A quick overview on the Canary Islands Traverse (GR131/E7)

The Canary Islands are a group of seven main islands in the Atlantic Ocean south from Europe and west from Africa. They are an autonomous community of Spain. Therefore the climate in winter is relatively warm and mostly very hot in summer. It is kind of like Hawaii but (basically) in Europe!

Length: Lanzarote 70km / Fuerteventura 160km / Gran Canaria 100km / Tenerife 85km / La Gomera 38km / El Hierro 33km / La Palma 80km (not based on my own measuring)
The GR-131 is also part of the European long distance path network E7.

Season for hiking: Classic shoulder season hike, October to April; You still can encounter strong heat or snow, heavy rain or wind in these months. This climate table helps to get a feel for it. The winter days have of course less daylight be aware of that.

Getting there: 
Most of the islands have international airports, except La Gomera and El Hierro, the smallest ones.

Transport: The bus-network is strong and cheap, you can get nearly everywhere by Bus on the islands. Buses are called GuaGua (spoken: wahwah). Rental cars are also available everywhere. Taxis are very common. Hitchhiking should be easy, if you look like a hiker. I never had to hitch, but got a ride offered once by a local as I walked on a main road outside of town.

The islands are connected by a ferry system, So If you want to do the whole traverse or combine some islands best option is to jump on a ferry! These are big ships, you don’t need to book your ride in advance. Just walk to the harbor, look for the office and buy your ticket. You need an ID or Passport to purchase the ticket. It is a bit more effort to get to El Hierro, as far as I have figured it out, you only can go from Tenerife by ferry or a small plane to El Hierro (I did not went there), the same on the way out. That costs quite a bit of money for the relatively short trail.  There are two companys who run the ferrys, prices are almost the same, so you just take the one that fits your schedule. The companys are Fred Olsen and Armas.
The islands have also small airports. Bintar is the airline who runs the flights.

Accommodation: Tourism is strong along the coasts, so hotels or appartments are very common. That said it is not always easy to get a room without prebooking. But in times of pocket internet and google maps..
Inland it can be tricky to find a place indoors if you need one, but the islands are small enough to take your prefered method of transportation to the nearest town where there is lodging.

Camping: Like in a lot of  places in Europe, camping outside of campsites is prohibited. When you consider stealth camping please respect Leave No Trace guidelines. Never ever do campfires! It is very dry and there is no surface water on these Islands!

Resupply & Water: 

Mini Market at the Hotel in La Pared

There is almost no water from springs or creeks, maybe more after heavy rainfalls but normally you carry the water out of town. Most towns have at least one small supermarket, a bar or a restaurant where a hiker could get water from. If there is nothing, knock on a door and ask. A few words of the Spanish language sure helps! Towns on the GR-131 are frequently so you don´t have to carry a whole lot of food or water. At some places (like Roque Nublo, or El Pilar) people run small kiosks where water, snacks & drinks are beeing sold. Generally I relied on Googlemaps to see what kind of facilities I can expect in the towns ahead. I went without a stove, but have seen denatured alcohol in most supermarkets along the way. Selection in most Stores was very good and the prices reasonable for European standards.


Navigation & Markings:

 The GR131 is very well marked (red/white)  except on Gran Canaria, the route there is marked aswell but not as the GR131. However you will figure that out by going further into it. The markers are mostly painted to rocks, walls or signposts. Sometimes you find signposts with location names and distances also.
I did not carry paper maps and could hike most of the route by just following the markers. I used the Kompass App where I downloaded the maps for offline use and the GR131 is marked on their maps and used that occasionaly for figuring out where to go. Make sure to bring at least one source of navigation with you in case a marking is missing or has been vandalized or you have to adapt your route.
Guidebooks: Cicerone makes guidebooks for all of the Islands.



What is the trail like?

Rock Shelter on Fuerteventura

If you do the whole GR-131 it is best to start east on Lanzarote and hike west to La Palma. That is what I did aswell. By doing so, you have the not so pleasant parts in the beginning. Lanzarote and Fuerteventura are relatively flat, post-apocalyptic appearing islands where the route is mostly on dirt roads. These were very infrequently travelled by cars I had the impression, so it is not that big of a deal. However stealthcamping is hard to find and the wind can be really strong on these islands! On Fuerteventura they have these half open rock shelters, which are not very nice but mostly the only option to sleep in out of the wind. The ground in there is hard and dusty so bring a bivy. Or a freestanding tent. Most had a picknick table. No Water nearby. The shelters do not have a roof which would be sufficient in heavy rain, it is more like just a straw mattress on there, but so thin you can see the sky through. Really nothing but the shelter and a table (if you have luck). Some of them are just right outside of town so you dont really want to stay there! The shelters are marked with the shelter symbol in the Kompass App Maps too.  If you are not about to do a thruhike I would not really recommend Lanzarote or Fuerteventura, but that beeing said the later gets nice in the southern part after the town of Betancuria. All the other islands have way better trail systems and the GR consists mostly of single trails. I just wanted to walk so I did not really care, but sure enjoyed the later stages (the other islands) of the hike way more! The sweetspots are definitely Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera and La Palma. All these islands have also other cool trail systems so you can combine routes or check out other trails for a longer hike to make a splendid summer hiking trip in winter!







4 Responses

  1. Thanks for this overview! I wanted to stark hiking the GR131 this year but unfortunately I´d some time schedule troubles. Next time I´ll take your information into account in my preparateion. Looking on teh map it looks like long-term winter project: each year one island 🙂

    5. April 2018 at 15:38

    • Matthias

      Hi Thomas! I would recommend doing more than one, the trails are short and you are allready there so why not stay longer? 😉

      6. April 2018 at 07:40

  2. Ryan

    Hello there, could you tell me where you downloaded the route files for your navigation app for this walk? I have the view rangwe app and would like to do this!

    30. Dezember 2019 at 18:03

  3. Linda Sbai


    Thanks a lot for thé informations 🙂
    I am landing today in Gran Canaria and would love to the the gr 131 On this island. However, I find it a bit complicated to organise the accomodation part. I am not taking a sleeping bag nor a tent. Does anyone know if there are hostels/ hotels on the path ?




    15. Juli 2020 at 09:49

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