Published: February 2009Best Island Vacations 2009: Pick Your Paradise

Bike Volcanic Trails

Spain: La Palma, Canary Islands

Text by Meg Lukens Noonan
Don’t let the Canary Islands’ reputation for being overrun by beery blokes in ill-advised Speedos discourage you from heading to pretty, rarely visited La Palma, the steep, northwesternmost island in the seven-isle chain off Africa’s Western Sahara. Here, a jagged mountain ridge splits the island north to south, and in the center of it all is La Caldera de Taburiente. At 6,000 feet deep and six miles wide, it’s one of the largest eroded craters in the world. Mountain bikers of all stripes come to ride ancient trails that crisscross the island, from mellow, ripply traverses over lava fields to technical singletrack that free-falls from barren summits to deserted black-sand beaches. Siegmund Schuler runs guided tours of the island with Bike’n’Fun and says, "Every year we find or build new tracks." Make your base camp close to the trails at the orange-tree-shaded Pensión la Tienda, a 150-year-old, eight-room country house in tiny ridgetop El Paso. Plan a day with Natour Trekking to hike into the windless, brook-laced forest on the crater’s floor, and set aside another to stroll colonial Santa Cruz, where waterfront restaurants along the Avenida Maritima serve goat stew and papas arrugadas (potatoes with garlicky mojo sauce).

The Lure: Mountain biking, hiking

Vitals: Bike’n’Fun, seven days, $350, including bike rental; bikenfun.de. Pensión la Tienda, doubles from $165; lapalma-pension.de. Natour Trekking, excursions from $40; natourtrekking.com

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