Climbing La Candelaria

Before Adventure Tourism® was invented, packaged, marketed and sold providing you’d filled out all the forms and signed the requisite waivers and disclaimers, there was this thing called “going for a walk”. It seems weird now, almost quaint, but what we used to do was chuck a couple of sandwiches in a backpack and head for the hills.

So, as homage to those almost-forgotten days, we decided to climb La Candelaria (3100m), one of the mountains overlooking Xela to the south.

Getting to the trailhead is easy enough – just walk south on 13 Av, up past the “Cristo Viene” sign (don’t pretend you haven’t seen it) ’til you get to Los Vahos. Everybody knows where Los Vahos is, so feel free to ask directions. There have been a few minor incidents on the road to Los Vahos, so if you want a free escort, call ASISTUR (1500) the day before to arrange one.

Once you get to Los Vahos, go around the back and you’ll see the road that leads into it. Walk out the gate and just past the first curve you’ll see a big triangular rock on the right hand side. Next to it is the trailhead.

The trail weaves up the hillside through mixed pine forest and flattens out for a while. You’ll see paths leading off, but stay on the main trail and after about half an hour you’ll cross a wide, grassy plain.  The path is still obvious, but covered in places by shrubs.

Crossing the plain you’ll start to see arrows pointing the way – follow the purple ones (if anyone knows where the red ones go, feel free to write in). After another hour or so, you’ll see steam vents coming out of the mountain side. Look for a path off to the right about 100m after the first vent – if you take that, scramble up the sloping rock and climb immediately to the right (look for the big steam vent) you’ll find a vapor-filled cave that makes for the hottest natural sauna you’re ever likely to have.

Back on the main trail, it’s about another hour to the top, with some great views of Xela along the way.

To reach the top you have to climb up through a cave – it gets a bit hairy in places, but if you’re fit and not afraid of heights you should be fine. Up on top there are some fine picnic spots with sweeping views out over the valley.

It’s best to leave early for this hike – the afternoon clouds can spoil the view. Allow 4 to 5 hours, more if you take lots of breaks or aren’t that fit.

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