Hiking on La Palma: hiking tips & the best routes
Hiking on La Palma – the best hiking trails on the island
Last December I was on the Canary Island of La Palma for the second time in my life. For me, this island has been the biggest surprise of recent years in terms of best hiking destinations within Europe. I was there for the first time in the spring of 2015 and again in December 2018. Simply because it is so incredibly beautiful and there are so many wonderful hiking trails on La Palma. In this blog about hiking on La Palma I not only tell you all you want to know about the most beautiful trails, but also everything else you want to know about La Palma, such as the best places to stay, the climate of La Palma, a packing list are and more. So grab a cup of tea and sit down because I promise you: just reading about the most beautiful hiking routes on La Palma will ensure that you want to get on the plane right away … it’s definitely one of the best destinations in Europe for hikers!
By the way, I have subdivided the routes into three areas:
– Walks in Cumbre Vieja
– Walks in the Caldera de Taburiente National Park
– Other walks
Walking in and on the Cumbre Vieja
The Cumbre Vieja is a mountain range in the southern part of La Palma. The range is around 18 kilometers long and contains around 120 volcanoes. Generally it stretches between Refugio El Pilar (the starting point of various walks) and Punta de Fuencaliente in the far south of La Palma. The highest peak is Deseada and measures 1.949 meters. I’ll start this blog about the best La Palma hiking trails with the most beautiful walks at Cumbre Vieja.
Ruta de los Volcanos
The best of the many La Palma hiking trails is the Ruta de los Volcanos. This 17-kilometer hike runs from Refugio El Pilar to the village of Los Canarios and takes you past the numerous volcanoes of the Cumbre Vieja. I hiked this trail both times I was on La Palma and enjoyed it so much both times that I really believe that you should put this walk at the top of your list of hiking trails on La Palma.
To get to Refugio El Pilar, it’s best to park your car in Los Canarios and take a taxi from here. There is a taxi stand directly opposite the information center. There’s a price list and the ride to El Pilar will cost you, depending on the exact time, around 45 euros. From here you’ll walk back to the car and you are no longer depending on transport by others. Organized transportation is also possible, but doing some research it soon showed that in fact a taxi was cheaper than to buy organized transportation for two.
The Ruta de los Volcanos is not technical but somewhat difficult. At least, the altitude gain is not so bad but the altitude drop (more than 1.400 meters) is quite a bit. Sometimes the descent is on steep slopes with rolling boulders, other times on a wide trail with volcanic grit. The Ruta de los Volcanos is well marked and well-traveled, so it is almost impossible to go wrong. Along the way you can climb various volcanoes as an extra option, if the 17 kilometers are not enough for you.
Please note: only do this walk on La Palma in good weather. You hike in relatively high altitude and the weather on the ridge can be treacherous when it gets cloudy. There’s often swift winds here too, so even if it is warm at sea or in the valley, bring a (rain) jacket and long pants anyway. On the way there is no food and / or drink available and there are no toilets. You can top up water in Refugio El Pilar before you start your hike if you wish to do so.
Length: 17.5 kilometers
Duration: approx. 5-6 hours
Starting point: Refugio El Pilar
End point: Los Canarios
Climb Pico Birigoyo
For those who want to take a short hike in Cumbre Vieja, the climb of the Pico Birigoyo is totally worth your effort. This hike is not described as such in the Rother Walking Guide of La Palma, but can still be done with the maps and directions. Note: the path is not equally well marked everywhere. We heard that this is because the hike is actually closed, but it is being walked on so much that you can do it without trouble.
You start the walk at El Pilar and first follow a part of the Ruta de los Volcanos. After about an hour you will come across an unclear turn on your left, uphill and marked by cairns. This is where the climb of the 1.807 meter high Pico Birigoyo begins. You first circle around the crater and then take the final steps over the ridge to the triangulation column from where you have a view of the Caldera de Taburiente in the distance.
From here, a descent leads along a well-maintained path with rolling boulders steeply down. Once back in the forest there are a few unmarked paths (some of which are closed) after which you pick up the yellow / white route and walk back to El Pilar.
Length: 5 kilometers
Duration: approx. 2 hours
Start and end point: Refugio El Pilar
Los Canarios to Punta de Fuencaliente
There are various ways to make this hike, this also depends on how much time you have to spend and whether you want to walk a single journey or a return trip. It is best to park your car at the Volcan San Antonio visitor center and visit this crater from here first. You do have to pay a small access fee for this. Once you’ve seen it, walk back the same trail and pick up the GR-131 with the white / red mark just outside the visitor center.
After a steep descent you arrive at a wide trail that leads you to the next volcano: Volcan Teneguía. This one erupted for the last time in 1971 and formed the landscape that you now see around you. You can climb the Teneguía but this trip is not for the faint hearted or those with a fear of heights.
From here you can choose to walk back to Los Canarios or continue to Faro de Fuencaliente. If you choose the last option, you will pass the salt pans and you arrive at the lighthouse at the southern tip of La Palma. From here you take the bus back to Los Canarios.
Length: between 5 and 15 kilometers, depending on your chosen route
Duration: between 2 and 5 hours
Start and end point: Los Canarios
Hiking trails in Caldera de Taburiente National Park
In addition to Cumbre Vieja, the Caldera de Taburiente National Park is also a fantastic place for walking. It is one of the most spectacular erosion craters in the world and forms the heart of La Palma. Plan at least two trips here: one that takes you over the tops of the Caldera and one that takes you through the Caldera. This way you get a good impression of the grandeur of this area. Here are my favorite hikes in Caldera de Taburiente.
From Los Brecitos through the Caldera de Taburiente
After the Ruta de los Volcanos this is definitely the most spectacular hiking trail of La Palma. You park the car at the stream bed of Barranco de las Angustias and take a taxi to Los Brecitos (approx. 60 euros for up to 5 people). Please note: these only go in the morning!
From here you’ll follow the trail into the Caldera. Sometimes it’s steep, sometimes it’s more gradual. For me, the highlight of this hike definitely was the Cascasa de los Colores, or the colored waterfall. It’s very special to see this in real. You’ll have to leave the trail for a bit and wade through the stream, but it is more than worth the extra effort.
After this you’ll continue the hike on the bottom of Barranco de las Angustias, the gorge of fears. You have to wade through a wide river (depending on the water level) and eventually a not too difficult journey through the gorge takes you back to the parking lot.
Distance: 16 kilometers
Duration: approx. 5-6 hours
Starting point: Los Brecitos (accessible by taxi)
End point: parking Barranco de las Angustias
Roque de los Muchachos
The highest point of La Palma is Roque de la Muchachos at an altitude of 2.426 meters. You can go here by car, but it is of course more fun to hike up. You can do this from the car park at Mirador de los Andenes and pick up the route marked white-red here. This hike is incredibly spectacular but particularly suitable for hikers without fear of heights, you sometimes hike right next to the steep drop off into the Caldera.
You climb and descend continuously, until after a good hour and a half you’ll arrive at the somewhat touristy Roque de la Muchahos. From here you have fabulous views of Cumbre Vieja and some other Canary Islands in the distance. You can walk back on the same trail or go on the paved road. This last option is about 7 kilometers and not very interesting, but nice if you want to take a closer look at the buildings of the observatory.
Distance: 6 kilometers
Duration: approx. 3 hours (return via the same route)
Start and end point: Mirador los Andenes
Climbing Pico de la Nieve
Another beautiful climb that you can do is to the top of the Pico de la Nieve, the snow peak. This La Palma hiking trail is not too difficult and again offers beautiful views when you have good weather. During my most recent trip, however, I had heavy clouds, some of us were overcast and we stood in the sun, so the view was limited.
You can park your car at the parking place where there are signs to Pista Pico de la Nieve, it is a fairly large parking lot so it soon becomes clear. From here you climb up in about an hour to the top of Pico de la Nieve. First through the woods, not much later you reach the tree line and sometimes, as in our case, above the clouds. On top of the mountain it can be cold and especially very windy: so bring warm clothing!
You can return via the same route, but it is more fun to make a detour to the rock paintings of Tagoror. They are protected because of vandalism, but you can still see them well through the fences. Then you walk back via the same route and eventually you come to the exit to Pista Pico, you follow this and finally you come back to the car.
Distance: 7 kilometers
Duration: approx. 4 hours
Start and end point: Pista Pico car park
Hiking trails La Palma in other places
In addition to these trails at Cumbre Vieja and the Caldera de Taburiente, there are plenty of hikes on the Canary Island of La Palma. I herewith give you two of my favorites for your walking holiday on La Palma:
The first hike is the waterfall hike Barranco del Agua. This short one-hour trip takes you through a narrow gorge to a beautiful waterfall. It is a great hike to do on a rainy day. The second hike that I can absolutely recommend is one from Los Llanos de Aridane to Puerto de Tazacorte. I walked part of this from Puerto de Tazacorte, a historic village with a black sand beach and some ruins of an old fort. From here you can make a not too technical but steep climb to Mirador del Time.
General travel tips and hiking tips for La Palma
This concludes the overview of the hikes in La Palma that I made. Of course there are many more. It is best to order a Rother Walking Guide or La Palma before departure, it contains more than 60 walks onincl. descriptions and a small La Palma hiking map. You do not need a real hiking map of La Palma though as most hiking trails are well marked and it’s hard to get lost.
Trip to La Palma
You can do your holiday on La Palma both organized or book all of it by yourself, which is generally cheaper and you’ll have more freedom. Whichever way you want to do it, make sure you have a rental car because many walks are difficult to make with public transport. La Palma is mountainous and the roads wind over the island. If, like me, you quickly suffer from motion sickness, it makes sense to take motion sickness pills before you set off. Especially the drive to the high road in Caldera de Taburiente is sometimes dizzying.
If you prefer not to hire a car, you can take guided walks on La Palma with Natour. I have no experience with them myself, but I have heard good stories about them!
Booking your La Palma vacation
You can find the best flight options from your country on Skyscanner. Make sure to actually book a flight to Isla de la Palma and NOT Palma de Mallorca! Cars can be found at a cheap price via Rentalcars.com and appartments and hotels on La Palma at Booking.com. We spent one week in Los Llanos and then one week near in Los Concajos so we could explore both sides of the island.
Climate La Palma
The most important thing to realize about your holiday on La Palma is that the island has two sides that are separated by a huge mountain range. This means that it can be warm and sunny on one side of the island and rainy and cloudy on the other side of the island. The sunny and therefore warmer side of the island is the west, where you will find places like Los Llanos de Aridane, Puerto Naos and Puerto Tazacorte. This side is relatively dry and the landscape is less green than in the east of La Palma.
The eastern side of La Palma is the green and rainy side where on average more precipitation falls than in the west. It is greener here, making it cloudier than in the west. When I think back to it, during my stay in the east I almost only had clouds each day. On this side of the island you will find La Palma airport, as well as the capital Santa Cruz and the resort town of Los Concajos.
In general it is always relatively warm on La Palma but … it can also get nasty cold in winter. Although I have not noticed much of it myself (it was around 20-25 degrees during the Christmas holidays and sunny almost every day) I have been told that it can also go very badly in terms of weather and that there can be snow high in the mountains. In the summer, on the other hand, it is often very hot and therefore not ideal for taking long walks. So I advise you to go hiking on La Palma in spring and autumn.
What struck me by the way in the apartments where I stayed is that none of them had a heating system. It cooled quite quickly in the evening as soon as it got dark, so it went pretty fast inside with the drop in temperature. So be sure to bring warm clothing for the evening, also when inside your accommodation!
Packing list for hiking on La Palma
It is important to know that you are walking at relatively high altitudes, which means that it can sometimes be a lot cooler on the mountain than down in the valley. In addition, La Palma has a dry and wet area, so a raincoat is not an unnecessary luxury. The following should not be missing in your backpack:
– Sunscreen and sunglasses
– Water-repellent (zip-off) pants
– T-shirt, fleece sweater and rain / wind jacket
– Sturdy hiking boots
– First aid kit
Conclusion and disclaimer
Hopefully you found this blog with the most beautiful walks on La Palma useful and it has helped you prepare for your trip. If you have any questions and / or comments, please leave them in the comments. This blog contains affiliate links. When you make a purchase or make a reservation through one of these links, I will receive a small commission for you at no extra cost.
Want to read more about hiking in Spain? Then check this post about the famous Caminito del Rey, once the deadliest hike in Spain!