Accessible Adventures: Hiking the steepest island in the world – La Palma, Canary Islands


It isn’t always possible to spend weeks on end exploring an area; sometimes you only have a day or two. It might be that you’re passing through on the way to somewhere else or in town for something special. It might be that you’re on holiday with your family and they don’t have the same longing for adventure you do, it might also be that you’re here because you want something different for an adventure, but don’t know where to start planning. There are so many opportunities to make the most of what is in an area and achievable, accessible adventure is about creating opportunities where possible.

In this series, we’ve put together our ultimate, quick and easy to follow must do’s in some of the world’s most incredible locations.

When we first visited the Canary Islands, we visited Lanzarote. A lot of people gave us some really strange looks when we told them. The Canary Islands are pretty well known for package holidays, and namely Lanzarote and Gran Canaria are two of the favourites here. But we’d seen another side to island life here that we were incredibly excited to check out; the mountains and the volcanos. It also offered a welcome respite to the cold, often rainy days that we experienced in London around Christmas time, and so, we headed off to Lanzarote in search of adventure for the start of the new year a few years ago. We were blown away by the volcanic landscape we experienced, the rewarding hiking trails we found in absolute abundance and the really beautiful weather which formed a welcome relief to the dark days in the UK.



This trip to Lanzarote formed the basis of a number of other trips to the Canary Islands on subsequent winters, and we became addicted. What we found was that every island felt completely different; some islands felt like alternate moons, whereas other islands felt much more like Southern California. We were blown away by the wealth of adventure that was available here, and yet not many people seemed to know about it, or really seemed interested in experiencing the vast and truly breathtaking landscapes we were taking in.

The Canary Islands, a Spanish archipelago just off the coast of Northwestern Africa, are well known for their volcanic nature, year round temperate climates and gorgeous sandy beaches. They are often a welcome winter holiday destination for European travellers who want to have a break from the snow and cold weather of their home cities and towns. In terms of adventure, they are little known destinations for a winter hiking trip that’ll give you sun and rewarding, often strenuous, high altitude hikes. The Canary Islands are the perfect place as well if you are perhaps the only adventurous one in the family, and you want to get out hiking a couple of days whilst the rest of your group sits by the pool or on the beach at your hotel.

This article is all about accessible adventures, and as you’ll know from previous articles we’ve dedicated a lot of time to making places accessible to you, even if you only have a few hours to spare. We’ve concentrated on the island of La Palma for this piece, as we were absolutely in love with this island when we visited. It felt subtly different and unique from the rest of the islands we visited. We will likely create further articles about the other Canary Islands as time goes by, but you’ll probably see from the photographs why we’ve been so captivated by this island!


It’s also worth noting that you can easily hop between the islands with a short (and fun to experience) plane ride, its also possible to take a boat as well. So if you were interested in a longer trip to experience the islands, which, is incredibly worth it, you can take in all that the Canary Islands have to offer relatively easy.

La Palma felt different as soon as we set foot on the island. The first thing that we noticed was that there seemed to be very interesting sub tropical weather fronts. You’re at one point on the coast, being bashed around by the bright blue waves and the wind that comes with them. Then you find yourself driving through lush pine forests and thick fog that feels almost like you’re in the alps to then come through to high altitude mountains that bring you into the caldera that shapes the island. Then there are the night skies! The clearest views imaginable for stars; so much so that the night sky here is protected – in fact one of the first things you’ll notice when you arrive is just how dark it is. If this is your thing, there are many night sky tours on the island and they’re well worth experiencing.

Accessible Adventures: Hiking the steepest island in the world - La Palma, Canary Islands - Image Asset

What we absolutely loved about La Palma was just how incredible the hiking and views were. You’ve got Caldera de Taburiente National Park way up high in the mountains, nestled with Roque de los Muchachos, Cumbre Vieja and cut amongst the land are incredible tropical waterfalls. There are longer distance hiking routes, easy hiking routes, high altitude routes and incredibly steep sided, only for the sound at heights kind of hiking routes. So you’ve probably got the impression – it’s kind of a paradise if you’re into the outdoors. Plus, in December, you can likely be enjoying temperatures close to 20 Celsius.

Due to its relatively short flight time from many European locations, La Palma is also a great place to base an adventure trip from if you only have a few days available. Hotels, Air Bnb’s, flights, food and car hire are also really reasonably priced here, making it a really great accessible adventure.

Below we’ve outlined our favourite, easy to digest hikes on the island of La Palma to give you a taster for what an adventure could look like here.


Ruta de los Volcanoes

Distance: roughly 17km one way,(so be sure to arrange transport at the end, we would recommend finishing at the coast)

Height gain: 1,207m

Time: 8 hours

Difficulty: medium to hard

Time of year: all year round

If you want a challenge, this is the hike for you. Absolutely one of the most rewarding hikes on the island, and rated as moderate to strenuous due to the up and down and altitude. The hike is located between the central and southern regions of the island, and takes in some of the best scenery the island has to offer. It takes you to another world; incredible volcanic landscapes that meet dense forests all the way down to the rugged, volcanic coast. This incredibly well signposted trail goes through the municipalities of El Paso, Mazo and Fuencaliente within Cumbre Vieja National Park. With little vegetation and demanding inclines, this is an incredibly rewarding hike.



Los Canarios to Punta de Fuencaliente

Length: between 5 and 15 kilometres, depending on route taken

Time: roughly 2 to 5 hours depending on route taken

Start and end point: Los Canarios

Difficulty: medium

Time of year: all year round

This incredible coastal hike will not leave you disappointed and we absolutely adored the volcanic scenes here. There are various options for this hike, depending on how much time you’ve got available and also, if you want a loop or a linear. You’ll Park at the Volcan San Antonio visitor center and take the GR-131 route. After a quite steep descent the trail takes you to Volcan Teneguía. If you’re feeling adventurous and want to take in some stunning views, you can climb the volcano. From here you can choose to hike back to Los Canarios the way you came or finish up further along the trail at Faro de Fuencaliente. If you decide to make this a linear trail, you’ll get to take in the salt pans and you arrive at the lighthouse at the southern tip of La Palma. From here there is a bus you take back to your car at Los Canarios.


Roque de los Muchachos

Length: 6 kilometers

Time: approx. 3 hours (return via the same route)

Start and end point: Mirador los Andenes

Difficulty: medium, due to heights and altitude

Time of year: all year round

One of the main highlights of this hiking route is that it takes you to the highest point of the island at 2.426 meters. It is possible to drive up to this point as there is an observatory there, but it’s also a really rewarding hike with incredible views through the crater which will have you out of breath by the time you reach the top! We are never ones to suggest you don’t do something because of heights, but we do want to mention here that there are some very steep drop offs at points on this hike. However, the trail is incredibly safe, and you’ll be fine if you get yourself into the right headspace. You’ll be glad you put yourself out of your comfort zone when you experience the views here. We found it hard to believe we were even on planet earth, especially when the cloud rolled into the caldera, creating mystical shapes amongst the rocks.

There is a lot of up and down on this hike until you arrive at Roque de la Muchahos. From here you have amazing views of Cumbre Vieja and some of the other Canary Islands in the distance. It is much more interesting to head back the way you came, unless you fancy a hike along the not so exciting paved road back to your car.


Los Tilos/ Barranco del Agua

Length: 2 kilometres

Time: approx. 1 hour (return via the same route)

Start and end point: Los Tilos Interpretation Centre

Difficulty: easy

Time of year: all year round

This short hike through a gorge takes you to another world entirely on La Palma. This almost tropical experience ends with a magnificent waterfall which you can walk through, under and behind the canyon walls. It’s one that is suitable for absolute beginners and all the family. It’s also a good one to do if it’s a rainy day. The drive here is always spectacular and becomes as much a part of this very popular place as much as the waterfall you’re rewarded with from your short hike.


Pico de la Nieve

Length: roughly 6/7 kilometres

Time: approx. 4 hours

Start and end point: Pista Pico car park

Difficulty: medium

Time of year: all year round

If you’re looking to bag a volcanic peak over 2000m, this is a great one to spend most of a day enjoying. The trail itself is not overly challenging (but don’t underestimate it, it is a mountain after all) and the views on a clear day are spectacular where. If you’re lucky, you can see the iconic peak on Tenerife, Mt Tiede, which dominates everything around it with its scale. Park next to the signs for Pista Pico de la Nieve to begin. You can find yourself climbing this volcano through woods, quickly reaching the tree line and heading through the clouds. It can be very windy and cold on top of this peak, so be sure to bring warm layers. After you’ve reached the summit, you can take the same route back. The route is pretty straight forward to follow!

There are so many incredible opportunities for adventure on the island of La Palma and we’ve merely scratched the surface here. It is one of the most beautiful, steep (it’s meant to be the steepest island in the world and we can see why) and rewarding places to get your adventure head on.

It is so easy to make the most of even a short visit to a place, and we hope that our ideas really work as a starting point for you to realize what is out there and plan some of your own adventures. There is one thing we’re absolutely certain of, you’ll want to return for a much longer adventure when you see just what there is to see and do and experience in this incredible and diverse island.