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Canary Islands - December 2012

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WS Member WS Member's picture
Canary Islands - December 2012


I wanted to do some cycling in December. I initially thought about cycling the southern parts of the Iberian peninsula, but because of the weather conditions in this time of year I started thinking about going a bit more south and do island hopping on the Canary islands.

There is not much to find on this topic on the internet, but what I found gave me the feeling that I should go for it:

So I booked my flights yesterday: I will arrive at La Palma (SPC) on Monday December 3rd and will leave from Gran Canaria (LPA) on Sunday December 23rd. As I've been to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura once before and I want to see at least the 5 other islands including the less touristic/more unknown islands, my intention is to see: La Palma, Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro and Gran Canaria. If I have time left in the 3-week time frame I might go to the other two too for the last 5 days or so.

I want to enjoy the splendid nature, the nice temperatures and the good fish food and will sometimes need to work hard climbing the mountains. I will be hiking on some islands too where cycling is limited. I definitely hope to meet people, have time to share experiences, laugh, relax, maybe even play a boardgame; just have a good time. Maybe someone wants to join on the trip or parts of it; you're more than welcome. I'm flexible: only my flight (dates, times, locations) are fixed.

From island to island I will be taking ferries. Here some information that might help others who are willing to do such trip:

I will be camping most of the time and hopefully join some WS hosts who I will approach myself too. With two people there might be more low budget alternatives. Also it seems to be possible to camp freely in special areas of the island(s) if you have a permit. If someone could help me with the Spanish site that would be much appreciated:

I will continue assembling information and do some more preparation, but would appreciate any help, advice, etc. Where should I definitely go, maybe routes/tracks that others have already done, maps to use, important things to take in mind, hosts who would be willing to offer me a place to stay for one or two nights or knowing others that might be willing to help. Thanks in advance for your help. Your hosting possibilities are also much appreciated.

Regards, Martin

WS Member WS Member's picture
canary islands

sounds awesome, but if i were to make it, it would be later in december. I am intimidated by the mountains. If you go for 3 weeks, you will have the time to acclimate to the slopes--that's great.

Are you going to be camping?


WS Member WS Member's picture

Hi Heidi,

Yes, I will be camping. The Dutch guy who cycled there a couple of years ago most of the time camped (of which only once on a camping)... I also hope to spend some nights at WS hosts of course who I will be writing soon. But there are only 3 of them on the map (2x Tenerife and 1x Gran Canaria (and another one on Lanzarote))...

Don't let the mountains intimidate you, unless you are untrained. Some climbs can be really tough indeed, but it is just where you want to go... And distances are not that big of course and you can go at your own pace. I'm not sure what you're plans are, but Fuerteventura is for sure not that hilly. You are also free to join the last part of my trip of course, but I'm uncertain yet where I will be by then (most certainly Gran Canaria or one of the more eastern islands)...

Regards, Martin

WS Member WS Member's picture
Free camping permit on Gran Canaria

Hi Martin,
We cycled in the Canaries about two years ago. It was amazing!
On Gran Canaria, we camped at Llano de la Paz and at Tamadaba, the first one high up in the trees and the other with a lovely view across the water to Tenerife. Before heading up the mountain, we stopped at the Cabildo (government) in Las Palmas office to get the permit. Neither of us spoke very good Spanish, but we got the permit without a problem! You need to show your passport, and to choose the campsites and the dates you want to reserve. It was kind of like booking a hotel, and the dates, but where you don't have to pay.
On Lanzarote, we camped on the tiny island of La Graciosa, again for free. For that one, you could get the permit online. We asked someone at the tourist office to help us with the reservation. However, we've heard since then that they might have changed the rules for camping on La Graciosa.
Have fun with your planning and on your trip to the Canaries.
Michele & Benoit

WS Member WS Member's picture

Hi Michele & Benoit,

2 years cycling; you must have had an awesome time... Great!

Thanks for confirming the possibility of regulated camping on Gran Canaria. I'll go to the cabildo in Las Palmas once I get there (or try to figure it out before, but it might be hard to say already where to stay when...)


Regards, Martin

WS Member WS Member's picture
Canaries and Cuba

Hi again Martin,

Yes, the difficulty of the government camping on Gran Canaria is that you have to get the permit from Las Palmas, and if travelling by bicycle, it is hard to know when you will be where and when. That being said, we camped for 5 days on Gran Canaria and only once did someone come by to check our permit. Perhaps because December/January was not a busy time. There was only our tent and a few others.

We cycled in Cuba too. Three weeks at Christmas time in 2007. That trip to Cuba inspired our two-year cycling trip! We didn't camp there, in Cuba, but stayed with families in 'casas particulares'.

Enjoy your trip to the Canaries, and we hope your trip to Cuba soon follows.

Michele & Benoit

WS Member WS Member's picture

hi martin
your trip sounds great and yes I would have come along but have already booked my flights to Cuba for jan/feb so all my plans have gone in that direction. I like to get things sorted a few months ahead of time so I know what I am preparing for. The upshot of this is that my Spanish is now pretty up to speed so I may be able to help with your spanish translations - although I find the google translation is pretty good on line or cut into Word and use the translator there. Both useable.
Best wishes and let me know how it goes?

WS Member WS Member's picture

Hi Cindy,

Cuba is not a bad choice either... :) January and February are excellent months to visit Cuba. Funny enough Cuba was also on my mind as an alternative (I'm still not sure why it became the Canary Islands in the end. I guess because that also seems to be just another great adventure...) I do hope to go to Cuba within reasonable amount of time though. I wish you all the best and will certainly be able to learn from your lessons later on...

I'll see how I get on with arranging the permits or not. Will indeed paste page information to Google translate to see what comes out. Thanks.

Regards, Martin

Unregistered anon_user's picture
links of interest

I sent it by private but there you go again ... some links for making the trip.

Canarias en General:
Turismo en Canarias:
Mapas del IGN:
Escudos y banderas:
Reservas en los Parques Nacionales:
Equipamientos en la naturaleza:
Aulas de la naturaleza:

Web oficial de Tenerife:
Mapa de carreteras de Tenerife:
Más mapas:
Mapas de Santa Cruz de Tenerife:
Web de Tenerife:
Explicación para subir al Teide:
Página del teleférico:
Modelo para el permiso de acceso a la cima:
Página oficial del Parque Nacional del Teide:
Cueva del Viento:
Museos de Tenerife:
Auditorio de Tenerife:
Equipamiento en la naturaleza:

Gran Canaria
Turismo de Gran Canaria:
Equipamiento en la naturaleza:

La Palma
Web general:
P.N La Caldera de Taburiente:
Equipamiento en la naturaleza:

P.N. Timanfaya:

La Gomera
Cabildo de La Gomera:
P.N. Garajonay:
Equipamiento en la naturaleza:

El Hierro
Equipamiento en la naturaleza:

Transporte terrestre:
La Gomera:
La Palma:
El Hierro:
Gran Canaria:

Alquiler bicicletas:
Tenerife: Bike zone tenerife:

Líneas aéreas entre islas:
Binter Canarias:
Islas Airways:

Transporte marítimo:
Fred Olsen:

Alquiler de coches
Cicar (Los mapas son muy buenos):
Auto Reisen:

WS Member WS Member's picture
Thanks for the message

Hi Mariano,

Thanks for the response and the private message, including the links. Some links do not work unfortunately, but it helps me forward. Especially comparing the 3 ferry companies is interesting, both for their different schedules and the huge differences in pricing... So far, I've decided not to schedule anything yet. I just go for La Palma first and see how things go, enjoy nature, meet people, etc.

Regards, Martin

WS Member WS Member's picture
La Palma, Tenerife and El Hierro

Hi all,

For those who will be searching the WS forums in the future, here some stuff that will help you once you decide to cycle the Canary Islands too:

Travel distances and maps:
First of all, even before I started, once I got myself the maps of the islands and got an idea of distances taking into consideration the islands are all very mountainous, I already figured out that it was too much to do five islands in 3 weeks, so I rearranged my return flight to fly back from Tenerife on the 24th instead of from Gran Canaria on the 23rd. After visiting the first island (La Palma) I then decided to skip another one (La Gomera) to have all the time to enjoy the others (Tenerife and El Hierro).

So I've done 3 islands in 3 weeks: Arrival 1 day, La Palma 6 days (5 days cycling), Tenerife 9 days (7 days cycling), El Hierro (4 days (3 days cycling), Tenerife and Departure 2 days. For cycling these mountainous islands with fully loaded bicycles, count an average of max. 10km/hour (and I'm quite well trained)! This gives you a good indication of the days and time you would need to see all of the islands and have both time to cycle and relax.

I used walking/cycling maps from Kompass, a German company, with scale 1:30.000 and 1:50.000. I was actually disappointed about the quality in terms of being up-to-date/accurate. In general you will be OK, but I guess their are (better?) alternatives. Make sure you have a map with altitude lines!

Cycling the Canary islands isn't cheap because you need quite some transport; You need a flight to get there (or you go by boat from Cadiz, mainland Spain). Prices for flights can be quite low departing from Europe, especially if you book long enough upfront. Transport of your cycle and your luggage makes it more expensive, but in the end that counts for any destitation in the world that you want to reach by plane... Because the ferries aren't cheap, it can be cheaper to arrive on and depart from different islands, but that will depend on the air line(s) you use.

Between the islands you travel by ferry (flights are available but with bicycle more expensive than taking the boat). Make sure to find yourself information on the latest time tables. For instance there was no outgoing boat on Monday from La Palma. El Hierro has only a couple of connections going in and out per week. The bigger islands normally have a couple of departures per day. Please note that high season starts mid December, before mid December there are less ferries.

Prices between the islands vary with the distance: Fred Olsen has the most and most frequent connections, has also the shortest travel times, but isn't cheap: La Palma - Tenerife and Tenerife - El Hierro both just under €90,- single track (that is because you pay almost €25,- for your bicycle!) Armas is cheaper: El Hierro - Tenerife just under €50,- but has less connections.

Food & Drinks:
Food and drinks and going out for lunch or diner are significantly cheaper than for instance in the Netherlands, even on the ferries food is affordable. Tenerife is more expensive than La Palma and El Hierro and never go to a 24x7 supermarket if you don't need to as these are very expensive.

Because of the rocky surface I choose to take my 'Hennessy Hammock' for camping. Be warned though: some areas do not have trees, so you need to be alert and/or creative:

A tent is not necessarily better as you will still need to find a place out of sight and that can be hard in the low Canarian vegetation, so plan well and/or be alert where to stay overnight. In the higher parts of the islands, between 1000 and 2000 meters there are pine forests, but higher altitude generally also means colder nights (definitely on La Palma). You can of course camp on a camp ground, but Tenerife only has a few, La Palma has actually none for cyclists and El Hierro has a great one: Hoya del Morcillo. You could stay there all the time and cycle from there.

Unfortunately the number of WS hosts was limited at my time: just 4 members over 7 islands. There were two on Tenerife. I wrote them both prior to departure and they hosted me both! Therefore special thanks to Cándido and Mariano for hosting me!

Couchsurfing has multiple members on the islands, but responses are generally poor, both on the long and the short term. I stayed at Paco's place on Tenerife and 3 nights in Ralf's studio on El Hierro: an amazing place! The first one was a last minute request and the second one was already arranged weeks before, but all hosts have been flexible as I never knew up front when I would be where...

Most hotels you search for are appartments (actually perfect for cyclists as appartments have much more room). Prices are relatively low. Breakfast was never included. Definitely compare different booking sites for the best options and prices. There are of course more expensive hotels...

The hotel for the first night on La Palma was booked from home. Big but simple appartments, just 6 km. from the airport. You best ask for the ground floor. There is also a swimming pool. The second one was found through internet just on the day itself. I actually stayed in two different appartments, nr. 6 and one on the ground floor when I decided to stay another night.

The hotels in Los Cristianos, Tenerife, were on the booking sites all € 60,- and above so I decided just to go there and see. That was a good guess: go for Hotel Andrea's (now that you know: you can of course make a reservation upfront). Because the ferries come and go from Los Cristianos and it is less than 20 km. from the airport, I came back here a few times. Finding a cheap place to stay in Buenavista del Norte was a problem (I just past a 'albergue' they said on my way down from Tabaibapass, but of course I didn't want to go back). In the end they referered me to a supermarket that had some appartments above. You better talk Spanish as no one talks anything different... :)

La Palma:
Aparthotel Los Molinos - Brena Baja € 22,-
El Patio - Los Llanos de Aridane € 35,-

Hotel Andrea's - Los Cristianos € 25,- (€30,- high season)
Appartments above Supermercado Ana Maria - Buenavista del Norte €30,-

After sunset it gets dark quickly and it gets really dark. Of course you need to make sure that you make your camp on time. More important: on La Palma even near or in villages there is no street-lightning. My first and only flat tire during my 3 weeks and 1000km. holiday was in the first 6 km. from the airport to the hotel when I drove in a hole that I didn't see. Also be warned that in the north-east of La Palma and on the road to Punto de Teno, Tenerife there are tunnels that have no street-lightning. You best turn on your head lamp for extra light.

On Tenerife I was too late at the top of the El Teide meaning that I needed to go downhill while it was (really) dark (and I was already tired after climbing 50 km. on a row) which means it is dangerous and therefore takes much more time and it got freezing cold. Also you don't see when it goes up again, you only feel it and you need to gear on intuition. And imagine that when you have a flat tire it is really hard to fix it in the dark even with a head light. You better just try preventing this.

The 3 islands that I've cycled are mountainous. La Gomera and Gran Canaria are the same. Lanzarote has much less altitude and Fuerteventura is mostly flat (but windy). There are a lot of steep (and sometimes long) slopes to take care of. You need to be trained otherwise you will have a tough time...

Temperatures vary between the islands (you also need a bit of luck sometimes). La Palma was colder than Tenerife and El Hierro, especially at night and definitely on higher altitudes. They say: count 1 degree Celsius loss per 100m. climbing. At the highest point Roque de los Muchachos it even froze during the day. The north of La Palma is (or can be) misty or rainy and since the altitude is 1000+, it is quite cold. Weather and temperatures on Tenerife and El Hierro were much better, also on higher altitude it was less colder and also the difference between day and night is only 5 degrees. At the west side of El Hierro there can be strong winds. In general: while going up and down all the time make sure you have some layers of clothes so you can remove or add a layer.

Are you Dutch you can read my weblog. If you want an impression based on the photos: If you have any questions, just ask.


Regards, Martin

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