Ideal riding conditions 365 days a year, majestic landscapes, challenging climbs, amazing food, an endless network of gravel roads… The Canary Islands just moved to the top of our must-ride list.
The Canary Islands, located just off the coast of North Africa, have long been renowned for their spectacular landscapes, beautiful beaches and year-round mild climate. So inspiring is this natural wonderland that artists such as César Manrique have created artwork, sculptures and architecture incorporating its characteristic natural formations, which reflect the islands’ wild beauty.
Whilst the archipelago has always been a popular destination for beach-goers and hikers, a new trend is emerging across the islands: year-round gravel cycling. With their rugged terrain and vast network of gravel roads, the Canary Islands are the new favourite destination for gravel cyclists seeking a fresh perspective on European riding. Think lunar landscapes, ancient volcanoes, dune-filled deserts and immense climbs. What’s not to love?
Gravel cycling on Gran Canaria
Gravel cycling on Gran Canaria, the third-largest island in the archipelago, is a never-ending list of opportunities for gravellers looking for picturesque riding mixed with some real tests of strength. The island boasts an impressive variety of landscapes, from the majestic Maspalomas Dunas on the coast to the mighty Pico de las Nieves, the highest peak on the island with panoramic views of the neighbouring islands and the vast Atlantic Ocean.
The well-maintained gravel roads criss-crossing the island offer the perfect routes to get up close and personal with other natural wonders, such as the Caldera de Bandama, an impressive crater located near Las Palmas; the Barranco de Guayadeque, a deep ravine renowned for its rugged cliffs, lush vegetation and ancient caves; or Roque Nublo, an iconic volcanic rock formation offering views over the surrounding countryside.
How demanding is gravel cycling on Gran Canaria?
Despite the more demanding routes on Gran Canaria, such as Pico de las Nieves, reaching almost 2,000 m above sea level, the Valley of the Tears (think steep gradients and challenging terrain) and Roque Nublo (around 1,800 m above sea level), the island offers a plethora of routes suitable for all levels, including the Tirajana Valley, taking you through rolling countryside and pine forests, or the Ayagaures Valley, with its charming villages and yet more beautiful countryside.
Gravel cycling on Tenerife
Tenerife, the largest and most populated island in the Canary archipelago, is another gravel cycling paradise. The island’s volcanic terrain, dramatic landscapes and stunning coastline make it an ideal destination for gravellers looking for adventure, and who might even be tempted by some downtime on the beach.
Generally speaking, most routes will involve at least 1,000 m of elevation given the island’s undulating and mountainous terrain (it is a volcano, after all). The south is predominantly dry and rocky, whereas the north tends to be wilder and greener. The earth beneath your tyres will also range in colour and tones, from rich reds, oranges and browns, to intense grey and even black in some places, given the volcanic rock.
Mount Teide by gravel bike
We can’t talk about Tenerife without talking about Mount Teide, the highest peak in Spain. This iconic volcano, standing at an elevation of 3,718 metres, offers an epic climb for gravel riders seeking an unforgettable challenge. Ride between cacti and vineyards, through vast pine forests and up to the edge of the Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mount Teide is not only a physical test of strength but also a mental and emotional challenge, which nonetheless showcases the raw beauty of the Canary Islands that rewards every cyclist to take on this unforgettable climb.
GranGuanche: unsupported endurance cycling
An ode to gravel cycling and bikepacking at its wildest and most challenging, the GranGuanche Audax endurance gravel cycling race is a 700 km, +16,000 m route across five of the Canary Islands, including Gran Canaria and Tenerife. Pushing the limits of their mental and physical strength, cyclists ride through lush rainforests, across dusty deserts and over black lave fields by day, and camp where they can by night, to make the ferry leaving for the next island before the time limit.
Audax, which means “brave” in Latin, is what you have to be to take on this almighty yet magical challenge. “It doesn’t matter which bike you have, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman […] you can do it, if you want to do it, because a lot of it is just a mental thing”. Canary Island landscapes inspire awe; the reward that keeps riders coming back year after year and the reason cyclists are venturing to these stunning islands to discover their endless gravel tracks for the first time.
The best time of year to visit the Canary Islands
The best time of year for gravel cycling on the Canary Islands depends on your preferences regarding weather and crowds. Spring and autumn are popular seasons for cycling adventures as the temperatures are pleasant (between 17 ºC and 25 ºC) and there are fewer tourists compared to the peak summer months.
However, the mild winter months can also be great for riding, especially for those seeking a break from cooler climates. Look out for the occasional shower and check the forecast before each ride in case there is a storm brewing on the horizon. Whenever you travel, keep in mind that the wind can pick up, so check the forecast before each ride and pack a windbreaker, gloves and sunglasses to protect your eyes on particularly dusty routes.
The main take-aways: Gravel Cycling on the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands have it all, climbs, coastline and climate… Gran Canaria and Tenerife’s unique terrain and warm temperatures make these islands a veritable playground for gravellers, MTB-ers and roadies alike. So, load the track and charge your phone, and we’ll see you in the Canaries!