The GOAT Guide to Masca

If you google ‘best day trips in Tenerife’, Masca will pop up. The ancient hamlet atop a mountain range is one of the most visited sites on the island. Historically a Guanche settlement, a refuge from invading Spaniards, witches lair, and rumoured pirates hideout, if you’re looking to have your timbers shivered at an altitude of 600 metres, there’s literally nowhere better.  With a selection of rustic restaurants offering typical Canarian fare, shops selling handmade souvenirs, a craft centre, museum, and tiny picturesque square, and 18th century church, Masca is a truly memorable day out.

Big shout out to the Teno Massif!

Masca is located in the north-west of Tenerife on the Macizo de Teno volcanic formation. An area of wild cypress trees, lush towering palms, bright flora and cacti. The isolated village comprises traditional buildings and stone pathways, running along a ridge punctuated by a rocky pinnacle. Below is the Masca Barranco, which cuts down to the ocean between the cliffs of Los Gigantes. Its remoteness made an ideal location for native Guanches to evade the Spanish conquerors who finally took Tenerife in 1496 after years of trying.

Magic, Piracy, and a dog with an underbite.

Relics and carvings of the Guanches show their belief in the magical and religious, and it’s said the hamlet was a place of witchcraft and practising mystics. Pirates frequented these parts during the 16th century, but it’s a point of discussion whether or not Masca was their enclave. Back in those days, when the trek up from the bay was no doubt rougher, it would have taken a good few hours of climbing to reach the village. Imagine how much longer if you’re hauling treasure, have a wooden leg, an overweight parrot, and a skin-full of rum. But when you’ve experienced the intriguing atmosphere of Masca, especially at low light with a touch of mist, you’ll want it all to be true.

We first went to Masca thirty years ago, and I’m overjoyed to say that not much has really changed since, aside from more visitor facilities and a larger choice of souvenirs. Back then we’d sat in the taverna ready to order a bit of lunch, and Igor appeared at our table. He had a crazy look in his eye, a quirky tuft of hair, and protruding bottom teeth. He wasn’t there to take our order, he’s a dog, but by the intensity by which he was checking us out I rather fancy he was the mystic guardian of his old pirate masters buried treasure. Once satisfied we’d just come for some tapas and not to steal his doubloons, he mysteriously vanished.

More hairpins than Toni&Guy

The journey by road to Masca is part of the fun. Driving there is not for the inexperienced nor faint-hearted. Nervous passengers may need to breathe in when negotiating the inch-space between themselves and a bus coming in the opposite direction. It’s narrow, steep, and you might feel like you’re on an episode of Top Gear. Otherwise going with an organised bus trip, or a private tour, you still get the thrill and spectacular scenery, but with an experienced driver at the wheel, and almost all of them do it sober now.

Just kidding, they could do it with their eyes shut but please don’t ask them to prove it.

En-route from the Santiago del Teide direction, a stop-off at the Cherfe Mirador will offer you a cracking 360° panorama, taking in the hamlet, the neighbouring islands of La Gomera and La Palma, the mountains of Teno, Santiago Valley, and a less often pictured western side view of Teide.

The famous Masca Gorge trail leading down to the beach has now been re-opened, but with restrictions. The closure came a couple of years ago when a group of holidaymakers, ignoring a bad weather warning ban of the area, were stranded in the barranco in storm conditions. Luckily a goat herder spotted them and led them to a cave to shelter, and emergency services rescued them the following day, but this brought to light safety measures which should be put in place, with planned checkpoints, phone signal access, permits, and repairs to the jetty. The 8.5km ravine walk from the village down to the rocky beach tucked into the Acantilados of Los Gigantes takes around 3 hours. Trekking down is not too strenuous but can be tricky in parts, especially if it’s been raining. Much like the return journey home from the pub, the ascent takes longer, and a reasonable fitness level and sturdy thighs are required.

Once operational, boat taxis and trips pick-up and drop-off at the Masca beach jetty, but as yet that option is still closed.

Every which way but loose

There are a variety of ways to enjoy this amazing place from all different angles, choose from:

a private tour (maximum 6 people), bus tour, quad, jeep safari, wave at it from the sea on a boat trip, or overhead from a helicopter, trek to it, through it, and around it, drive yourself there, or if you’re not in Tenerife just yet, stare at it lovingly on google maps.

A must for trekkers is the walk of Teno Rural Park, known as Camino Real, the royal walk, departing from Santiago del Teide and finishing at Masca, treading in the footsteps of ancient Guanche royalty. Organised trekking tours operate the nature walk, also with the option of a pick-up from Masca, to take you on a search for whales and dolphins from Los Gigantes harbour.

In conclusion

Whichever way floats your GOAT, Masca is an exceptional experience, charming, magical, and beautiful.  Contact us and we will find your ideal excursion there, with the latest information and schedules, and no extra charge for the personal service and ticket delivery to your door.  And when you do get to Masca, be sure to look out for Igor, he might have mellowed by now and willing to give up where that treasure is.