The Arona to Ifonche Circuit is one of the most popular walks in the south of Tenerife. Its a well marked, well trodden route, starting from 1km north of Arona. The walk follows old goat herder tracks to the rural hamlet of Ifonche, where you can take in the beautiful scenery of protected natural space before returning via farm tracks along the side of a deep gorge know as Barranco del Rey.
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve walked this route because its a personal favourite and its also represents the first leg of longer walks to Adeje, Taucho and Vilaflor. This time we decided to reinvent the walk with a slight twist, we’d incorporate a climb of Roque del Imoque (1,107m) – that’s the jagged spike of a mountain visible from Los Cristianos.
The spot height sounds more impressive than it actually is, as the route starts from the 700 metre contour. And although it descends 50 metres into a deep ravine, the total ascent is just 450 metres.
We start out under heavy cloud from Restaurante La Granja de Arona, which according to the sign is open just 3 days a week between 1:00pm-5:00pm – Cushy! (Before you jump to conclusions it’s *not* Canarian owned.) Anyway, we head out along the Camino del Suarez, footpath, and old goat herder trail which descends into the magnificent Barranco del Rey and almost immediately climbs out the other side.
The path then takes us around to the col between the back of Roque del Conde and the hump of Montaña del Suarez. This vantage point affords us excellent views of Costa Adeje, from Puerto Colon to Callao Salvaje. Were it not for the low cloud and poor visibility we’d have been spoilt by excellent views of La Gomera.
We continue northwards along the path past the abandoned Suarez homestead and pause briefly explore the caves that surround this old dwelling. Pressing on, the path keeps to the west of Roque de Imoque and we continue to enjoy excellent views of the south-west coast. Its from here the vegetation changes, upland plants appear and moss and lichen adorns the rocks, covering them with vivid shades of orange and green.
Almost too soon the path emerges on the saddle between Roque de Imoque and Roque de los Brezos, though a quick check of the journey clock reveals its taken us 2 hours to get this far. As the cloud drifts by us we realise we’ve emerged at Ifonche, with it’s rural farmsteads dispersed between the terraced fields and small copses of pine trees. Looking back we enjoy the full splendour of the view back down the valley towards Costa Adeje.
At this point we are just shy of 1,000 metres contour and look up to the jagged peak of Roque de Imoque to see the last part of our ascent. Thin cloud is rushing up the valley and passing around us and the summit is slightly obscured by cloud, which is rare for July. Still, undeterred we make our ascent.
The terrain is steep but a faint path takes you up to within 30 meters of the summit, a short scramble allows you to reach the top of the peak. We ditch our packs behind rock and begin the climb. A good head for heights is required as the spiked summit is narrow and there are sheer drops looking down 300 metres into the depths of Baranco del Rey. To add to this, the cloud rushing past beneath and above you gives you an unsettling sense that the mountain is in motion. The final part of this ascent really is not to be attempted if you suffer from vertigo.
Still the rocks offer good footholds and you don’t need to be an experienced climber to make the summit, which is marked rather oddly by a metal pole. The cloud ruined what would be on a clear day one of the best (and at the same time terrifying) views on the island, however it did at least keep us cool and created a weird atmospheric which really gave you a sense of accomplishment.
We descended again back down to the Ifonche plateau and after traversing a dry river bed, headed into the village to our favourite “tipico” restaurant for a lunch of varied tapas. Goat’s cheese, serrano ham, garbanzos (chick peas), Conejo al Salmorejo (rabbit in Salmorejo sauce) and Fiesta de Carne (pork with onions), accompanied by salad and chips and washed down with a cool Dorada made for a well earned and tasty Canarian lunch. The bill, just 10 euros per head. Bargain.
To walk off lunch, we set off on our return leg to Arona, the route we followed is known as the Camino del Topo and it runs roughly parallel to the east side of the Barranco del Rey gorge, which is one of the most under-rated sights in the south of Tenerife. Rain and wind have carved this deep scar into the landscape. It runs for miles starting higher in the pine forests and finally emerging at Veronicas in Playa de Las Americas. However, its here, between Arona and Ifonche where the canyon is at its most impressive, with shear walls of rock hundreds of meters deep, the blue pebbles of the dry river bed at the bottom and the occasional sparrow hawk gliding out across the ravine.
The cloud finally lifts and the sun comes out to warm our descent. The downward leg is much shorter and it takes us a little over an hour to return to our start-point. But photo opportunities abound, with the Barranco del Rey, views of Los Cristianos and Costa del Silencio as well as further ruined houses to explore. All in all a great day in spite of the cloud.
Route: Arona – Ifonche Circuit (Incorporating ascent of Roque de Imoque)
Distance: 9km (5.5 miles approx)
Ascent/Descent: 450 metres (1500 feet)
Grading: Moderate (Easy if you exclude the climb of Roque de Imoque)