Headwater - Self-Guided Trails of La Palma

8 days
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4.4 / 5 from 7 reviews >
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Way to Travel:
Self-Guided Holidays
Walking & Trekking
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Discover the diverse scenery on the volcanic island of La Palma

La Palma, nicknamed La Isla Bonita (the pretty Isle), is a relatively unheard of volcanic island in the western Canaries. For its small size it features a vast amount of diverse scenery, from dense cloud forest to volcanic landscapes with twisted rock formations and black sand beaches. This walking itinerary is designed to take advantage of the island's well waymarked paths. These start on the eastern side of La Palma, follow the coast to the north and then finally head south across the great Caldera which dominates the island.


  • Fantastic walking across dramatic volcanic terrain
  • Spectacular views reaching as far as Mount Teide on Tenerife
  • Local delicacies such as miel de palma (palm honey) and rum made on the island
  • The pretty capital of Santa Cruz
  • Beautiful coastal views and walks through plantations
  • Wonderful flowers all year round

Key information

  • 7 nights accommodation in hotels and apartments
  • 6 days walking, with luggage transfers
  • Altitude maximum 2426m, average 800m
  • Self-guided holiday. Min age 14 yrs
  • Countries visited: Spain

What's included

  • All accommodation (see below)
  • All breakfasts and dinners
  • Route notes and maps
  • All baggage transport
  • Airport transfers

What's not included

  • Travel insurance
  • Single accommodation (on request)
  • Visas or vaccinations
  • Travel to/from the start/end point
Call for general departures:
01606 720003
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Days of Walking & Trekking

Varied; generally on good, way-marked trails, some paths are rocky and steep.

Day by day breakdown
Day 215.0km/9.0miles
Day 310.0km/6.0miles
Day 413.0km/8.0miles
Day 510.0km/6.0miles
Day 613.0km/8.0miles
Day 719.0km/11.0miles

Responsible Travel

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 


Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz
  • Day 1

    Start Santa Cruz

    Arrive into La Palma and take an airport transfer (included) to your hotel in the capital. If time allows, have a wander round the pretty town which is famous for its iconic balconies and has a lively cafe and restaurant scene.

    Overnight Hotel El Galeon or similar

    Meals included: Dinner
  • Day 2

    Follow the GR130 long-distance coastal path towards the village of San Andrés

    After a short 15 min transfer to Puntallana, today's walk follows the GR130 long-distance coastal path that runs across La Palma, through dramatic barrancos (ravines) with stunning coastal views. You will walk through citrus groves, avocado and mango orchards, small vineyards and banana plantations, arriving in the pretty village of San Andrés, one of the first colonial towns on the island. Take some time to explore the cobbled streets and houses in the historic quarter, visit one of the oldest churches on the island, enjoy a side visit to a local rum factory or take a dip in the seawater pools at Charco Azul. Then walk for another 15 minutes up the coast until you reach your apartment where you spend the night. 

    Overnight Apartmentos Miriam or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 3

    Walk uphill to Los Sauces; ascend to Barlovento

    After  breakfast, begin to walk uphill to Los Sauces, a small town with a vibrant atmosphere on the north east coast. Enjoy negotiating the dramatic ‘Barranco de Herradura’, and then ascend just over 500m through several small villages to reach Barlovento (meaning ‘fresh breeze’) a village which enjoys breathtakingly beautiful sea views. 

    Overnight Hotel La Palma Romantica or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 4

    Trek through the ‘Dragon Trees Forest’ and across the dramatic Barranco de Franceses before a final ascent

    From Barlovento, follow a path through the ‘Dragon Trees Forest’, across undulating coastline with spectacular views towards the cliffs. Navigate a series of barrancos to reach Los Gallegos, and then descend to sea level, crossing the dramatic Barranco de Franceses before ascending to the pretty village of Franceses; At the end of the walk, take the public bus (fare included) back to Barlovento. 

    Overnight Hotel La Palma Romantica or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 5

    Trek down a steep sided gorge to the tiny hamlet of El Tablado. Then a steep ascent before a public bus back

    After a short transfer this morning you use ancient paths to discover the far north of La Palma, one of the most unspoiled parts of the island. Walk across the Barranco de Los Hombres, a spectacular steep-sided gorge, to reach the tiny hamlet of El Tablado. Then a steep ascent to yet another tiny hamlet, Roque del Faro, before taking a public bus (fare included) back to your hotel in Barlovento. 

    Overnight Hotel La Palma Romantica or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 6

    Morning transfer to experience an exciting section of the GR131 route along the rim of the crater Caldera de Taburiente

    Today you take a transfer (1 hour) to walk an exciting section of the GR131 route from the highest point of the island, Roque de los Muchachos, along the rim of the crater Caldera de Taburiente, to the Pico de la Nieve. The route has breathtaking views across the island and the high mountain paths twist and turn across the rocky landscape. In the distance it is possible to see the peak of Mount Teide on Tenerife, emerging from the horizon, 3750m above sea level. After a soft descent, your transfer takes you to the capital of Santa Cruz. 

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 7

    Walk a popular part of the GR131 along the 'Ruta de Los Volcanes'

    Take an unforgettable walk today along the ‘Ruta de Los Volcanes’. Here you navigate a series of volcanoes in the south of the island, with some of them having erupted only a few years ago. This is the longest walk of the trip, and although it involves a substantial descent it is a very popular and well-marked path, following the GR131 from beginning to end.  

    Overnight Hotel El Galeon or similar

    Meals included: Breakfast Dinner
  • Day 8

    End Santa Cruz

    If you have time before your flight, take a small walk around Santa Cruz. This fascinating town attracted Flemish merchants who built imposing town palaces, which today accommodate museums and boutiques. A walk along the Calle Real, visiting the Plaza de España, Town Hall or the food market will be a perfect end to your La Palma experience before your flight home.

    Meals included: Breakfast
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Essential Info




There are no specific health risks.

Eating and Drinking

All breakfasts and dinners included.

In Santa Cruz and Barlovento, breakfasts are buffets in the hotels and usually include a selection of breads, cereals, pastries, cold meats and cheese, fresh fruit and yogurt. In San Andres breakfast is provided in a local cafe and is usually bread, eggs and fruit.

Lunches are not included. A packed lunch can be requested from the hotels in Santa Cruz and Barlovento (please request this the night before) or there are some nearby supermarkets where you are able to pick up food for your journey. Supermarkets are generally closed on Sundays so please be prepared for this.

Dinners are usually 3 courses and are taken from a set menu at a local restaurant or at your hotel and offer a variety of local specialities and international cuisine. There is a lot of fresh fish available. 

Drinks are not included with dinner, but a soft drink should cost €1-2, a beer €2-4, a glass of wine €2-3 and a bottle of wine from €8 upwards.

Vegetarians: Please be aware that meat and fish are staple foods in Spain. Most vegetarians do not experience any problems, however please be prepared to be flexible. 


La Palma enjoys a relatively balanced climate year round due to the trade winds that affect all of the Canary Islands. These winds from the north east carry moisture and can mean that two different sides of the island can be experiencing completely different weather patterns simultaneously. The winds provide a lovely natural cooling system which is perfect for hiking. However you should be prepared for rain at any time, La Palma is a lush, green island and the weather systems can be quite unpredictable. We offer this trip year round, but please be aware that there can be significant increases in temperature in July and August and this may lead to cancellation of some walking days if the weather is too hot. The best time to trek is from October to May, when the island is a little cooler.

Is this trip for you?

Activity level 4 - Moderate/Challenging

The walks on this trip vary between moderate and challenging and each day involves a fair amount of ascent and descent (for more details please see the daily itinerary). As this is a self-guided tour, there will be no group or tour leader and you can walk at your own pace. We do recommend that you take some time to rest and enjoy the views!

The terrain and type of path will vary but many of them can be rocky and steep, especially on the gorge walks on days 4 and 5. Good quality walking boots and poles are highly recommended for the type of walking you will be doing. All of the paths walked are approved and monitored by the Federación Española de Montañismo and are well sign-posted. The walks on days 2, 4, 5 and 7 are classed as the more challenging walks of the trip. If necessary on days 3, 4, 5 and 6 it is possible to shorten the walks, this will be discussed with you on your arrival briefing.

Although the walking can be steep we don't anticipate that vertigo suffers will struggle at any points. However if this poses a problem alternative shorter walks can be organised. 

It is likely that you will encounter barking dogs during some of the walks, but walking poles are a useful deterrent.

Whilst the paths are well signed, it is likely that on the first 4 days of walking you will not come across many other walkers (if any), so it feels as though you have the views to yourself.

It is important that you are happy reading maps and following route notes, we make these as accurate as possible and they are regularly checked. 

Self-guided walking holidays are a perfect option for families as they offer the freedom for you to take your holiday at your own pace. You can stop as and when you want and need, places and sites that suit your family and that interest you. As a guide we have suggested that 12 years is the minimum age for this trip, but as it is self-guided and you will be leading your own family we will ultimately leave this decision up to you. The daily distances are all published in the trip notes along with a description of each days walking so you have a good idea of what to expect. However, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact one of our experts. The principle idea is that these holidays can be as flexible as you like, with logistical support but no group or leader to dictate the daily activities.

Call for general departures:
01606 720003
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.


Hotels & Apartments

7 nights accommodation in small hotels and apartments, all en suite. Hotel La Palma Romantica in Barlovento offers a pool (indoor and outdoor) and a Jacuzzi. 

Please note that the accommodation is always subject to availability and named hotels may change.

Call for general departures:
01606 720003
Call for tailormade trips:
020 8772 3874
Trip Notes

Click on the button below for detailed Trip Notes containing all the particulars about this trip, including kit lists and practical information.

Note: these can vary by departure; you can check out the specific Trip Notes for your chosen adventure on the dates & prices page.

Expert Blog Entries

  • Reviewed June 2019
    Lynda Hine

    Self guided La Palma

    Over all we really enjoyed this trip. La Palma is a bio-reserve so that once you are away from the banana and tobacco plantations around the main towns, most of the island still contains the natural vegetation. Going in May as we did, we walked all day and saw no one on the coast path other than the occasional local working in their fields. We saw more people on the Caldera and and Cumbre Vieja, but still very few. The geology, scenery and vegetation is amazing and well worth taking time over. Santa Cruz de la Palma is very pretty and worth exploring.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Two main ones stand out. The views from the rim of the Caldera de Taburiente and seeing a 'giant' lizard at the bottom of one of the barrancos (valley) which is actually believed, by some, to be extinct! (By giant, it is actually about 13 inches long, we are not talking Jurassic Park here).

    What did you think of your group leader?

    As we were self guided this is not relevant. That said Alberto, who was our contact on the island, was very helpful and answered any questions we had quickly and efficiently via texts.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Allow yourself more time than the information gives you. The time stated is fine if all you want to do is walk, but if you want to stop and look at the plants, rocks, scenery, banana plantations etc. then you will need longer. This is particularly so on the Cumbre Vieja day, yes one could power walk it in the 4 - 5 hours given, but stopping to look at the incredible views, examine the volcanoes, including diverting off the main route to 'summit' many of them and so on does take time, but is well worth it. We allowed 6 hours but still ended up having to rush the last few km. Be aware that, as it is unspoilt, you are only staying half board in a hotel for three nights. Other nights are in apartments where you will have to go out for the evening meal (Exodus do arrange this very satisfactorily) and you will need to walk a bit for this. Also, one morning you have to walk for your breakfast. (This is not really a problem, it is part of the adventure, though the bar was shut the day we were supposed to visit it).

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    It would be really helpful to receive other information about the island in advance. It was not until we were flying home that we realised we had almost walked passed some interesting cultural and geological 'museums'. Had we known, we would have made time to visit them. (Again, if you are just going to walk from a - b as fast as you can, then this would not be an issue for you, though you will miss so much). We will return to La Palma now we have been introduced to it as there are so many bits we could not see in the time, e.g. the whole of the west side.
  • Reviewed June 2019
    Matthew Grimes

    Awesome and varied walks

    A really fantastic 6 day walking holiday. It is fairly relentless as there are no real breaks, but the scenery is stunning. From the black rocks and sand of the coast line to the lush banana plantations, dense mountain forests to the moon like surface of the volcanoes it had something for everyone. It is definitely a grade four climb and you need to be comfortable with heights and mountain footpaths with no safety barrier. The island (especially in the north) remains relatively untouched and this island is so different to the others in the Canaries. May was a great month to walk and we hardly saw anybody on the routes we had. A strong recommendation!

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    I think some of the views into and out of the ravines on days 2 and 3. The volcano walk is also awesome. What is great is that the North of the island is very unspoilt.

    What did you think of your group leader?


    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take your time - don’t rush the walks. We generally took an hour extra each day than the guide book suggested to really suck up the views. We also managed to get much cheaper flights going via Madrid and Tenerife, than a direct flight. It takes longer of course, but we saved over £400.
  • Reviewed December 2018
    Elizabeth Smith

    Excellent way to walk in La Palma's rugged scenery

    Well organised trip with all we needed to do some reasonably strenuous but not technically challenging walks in a mixture of coastal and volcanic terrains. The travel arrangememts, accommodation and food were all fine, and it was good not to have to move on every night to new accommodation(3 moves). The route guides were straightforward for the most part and the paths well marked. La palma is relatively unspoilt and we liked meeting almost no-one on several of the trails! Weather was fabulous.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Caldera crater walk was stunning - the rock formations have to be seen in real life - photos don't do them justice.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared for the number of steepish descents and ascents the ravines (of which there are many) entail - they're fine but good to be mentally prepared!
  • Reviewed March 2017
    Richard Goulder

    A lovely holiday in a beautiful place

    The trip was exactly what we were after - an energetic short break in a sunny location but with plenty of down time to relax. The island is a fascinating place - beautifully rugged and a amazing variety of vegetation ranging from cacti to banana plantations and giant dandelions to pine forests. The paths are incredibly well marked so it is very easy to find your way and the instructions provided complemented them. The trip was very well organised by Exodus and the local operator Natour.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Walking along the top of the Caldera looking down on the clouds and the volcanic landscape.

    What did you think of your group leader?


    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Although the walks aren't long in distance be prepared for a lot of up and down! Walking poles are highly recommended as some of the descents are very steep.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The only annoying factor was the inclusion of the evening meal within the package. Whilst the meals we had were generally excellent, there was little choice and we would have preferred the flexibility to chose off the main menu. In Santa Cruz the evening meal was at the same restaurant on all three nights and whilst it was a lovely restaurant choosing from the same set menu was very limiting, particularly for my partner who does not eat gluten. We ended up only eating there two nights and therefore, incurring extra cost. I would recommend taking off the evening meal and reducing the cost of the holiday accordingly. The fixed price menu will still be there was those that want it.
  • Reviewed January 2017
    Michael Freedman

    A great trip

    I really enjoyed this trip. The walking was probably closer to challenging overall than moderate, as almost every day involved vigorous and often very long climbs and descents, sometimes on difficult surfaces.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The views from the Caldera de Taburiente were incredible. Also the sense of satisfaction and rewarding panoramas on completing some of the more arduous climbs. I also really enjoyed meeting the local people, who are really friendly.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We were self-guided - the notes and map were largely adequate, though occasionally signage or instructions were not completely clear. The local manager was responsive to queries and requests, for example to switch some walking days around due to weather conditions, and not wanting to eat in the same restaurant 3 times.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    It's a great way to see plenty of the island and have everything logistical taken care of for you. We found that we got a lot of benefit from being able to chat to people in Spanish - this is a much less touristic island and good English is not so widely spoken.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Do leave time to do a couple of extra walks - we went to Los Tilos, which was very tranquil (and walked out to Los Sauces afterwards), but we were also told about the marcos y cordero tunnel walk (needs a full day I think).
  • Reviewed February 2016
    Heather Hardie

    Self-guided trails of la Palma

    La Palma is a walkers' paradise, with beautiful landscapes, lots of variety, a good standard of accommodation, good food and drink, an excellent bus service and a large number of well-marked trails. Unusually bad weather at the start of our trip meant a few walks had to be changed from those planned. The trip manager did a reasonable job here, and was receptive to our suggestions, but we would have done walks more to our taste if we had had our own walking information, like a guidebook. Although most of our walks were great, we had a couple of days that could have been better spent if we'd had more information ourselves. .

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Spending a wonderful day climbing up and down four enormous and remote gorges, eventually arriving at Franceses, high on the hills overlooking the sea (day 4). Walking at Los Tilos (the laurel forest) - one of the unscheduled walks.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    We were self-guided, so no leader, but we had a contact with the trip manager, who was helpful, especially in arranging alternative walks when the weather meant plans had to be changed.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Do your own research before going so you can customise the walks to suit your own preferences, if possible. Of course, with accommodation booked in advance, there are imitations to this.
  • Reviewed December 2015
    Peter Ritchie

    Superb Walking

    Superb walking on well marked trails. A fantastic variety of spectacular scenery on such a small island. Well worth a visit.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The views on Days 6 and 7 - Caldera de Taburiente and Ruta de los Volcanes

    What did you think of your group leader?

    N/A - The route notes were generally good and the paths were very well signposted - although there were a couple of places (in the notes for Days 1 and 4) where they needed some clarification or correction. A good map was also provided.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Walking along the coast involves traversing a lot of fairly steep sided barrancos. Be prepared for a lot of up and down and very little flat walking on those days! Be prepared also for some slippery underfoot conditions in a few places. If you normally use them, be sure to take your walking poles.

Dates & Prices

An overview of flight options

Exodus is committed to making joining our tours as easy as possible, wherever you live. We generally only block book seats from London, but this certainly does not mean that you need to fly from there. Depending on the route and airlines available, there will usually be various options available for those who want to fly from their local airport.

This page aims to provide a useful overview of the options available to our clients. However, the best flight arrangements should be tailored to your personal requirements, so please contact our Sales team for expert advice.


What kind of options do I have ?

1. We can book for you: Flights from anywhere in the world - not via London  

Depending on the route, this may be direct or via an overseas hub like Amsterdam, the Middle East or elsewhere. On short haul routes there may be direct flights with low cost airlines, charter flights or scheduled airlines. Exodus can book most, but not all, of these for you. The most appropriate airline may be different to that which we use for the group flight from London, but many people now travel on different airlines and meet up with their fellow passengers at the destination.

Pros Cons
  • May be the most direct route
  • Often the extra fare compared to the London flight is minimal.
  • As you will be in the hands a single airline for your entire journey, the airline will be responsible for your bags and your connections.
  • You may not be able to join the group transfers. However, we can usually arrange private transfers, or book your flights to try and coincide with the group transfers. See notes on transfer arrangements below.


2. We can book for you: Connecting flights from your local airport to London

Exodus can book connecting flights to London so you can join the group flight there. Connecting times will be followed according to airline advice, or as requested by clients. There are two types of fares we can use for this option: a 'through-fare' or a 'published fare'.
a) A 'through-fare' is where you will be in the main airline's care throughout. You change planes, but your bags are checked all the way through to your final destination. 

b) A 'published fare' ticket is completely seperate from your onward ticket from London. It is usually cheaper than a through-fare but will need to be paid for and issued as soon as it is booked. This can be a problem if your tour has not yet reached minimum numbers. On 'published fares' neither airline is aware that you have connecting flights, so Exodus is responsible for timing your connection, not the airlines involved. The tickets are also usually non changeable and non refundable.

Pros Cons
  • Depending on the fare type, Exodus or the airline is responsible for flight connections.
  • Through fare tickets can be expensive.
  • On a published fare, tickets must be issued immediately; tickets on published fares can be very difficult to change if onward flight times change; bags are not checked though to your final destination.
  • Published fares are non-refundable.


3. Booking some or all of the flights yourself

You can also book connecting air travel yourself, either to London, or all the way to the start point. There may be certain airlines or routes we don't have access to, so this is always an option. However, if you make your own travel arrangements you become liable for any delays, cancellations or missed connections, and Exodus is not required to offer refunds if you have trouble reaching the start of your trip.

Pros Cons
  • You might find cheaper fares, or routes not available to Exodus.
  • You are responsible for any delays or missed connections, and the cost of the tour is not protected should you miss your flight be cancelled.


 Notes on transfer arrangements

Sometimes it is possible to travel on a different airline to the group flight from London. Where this is the case, we need to think about ensuring you meet up with the group with minimum extra cost and hassle.

  • On certain trips, it is easy to arrive on a different flight and still meet the group at the hotel with time in hand. We can usually arrange private transfers (at extra cost) or offer advice on taking a taxi to the start hotel.
  • On other trips (especially in Europe), the transfer meets the group flight and then travels some distance to the first night's accommodation. Where this is the case, our Sales team will try to arrange flights that arrive before (and depart after) the group. However, we do have to make it clear in your final documentation that if your flights are delayed, the transfer cannot wait for you. While Exodus or our local operators will do what we can to help you reach the start point of the tour, any additional costs must be paid by the client. 


Next steps? 

Call our Sales team on: 0203 733 0698

Email your query: [email protected]

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