Fire and water, volcanic black and Atlantic blue, shady pine forests and cliffs above the ocean: La Palma is an island of stark contrasts. Pinned onto the sky by a line of volcanoes, it’s one of the hidden treasures of the Canary Islands. Every year at the start of May, thousands of runners flock to the island for the Transvulcania trail race. It’s one of the most prestigious mountain running races in the world and a marquee event of the Skyrunning World Series.
Covering 73.4 kilometres (45.6 miles) from sea to sky, the race takes runners over a lava crust, then on wooded paths through the heart of the island to the summit of the Roque de los Muchachos - which sits at an altitude of more than 2,400m (7,870ft) - before plunging brutally down a seemingly never ending 18-kilometre (11-mile) descent to a beach of black volcanic sand.
Under blue skies, this year’s Transvulcania again dazzled the eyes and punished the quads of its 1,700 participants. For many years now, La Palma, a UN biosphere reserve, has been an open secret among the world’s trailrunners, who come year-round to train on the race’s trails. Thanks to them the island is covered by trail running segments. Here are four of the most iconic.