hiking

In June 2015, I ventured on a 3-week solo hike along Northern Spain starting in Irún (Basque Country) and finishing in Oviedo (Asturias). This is the third post in my Camino series – click here if you missed the first and/or second post!


On my 16th day, I kicked-off in Serdio (Cantabria) at 7:45 AM (which, admittedly, wasn’t even that early) and arrived in Llanes (Asturias) more than 12 hours later. It was, without any doubt, my longest day on the Camino (which also made it one of the hardest ones). But looking back, it’s also the one I remember most fondly.

Maybe because I didn’t rush it. Maybe because I did it my own way – stopping to take a photo or going off the official route whenever I wanted. Or maybe because I had the perfect combination of solo and social time.

Although probably what really made my day was having a baby goat following us along the way.

Asturias (Spain)

I walked slow and took in as much from the landscape as I could. Eventually, my Camino family split for the day and I found myself in a not-so-well-marked coastal area on my own – doubting my own orientation skills. Soon enough, though, I saw Klaus (do you remember him?): at that point, I knew I was at least going in the right direction.

Asturias (Spain)

Asturias (Spain)

Shortly after, I was caught up by two Germans doctors and an English girl – with whom I explored hidden caves (how cool is that?) and had one too many sidras (cider) in Buelna. Later in the afternoon, outside a tiny market in Pendueles, I met a Spanish peregrino who soon became my companion for the rest of the afternoon to Llanes.

I walked about 38km on that day. I fell on my face when trying to climb a passage and got caught under drizzly rain. I never felt so much pain in my feet and honestly doubted I would ever get to Llanes in one piece. Ultimately, I almost cried when I was informed that the entire city of Llanes was booked out that night (and we were suggested to continue walking! another 5km! are they crazy?).

But somehow, it all worked out. I found a hotel room (the very last one) – and even got a pilgrim discount. I was on some kind of tiredness-fuelled energy high that even got me out of that lovely room to have more celebratory sidra that night. While I shared my pictures of caves, rugged coastlines, green hills and bird-eye view of Llanes I kept on thinking to myself: wow, I actually did it!

Asturias (Spain)

So it’s no surprise that I decided to take the next day off walking. Or at least, off long-distance trekking – as, for some reason, I just couldn’t sit still. After wandering through the streets of beautiful Llanes (above), I headed off along the coastline to the next small town with an albergue (Po). And then, on to the next one (Celorio).

Playa de Po, Llanes (Asturias)

Concejo de Llanes, Asturias (Spain)

The entire Concejo de Llanes has an incredible amount of beautiful natural beaches surrounded by luscious green hills. I’m determined to return to Llanes next summer for a longer period just to spend more time exploring the coast!

Asturias (Spain)

The walk to Ribadesella on day 18 felt surprisingly easy! Granted, there was hardly any hight difference and the path was a rather balanced mix of road and trail – leading through small villages, grassy fields and great cultural sights (such as the above of the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores in Barro).

My favourite bit of this day was, without doubt, the entrance into Ribadesella through the colourful old fishers town of El Portiellu.

El Portiellu, Ribadesella (Asturias)

El Portiellu, Ribadesella (Asturias)

My Camino family split in Llanes – so at the time we reached Ribadesella, only 3 of us were left. You would think that having to say goodbye to people you’ve only met 2 weeks ago would be easy, but when you’ve been through hell and heaven on the Camino, your relationship to those around you is intensified.

As my deadline and destination goal was approaching as well, I felt a bit blue (for the lack of a better word).

On the 19th day, we walked roughly 20km to Colunga – a big part of it along the Camino Real, which covers the local beaches and surrounding hills. It was a beautiful day to walk – not too hot, not too cold (although the latter had never really been the issue, really!).

Signage Camino del Norte, Spain

Asturias (Spain)

While sitting in a beach café in La Isla with Sara, we overheard a group of women discussing the disappearance of a female pilgrim on the Camino Francés earlier this year. We were both aware of this event (in fact, Sara had packed a pepper spray can in her backpack), but it didn’t stop us from going solo. Nor did it stop many other female travellers we crossed paths with over the past 3 weeks. It made us realise that there hadn’t been a moment when we felt in danger.

Yes, terrible things happen sometimes. When walking on a less-frequented paths, I was always alert and intuitive and usually knew how far/close the next group of pilgrims were. And by doing this, I always felt safe.

Asturias (Spain)

On my last day as part of (what was left of) my Camino family, we walked 18km to Villaviciosa – the apple capital of Spain. Yes, there was certainly lots of cider!

Villaviciosa, Asturias (Spain)

We reminisced about the many stories we collected along our Camino and remembered all the people we had met. We promised to keep in touch (thanks, Facebook!) and to always remember this experience.

As my final Camino day arrived, I was equally excited and sort of heart-broken. I actually didn’t really want this adventure to end! Soon after leaving Villanueva, I reached the point at which the Camino divided in two parts: on the right, it would continue to Gijón along the Camino del Norte, and on the left, it would route towards Oviedo – the start of the Camino Primitivo.

Towards Oviedo, I came across de impressive pre-romanesque Monasterio de San Salvador de Valdediós (below).

Monasterio de San Salvador, Asturias (Spain)

After the Monastery, the path went uphill to Alto de la Campa (photo below) – constantly allowing me to peek over the Valley from different angles.

I had heard that, on the Camino Primitivo, signs were less frequent and sometimes a bit confusing. True – In fact, I even came across conflicting signs! But somehow, with a bit of intuition, I didn’t get lost on this rather solitary path. During the whole day I only came across 2 fellow pilgrims, so I guess most of them decide to continue along the Camino del Norte to Gijón instead!

At Vega del Siero I hopped on a bus with one of the wisest pilgrims I had come across with: a french retiree who who had already walked over 1000km starting in France. She reminded me of how personal the Camino is:

There’s really no right or wrong way of walking it. No age, belief or physical requirements. There’s no minimum distance and no real schedule (but the one you build up in your head). And there’s nobody to impress or feel judged by (but ourselves).

Alto de Campa, Asturias (Spain)

That afternoon, I arrived in Oviedo without much of a plan but to walk through the old town, explore every inch of the city and eat local bonito del norte a la plancha (below) before saying goodbye to the Camino (for now!).

Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Bonito del Norte, Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Catedral de Oviedo, Asturias (Spain)

Have you been to Asturias in Spain?


My Camino: notes and snapshots of Basque Country (Spain) is the third post of my Camino series:


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In June 2015, I ventured on a 3-week solo hike along Northern Spain starting in Irún (Basque Country) and finishing in Oviedo (Asturias). This is the second post in my Camino seriesclick here if you missed the first post!


I had been on the road for 8 days and was in serious need of a good night sleep and a long hot shower. I had survived the hardest bit (or that, at least, I kept on repeating to myself). As long as I had a good night sleep, I could be back climbing hills and mountains.

I allowed myself the luxury of sleeping in a design pension in the heart of Castro Urdiales. It was Friday night and the city was buzzing with live and laughter. Not that I saw any of it – I was soundly asleep.

Castro Urdiales, Cantabria (Spain)

After spending 12 hours in bed, I was ready to explore Castro – its beautiful cathedral, lively old town and port as well as its beaches and natural pools. I wasn’t ready to leave yet. This would be the place I would stay for two nights. It never felt wrong – in contrary, it was incredibly right in so many ways. This extra time allowed me to recover from my lack of sleep, heal some rough patches on my feet and just spend the rest of the day on the beach!

Then, on the tenth day, I was back on my foot.

Cantabria (Spain)

Some days felt longer than they seemed to be on paper. I never had a proper GPS tracking my position, but I am pretty sure that our walk from Castro Urdiales to Laredowas significantly longer than the 30km stated in the Guidebook.

This day, I learned about the many different things can that make a long hike more entertaining: singing (musicals, if possible), finding shapes and patterns, stopping to talk with other pilgrims and locals, creating photo themes, petting every animal that accepts your affection, and getting off the regular path every now and then to see what’s up that hill / down that road (and figuring out how to find your way back to the Camino after that!).

At the end of the day, I had a myriad of photos taken fom unlikely angles and suffered from a funny limp (I might or might not have occasionally skipped to the soundtracks of Mary Poppins and The Wizard of Oz – while carrying over 12kg on my back). But hey, it was a gorgeous walk!

On day 11, about half of the time we walked from Laredo to Güemes, we were barefoot digging out toes into the sand. It felt like heaven to my feet (and my eyes, too!). 

Laredo, Cantabria (Spain)

Cantabria (Spain)

The other half, however, was spent on asphalt – which (specially on hot days like these) felt like hell. At the end of the day, we were rewarded with one of the most inspiring stays on the Camino del Norte: a night at La Cabaña del Abuelo Peuto

Here, we learned about the life and work of Ernesto Bustio – who is well known throughout the Camino del Norte for his hospitality, generosity and sympathy.

Note: You can read more about here: Ernesto Bustio, peregrino de la vida (in Spanish).

Oh, and we also met his adorable dog!

Güemes, Cantabria (Spain)

On the next day, we walked from Güemes to Santander, which was a rather easy 15km hike – mostly along the coastline. This time could have been rather uneventful day – but, instead, it turned into one of my favourite ones for two reasons:

This beach…

Cantabria (Spain)

… And this coastline.

Cantabria (Spain)

We made many stops along the way – and even went swimming! (I’m blocking out the fact that the water was probably on the same temperature level than, say, England *shudder*).

On the next day, we made our way out of Santander to Santillana del Mar. Now, you may remember that, in the Basque Country, I made a few executive decisions to skip small bits that weren’t particularly beautiful. Well, I kind of wish I had done it here, too – but when I realised I was in the heart of the industrial outskirts of Santander, it was too late.

Thankfully, our arrival at Santillana del Mar made up for the otherwise a bit dull walk. The medieval village is filled with half-timbered houses and stone-built mansions that meet on the centric cobblestone streets. Yes, it’s touristy – But hey, it’s pretty, too. It reminded me a bit of Peratallada (Catalonia)!

Santillana del Mar, Cantabria (Spain)

This night, on day 13, we stayed at what soon was referred to as our Castle – a renovated 16th century palace set in the heart of the village, converted into a private Albergue called Solar de Hidalgos. You guys, totally worth it!

Anyway, by now I realised that I’ve never given much detail about my Camino family. Admittedly, to any outsiders, we were a rather unlikely tribe. Nomads, teachers, students, hippies, believers – you would say we would easily run out of common topics, but it never happened.

One of the best things about being part of a little Camino tribe is that we all put our different skills together to benefit the entire group. As luck would have it, one of the guys used to be a tourist Guide and has an insatiable interest in history and volunteered to tour us around Comillas after we had settled in.

Comillas, Cantabria (Spain)

Comillas, Cantabria (Spain)

My 15th day was scheduled to be another long one: 29km from Comillas (Cantabria) to Colombres (Asturias) – However,things don’t always go as planned.

That’s part of the beauty of the Camino de Santiago: even though it’s good to have a plan, it’s good to ditch it, too.

Cantabria (Spain)

Cantabria (Spain)

As we arrived at the charming and friendly town of Serdio and met other peregrinos we had been bumping into every other day, we took the unanimous executive decision to change plans and stay in Serdio instead. It was well worth it – even if this meant walking an extra 9km the next day!

This was, of course, before checking out next day’s itinerary!

Note: Even though my 16th day started off in Cantabria, the majority of the time hiking was spent in Asturias. If you don’t want to miss the next part, just pop you email below and each new post will magically appear in your inbox – and voilá!

Have you been to Cantabria in Spain?


My Camino: notes and snapshots of Cantabria (Spain) is the second post of my Camino series :


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I never thought I would be the kind of woman that would venture into a 3-week hike across unknown territory on her own. I don’t have a particularly good sense of direction, have never carried a large backpack more than from a train station to a hotel and didn’t know one thing about first aid.

Irún, Basque Country (Spain)

In fact, I wasn’t entirely aware of the situation I had gotten myself into until I landed in Irún (my starting point) and began to look for the Camino way marks. Camino Guide in hand, I walked up and down the main roads looking for Camino sign posts. It took me a while to realise that the directions are sometimes marked with a shell on the pavement. Other times, they’re yellow arrows (on walls, trees, pavement, buildings, etc). And only a few times they’re actual sign posts that read Camino de Santiago.

Ha! Nice one. At least this got me to be extremely alert during this trip!

Pasaia, Basque Country (Spain)

On my first day on the trek, though, I got lost. In heavy rain. And wind. And fog. 

I wonder how many times I had told myself to quit that same day. I would arrive at Pasaia (pictured above), take a bus back to Irún, a train to Madrid and a flight to Tenerife. I would spend the next 3 weeks reading thrillers in a hammock – I assured myselfBut, after sitting down in Pasaia for lunch, I picked myself (and my drenched boots and clothes) up and continued walking.

That night, I stayed at a Twelve Tribes community which was, hands down, one of the most curious experiences I had on the Camino.

San Sebastián, Basque Country (Spain)

San Sebastián, Basque Country (Spain)

Walking on your own might sound daunting (maybe even scary), but I felt it was empowering. It has definitely given me more independency and self-sufficiency, and it has allowed me to follow my own rhythm: stopping to take photos, drink coffee or just take off my boots and put my feet in the air. When I walked on my own, I didn’t have to give anyone any explanations.

The first pilgrim I met was Rahel (Switzerland), in a popular café in San Sebastián overlooking one of the city’s beaches. Meeting her was a turning point: I had set off convinced that I wanted to walk the whole way alone and here, on day 2, I realised that maybe I actually wanted some company. Sometimes. 

And then I decided that the Camino was going to be a great excuse to be my extroverted self (whenever I wanted!).

Locals always greeted me back with a smile and a “Buen Camino”. Day trippers stopped by to ask where I started and where I was planning to go and often even added some local insight (like, which GR route offers better views!). And many pilgrims I met on the way became an integer part of my experience. There’s no doubt about it: the Camino creates a special bond and camaredie among those who walk it.

One of the nicest gestures anyone can do for a pilgrim? Give him some free water refill and maybe even some shade. I found this one on my second day, on Mount Igueldo just passed San Sebastián. It was 28ºC and I’m eternally thankful.

Pilgrim love in Basque Country (Spain)

Some days, I decided to follow people. I didn’t do this because I felt unsafe or have a stalker side (promise). No. Instead, I figured that following someone would make me speed up my walking. You see, at the beginning, I had a tendency to stop way too often – which in turn led me to be the very last pilgrim arriving to the end of a stage.

There’s definitely a plus to following the right kind of pilgrim (the kind that has done this or other Caminos before): less chances of getting lost and higher chances of going an alternative more scenic route. On my third day, I followed Klaus (Germany), and got to see this amazing view over Zarautz (he definitely knew what he was doing!).

Zarautz, Basque Country (Spain)

More than one pilgrim I have met on the trek has told me that you don’t lose weight on the Camino del Norte. Now I know the reason for this: pintxos, txacolí and patxarán. Now, I know from a lot of other pilgrims who left the Basque Country without even trying a txacolí (regional write wine) – but how? How did they fight the urge to drop their backpack and go hopping from winery to winery?

I made it a mission to have a txacolí the night after walking through Getaria wine region (below).

Getaria, Basque Country (Spain)

Not all days were along the coast  though – Some paths allowed me to explore the basque countryside.

My fifth and sixth hiking days (Deba – Markina Xemein – Guernica) were definitely the most physically challenging – but the landscapes were well worth it! At first, I couldn’t believe that I was still in Spain. I had never seen such clean, organised roads and farms outside of Switzerland. Even buildings that seemed abandoned were picturesque and well cared of.

Basque Country (Spain)
Basque Country (Spain)

Monasterio de Zenarruza, Basque Country (Spain)

On the fifth day, somewhere between Deba and Markina Xemein, I met what would become my Camino family. While I was having a great time meeting people individually, it was nice to be able to form a small group and challenge each other to push through the hardest times on the way. I’m honestly not sure I would have made it from Deba to Guernica in 2 days if it wasn’t for them!

Guernica, Basque Country (Spain)

The hike from Guernica into Bilbao was a long one. It didn’t help that we actually only found our way out of Guernica at 9:50 AM (who knew arrows become oak tree leafs in this city?).

It was also one of the hottest days on the Camino (I’m pretty sure temperatures reached +33ºC!), which isn’t fun unless you’re lying in the shade at the beach with an ice-filled cocktail in your hands. In the afternoon, I took the executive decision to take a bus for the last bit of the walk and reward myself with a glass of cold txacolí in Bilbao

I only felt a tiny bit guilty.

Bilbao, Basque Country (Spain)

The Basque Country was certainly the region with the hardest terrain – But those ups and downs paid off well when offering some of the best views on the trek. It also made me appreciate the flatter days way more than I did before. The hike towards Castro Urdiales, for instance, was an easy and beautiful transition from Pais Vasco into Cantabria!

Also: I’ve still not learned to walk between cows without feeling observed. Can you?

Cows on the Camino del Norte (Spain)

Have you been to the Basque Country in Spain?


My Camino: notes and snapshots of Basque Country (Spain) is the first post of my Camino series:


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“When in doubt, just take the next small step.”

– Paulo Coehlo, The Pilgrimage

Hiking in Tenerife

Me, contemplating what next

Putting one foot in front of the other and taking the next small step is something I’ve been doing a long time. It’s no secret that hiking is one of my favourite things to do when I travel. It’s also one of my favourite things to do on weekends. There’s something about it that just feels so liberating!

I love the way walking the trail frees me from all those mundane distractions. This clarity and the incredible and unexpected landscapes that I discover are the main reasons why I love trekking. 

So, after months of wishing, planning and asking a million questions on the Camino de Santiago, I’ve finally made plans to begin my own pilgrimage.

What is the Camino de Santiago?

Symbol of the Camino de Santiago

Source: Flexitreks

The Camino is a pilgrimage route that has existed in Spain since the IX Century, when the remains of Saint James Apostle were discovered to be buried in Santiago de Compostela. peregrinos (pilgrims) travelled to Galicia from all over Europe to see it.

Nowadays, there’s an entire network of routes coming from all over Europe to converge at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The most popular way, the Camino Francés (or French Way), was declared the first European Cutural Route by the Council of Europe in 1987 and inscribed as one of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites in 1993.

Camino de Santiago routes in Spain

Source: Mundicamino

While The Camino has been the subject of many books and films, its popularity probably  increased dramatically after the release of Emilio Estevez’s film, The Way, in 2012. Last year, almost 250.000 pilgrims walked reached Santiago – roughly 65% choosing the Camino Francés.

Not me though. 

I’m doing the Camino del Norte, or Northern Way – see red route in the map above.

Out of all the routes – why the Camino del Norte?

While significantly less-travelled and more challenging than others, everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that the landscapes are worth the challenge. Starting in Irún (a small town in Gipuzkoa, Basque Country), the trail follows the rugged northern coast of Spain, combining coastal walks and mountain hikes.

Camino del Norte

Source: Flickr 

The entire route from Irún to Santiago de Compostela (Galicia) is a +800 km (roughly 500 miles) trek, which most people complete in between 30 and 40 days. The thing is: I don’t have so much time available on one go (in fact – not many people do!), so I’m planning to complete my pilgrimage in smaller episodes.

This time, I’m planning to trek from Irún to Oviedo (roughly 490 km – or 300 miles). This might seem irrational at first: Why not start somewhere halfway to Santiago in order to reach the final destination? First and foremost, Because I’m stubborn – and really really want to, eventually, do the whole thing. But also because it’s summer, and I am excited about seeing more of the Northern coastline – maybe even dip my battered feet into the cold Cantabrian Sea.

After all, the Camino is not so much about the destination, but about the journey!

Camino del Norte

Source: Flickr

One of the many things that I love about the Camino is that there is no right and wrong way of doing it. Some people walk the entire +800 km in one go, while others complete theirs by going back year after year. Some stay at albergues and camping sites, others book hostels and hotels on the way. Some go solo, others go in groups – heck, there are even organised tours in case you can’t convince your friends about the fun in walking +20 km per day but don’t really want to do it on your own, either.

Why I’m walking the Camino

People walk the Camino for many reasons – and they’re certainly not always religious. I’ve got many little reasons to walk it. I do it for the challenge and the adventure; to get out of my comfort zone. I walk for the solitude; for the opportunity to unplug, appreciate the present moment and gain some perspective. But then, I also walk for companionship; to meet new people on the road.

I am really looking forward to spending the next 3 weeks thinking of nothing else than taking the next small step!

During the trek, I will be sharing live updates on Twitter and Instagram (PS: are we friends yet?), so follow along!

Looking out to my left, I felt equally excited and terrified – I was sitting on a  chair lift up to Kriegerhorn (2173m), Austria, watching the pros slide down a steep mountain. So graceful, so confident – so fearless.

Skiing in Lech, Austria

Weeks before, I had spent a day browsing through winter sports apparel in London – convincing myself that, to ski well, I required the perfect equipment. I watched videos, trying hard to remember what I had to do with my weight in order to make a turn. I wanted to hit the pistes skiing with confidence, like I’ve never done before.

Back on that chair lift, though, I began to have my doubts.

Hmmm… Visibility isn’t that good, I need to go extra slow. But wait, this is getting a bit too steep for me. Oh, look how fast they go! I can’t control my speed that well. Heck, I can’t even turn that well! What am I doing? What was I thinking?! Can you please take me back down again?

I have a secret: I’m afraid of falling (ok, so it’s not that much of a secret anymore…). The truth is, whenever I am faced with a steep slope or a narrow uneven path (whether I’m on skis or just on my own feet), I have the feeling that I may loose my balance. I recognise the pattern: my heart beat accelerates, my breathing quickens and overall I feel tense. In the worst cases, though – I am literally paralysed. It might only be a few seconds or it might be 10 minutes. All I know is that to me it feels like a lifetime.

Hiking Guajara, Tenerife (Spain)

I should limit my activities to snorkelling and sunbathing (both of which I love, too). But I can’t. I love the outdoors – particularly mountains. And volcanoes. Oh, and challenging hikes around mountains and volcanoes!

While it hasn’t always been easy, I constantly aim to challenge my irrational fear of loosing balance and falling. The thought of all the breathtaking views and unforgettable experiences that await at the top of those mountains give me enough courage to break through my limiting thoughts and reach higher. 

Skiing in Lech, Austria

So, back on the chair lift in Austria, I could have let my thoughts send me back down the same way I went up. But instead, I gracefully got off the chair lift with a heart that felt like it was going to jump out of my chest and fall down the mountains all by itself any second.

I moved slow – so slow that sometimes it felt I was actually skiing up the mountain, not down. But I kept on moving – and each time new scary thoughts came into my mind, I tried my best to imagine a mental door and let them go.

I’m not going to lie to you and tell you that all went great on this trip.

I did fall (not as often as I expected) and it was embarrassing (specially that one time I lost both skis!). I twisted my wrist trying to get up again after falling into deep powder snow (which, otherwise, is more fun that Christmas itself!). And I froze of fear. Once. It wasn’t pretty.

But you know what? I got over it. 

Skiing in Lech, Austria

Note: see the goofy girl in blue over there? That’s me getting over it.

What I learned from this trip is that skiing might be a lot about technique – but a lot of it is trust, too. Trust in your equipment, your skills and your balance – but over everything else: trust in yourself – specially when the scary gets particularly tough.

Getting gutsy for me is precisely that – trusting myself when it gets challenging. Pushing myself to the limit, getting uncomfortable and constantly confront my fear of falling. It’s  beyond bravery. It’s daring to go ahead in spite of the doubtful part of my conscience. It’s doing something that scares me.


Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. This post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.


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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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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!

As soon as I declared the news of my move to Barcelona, I started to receive messages of friends and family that told me how much I would love Barcelona and its surrounding. I’m not going to lie to you: I knew that as well – even before I set my feet on its ground. You see, any place that has beaches and mountains a short distance away is already high up on my preferred list.

On my third day in Barcelona I had already visited the beach. And on my tenth day, I had been to the mountains.

My trip to the mountains was a relaxed one. No steep ravines or glaciers – just nature at its finest.

Montserrat is a popular hiking, climbing and trail running destination. Its geological structure was formed over millions of years and has given the name it is known for today. In Catalan, Montserrat, means saw mountain.

Montserrat, Catalonia (Spain)

Montserrat, Catalonia (Spain)

Can you see why?

Montserrat is an easy ride away from the city of Barcelona. There is a cercanías (or… slow train) going every hour from Plaça Espanya towards Manresa (R5). When purchasing your ticket, you’ll have to decide whether you want to reach Montserrat by Cable Car (Aeri) or Funicular (Cremallera). Make sure you know which ticket you’ve purchased as these leave from two different stops and they are not interchangeable. This means that, if you get off at the wrong stop, you’ll have to wait for a full hour to get the next one or be brave and hike your way up (which isn’t easy).

Montserrat, Catalonia (Spain)

If you are not afraid of heights, I really recommend to take the Aeri – the view is impressive!

Montserrat has many different trails that vary in difficulty and distance. The fun thing is – you can combine many of them together creating a hike that meets your objective and physical condition!

Since I was a bit lazy that day and only arrived around 1pm, I didn’t have time to see all I wanted to see (in fact, I missed out on one of Montserrat’s main attractions – the Monastery). I did manage to hike to the highest point, Sant Jeroni (Saint Jerome) and back. Here are some of my favorite shots.

Montserrat, Catalonia (Spain)

Montserrat, Catalonia (Spain)

Montserrat, Catalonia (Spain)

Montserrat, Catalonia (Spain)

Practical Information

Route: From Sant Joan Funicular (upper station) to Montserrat (via Sant Jeroni and Flat of Els Ocells) – Montserrat Route nr. 5
Elevation: 320m
Length: 7.5 km
Duration: 2 – 2:30 hrs
Difficulty: Fairly easy (although there is a sharp ascension to Sant Jeroni)

Have you been to Montserrat?

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

Friends and colleagues warned be before my departure: I was crazy to fly over 12 hours across two continents for only 7 days of fun. I knew it was impossible to visit each corner of the country I had been longing so much to explore – but I was determined to do as much as I could physically and mentally withstand.

And so, in addition to exploring Shanghai’s history and culture, we managed to squeeze in a day in Beijing, another one in Hangzhou and, of course, a trip to the Great Wall.

Mutianyu Great Wall, China

Mutianyu is one of the best preserved parts of the Great Wall, located at about 70 km from Beijing (which, when counted in rush hour, can mount up to almost 4 hours in a tiny bus!).

Mutianyu Great Wall, China

Being so close to Beijing, we expected a large tourist influx. But at arrival we were surprised to see that it was actually possible to have parts of the path entirely for ourselves. Ok, this usually didn’t last longer than a minute before the next visitor walked along – but still, we had enough time to take shots without anyone’s red cap or socks and sandals disturbing the historic view.

Mutianyu Great Wall, China

Unfortunately, we weren’t exactly equipped for a stoney old stair expedition – one of my friends was wearing wedges and the other one a similarly uncomfortable shoe. I, on the other hand, thought I was a smart ass by wearing my Five Fingers. Well, let me tell you something here: think twice about wearing them for a considerable long time on a really hot day!

As we reached the bottom of the BIG CLIMB (dramatic, right?) my feet felt as swollen as a foot of a hobbit. My friend-in-wedges had given up earlier, so it was only two of us left. Would dragging ourselves up there be really worth it?

Mutianyu Great Wall, China

Well, when you’re on the Great Wall of China – you can be assured it always is.

Mutianyu Great Wall, China

Hiking the Great Wall of China

Practical Information

Route: Mutianyu (From Tower 6 to Tower 20 – Towards Jiankou)
Elevation gain uphill: 400m
Elevation gain downhill: 180m
Length: less than 4 km
Duration: 2 hrs
Difficulty: Fairly Easy
Map: Mutianyu Great Wall

Have you been on the Great Wall? Which section would you recommend?

I checked the weather forecast as usual. Just a few days before my long-planned excursion, the odds were in my favor: Saturday would be sunny with zero chance of rain. I should have known better. One and a half years in England have proven that weather forecasts can’t be relied on – specially when it’s more than a few hours ahead.

I was determined, though. No heavy clouds and mist were going to stop me from keeping to my plan: I was finally going to hike the Seven Sisters!

Hiking Seven Sisters, UK

The Seven Sisters chalk cliffs are one of the finest and unspoiled coastlines in Britain. These white cliffs form part of the South Downs in East Sussex, between Seaford and Eastbourne in the south of England.

A simple commute from Victoria Station took us to Seaford, where the famous hike begins. Or, at least, the longer version of it. If you’re not an eager hiker or are running short in time, I recommend you take a bus from Seaford to the Seven Sisters Country Park – you’ll save about 1.5 hours hike (then again, you won’t have the chance to walk through an open golf course fearing for your life – which is an absolute thrill).

During this first part of the walk, we had the path for ourselves – with the sea on our right and sheep on our left. After an hour, we arrived at a beautiful little beach. Unfortunately, we hadn’t realized that between us and the beach was a river that led us away from the coast for probably 1.5 km. That wasn’t the major problem, though. It was the path next to the river: filled with deep mud!

As we reached the bridge to cross over, we realized that this was the actual beginning – the Seven Sisters Country Park. We felt relief to see that there were many other leisure walkers and avid hikers on this way towards the coastline!

Seven Sisters, UK

Seven Sisters, UK

Seven Sisters, UK

It was a pleasant walk (despite the wet weather), with surprisingly varied backgrounds: hills, sea-side, sheep, cows, rivers and even an old lighthouse! My tip: if it had been raining before or during your hike – take the bus to the Seven Sisters Country Park (unless, of course, you’re wearing your wellies!)

Practical Information

Route: From Seaford to Eastbourne (along the Seven Sisters)
Elevation gain uphill: 565m
Elevation gain downhill: 522m
Length: 20 km
Duration: 4:30 – 5:15 hrs
Difficulty: Easy
Wikiloc: Seven Sisters

Have you been to the Seven Sisters?

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.