The island of Tenerife is sometimes associated with package-style beach holidays but this exotic Canary Island promises so much more – an authentic Spanish experience with an incredible natural environment and fabulous walking and biking opportunities! Here are my top five reasons to visit Tenerife:
The Canary Islands have been Spanish since the end of the 15th Century and Spanish culture certainly dominates the traditions and culture of Tenerife. But the islanders are very proud of their own traditions. The capital of Santa Cruz is very cosmopolitan and packed with museums and art galleries. Wander through the Sacred Art Museum in the Church of Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia, keep an eye out for architecture designed by famous Canarian artist César Manrique, and explore this rich and vibrant culture around every corner in the old capital of La Laguna. Then there are quaint villages tucked away in the mountains where people continue with traditional ways of life.
Tenerife is an island of volcanoes – not always in an obvious way – and this has a strong influence on the islands remarkable natural environment. Some of the volcanoes are still active and you can see where important historical eruptions have taken place – such as in the Teide National Park. Other volcanic areas are almost hidden, such as in the northwest corner of Tenerife – a part of the Island created some seven million years ago. Two large green valleys – the Orotava and the Güímar – between Puerto de la Cruz and Puertito de Güímar are also of volcanic origin. On Tenerife you will find cactus, black sandy beaches, cloud forests and the spectacular flora and fauna of Mount Teide National Park. Another tip is to make time to visit El Pijaral Special Integrated Nature Reserve.
Tenerife has amazing hiking, with a wide variety of terrain from coastal walks to volcanic plateaus and lush green valleys. Walk the Malpais de Güíimartakes trail past ancient pyramids and through volcanic badlands. Or perhaps the Las Aguas-Rambla de Castro, which weaves through a fishing village and a working banana plantation. Another stunning walk is the Montañeta trail, which takes hikers across the ash-covered slopes of volcano Arenas Negras, surrounded by stunning pine trees, and along the pretty streets of Garachico. Of course there is the epic Teide National Park, where keen walkers can summit Mt Teide. At 3,718m this actually Spain’s highest mountain. Make sure you go prepared with the right gear and download Tenerife maps before setting off hiking. If you are visiting Tenerife in March you might like to join the Tenerife Walking Festival, which has guided walks for all and free nightly entertainment in Puerto de la Cruz.
Anaga (pic: Jens Steckert)
Sampling the wares and atmosphere of one of Tenerife’s authentic markets is a great way to get close to the local culture. There’s the food market in San Cristobal de La Laguna – Mercado de la Laguna – the perfect place to try a host of Tenerife’s delicacies, as well as specialities from elsewhere in Spain. Don’t miss wandering around the Mercado de Nuestra Senora de Africa in the capital of Santa Cruz – this is one of the largest markets on Tenerife, with over 300 stalls. In addition to excellent fresh food, you’ll also find a range of arts and crafts products on sale, including leather items and musical instruments. Finally there is the Mercadillo del Agricultor de Tacoronte, in the district of San Juan in the north of Tenerife. This is another excellent opportunity to sample authentic Canarian cuisines and ingredients such as locally-made honey and wines.
If you can visit Tenerife in February you have the opportunity to experience the second most popular carnival in the world (after the one in Rio de Janeiro of course). The Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is held in the capital and attracts visitors from all over the world. The festivities go on for days (and nights) and thousands of people dance on the streets in traditional fancy dress. On Ash Wednesday the “entierro de la sardina” (burial of the sardine) is celebrated, ending carnival for another year. Or at least until the following weekend, when the piñata party kicks off.
So there you have it – so many great reasons to visit Tenerife and maybe a few you hadn’t thought of before!
By Natasha von Geldern