Looking back

The Footpath Network: infrastructure with historical roots.

The Footpath Network: infrastructure with historical roots Walkers ought to be aware of their surroundings, of the history in the stones beneath their boots and of the course taken by the paths, which were intended for travel on foot. Outsiders and islanders alike are surprised by the skilful way these ancient footways wind effortlessly up seemingly impossible slopes in search of the most rational route to a pass or summit.

Their paved surfaces, side walls, sturdy buttresses and retaining walls all strike the eye. In such rugged terrain, the correct distribution of paths was vital to ensure efficient communication throughout the island – hence, their ancestral importance and their present-day significance as both heritage and as the scenario for an activity on which a large part of the island’s economy is based. In the design of the Footpath Network, certain characteristics of La Palma’s paths were taken into account, especially those connected with their traditional use.

The aim was to conserve the historical coherence of the footpath links by maintaining the outline of the former communications network. Consequently, traditional footpaths were placed in four main categories.


Caminos Reales running at medium altitude between the main settlements.


Caminos de traviesa contouring roughly horizontally at between 1,000-1,300 metres above sea-level.


Radial footpaths climbing from the coast to the summits, generally along a ridge.


The summit path running the entire length of the island's summit.

The way distances could be covered on foot on La Palma was relatively simple. Between two nearby villages, located on the same side of the island (for example, from Santa Cruz to Los Sauces or Tijarafe to Puntagorda), the Coastal and Mid-Altitude Camino Real would have been taken. For longer journeys involving crossing the island (for example, from Santo Domingo de Garafía to Los Sauces or from Los Llanos to Tigalate), a radial path was climbed to reach the summit route, where a section was then followed before descending another radial path to one’s destination.