Canaries by Bike
Team cycle (Lucy, Donna and I) headed to Canary Bike Tours to pick up our Pinarello Razha Carbon bikes and meet our tour guide for the next two days of cycling, Unai Yus. Unai is an ex-professional cyclist from the Basque Country, but has been living in Tenerife for 2 years and knows it well. The bikes had been set up to our height and with pedals to fit our clip in shoes. This worried me as I hadn’t used cleats for about three years – I definitely didn’t want to be falling over on the Spanish roads!
But apparently it wasn’t the cleats I needed to be worried about; Tenerife is well known for its inclines, nicknamed the “Island of Hell” by Tour de France contenders. Somehow this had passed me by when I’d committed myself to two days of cycling with an ex pro…
Day One (Southern Loop)
Along the Coast
Our day one route took us out of Los Cristianos and immediately uphill over Montana de Guaza. We quickly discovered that Tenerife doesn’t really do flat and my poor legs complained as they tried to re-acclimatise, not only to the inclines, but to cycling in general – this marked my third time in the saddle in well over a year.
We rode past Sunday markets and the pretty harbour of Las Galletas before heading on to Chiringuito Pirata, a characterful bar and café on Playa de la Tejita, overlooking Montana Roja. The landscape in the south of Tenerife is dry with mostly sandy-brown terrain and cactus plants, but Montana Roja stands out against this and the blue skies with its deep red colour and harsh angles.
From Playa de la Tejita we headed a little further east, past banana plantations and tomato farms before stopping briefly to look out over El Médano where a surf school teaches surfing, windsurfing and more. The wind and waves are so perfect in this area that the World Kite Surfing Championship takes places here every year.
The Long and Winding Road
We’d followed the coast quite closely so far, but now turned inland and rode up past the airport and towards the Mountains, turning off for an amazing stretch of winding downhill. This was one of my highlights of the ride – one of those roads where you just look at it and think “this is going be fun”.
Still high on the buzz of the last section, we turned off and stopped for lunch at a lovely local pizza restaurant and café, La Tabaiba. The special for the day was paella, one of my favourites, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. We ate outside, despite a sprinkling of light rain for all of five minutes. Tenerife has these unique microclimates, meaning you can experience quite different weather in fairly short distances, but mostly we’d been treated with bright sunshine. The rain was actually quite welcome!
After lunch, well fed but feeling the effects of having cycled a marathon so far, we chose the direct route back to the bike shop, cycling single file along the main roads – thankfully the roads here are cycle-friendly with no kerbs and drivers who give you room when they pass.
Day 1: 34 miles and 2,421 feet of climbing.
Re-fuelling, Tenerife Style
That evening, we all gathered for dinner at El Cine in Los Cristianos harbour, where we sampled an amazing array of fresh octopus (the best in the Island according to locals), cuttlefish, sardines, prawns and papas arrugadas, a traditional dish of salted potatoes. Tales of the day’s adventures were shared, including Team Dive’s encounters with sting rays and ship wrecks, and Team Surf’s bay hopping to try out all the best spots for catching waves.
Walking back along the sea front to our hotel, the H10 Conquistador in Las Americas (a four star haven in which to rest our tired legs), we talked through our plans for day 2, which for us included one big climb…
Day Two (Northern Climb)
Team cycle reduced to two as Donna went for a stand up paddle-boarding lesson, so Lucy and I made our way up to the bike shop to meet Unai. This time we were heading to the north by car to start our route. The north of the island is very different from the volcanic south, with the bustling capital of Santa Cruz and the more green landscape.
Starting in Santa Cruz, we pedaled a flat 10km to Playa de Las Terisitas – one of the only golden beaches of Tenerife (most of the beaches in Tenerife are made up of black, volcanic sand, but the sand here is imported from the Sahara!) – and then climbed to the viewpoint over-looking the bay for the most incredible views back on the beach. Unai reassured me that what we were to tackle next wasn’t as steep as the hill we’d just climbed, though that didn’t comfort me much from the rumours of 20 kilometres of climbing.
After taking a few photos – after all, this is one of the most photographed views in the whole island – we turned back to start the next stage of our ride. The return downhill was crazy fast and I let my hesitance get the better of me, only letting go of the brakes a couple of times.
Climbing Higher and Higher
Once back to San Andrés, we stopped for a quick drink and then the real work started… 12km of uphill, climbing mount Anaga. The kilometres were marked with signposts from the start of the road, each one a mental checkpoint as we relentlessly pedalled. We stopped to rest about 4 kilometres in, unclipping our shoes as quickly as we could to avoid falling over – you can’t coast to unclip going uphill like you can on the flat!
From here, Unai gave us the occasional push (and I mean physically as well as mentally!) as we made our way further and further up the mountain, winding our way around the many hairpin bends as the mountain got steeper. The climb was tough and I’m not sure I would have have made it to the top unsupported, but Unai seemed pleased with our efforts.
As we reached the final kilometres, the landscape changed and we were suddenly surrounded by a forest of pines and laurels (Tenerife has some of the only laurel forests left in the world) and it was lovely to be shaded by the canopy of trees. A right turn took us to a spectacular viewpoint of El Bailadero, where we posed with our bikes before a final 200m stretch leading to the Albergue de Anaga After for our final stop.
Half a Mile High
Over a delicious Spanish lunch of chick pea and chorizo stew, followed by braised beef and chips, we looked out over the road we had just climbed. I’ve never quite felt a sense of achievement like it. We had the option of tackling another 8 kilometres further into the mountains, but Lucy and I were both spent after climbing over half a mile up in vertical terms and instead we made our way to the very top of the mountains by car for a photo that Unai said we must take before returning – a right of passage of sorts.
Day 2: 17 miles and 3,153 feet of climbing.
Our Final Meal… Ever?
The group re-assembled in the evening again, this time heading to Meson Castellano for a fantastic tapas feast, washed down with sangria, of course! So far we had only had the evenings together, but we had a group trip planned to round off our Tenerife adventure. Tomorrow we would trek around Teide National Park, 2,000 metres up Mount Teide… amid warnings it was about to erupt.
Check back soon for my post about trekking the rumbling Mount Teide.
Cycling in Tenerife was such a great way to see the sights; we saw and experienced so much more by the power of our own two legs than we would behind the window of a minibus. The cycle hire itself is affordable, as are flights to the Canaries, and the weather is almost guaranteed for us fair-weather cyclists. I’m already thinking about my next adventure, and it may well involve two wheels.
Thank you to Thomas Cook Airlines for the opportunity to #ExploreTenerife.
Photos taken with my Olympus PEN E-PL7*.
Disclaimer: I was invited to #ExploreTenerife as a guest of Thomas Cook. As always, my opinion is my own and not affected by items or services gifted to me. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page. * Affiliate link. Affiliate links do not affect the price that you pay, but any commission earned helps me to pay the costs of running this site. To find out more about my policy on this and other matters, see my Disclosure page.