Tenerife is the isle of eternal spring. The masterpiece of the Canary Islands, this is a perfect place to combine sea and culture. Let’s go and discover everything Tenerife can offer us.
A paradise in which the colours of an eternal spring reign: the island of Tenerife is the largest of the Canaries, a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic. The sea and the mild climate all year round make Tenerife a favourite seaside destination for tourists, even in winter.
But Tenerife is also an island of contrasts: hotels and nightlife venues typical of the south alternate with picturesque villages and lush vegetation in the north. There are many places to see in Tenerife, so let's start our journey from its capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
A visit to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital
Surrounded by a splendid bay, Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the capital of the island. The nerve centre of city life is Plaza de España which, among other things is also one of the most important examples of the architecture of General Franco’s times (in fact, the Spanish dictator commenced his coup d'état from Tenerife): it is from here that you can set out to discover the most interesting places in the city, such as Palmeto, a splendid garden that boasts the largest collection of palm trees in Europe.
A visit to the Auditorium of Tenerife, designed by the architect Calatrava, is a must: a bold work in the shape of a sail, made of white reinforced concrete, topped by a dome that evokes the sinuous forms of a wave. The structure is open for visits from Monday to Saturday. The city is easily visited on foot, but for the lazier, there is the tramway, by which you can reach another beautiful city on the island, San Cristòbal de la Laguna.
San Cristòbal de la Laguna, the old capital
San Cristòbal de la Laguna is the old capital of the island. With its historical centre, declared a World Heritage Site, La Laguna impresses visitors with its palaces, streets and churches. With its University, San Cristóbal de La Laguna is a very lively cultural city, especially in the central area of the "cuadrilatero". The city was designed according to the principles of navigation: the old town, in fact, follows the map of the stars, with the most important places built to correspond with the positions of the stars, just as if it were an ancient sailors’ map.
A visit to Tenerife’s other cities: La Oratova and Puerto de la Cruz
Still on the north coast of the island, we enter Oratova and its picturesque buildings, including the famous Casa de Los Balcones dating back to 1600: here you can admire the large patio and the beautiful wooden balconies, typical of the Canary Islands. As you move further inside the House, you will be delighted by the most important embroidery craft centre on the island. The House can be visited every day, from Monday to Sunday. Oratova also gives its name to the beautiful valley of banana trees and vineyards, typical island crops.
A short distance from here, moving seawards, we enter Puerto de la Cruz: with its colonial-style buildings, it is almost as if time stopped here at the beginning of the 20th century; but just go round the corner and you will be overwhelmed by the noise of the nightlife that emanates from the many places scattered throughout the city. And not only this: we soon enter the Loro Parque, a zoological park and reserve that houses the largest collection of parrots in the world.
The beaches and natural swimming pools of Tenerife
One of the main attractions of the island, however, is seaside tourism. The beaches of Tenerife are all incomparably beautiful. Let's start our journey around the beaches to visit from the most famous on the island, Las Teresitas: located just 7 km from the capital Santa Cruz, this is a very special beach. Originally, in fact, the beach was characterised by its black sand, due to the volcanic origin of the island. Subsequently, the entire area was covered with sand from the Sahara, which gave the beach an exquisitely Caribbean appearance.
Water sports enthusiasts in Tenerife will most certainly find something to suit their taste. The favourite beach for surfers is Playa de Benijo, which can only be reached on foot via a twisting path. Further south, La Tejita beach is framed by the beautiful reserve of Montaña Roja, while El Médano beach will bring great joy to kite-surfers: indeed, the world championships in this sporting discipline are held here.
Going up the coast in a south-westerly direction we cross the most popular tourist resorts of Playa America, Los Cristianos and Costa Adeje. This is the area of Tenerife that never sleeps: while bathers dominate during the day, in the evening and at night clubs and numerous discos make it the monarch of nightlife in Tenerife.
Not far from here is another of Tenerife's attractions, well worth a visit: the Barranco del Infierno nature reserve, a 150-metre-high water gorge set in the mountain. Access is possible from Monday to Sunday, but only by appointment, for groups of 300 people per day.
If you've grown tired of the classic beaches, Tenerife also offers a valid alternative to all those who do not want to forgo the sea, thanks to its beautiful natural pools: among the most famous of these are at Bajamar, in La Laguna, or at El Caleton de Garachico. A short distance away are the four natural pools of Charco del Viento and the most picturesque Pozza di La Laja: to access them you have to pass through San Juan de la Rambla and then down a beautiful panoramic staircase.
The Parco de Teide and the other nature reserves of Tenerife
Tenerife is not just about the sea. A visit to the natural reserves is one of the things to do on the island.
Let's start with the Teide National Park, the symbol of Tenerife. Teide is the third largest volcano in the world, a UNESCO site and a favourite destination for those who want to go trekking. Pico del Teide, the highest peak, can be reached on foot or by cable car. Immersed in unspoilt nature, the view from here is truly breathtaking: remember, however, that to get to the top you need a special free permit that must be requested directly on-site: Teide is in fact an active volcano (the last eruption dates back to 1909). A mix of colours and old lava flows has created an unparalleled landscape, with various endemic species of plants, such as the Tenerife bugloss. The park offers guided tours, available every day except for the Christmas holidays.
To the north-east of the island, we discover a completely different, but no less fascinating, scenario: the Rural Park of Anaga is an explosion of vegetation that opens onto an impervious mountain chain of jagged peaks and deep gorges that reach the sea. The park is the perfect place for those who love long walks and excursions among the wonders of nature. The coves of black volcanic sand such as Benijo, as well as the cliffs, are marvellous. Also worth a stop is Punta del Hidalgo, famous for its spectacular location on the ocean.
To the west, at the opposite end, we find the Punta de Teno Rural Park, immersed in an area of unspoilt valleys dominated by a beautiful lighthouse. There are also splendid views of the cliffs of Los Gigantes, cliffs up to 600 metres high that fall sheer down into the sea. The best place to view this wonder is Playa de los Guíos, from which you can leave for a boat trip, perhaps in the company of a whale or two, or dolphins.
At the foot of Mount Teno is Buenavista del Norte, the northernmost village in Tenerife with its perfectly restored colonial houses. A short distance away is Icod de los Vinos, a rural village surrounded by nature, famous for the Dragon Tree of Icod, a centuries-old tree considered a national monument.
The Pyramids of Güímar, the mystery of the island of Tenerife
The island of Tenerife has so much to see. Among the things to do, we can not forget a visit to the pyramids of Güímar, in the municipality of the same name in the south-east of the island. These buildings are a real mystery: nobody has yet been able to understand what they were used for. Astronomically orientated to project their shade during the two solstices, we do not even know who were the builders of these pyramids. The surrounding landscape lends a further aura of mystery, in concert with the trade winds that as they give life to a natural spectacle known as the "sea of clouds".
What to eat in Tenerife: the island’s cuisine
The typical dishes of Tenerife are a mix of Spanish and Latin American cuisine (due to the wave of migration to those lands). Among the things to eat are las papas arrugadas, patatas bonitas, typical of the Canary Islands, cooked unpeeled in seawater and seasoned with mojo picón, a cold spicy red sauce made with chilli and garlic.
There are two typical fish dishes on the island: caldereta de pescado, a fish stew, and sancocho canario, salted fish in mojo sauce. For those who prefer meat, there is conejo en salmorejo, marinated rabbit, or rancho canario, a dish of meat and sausage, with potatoes and saffron. We can end our meal with bienmesabe, frangollo or perhaps with a gofio mousse, a cake made from toasted cereal flour, honey and bananas.
To taste all these delicacies, however, you have to search out some of the famous "guachinches", places where you can breathe in the true spirit of the island. The northern and more famous variation of guachinches were developed from an idea of local wine producers to promote their product during the months of the harvest: for this reason, they are open only until stocks are exhausted.
To organise your journey to Tenerife you need only a passport or an identity card valid for use abroad. Spain is a member of the European Union and is part of the Schengen area.
Tenerife has no bad weather at all: the island is fortunate enough to enjoy an ideal climate all year round. However, the best time to visit the island is from June to October, when temperatures reach around 29°C. However, given the variety of the landscape, it is advisable to put summer clothes in your suitcase, but also a jacket or two for the higher altitudes. In the north, the climate is cooler and windier than in the south, which is calmer and sunnier.
The lowest temperatures are recorded during the winter months, but with the minimum average of 14°. This is one more reason to take advantage of one of the most important events, the Tenerife Carnival. The Santa Cruz Carnival is one of the most famous in the world: fifteen days of pure fun marked by the election of the Reina de la Fiesta, the Queen of the Fiesta, and the Cavalcade, which announces the start of the event. Thousands of people crowd the streets in a succession of parades to the rhythm of music and masked groups. The climax came on Tuesday with the parade of Coso, a large parade of floats, while the following day sees el Entierro de la sardina, which signals the end of the festivities: the spirit of Carnival, represented by the sardine, is borne in a carriage and then burned in front of a committee of widows who earlier followed the carriage.