A diamond-shaped jewel floating out in the Atlantic, far from the African coast, this volcanic wedge of rock has been plundered for its treasure many times through the ages. Of course, now its coves and black sand beaches are more contested by territorial German tourists and their towels than the ruthless pirates and smugglers of yesteryear. Still, La Palma is a place that immediately captures the imagination. Since two-wheeled explorers discovered the Canary Island's great potential, the hills (read calderas) have been alive with the sound of freewheels.
Numerous guiding companies will gladly haul you up the full 2400 height metres to a trail-head above the clouds (be warned of drastic and ever-changing conditions) to begin some of the most epic descents of your MTB career. From a baron Mars-scape of red rock, wind down onto black lava-fields, enter mist-shrouded forests that spit loam and pine-needles, jump stone walls between prickly pear thickets and banana plantations before cork-screwing steeply down to the gently lapping waves of the sea in time for a calamari dinner.
The trails often start rocky, sometimes ultra-technical and it can take every shred of concentration not to flat or get ejected. But there's a rhythm to it and there's plenty of respite in the feature-laden woods of lower altitudes. You can be sure it's top-drawer riding when you actively have to calm yourself down in the saddle. After all, there could be 90 minutes of descending left to go. Besides you never know when the trail will make a sharp 90-degree left before dropping 4m down to a fire road. I found that one out the 'free-fall' way here before.
Angie Hohenwarter and Philip Waldez were two riders I found marooned on this exotic island shortly before Christmas last year. They seemed to have a nose for trail treasure and with the help of Atlantic Cycling we found the goods hiding in plain sight. And if you're wondering why you're seeing more jerseys than a jumble sale and bikes magically change color and frame material before your eyes, our mission was to shoot the new Propain Tyee enduro bike as we went along. Anyway, hopefully you agree La Palma is a spot worthy of your riding bucket-list/treasure map once we are free to travel and the best news; the riding goes all winter long...