"DON’T look down", cautions the guide. My eyes immediately dart to the right in that direction (of course) but I force myself to look back quickly before a terrific fear of heights renders me frozen to the spot.

The man in charge of leading today's walk will later admit that he shouldn’t have taken us down the rocky hillpath because of the day’s wet conditions, which made the descent a bit trickier than the easy to mid-level difficulty walk that was advertised.

However, I'm mindful that we are supposed to do things that scare us regularly and I'm in safe hands. A hardy, Bavarian man, probably in his early seventies but a seasoned hiker (a German woman later tells me they don’t do ‘walks’) guides me down the hill, by hand, his stick helpfully directing me to safe stopping points.

Tenerife attracts some five to six million tourists every year, due to the almost all-year-round sun but, of course, like all the Balearic and Canary islands, there is far more to it than beach holidays and badly behaved Brits.

I’m heading to the north of the island to take part in the Tenerife Walking Festival, which was launched around five years ago and promises daily hikes to suit all ages, levels of fitness and experience.

I’m a regular runner and fairly fit but not there to bust a gut, I want to enjoy the scenery, so I’ve opted for mid-level difficulty routes on the four-day guided programme.

It’s an early rise the next day, from our comfortable four-star hotel, Sol Costa Atlantis, in Puerto de la Cruz. We are to be picked up at 7am from the square, Plaza de Europa. It's a five-minute walk away giving us enough time for a café con leche and a croissant (or two). It’s pitch black outside but I’m excited to be doing something different from the usual sunny holiday lounge.

Four other walkers are up, all Spanish and I barely speak a word but I’m glad of the company and direction to the bus stop where we will collect our welcome packs and meet today's guide.

Our hike is the Las Vegas circular walk, an hour’s drive away but a bit longer today because of the island’s version of rush hour.

The festival allows participants to pick as many or as few walks as you want with a bit of downtime by the beach, pool or bar – for me the perfect holiday.

At 30 euros per hike, it’s excellent value for money and includes bus travel, an experienced guide plus Red Cross volunteers and a welcome rucksack with essentials such as lip balm and a muscle rub.

A picnic (very reasonably priced at six euros) is also available and collect in the square and this year’s have come from a local firm, Buscandome las Habicheulas S.L.U, which runs a back-to-work scheme where local people are trained as certified organic farmers. It includes a sandwich, fruit, drink and snacks including delicious homemade cake.

As we make our way to the start of the walk, our guide, slipping effortlessly between Spanish, French, German and English, explains the extraordinarily diverse climate of Tenerife which is humid and sub-tropical in the north because of the tidal winds and arid and dry in the south – the area which attracts the majority of tourists.

“You can always find the sun in Tenerife,” she says. Rain is considered good weather in Tenerife, for agricultural and economic reasons and we journey past fields full of banana and mango trees.

Tenerife’s version of Las Vegas is the area where its first people settled, continuing to live in stone, hillside dwellings we encounter on our first walk as little as 40 years ago before they left agriculture to work in the burgeoning tourist industry.

It’s quite a steep uphill start and I’m glad today’s temperature is on the cooler side as we take in the wonderful aroma of pine trees and wild flowers.

The walk is described as "an almost flat eight kilomentre route," but it's actually uphill for almost half of the journey (A bit more detail on the website would be helpful).

I settle into my own rhythm and enjoy moments of solitude between chatting to the other walkers. There is no greater way to escape life’s stresses than walking, preferably somewhere as beautiful as this, where you become completely immersed in your surroundings and the mind seems to clear.

We’ve earned our picnic after a solid three-mile climb and rest at the foot of a giant, shady tree that’s not unlike the Weirwood in Game of Thrones.

The fruit salad of fresh strawberry and papaya is mouth-wateringly good. It’s such a good feeling to truly enjoy food because you’ve earned it, rather than habitual eating.

After two miles down forest tracks and scree – care must be taken – we are rewarded with a table of traditional food and drink (included in the price of the day’s walk) in a shady area including Papas Arrugada, or the traditional boiled potatoes which we are told to break in half and douse in a delicious spicy dip. Our feast also includes the traditional, creamy goat's cheese and it's all washed down with small tumblers of white wine which leads to a very pleasant snooze on the return bus journey.

There’s a bigger crowd for the next day’s walk, which starts in the Teide National Park, in the centre of the island, which is home to the world’s third highest volcano. Mount Teide is active but, thankfully, dormant and last erupted in 1909. Another walk offers the option to scale the 12,198ft peak and stay overnight in a hostel for those with a better head for heights than me.

The bus begins a steady climb and the effects of altitude kick in: slight nausea and breathlessness but they quickly subside. Our bus guide tells us that robots bound for the Moon and Mars are tested in the dry, volcanic landscape and the Clash of the Titans film was filmed here. It’s quite a rocky, steep climb and today’s sun is searingly hot.

You do need to have a reasonable level of fitness to take part in any of the walks but it’s glorious and we could be canyoning in California, such is the similarity in landscape. There’s an almost moon-like silence but take something to cover your mouth as it’s extremely dusty and a hat is a must.

My hotel room faces onto the Atlantic – is there any better sound to fall asleep and wake up to – and I enjoy very restful sleeps. The next day’s walk is a later start so I’ve time for a trip to the hotel spa for some hydrotherapy to soothe hard-working quads and hamstrings. Massage treatments are also available, making it an ideal base for the festival.

Before my walk I enjoy lunch in nearby, vegetarian café El Limon, which is very reasonably priced – an organic beer is less than three euros, a sandwich less than four and the service is some of the kindest I’ve ever experienced on holiday and at home.

For today’s walk, we are told to be at the square at 4pm and I'm really excited that it includes a star-gazing lesson in the shadow of Teide.

Tenerife is considered one of the best places to look at the night sky. Since 1975, it has been home to the Canarian Institute of Astrophysics, one of the world’s leading observatories. Our group splits – there are two astronomers with telescopes – and using a laser he point out the signs of the zodiac including Leo, Gemini and Sagittarius.

I’m struggling to see everything but we are encouraged to use our imagination and it's a humbling and uplifting experience. I learn that blue-white stars are much hotter than the Sun, whereas red stars are cooler. We are told that the planets will be visible in the Summer months and spot some moving satellites before he tells us how to find Polaris, the North Star that guided travellers and it’s a brilliant end to the trip.

Caroline Wilson flew with Thomas Cook and Ryanair and stayed at the Sol Costa Atlantis, where double rooms start at 100 euros per night, half board.

For more information about the Tenerife Walking Festival go to www.tenerifewalkingfestival.com