Rest of Europe

Europe outside Great Britain has it all for us, from the Alps and Dolomites to sunny winter destinations around the Mediterranean.


2023 Gran Canaria backpacking GR131

2023 Tenerife backpacking GR131

2023 2017 Majorca backpacking GR221

2023 Costa del Sol and Granada area walking

2019 2018 2016 2013 2011 2005 2000 1996 Costa Blanca climbing and walking

2007 1997 Majorca climbing


2015 Pyrenees backpacking

2012 Provence climbing and walking

2011 Pyrenees Ariege climbing and walking

2007 French Alps Chamonix and Ecrins climbing

1997 Corsica GR20 backpacking

1997 Corsica climbing

1993 Pyrenees Pic du Midi to Perdido backpacking

1989 Vanoise and Mt Blanc climbing

1988 Pyrenees Andorra backpacking

Austrian-German Alps

2018 Austrian Alps hut to hut hiking

2011 Austrian and German Alps climbing


2013 Dolomites climbs and scrambles

2007 Dolomites climbs and scrambles

2001 Dolomites climbs and scrambles

1994 Dolomites AV1 backpacking


2008 Swiss Alps Bregaglia climbing

1991 Swiss Alps Bernese Oberland climbing

1990 Swiss Alps Zermatt area climbing


1994 Jotenheim hut to hut ski tour

1988 Hardangervida hut to hut ski tour


2017 Kalymnos climbing

2016 Crete backpacking

2015 Kalymnos climbing


2012 Geyikbayiri rock climbing in southern Turkey


1995 Geyser, Gullfoss, Pingveller hiking

Tenerife GR131 hike

At the end of March 2023 Brian hiked the Gran Canaria GR131 then took a ferry to continue with the Tenerife section of the same trail.

Tenerife GR131 I hiked about 67 miles in 5 days (guidebook route is 58 miles). I again was armed with a guidebook, Cicerone’s Trekking in the Canary Islands as a kindle app.

The GR131 crosses from coast to coast on most of the Canary islands but in Tenerife it terminates inland at both ends. Possibly this is due to Tenerife being heavily populated around the tourist coastal fringe and creating a scenic trail in these parts is more difficult.

Anyway the boat landed at the biggest town on the island, Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the north east, and I then hopped on a bus down to the southern tip at Los Cristianos before getting a connection to the trail’s southern start at Arona.

It was pretty hot again – maybe 28 to 30C – here at 4pm in the small town of Arona 600m above sea level. But it was going to get cooler as I set out up the arid, cactus landscape to the north. After collecting water to do me til tomorrow morning I set off and crossed a couple of dry barrancas which looked like old lava flows before climbing up to an attractive craggy hillscape around Roque Imoque. The air was really hazy again as in Gran Canaria so I lost sight of the coast but the hiking was on great trails and I soon entered shady pleasant pine forest causing the temperature to dip nicely.

I found a campsite on a rocky ridge in trees overlooking Barranco del Rey pleased with today’s travel progress and well established on the hike.

I continued the next day with pleasant undulating walking across pine clad hillsides on the southern slopes of El Teide, the island’s volcano high point at 3715m. I passed a concrete water tank where it would have been possible to collect water using buckets lying around and then remarkably some water potholes under a cool stone bridge. There was a running race about to start in the town of Vilaflor as I arrived at 10am and it was pretty vibrant and noisy as I bought some food and water for a few days then sat down for a coffee in the shade. I even managed to bathe my feet in town waterfall feature!

From there, the good trail climbed a bit more steadily to the edge of the treeline with views to raw lava hillsides above. I took a minor trail away from the GR131 rounding the west side of the hill of Guajara to get to the National Park centre at Parador. This looked an interesting route in itself and meant I avoided doing a part of the GR131 twice to get to Parador (purple line on map below).

I was now climbing steeply up a valley on open lava slopes with feint trail and cairns. I followed a tiny (now broken) aqueduct line before coming upon a strong water flow emerging from a pipe into a concrete tank. Probably the best water source I saw on either of the islands!

After a lunch stop in the shade of a pine tree I pushed up to the col at 2,450m to views of El Teide at last! From the col there was a better trail zig zagging down to the valley below and Parador car park and visitor centre where I collected some more water for the night.

Leaving the crowds of tourists, I headed back east to the GR131 on jeep tracks past a cool looking climbing area of surreal volcanic pinnacles. The air temperature was now more pleasant higher up and the walking was scenic. I decided to climb up to another col to the south on the GR131 to camp to the east of Guajara and found some flat spots to pitch the tent. This was Degollada de Guajara, at 2,390m, the highest point on the GR131 in the Canaries I think.

First thing in the morning I hiked up Guajara the hill beside camp with views across to El Teide and thankfully a bit less haze than on previous days. The ruins of an old observatory adorn the summit (see banner picture above), seemingly the first high altitude observatory. Returning back to the trail there was a long flat section on jeep track skirting the south of El Teide around the lava fields and I saw a few other hikers and runners here. I headed to the road at El Portillo Alto which had a couple of busy cafes so I hiked on down the road for a mile or so to El Portillo Visitor Centre. I wanted to pick up water but the taps at the toilet had ‘Non Potable’ signs up. Since this was likely my last chance for water before tonight I hiked back to the first café and sat down for a sandwich and chips and filled up on water there. Probably a 5km round trip….but worth it!

Next I descended north away from El Teide, down into pine woodlands on a track covered with ‘No Cycling’ signs but obviously ignored as there were deep rutted berms from mountain bikes all the way. At about 5.30pm I found a rocky river bed to cook up pasta and tea as a nice relaxing stop. The forest changed from pine to ‘laurisilva’ which is a mix of scrub and pine with some flowering giant heather trees. Unfortunately for me it didn’t provide camping spots but I lucked out by coming across an open wooden shelter with a table and a micro spot for the tent. Phew!

The dawn chorus in this forest was tremendous and I was away early in the cool air traversing across forested slopes to the recreational camp area of La Caldera. With high hopes of a shower, charging my phone, washing and a pleasant café I was a little disappointed. The café was closed, the power sockets were dead and about 6 buses of screaming school children arrived just before me! I did get a good wash though and treated the water ready for another dry camp that night.

From El Caldera I climbed about 2,000 feet up in pine forest to reach a well crafted trail undulating round very steep sided hills – reminiscent of the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California. It was here that I met Toby coming the other way. He was hiking all the islands on the GR131 and had the tiniest backpack I think I have ever seen, using a poncho to double up as a tent. After an interesting chat about trails covering everything from Arizona to Sweden we departed on our ways with the temperature cooling nicely in the late afternoon. I stopped at the wooden shelter of Las Canales to cook up dinner with the luxury of a table and benches.

From here I left the pine forest and trail to hike along a less interesting managed forest on a dirt road. Camping options looked less attractive as well, but I was saved just before dusk when I saw a sign to a recreational camping area at Las Calderetas about 1/2 mile north of the GR131. It turned out to have good camping platforms at the edge of the forest and I happily plonked down in the dark after a good 20 mile day.

All that remained was a short 4 1/2 mile potter to the northern terminus of the trail at La Esperanza the next morning. I got a bus straight away down to the larger university town of La Laguna and form there a second bus to Santa Cruz de Tenerife for a much needed hotel shower and good food before flying back to Scotland!

Thoughts on Tenerife GR131

Another really nice short backpack taking 3 full days and two half days at either end. The southern part is more arid with lava flows whilst the north mainly consists of good, well crafted trail contouring round mountain sides in sparse pine woodland akin to the Pacific Crest Trail in southern California. As per Gran Canaria, there was almost no running water so I had to plan out picking up water at recreational campsites, cafes and towns.

Again, a downside was the amount of toilet paper alongside the trail- carry it out please folks!!

Useful links

Guide book for GR131 – Cicerone’s Trekking in the Canary Islands

Mapping app I used – Outdooractive

Gran Canaria GR131

The Canaries are a series of volcanic islands west of Morocco in the Atlantic- and a popular tourist destination for Europeans due partly to the consistent warm climate throughout the year. They also provide surprisingly good hiking including the long distance trail the GR131 which crosses the 7 main islands.

Brian visited Gran Canaria and Tenerife in late March 2023 for a 8 day backpack including a ferry between islands in the middle. I was armed with a guidebook, Cicerone’s Trekking in the Canary Islands as a kindle app.

Gran Canaria GR131 I hiked about 52 miles in 3 days (guidebook route is 46 miles)

Tenerife GR131 I hiked about 67 miles in 5 days (guidebook route is 58 miles)

I arrived at Gran Canaria’s main town of Las Palmas and went on a search for a gas cannister for my stove. I got the screw on cannister for my gas stove at one of the two Decathlon stores outside town and a small scale map from a bookshop and was set to go.

Las Palmas colonial looking centre

On March 21st – equinox!- I took a bus down to the southern tip of the island and the tourist beach resort of Maspalomes with its distinctive area of sand dunes.

It was hot as I headed off hiking north – maybe 28 to 30C. The start is alongside a messy dry riverbed, with litter and graffiti but I soon left this tourist coastal strip to climb slowly into the hills and more natural scenery.

The Cicerone guide’s follows a road for its first day to the small town of Ayagaures. Being keen to avoid the road I saw a line to the east on the map which followed jeep tracks up Barranco de Los Vicentes. This worked well for me providing a quiet wander up through an arid valley with cactus and palm trees lining the hillsides. I climbed up at the head of the barranco on a good trail to a viewful dirt road that zig zagged down to Ayagaures to rejoin the guide book route.

The attractive looking café/bar in town was closed unfortunately but I was able to collect some water from a nearby house and climb out past two reservoirs into pleasant sweet smelling pine. These looked a little like the ponderosa pine that grows in the US in high desert areas and provided some welcome shade in the still hot late afternoon. I found a good viewful campsite at a col at 950m after 15 sweaty miles!

I should say that camping is technically not allowed but I didn’t have any problem ‘bivouacking’ – that is setting the tent up discreetly at dusk and heading off in the morning soon after dawn. Of course you need to keep a clean camp if doing this and follow leave no trace principles. One thing to be particularly mindful of is not to light any fires and be very careful if using a stove as the ground was extremely dry and packed with pine needles that looked very combustible.

Next day I followed a really good trail into the mountain village of Nunte (full name -San Bartolome de Tirajana) by mid morning and stopped off for coffee and cake at one of the cafes and stocked up on some more food at the shop. I met some other hikers here, a lovely spot to hang out or I guess you could overnight too.

The trail I had hiked to here looked like it is used a lot by mountain bikers – although I didn’t see any – and wound its way through some rugged hillsides. Unfortunately, although the weather was hot and stable, there was a constant dusty haze which reduced the visibility a bit. Someone said to me that it was a wind bringing sand over from West Africa but I wasn’t sure if that was the reason!

More really nice trail followed for the rest of the day, staying high and weaving round the sides of mountains and then through upland plateau. The distinctive pinnacle of Roque Nublo stuck out like a thumb from the surrounding hills.

Later I reached a road at the col of Cruz de Tejeda which also had a café and a toilet block where I could collect water. It was 4pm and the café had stopped selling food so I cooked an early dinner and washed myself and my clothes as best I could. I didn’t see any running water on the trail in Gran Canaria so I relied on cafés, toilet blocks and buying bottled water at grocery stores along the way.

I hiked out beyond the pass in the evening with slightly cooler air and found a good camp in the woods perched above a cliffside. 18 miles today with lots of up and down.

In the morning I met another hiker, Nikoli from Belarus and we had a chat at Artenara, a picturesque village overlooking the steep sided valley to the south. The way ahead was mellow, wandering through pine clad hills with views out west down to the sea. I stopped off at the recreational area of Tamadaba for lunch in the trees then headed north to plunge downwards towards the sea at Agaete.

Jeez it was hot down there, maybe 35+C I would guess but the trail was superb finding a way down a steep band of cliffs and finishing right in town. About 20 miles today and I booked a room in a hostel ready for a ferry trip the next day over to Tenerife!

Thoughts on Gran Canaria GR131

I enjoyed the hike, it was scenic with great trails and enough town or café stops to make it easy to resupply. It was hot though and perhaps November – early March might be the best time to hike.

The island also looks good for road cycling and mountain biking if you are into that.

One downside was the amount of toilet paper along the trail. This is the most I remember seeing on any hiking trip and is a bit disgusting to be honest- carry it out with you folks!!

Useful links

Guide book for GR131 – Cicerone’s Trekking in the Canary Islands

Mapping app I used – Outdooractive

Stingy Nomads guide to – Camino de Santiago de Gran Canaria (a similar route to GR131)