The grass is always greener, isn’t it? That’s certainly the truth for this island situated off the coast of west Africa. The warmest place in Europe during winter months is without a doubt Spain’s Canary Islands, and I suddenly wish Ed Sheeran’s Tenerife Sea could be playing softly in the background as you continue reading…. 🙂
Population: 935,000 inhabitants with millions of tourist visitors each year
Language: Official language is Spanish, specifically Canarian Spanish, although many people speak English
Climate: Tropical and desertic with a number of microclimates
How to Get There
Two airports service Tenerife – the North airport (Los Rodeos) and South Airport (Reina Sofia) which handles almost all of Tenerife’s international flights. Many airlines operate at these two airports making travel smooth sailing here.
Tenerife is the largest island out of seven in the Canaries, and with *so* much to do on one island, I’d suggest 4-5 days or more on the Island of Eternal Sunshine. Keep in mind there are about 23 different microclimates on the island, allowing visitors to experience all seasons in just one day. The south tends to be super sunny and dry while the north is wet and thus, green. Layers, layers, layers! The following activities will take you from the southwest portion of the island all the way to the northern capital of Santa Cruz. Do not [I repeat do NOT] attempt this in one day. Believe me, I tried…
Whale and dolphin watching from Costa Ajeje – Thanks to a year-long temperate climate and warm waters, the islands attract so much marine life. The best time to see whales is from November to February while dolphins can be seen all year long.
Los Gigantes – Translated to English, “los gigantes” means “the giants” and now I know why. These stunning cliffs, part of the resort town, are only one of the many landscapes you’ll see on this island.
Playa de los Guíos – If you want to be at a beach while gazing up at said cliffs, head here. We visited in the earlier morning hours, but I image this area crowds up around mid-day.
Masca Valley – Ohhh what I’d give to have lived in this little mountain village many moons ago…sans iPhone, sans computer, just straight L.I.V.I.N.G. I loved this place so much – super quaint, stunning scenery, and crazy narrow roads. I was hoping this latter part would stop many tourists from flocking here, but they were in healthy numbers regardless of the switchbacks. A few restaurants are found here, but blink and ya miss ’em.
Buenavista del Norte – Found at the base of the Teno mountains, Buenavista has kept the charm and character of Tenerife towns alive and well.
Garachico natural pools – Tenerife has a thing for natural pools, and I have a thing for Tenerife for that exact reason 🙂 If it hadn’t been a very overcast day with heavy windy, I would’ve been all in. After leaving the dry south and Masca Valley, it started to get very cool in the idyllic town of Garachico.
Icod de los Vinos – Attractive plazas rimmed by unspoiled colonial architecture and pine balconies form the heart of Tenerife’s most historic wine district.
Drago Milenario – A 1,000-year-old dragon tree towers 57 feet above the coastal highway. It’s arguably the oldest living specimen of this species on earth, and special measures have been undertaken to preserve it. The Guanches worshiped these trees as symbols of fertility and knowledge and the sap, which turns red upon contact with air, was used in healing rituals.
Teide National Park – Welcome to Spain’s highest peak! Teide is a dormant volcano that looms over the island, and a special permit is needed to reach the summit although most people are satisfied riding the cable car up which was closed during my visit in December. As you keep going up and up and up, you’ll pass beautiful pines and finally pop above the clouds while feeling on top of the world. Well, that and Mars all at the same time.
Puerto de la Cruz – Known for its dark, volcanic sand beaches and Carnaval, a pre Lent festival with parades, music and dancing. Many say that tourism has drained the oldest resort town in the Canaries of its local charm but stick to the old areas of town, and you’ll be good to go.
Playa del Bollullo – Many people will walk from Puerto de la Cruz through banana plantations to the beautiful black sand beaches of Bollullo. If you choose to park up top above the cliffs, you’ll have to descend the steps. There’s a small bar/restaurant here and also – beware of the massive waves.
Bajamar Natural Pools – Stunning natural pools with big waves crashing over the sea walls and into the pools at high tide – a great photo opportunity. Changing rooms, shops and restaurants are close by.
Punta del Hidalgo – This small fishing village has – you guessed it – more natural pools and a modern lighthouse.
Rural Park of Anaga – Calling all hikers, nature lovers and photographers! This northern area is chock full of insanely pretty sights around every corner. Again, dress in layers due to lack of sunshine in the forest.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife – Capital city in the northeast with a big harbor and where many of Tenerife’s inhabitants work. Head to the biggest square, Plaza de España, experience the opera at Auditorio de Tenerife or head into a museum.
If you’re looking to avoid typical mediocre Spanish tapas on the island (and you should), dig deeper into more local foods of Tenerife which are bananas, wine, mojo sauces, goat cheese, potatoes, croquetas, cochino negro (black pig) and lots of seafood and other local meats like goat, pork and rabbit.
Check out Txoko at the Ritz-Carlton Abama for unique Spanish gastronomy.
Staying with Ritz-Carlton always poses a problem. A really, really good problem. When a place of lodging is this spectacular, it’s hard to leave its premises to explore parts unknown. Balance is everything.