Puerto de la Cruz) to Playa del Ancón (La Orotava), Tenerife
Elevation: 320m
Length: 6 km
Duration: 1 hr if you rush, the entire day if you stay for a swim
Difficulty: Really easy (if you wear closed and comfortable footwear)
Wikiloc: For the one that wants a bigger challenge – From Puerto de la Cruz to Vista Paradíso (via Playa Ancón and Los Patos)

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.

Update: I’m linking with Budget Traveler’s Sandbox Travel Photo Thursday. Make sure to check out the link for more travels posts!

Best Sunset in Tenerife - Las Terrazas del Sauzal (Canary Islands, Spain)

I had been looking forward to having dinner at Las Terrazas del Sauzal for months. It’s one of these hidden gems that still not many people know about – maybe because getting there is quite an adventure itself. We drove to El Sauzal – a village with about 9.000 habitants. This part of the island used to be made up of farmlands, but over the past few years, it has shifted to a more urban focus with beautiful villas along the hillsides. We cruised up and down the steep and narrow one-way roads for almost as much as it took us to drive to the Village in the first place (about 15 minutes on the highway).

At arrival, we were greeted by this…

Best Sunset in Tenerife - Las Terrazas del Sauzal (Canary Islands, Spain)

IMG_0155-2

Best Sunset in Tenerife - Las Terrazas del Sauzal (Canary Islands, Spain)

From the open terrace, we had a clean view of the island’s north side – its coastline, beaches, hills and villages. We saw mount Teide, the island’s dormant volcano, and the Atlantic Ocean. Everything tinted in a diffused orange and pink light.

The moment was perfect. As soon as the last ray of bright orange light hid behind the horizon, we sat at our table and were ready to enjoy dinner. Their menu is short and simple, but it still took me a while to decide what I wanted. It’s difficult to do so, when you’ve been looking forward to this moment for so long and know that it may be a while until your return.

Fine dining and a perfect sunset in Tenerife

Homemade foie terrine, crunchy brioche and creamy green apple.
Tuna tartare, guacamole and Doritos.
Salmon wrapped in sesame seeds, artisan tomato jam and ginger vinaigrette.
Beef tenderloin, caramelized foie and sweet wine reduction.
Duck breast with guava sauce, potato terrine and mini vegetables.

…You get the idea, right?

Fine dining and a perfect sunset in Tenerife

Fine dining and a perfect sunset in Tenerife

I had the tuna tartare and beef tenderloin, but made sure to try a bit of everyone else’s plate, too – a quite ambitious task, by the way – we were 9!

Las Terrazas del Sauzal is one of my favourite restaurants on the island and I am already looking forward to my next visit in a few months time.

Last week, my grandpa turned 80.Despite the physical distance, we are very close – and whenever I get to go back home, I like to spend as much time as possible with him. He is a wealth of jokes and stories, and one of the most adventurous people I know. He is a doer (less of a thinker) – and I’ve always admired him profoundly for that.

Grandfather's 80s Birthday

His stories captivate people from around the Globe. Wherever we go, he will always has a memory to share that will make you think, laugh or simply love him even more than before. Occasionally, his stories are followed by one of his life lessons.

Immerse in the culture

The greatest way to build a relationship with someone else is to understand their culture and traditions. My grandpa made numerous friends and colleagues while traveling to Japan by simply not hesitating to eat what’s on his plate. Back then, Sushi hadn’t become as popular in Europe as it is today (and even less were other exotic meals such as fish heads or raw sea urchins). Not only did he try it all – but he embraced it and soon became one of them.

There’s no such thing as a language barrier

Opa speaks a few languages – but only one of them well. Still, he almost always has manages to convey his message and understand what others try to say. I have caught him speaking broken spanish with a tip of portuguese and a top of italian. I learned that it’s not necessary to be fluent to communicate – flexibility and openness to understand will already help you go a long way. Sometimes, he sits next to someone who doesn’t speak a word of German (nor spanish nor english, as a matter of fact) and 5 minutes later, they’re already having a blast. He’s a real charmer.

Everybody likes music

Even when talking to someone in another language isn’t quite easy, he always finds something in common – and usually, this is music. He surrounds himself with artists and musicians and is always up for joining a jam session anywhere he goes. Madonna knows it best: Music makes the people come together!

Don’t work too much

Whenever our conversations turn towards a more professional topic, he always tell me not to work too much. I know what he means – balance and have fun. Don’t allow work to define you and rule your life. As an entrepreneur in the fifties, he worked very hard to create and expand his business. But he always made sure to have fun, too.

Masca is a tiny and remote village in the Northwest of Tenerife. When I say tiny, I really mean it – Masca is home to merely 80 habitants. Its access is an adventure of its own. Well, for visitors, that is. – Us locals are used to the twisting and turning of narrow roads that go down the sheer side of not one, but several mountains.

It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Masca Ravine, Tenerife (Spain)The view over Masca and its ravine

The village itself has charm and a rural taste of Tenerife. It’s the starting point of one of the most popular hiking trails on the island – the Barranco de Masca (Masca Ravine). Once you start the descent into the valley, you quickly get a chance to test your fitness.

The hiking path sinks quickly into a deep gorge, following the twist and turns of the hills around it. It goes over streams, through tunnels of reeds, over large rocks and even through a small cave. Soon, you find yourself in a Lost World.

Masca Ravine, Tenerife (Spain)

Masca Ravine, Tenerife (Spain)

Masca Ravine, Tenerife (Spain)

Masca Ravine, Tenerife (Spain)

Masca Ravine, Tenerife (Spain)

Masca Ravine, Tenerife (Spain)

To be honest, my pictures don’t make justice to the spectacular landscape in Masca. It’s quite simply breathtaking.

The barranco walls grow taller the deeper you move into the gorge. After 2.5 hours, we emerged onto Masca beach – on time for our well-deserved picnic.

Masca Ravine, Tenerife (Spain)

Masca Ravine, Tenerife (Spain)

From here, we took a cooling plunge in the Atlantic Ocean and allowed our skin to soak up the warmth of the sun until our water taxi arrived.

Well yes, we took a water taxi. I was wearing new hiking boots which weren’t ideal for this terroir, as I discovered on my challenging way down.

Note to self: high boots give better support on uneven surfaces. And Masca is completely uneven.

In my defense: most of the casual hikers that venture their way down the gorge book a water taxi to take them to the next village, Los Gigantes. This short ride for 10 EUR per person allows you to not only see the entire ravine from the sea, but also takes you along the Acantilados (cliffs) de los Gigantes – one of my favourite views of Tenerife and a great place to go whale watching.

Los Gigantes (Tenerife)Acantilados de los Gigantes – One of my favorite shots, ever.

From there, it’s a mere 23 EUR cab ride back to Masca, which in turn is about a 20 minute car drive from Mesón del Norte (one of those traditional restaurants that is really worth the drive!).

Practical Information

Route: Descenso del Barranco de Masca (descending the Masca gorge)
Elevation gain uphill: hardly any, unless you walk the same way up again
Elevation gain downhill: 625m
Length: 6.8 km
Duration: 2.5 hrs
Difficulty: Easy (Moderate, if walking uphill again!)
Wikiloc:Barranco de Masca

Growing up on a volcanic island, it’s hard not to be aware of volcanoes – not just when I studied their formation in geology, but every single morning when I stepped into my front garden and saw El Teide (a volcano located in the centre of Tenerife).

El Teide is not only the highest point of elevation in Spain, but also the third highest volcano on Earth. It is currently dormant (that is, inactive) and has been fairly stable since the last eruption in 1909 (with the exception of some seismic activity that was registered about 10 years ago). If it ever awakened, it would be highly dangerous because of its violent history and proximity to cities and towns on the island.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

In many parts of Tenerife, the evidence of these violent volcanic eruptions is clear; forming a surreal landscape that could be (and actually has been!) the scene of many Sci-Fi Movies throughout the years – such as Clash of the Titans and Journey to the centre of the Earth).

During my last trip home, I went to explore the lava fields created from the last eruption on the island – from San José de los Llanos to Chinyero (the site of this last eruption) and back.

We began the trail amongst the shade of pine trees, occasionally allowing us to get a distant view of El Teide.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

About an hour later, we entered the desolate lava fields that surround Chinyero and reach as far as Santiago del Teide, Garachico, Icod and Guia de Isora, through shady pine forests. The ground became a fine black gravel and, around us, a field of surreal red and black tinted rock formations.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

The combination of pine and lava fields is extravagant – the emerald-green, black and red tones against the bright blue sky make a color palette that I immediately associate to Tenerife.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

To anyone that has only seen volcanoes on the news, these earth’s chimneys may seem daunting, dangerous and violent. And during (as well as shortly before) an eruption, they definitely are. However, the Canary Islands is a living example of the beauty they bring to a landscape.

If you want to read more about volcanic landscapes, I recommend you to read about my trip to Lanzarote.

Practical Information

Route: From San José de los Llanos to El Chinyero (circular)
Elevation gain uphill: 445m
Elevation gain downhill: 445m
Length: l5 km
Duration: 4 – 4.5 hrs
Difficulty: Easy
Wikiloc: San José de los Llanos – Chinyero

Have you ever walked on lava fields?

Every time I travel somewhere known for its mountain filled landscapes, I pack my pair of alpine trekking boots, taking up a third of my overall travel size and weight restrictions. I don’t mind these limitations, when I’m really going to be making use of its advantages (like the time I hiked to Mirador Las Torres, in Chile). However, most of the times I don’t need such high-tech boots – simple and comfortable walking shoes with a resistant sole would suffice.

I walked into an outdoor equipment shop looking for my next hiking boots. This time, I thought, I want light ones that don’t take up much space, water-resistant and easy to wash. Oh, and if possible, as compact as flip-flops.

I know what you’re thinking: Those shoes don’t exist.

True. But I think I found something fairly close to my requirements.

My Vibram Five Fingers

Go ahead, crack yourself up – who said they were going to be sexy? I’m a new convert to the Five Fingers cult! Not only is it a pleasant experience to have a feel of what’s actually happening underneath your sole, but also do I believe that walking barefoot (or in this case, semi-barefoot) has many benefits that we have been loosing over time – we’d live healthier, improve our posture and have a better understanding of our body.

As soon as I packed in my new purchase, I decided to put them on test.

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

We chose an easy walk for that afternoon – it was hot and humid. Skies were covered with low-hanging clouds that had been pushed against Tenerife’s northern hillside (a weather phenomenon commonly known as panza de burro or mar de nubes). The hike was about 9km return with not more than 200m meters of height difference – a relaxed walk along the island’s coastline.

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

Starting at the Hotel Maritim, in Los Realejos the path started on asphalt, but soon turned into gravel. At first, I must admit, I didn’t feel comfortable – instead, I took each step with insecurity. I noticed the small rocks and sand under my feet and consciously looked for smoother and flatter areas. During the first 15 minutes, I only stared down at the ground making sure I wasn’t going to step on anything pointy, and so missed out on part of the beautiful landscape.

With time (and practice!) I felt increasingly more confident. The sole, although thinner and softer, still protected me from the heat of the ground and uneven surfaces. I soon realized that these shoes would probably help me gain balance (something I’ve always been lacking of, and that would probably ease my irrational fear of falling down a cliff).

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

As we reached the end of our walk and considered to begin the return, our adventurous spirit kicked in – we literally went off the beaten track to try to reach a small and individual beach. A steep and narrow sandy path limited by a cliff leading directly into the ocean, where pointy rocks waited patiently in the uneasy water. Adventurous, yes. Safe, not completely – not for me. As soon as I took 2 steps down that hill, I knew it was too late to go back. A million thoughts and what ifs were rushing in my head and I stopped to think clearly. I lost confidence in my own feet and my balance. At that point, my mind must have been blocked – as I can’t remember most of it. Somehow, though, I made it up that hill and promised myself never to leave a path again (we all know that won’t last long, though).

My take on this is simple: exercising barefoot (or semi-barefooted) is an amazing experience, but one needs to know his own limitations (as well as the ones of the shoe itself) and work on them before jumping to the extreme. I’m sure I’ll learn to trust in my feet and improve my balance and, someday, it will allow me to overcome this stupid little fear.

Hiking in Tenerife, Canary Islands

Practical Information

Route: From Hotel Maritim (Los Realejos) to Rambla de Castro (Los Realejos)
Elevation gain uphill: 445m
Elevation gain downhill: 445m
Length: 3 km
Duration: 1.5 hrs
Difficulty: Super Easy
Wikiloc: Rambla de Castro. This Wikiloc is not exactly the same route described above but a bit longer one that leads to Playa del Socorro (a beautiful black sand beach).

Have you ever walked in Five Fingers or barefoot? Would you consider it?

Disclaimer: This post is NOT a sponsored post. I bought the shoes myself and continue to use them regularly (for instance, to run in the park). All opinions, thoughts (and fears) are of my own.

Remember that time, I was dreaming of setting sails into the sunset on Lake Léman in Switzerland?

This year, I’ve been throwing myself into all kind of new opportunities: skiing, cooking classes and now sailing. Unlike skiing and cooking, I knew from the beginning that I would really enjoy sailing. After all, it combines the sea, nature and socializing – three things I love.

So what does a usual day look like in a one week full time sailing course?

Sailing in the Canary Islands

8:00am You wake up, squeeze under the shower and have breakfast in the cockpit – usually checking weather and deciding wether or not to put on/take off one of your thousand layers.

10:00am The instructor arrives. Since waking up, you’ve already put on and taken off several layers 2 or 3 times. You feel warm now, simply from the exercise of getting dressed and undressed in your tiny cabin. You’ve decided to go as it is – shorts, t-short and a jumper. After all, you’ve spotted some suspiciously grey clouds to the east.

10:30am You leave the marina behind, excited about taking out your sails… when you realize there’s actually no wind. You wait for another 15min, hoping for a miracle, but soon you give up and turn on the motor. One of your mates returns from inside with some biscuits and apples – it’s time for a second breakfast.

1:00pm Wait, are you feeling a gentle breeze coming from your right? You check the instruments – 10 knots… 10.5 knots… 11 knots… was this apparent or true wind? huh? where’s that theory book again… anyway, you decide to give it a try and raise both sails.

1:35pm Yes! You’re sailing!

Sailing in the Canary Islands

2:30pm You’re in the middle of the passage between two islands. There’s enough wind to blow the yacht away. You’re getting hungry – and impatient. You free your harness from the boat and tumble towards the companionway. You crawl downstairs, grab a bag full of sandwiches and drag it upstairs – this turns you into the yacht’s star.

3:30pm Water is rough – One of your colleagues is already sticking his head over board. You’re at the steering wheel and feel the urge to have a wee.

3:40pm You really can’t hold yourself any longer and decide to go downstairs (again). You crash against the table, sofas and doors but somehow make it into the bathroom. You feel relived – everything turned out pretty well after all. However, right before exiting the bathroom, you loose balance and accidentally turn on the shower right above you.

4:15pm You look around and soak in the view – You can see 3 islands (Tenerife, La Gomera and La Palma) from where you are. By this chance, you eat an apple.

5:20pm What’s that! A dolphin! And there’s another one! And another one! You run (ehem, crawl) to the bow to watch them shoot in front of the yacht. The water is so clear – you can even see their white bellies!

6:00pm The wind has ceased a bit. Now this, you tell yourself, is really leisure sailing. You look around you – you can’t find any other yacht from the Sailing School – does this mean you got the wrong direction? Just in case, you revise the route and your waypoints 3 to 4 times.

6:30pm You’re starting to see a wall that could possibly match your harbor. We’re almost there!

7:10pm While nearing the marina, you start pulling out fenders, warps and all sort of straps. You pull down the sails and get ready to enter.

7:45pm You help the skipper to tie the boat properly (which, believe me, is more complicated than you might think). Lucky enough – you’re the first school yacht to arrive (we did have the racing boat after all), you made it right before sunset!

Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

8:00pm It’s Beer O’Clock – you enjoy a Dorada (the local beer) with the rest of the crew exchanging stories at sea (well, in my case, I listened to other people’s stories at sea – this was my second time after all).

Sunset in Las Galletas, Tenerife

9:00pm You get off the boat but still feel the side effects – why is everything still moving around you? You walk to one of the fish restaurants around the harbor and order the freshest catch of the day accompanied by a glass of local white wine.

Shrimps, Las Piratas Bistro Bar in Las Galletas, Tenerife

10:30pm You’re exhausted, and still take your theory book to bed – time to learn the rules of the road.

11:00pm The gentle moves swing and relaxing sound of water splashing against your yacht makes you sleepy. You give in and promise yourself to wake up earlier tomorrow.

Whale Watching in Los Gigantes, Tenerife (Spain)

We are obsessed with discovering the World.

We aim to step on land that no one or only few of us have visited before. We want individuality. Uniqueness. Experiences that will be recorded in our memory until we grow old. We travel around the globe by train, bus, plane and/or taxi (often using a combination of all of these) in a surprisingly short time span, only to visit somewhere we define as exotic.

The funny thing is – Sometimes the most unique and exotic experiences are right in front of our door step.

View Over Masca, Tenerife

I’m not afraid of flying, nor do I feel nauseous when I look down from the top of a skyscraper. But as I walked along the narrow uneven paths to Finca Guergues in Tenerife, I suddenly lost my confidence in equilibrium and felt an irrational fear of slipping and falling down the gorge.

I closely watched each step I took and balanced my body against the unpredictable wind that waited for us around each corner. I tried not to look down into the gorge. But I did – I was curious. I wondered how deep the gorge may be. I guessed 800 meters – with too any sharp-pointed rocks. I would never survive that fall, I thought. And at that moment, for a minute, I paralyzed.

Narrow Paths, Teno Mountains (Tenerife)

I had been there before – my heart beat accelerates, my breathing quickens and overall I feel tense.

The only thought that dominated my mind was falling. I continued walking, but with every step I felt insecure – I doubted each movement I made. Part of my fear was because of the rushing wind that pushed me towards the gorge. But another part was caused by myself – I just didn’t trust in my own feet.

Does this make any sense?

No. Not really.

My fear of falling is irrational, as are so many other fears and phobias. It only hits me some times – when I particularly feel unstable on the ground (because of the wrong footwear or strong winds, for example) and am standing on a narrow path next to a cliff or, in this case, a deep gorge with sharp-pointed rocks. And even then, I still manage to keep on walking.

Walking Teno Mountains, Tenerife

I know what you’re thinking: If I have a problem with narrow paths and am afraid of falling down – Why oh why do I keep on going to these places? Well, it’s two things: the spectacular views (when I dare to look) and the proud feeling of having accomplished a several hours hike with an additional challenge.

Do you have a phobia? How do you deal with it?

PS: If you think you can handle the path and height in the pictures above, then you might want to try out the scariest path I’ve ever seen – El Camino del Rey (Check out the video here!).

Practical Information

Route: From Casas Araza to Finca Guergues (Tenerife, Spain) – circular
Elevation gain uphill: not much, approx. 120m
Elevation gain downhill: 120m
Length: 7 km
Duration: 2 hrs
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate (depending on the weather and how comfortable you are with nights!)
Wikiloc: If you feel like hiking a bit more, you can extend the route a bit more like this guy did:Finca Guergues.