“I went to the Destinations Show a few weekends ago to meet and chat with our customers, and the amount of people who didn’t realise the incredible range of walking holidays we do. So I’m really keen to spread the word about the huge amount of walking holidays we do, and I’m also really excited about expanding the range even further!
At the moment, I’m planning a Special Interest walking departure date for one of our popular tours, Canary Island Hopping; in fact, I’ve just got back from a quick tour of Tenerife and La Gomera I took for this very reason. I knew the Canary Islands would be the ideal destination for this sort of holiday, but I was overjoyed by just how perfect they are – in very different ways!
Each of the islands offers a contrast of views and environments. Each one was fascinating, but if I had to choose a favourite, I have to admit that I really liked La Gomera. Everywhere you look there are amazing views; it felt like Jurassic Park or Alice in Wonderland because everything was so lush and unspoilt, and the flora was much, much bigger than over here. Because the Canary Islands don’t have seasons the same way we do, the plants that would usually die in the winter and start over in spring just keep growing – I found whole forests made from heather, and huge dandelion trees. ‘Imagine the size of the rabbits,’ our guide laughed.
The lichen-covered forest I walked through is one of the oldest sub-tropical rainforests in the world, which I never would have associated with this part of the world. Then you have the ‘matorral’ – a shrubland area that you might think of when you imagine Tenerife, and then you have an area that felt like I was on Mars – it was all red sand dunes and rocks. There’s even a flat-topped mountain that’s over 150 metres taller than Table Mountain in South Africa! I wasn’t expecting it to be quite so spectacular.
On Tenerife I did a walk through the Masca Gorge, which was a four-five hour trek downhill to the sea. It was a lot busier than on La Gomera, but actually, I really enjoyed the social aspect. I was also really pleased to discover that the time of year we operate this tour is when the gorge is in the shade, so it’s a lovely respite from the heat – if I hadn’t visited, I wouldn’t know that. We also visited Mount Teide; I climbed from the bottom, but our customers will be able to get a cable car up 3,555 metres and walk 800m to the peak, which would be a much shorter route than the one I took! The views from the top are amazing. They say on a clear day you can see the coast of Africa; when I visited I could see La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma from the top. The whole landscape is like a moonscape; Teide is in a huge, ancient volcano crater, and lots of films are shot here. You can see why, as it’s a very alien landscape! They’re also shot westerns here, which isn’t surprising either, as there was one road that looked exactly like Route 66 cutting through Monument Valley in Utah.
And one thing both these islands have in common is the temperature – it’s warm, but not too hot and humid, which of course is perfect for a more active holiday. I found it to be comfortable t-shirt weather, until you start climbing higher, and then you need a few layers. I’m glad I experienced all the walks for myself because I could assess the ascents and descents, the quality of the paths, and decide whether I felt they were easy, moderate or challenging. I also got a good idea of distance, and how long the walks would last, and I got to check the restaurants along the way to ensure they were up to the standards we expect for our customers. Meeting the guides along the way was really useful too, as you get to explain our customers’ needs, and how we like to operate. For example, we know our walking holidays appeal to people of all levels of fitness, and everyone needs to feel comfortable, so we often have a faster group and a slower group. That way no one feels pressured to keep up, and no one feels like they’re being held back. It works really well, and becomes a wonderfully social experience.
I absolutely loved my trip; the Canary Islands really are just the most fantastic walking destinations. Funnily enough, when I arrived back to my desk I’d received a letter from a customer asking why we have no walking tours in the Canaries – I took that as a sign that we’re definitely taking steps in the right direction!”
Find out more about our holidays to Tenerife or our range of walking holidays