Summer sits waiting in the wings for the ash cloud to shift and Tinerfeño thoughts are turning to Sunday picnics in the woods; time to brush off the canvas and head into the mountains for a spot of camping.
If you’re imagining neatly laid out pitches of rolled meadow; rows of showers with coin operated hot water; banks of washing-up sinks and a nice little campsite shop where you can pick up a bocadillo straight from the oven…think again.
Apart from the campsites at Las Galletas, El Médano and Punta Del Hidalgo (currently closed) which have facilities such as showers and laundry rooms but which are not cheap to stay in and are actually more akin to holiday camps than campsites, the bulk of Tenerife’s camping is much more ‘Into the Wild‘ than ‘Hi-De-Hi’ and best of all, is absolutely FREE of charge.
There are 20 official campsites dotted around the pine forests of the north and interior of Tenerife and not one of them is even vaguely akin to the family favourites that line the valleys of the Lake District and the coastlines of Wales and Devon; when you decide to go camping on Tenerife, you’re in for a REAL camping experience.
Wander into any of the forest zonas de Acampadas (camping zones) and the first thing that will strike you is the complete absence of anything resembling tent pitches. Pine needle-clad, red earth stretches in mounds and hollows beneath the scented shade of the trees.
If you can spot a piece of ground that’s even vaguely level, grab it quick before someone else does, provided it’s not teetering on the edge of a barranco; a situation you’ll sorely (literally) regret when darkness falls. If you can’t find any even ground, gather up the pine needles (amidst bouts of sneezing) and use them to level the terrain beneath the groundsheet.
Purists will love the rock hard feel of the ground beneath their hips reminding them that they’re communing with nature in its most natural form. The rest of us will benefit from an inflatable mattress.
No naked flames are permitted in the camping zones so there’ll be no sitting around the campfire playing harmonicas and eating beans ““ a blessing in so many ways.
Most of the larger camping grounds are set alongside zonas recreativas (picnic zones) so fresh spring water is available from standpipes and there are barbecue areas to throw a burger and a sausage onto early evening. However, in high summer or periods of extended drought the barbecues are off limits.
Be prepared for some basic facilities when it comes to answering calls of nature. Few sites have flush toilets, most have squat toilets which may come as something of a surprise and take a bit of getting used to. But one thing they all have in common is a complete lack of toilet paper so be prepared.
In the wilderness there are no street lamps; once darkness falls the words “pitch’ and ‘black’ will be instantly on your lips and unless you happen to have chosen a full moon night, this is where that decision not to pitch the tent on the edge of a barranco will pay dividends. You’ll need a couple of good torches and some spare batteries.
Although it’s free to use the campsites, you’re required to apply for a permit in advance which you can do easily via the internet , printing off your permission slip to present to the Ranger when you get there.
There are good reasons why it’s sensible to apply for the permit rather than just turn up.
Firstly, fire regulations; if the forest goes up in smoke, you need to know that someone’s coming to rescue you. Secondly, toilets are locked up when the zona recreativa closes and in some cases, at all times outside of the summer weekends. Having a permit ensures that the toilets will be cleaned by the Ranger and will be left open for your use. Thirdly, it means that you don’t have to wait until it’s practically dark to arrive and then be packed up and gone by early morning to avoid the Ranger; camping should be a leisurely affair.
Location, location, location
With so many locations to choose from, it’s worth thinking about what you want from your night under canvas. Star gazers should consider heading up into the National Park to Chio or Las Lajas to almost guaranteed clear skies and an awesome heavenly display; hikers should choose sites that will enable them to explore some of the best hiking on Tenerife ““ like La Caldera for the La Orotava Valley, Llano de Los Viejos for the Anaga Mountains or Madre del Agua for Paisajes Lunar; and forest lovers should make for the scented paradise of Las Raices or San Jose de Los Llanos.
Wherever you choose to loiter within tent, if you go outside of the weekend the chances are that you’ll find yourself entirely alone with the stars and the silence, making it the perfect venue for a romantic forest getaway. Just hope the pine needles don’t puncture your mattress or it could all go a bit flat.