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Nipping out for some shopping takes on a whole new meaning when faced with a two hour downhill trek. That was the reality in the small village of Jama some 700 metres up above Valle San Lorenzo on the border with Vilaflor. Maybe that’s why most of the houses at Casas Altas are deserted although the freshly restored homes looked magnificent with the Barranco de Chijas and a bounty of plant species spreading out below.

Arona is known for its beaches but the Ayuntamiento (council) is rightly proud of its heritage and beauty and have started a programme of free guided walks to show the other side of the municipality. After dipping into a similar series a few years ago I couldn’t strap my walking shoes on fast enough to enjoy the first of eight walks offered for January with the promise of more to follow.

Meeting at 9am in Valle San Lorenzo I was hoping the full compliment of 25 enthusiasts would have signed up but it was just myself, our council guide Virginia, and three holidaying ladies from Rotterdam, who had seen the publicity at Las Galletas Tourist Information. A steep side road and we were looking up at the small houses perched on the lip of the hill, the sun was poking through two volcanic peaks and the tranquil sounds of nature soon had us moving.

I do a lot of walks but rarely have the advantage of a local guide. Virginia is from Valle San Lorenzo and a keen bird spotter, the high pitched shrill overhead was quickly identified as a Buzzard. The walks are aimed at locals and tourists and the guide’s knowledge comes in several languages including Spanish and English.

As the road changed to a track and then a rough rocky path the upward climb began. A chunky metal water pipe headed up with us but about half way up we found a crossing point of several old concrete channels that were gushing fast with cold water, an amazing work of skill and dedication that stretched down into the town. Even the ugly ducklings of the plant world have a story to tell and the cochineal beetle had left its white scale on many of the cacti, a quick rub revealed the rich crimson colouring that was exported to dye clothes in mainland Europe.

By the time the Jama houses loomed large above us we had been introduced to garlic flowers, mastic trees, Pistacia Atlantica and many more. The most restored house boasted a lovingly tended garden with a well inside and another near the partly re-constructed barn. And how about this as a bonus… a deep, cool cave split into chambers with a long table set out for relaxing away from the high summer sun. Walking inside the dusty shells of the neglected dwellings, I could see daylight through the floorboards of one. Thankfully the next one had a hewn stone floor and a window with a large sill to rest on which afforded inspiring views of the valley.

The wider area offered us a fragrant Rosemary bush. Virginia told us that it was often used locally to make honey. Suddenly my cheese rolls seemed very inadequate. After a short rest we started the walk down. Nature had a colourful rival as paragliders swirled in the air currents on their own graceful descent. It’s always quicker on the downward route but we made plenty of stops to admire flowers and plants, questions are encouraged on these walks and the pace is leisurely, the walk took just over four hours. Back in Valle San Lorenzo we went our separate ways but the Dutch ladies had plenty of good things to report to less active fellow holiday makers and to spread back home.

Here are the walks for the remainder of January, you must register (for insurance) at any Arona Tourist Information Office, or call (0034) 922761600, or via the website www.arona.travel

  • Tuesday 24th ““ Montaña Guaza
  • Wednesday 25th ““ Arona Casco to Altavista
  • Thursday 25th ““ Barranco Chijas
  • Saturday 28th ““ Arona to Ifonche
  • Tuesday 31st ““ Malpais de Rasca

There should be more walks in the following months depending on the response. Publicity had only just been launched before this first walk. Arona is well worth getting to know and this free initiative is waiting to introduce you to a new landscape.

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