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05
Jun-2014

A Million Dollar View For Free! Camping in the Canary Islands

camping canary islands tamadaba

Free holiday accommodation on top of a mountain with spellbinding views of the Atlantic Ocean. There must be a catch, right? Well, only a minor one.

Spain’s Canary Islands have long been Europe’s year-round holiday playground. But venture beyond the heavily developed beachside resorts into the nearby mountainous interiors and you could be worlds away from the block-rocking beats of Playa del Ingles and Los Cristianos. We decided to do just that.

Our trip covered three of the seven islands – Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Gomera. Partly for the adventure and partly to save money, we decided to balance the hotel and airbnb nights with bouts of camping.

WILD CAMPING IS PROHIBITED BUT…

We quickly realised that our initial idea of wild camping in the Canary Islands wasn’t a completely viable option. La Gomera and Tenerife prohibit it, while Gran Canaria allows limited wild camping in the forest subject to obtaining a permit (which only allows you to camp up to 24hrs at any one location).

However, the enforcement of the wild camping ban appears to be somewhat lax and, while not common, people do camp in the wild on the islands. One of these spots can be found along the ragged hills surrounding Playa Diego Hernandez, the rocky stretch between La Caleta and El Puertito in Tenerife. This hippie haven has a beautiful seaview and the (nudist) beach is great for swimming but finding even terrain for your tent can be a challenge.

PRIVATE CAMPSITES

Next we trawled the web for private campsites and, while a few of them do exist, they seemed pretty uninspiring on the whole. Undeterred, we continued our research and came across campsites set up by the local governments in Gran Canaria and Tenerife.

tejeda gran canaria canary islands

The mountainous interior of Gran Canaria offers some spectacular views. Photo: Urban Escapists

Zonas de acampada – State-run CampSITES

State-run campsites in the Canary Islands can be used free of charge but require an online registration. The permit in Tenerife needs to be ordered at least a week in advance, while the Gran Canarian officials require at least three days to process the permit and this needs to be collected in person.

The government websites for the permits come only in Spanish but we used Google Chrome’s nifty auto-translate tool to get over that hurdle with ease. As non-locals we couldn’t use the online login process for Tenerife, so we emailed the booking form instead and received our permit within days.

teide volcano tenerife canary islands

View of Mount Teide – a volcano in Tenerife, Gran Canaria. Photo: Urban Escapists

CAMPING IN THE CANARY ISLANDS – NEXT TO A VOLCANO

Tenerife has a total of 13 state-run campsites. We stayed at El Lagar, which is situated on the north side of the island close to Teide, the island’s iconic volcano. The facilities in all of the state-run campsites are fairly basic and El Lagar had toilets (very clean), cold-water showers and fire pits.

The drive to the campsite snaked up a long gravel road through pine forest. Along the way we passed a pair of hikers and a lone mountain cyclist but by the time we arrived at the campsite, we were surprised to discover that we had the whole place to ourselves.

The campsite was nestled between two wooded ridges and behind these was Mount Teide, looming majestically in the setting sun. As the light was already swiftly fading, we picked a spot for our tent and set up camp.

we had the whole campsite to ourselves

Camping alone in a remote campsite tends to evoke both a sense of exhilaration – a joy of being away from it all – as well as slight spookiness…at being away from it all!

As we sat by the campfire admiring the star-lit skies, we suddenly heard the barking of a wild dog – first in the distance, then creeping closer. Nervous that it might have caught scent of our dinner and be frustrated to discover it eaten, we armed ourselves with flashlights and sticks. By this point we could hear the dog in the hollow right below us and thought it would only be a moment before it would appear from the darkness. For a while the creature was circling us in the cover of the treeline, but in the end it lost interest.

In spite of this curious close encounter, we slept remarkably soundly. In the morning, as we munched on our breakfast cereal, our nighttime visitor returned. Instead of being the Hound of the Baskervilles with glowing red eyes, it turned out to be a very friendly, if feral, Podenco Canario – a type of hound native to the islands.

podenco canario canary islands hound

Podenco Canario – Canary Islands Hound. Photo: Urban Escapists

mountain camping in gran canaria

In Gran Canaria we stayed at the Tamadaba National Park near Agaete, one of the 14 camp and recreational sites on offer. While Tamadaba only has toilets (once again, very clean) and no shower facilities, it redeems itself with one of the most spectacular views we’ve ever experienced while camping.

The campsite is perched on top of a 1400 metre high mountain with unobstructed views of the ocean below and volcanic Tenerife across the water. As with El Lagar, the campsite spreads across a large area and although we technically shared it with a few other campers, we barely saw anyone during our stay.

tamadaba view tent gran canaria

Tamadaba National Park camping – a tent with a view. Photo: Urban Escapists

camping in the clouds… literally

The high altitude means that on occasion the campsite becomes enveloped by a cloud and the temperature takes a sudden dip. This happened on our first night as we got ready to have our dinner.

We could see as the cloud rolled over the mountainside like a giant wall of candy cotton swallowing up trees, bushes – anything – in its path. Within minutes we were right in the middle of it, pulling on long sleeves and hoodies. After a fruitless stake-out for the clouds to pass, we called it a night, grateful that the sleeping bags which had felt a bit of an overkill earlier, were good up to -3 Celsius.

cloud mountain forest

Thick soup of clouds over the mountain. Photo: Urban Escapists

the million dollar view

The second night, after a day’s hike through the various trails nearby, we returned to catch the sunset from our camp by the cliff edge.

canary islands gran canaria tamadaba

Camping in the Canary Islands with a million dollar view. Photo: Urban Escapists

As the night set in and we sat before the breathtaking view enjoying a bottle of local red wine, cheese and bread from the farmers market, the atmosphere was nothing short of magical. Sometimes a little slice of paradise needn’t cost a dime.

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practicalities

It can be a bit tricky finding detailed information about camping in the Canary Islands as well as locating the actual camping permits. To make your life easier, we’ve collated the links for these below:

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  1. WolfgANG /

    Hi,

    Isaw an article in the Guardian a while ago about camping in Gran Canaria, and when Isaw your page I knew Ihad to do it myself. Ijust came back yesterday from a week in Gran Canaria, and it was nothing short of spectacular. Tamadaba is indeed a million dollar view, camping 20m from a 1000m drop is wild!

    Thanks so much for the inspiration, Once Ihave my ictures downloaded I’ll send you a few!

    • Wildsman /

      Great to hear you had a chance to experience Tamadaba and we’d love to see your pictures. It really is an incredible place and we can’t wait to go back ourselves!

  2. Vesna /

    Thanks for very usefull informations. Is it possible to visit that campsites also with motorhome? Regards, vesna

    • Wildsman /

      Hi Vesna

      We did see one or two motorhomes at Tamadaba. However, the road / terrain at the site is rocky and uneven, so it is worth investigating ahead of time. You should definitely visit, if you’re able to as it really is beautiful – even just for a day walk around the cliffs.

  3. Lelde /

    Hi. which FROM 14 CAMPSITES IS IN YOUR PHOTOS? :)

  4. Akvile /

    Hi, could you tell the email address for sending the application to camp in tenerife? the application form is provided in the internet, but i have found no information about the email address of the responsible institution. and the online application is for spanish residents only. thanks in advance!

  5. Justin /

    Hi Lelde,

    Most of the pictures on this blog came from the Tamadaba site, the most amazing camping location we found with fabulous views across the island and over the sea to Tenerife.

  6. Justin /

    Hi Akvile,
    I looked through my old emails and we sent our tenerife camping application to coordinacionmam@tenerife.es But I see that their official response came back from educam@tenerife.es

    Enjoy!!!

  7. Akvile /

    Hello, Justin,

    thank you for such a quick personal reply! I have written an email to both of the addresses that you provided and already received a reply. It’s all in Spanish but I hope to cope with it :)
    Thanks a lot for the valuable info (which was impossible to find on the official sites).

    Best regards,

    Akvile

  8. linus /

    View of Mount Teide – a volcano in Tenerife, Gran Canaria. Photo: Urban Escapists

    Is this from lagar campsite on teneriffe or from where?

  9. Justin /

    Hi Linus. The view back to Teide is from the Tamadaba camp on Gran Canaria. Really, it’s one of the most beautiful spots anywhere in the Canaries.

  10. ACCOMMODATION – HiTide Travel /

    […] Tent (for free, but we will arrange everything for you) […]

  11. fred /

    Hi, is there good parking at the sites? Just wondered how you travelled around in the areas.
    Are there buses near those areas, or would it even be possible to cycle?

  12. Justin Bengry /

    Hi Fred. We had no problem with parking at any of the sites. We had a rental car to get everywhere. I wouldn’t be confident that the busses go to these more remote areas. In fact, we had to go down some small road to find them. It would be possible to cycle, but it would be a lot of uphill work, and a lot of distance. It really depends on what you’re capable of, but it’s well beyond my abilities!

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