6 Surprising Things To Do On Tenerife
By Helen Foster
As you would expect from the largest of the Canary Islands, there’s no shortage of ways to while away the hours in Tenerife. Serving up a true tapas of activities, this Spanish island offers fabulous year-round sunshine, vineyards, adventure hiking trails, UNESCO-listed towns and more. It’s known as the grandest of the archipelago family for a reason, and here are six of them.
Your first stop should be Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s buzzing capital. Easy to navigate on foot, the city is small enough to seem familiar while giving you so much to see and do. It is home to some impressive museums, the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre being a particular highlight with an array of interactive exhibits and displays around the natural sciences and the evolution of mankind. Shopping and café culture is plentiful here, with options ranging from department stores such as El Corte Inglés, to the traditional markets and independent boutiques. Look no further than the country’s liquid speciality, Barraquito, for a pick-me-up during your city tour. The traditional layered coffee-based beverage is made with condensed milk, lemon zest, cinnamon and a shot of Licor 43 - not essential but highly recommended!
You probably don’t associate Tenerife with quality wine, but the Tenerife grape is actually quite sought after by those in the know. Take a short drive out of the city, up into the hills where quaint bodegas serve up local bottles with sharing plates to be savoured in the afternoon sun. Most vineyards offer tours and tastings if you really want to educate your palate. Head for Bodegas Monje, which sits among some of the island’s finest scenery with views of Mount Teide. This family run winery has been producing wine since 1750. Combining traditional practices with modern technology, its red, white and rosé varieties make the perfect accompaniment to Canarian cuisine, which is all the better when enjoyed in the spectacular hillside surroundings. Guided tours and tastings are offered four times a day. Choose to enjoy a glass alongside canapés, cheese, or with a full meal at the terrace restaurant.
If you want to step back in time to get a taste of true Spain, then there can be few better places to do that than at the UNESCO-listed town of La Laguna. This picturesque part of the island dates back to the 15th century and, in its time, its architecture has inspired many a colonial American town. The Cathedral of La Laguna impresses with its Neo-classical façade, inspired by the Cathedral of Pamplona in mainland Spain. Don’t overlook some of the less grand, but equally intriguing architecture around the city. To the east of the Cathedral, is the Plaza del Adelantado, one of the prettiest squares on the island, with its convent and town hall. Another square to seek out is the Plaza del Cristo where you can browse the lively market, buying fresh local produce and flowers to take back to your apartment. The town’s cobbled streets pave the way to a wealth of historical sites and sights, as well as to a fabulous nightlife when darkness falls. Tapas is on the menu here in the very traditional Spanish eateries to be found around the squares, where there’s no shortage of places to try some of the island’s finest dishes.
As a change from sandy shores, the Lago Martiánez in the north of the island is a rocky, but heavenly alternative. Lanzarote’s famed architect, César Manrique, designed this exquisite lido bathing complex. There is a small entrance fee, and once on the other side of the gates, you are transported to another world. Artfully placed rocks, trees and pale tree barks, standout against the brilliant blue waters of the main man-made lake and pretty fountains. Loungers and parasols are available upon entry, comfortable changing rooms and lockers make for ease of use, while restaurants, refreshment stands and terraces are on hand if you want to make a full day of it in this watery wonderland. It is one of the most spectacular parks you will ever see, and from its mighty sea walls, you can enjoy watching the waves crashing in for a while, before retreating to your sun lounger in the tranquil surrounds of this picturesque water park. This is, literally, an immersive experience and you can always cool off by splashing about in the lakes and under the fountains…
Barranco del Infierno is such a special place that only 300 people are permitted to visit it each day, so make an advance reservation if you want to take on this extraordinary hike. Located in historic and beautiful Adeje, your adventure starts at the higher part of Calle de los Molinos, from where you will find yourself descending 350 metres, down into a steep ravine. The hiking trail to reach the ravine will take you 6.5km through some remarkable scenery, characteristic of Tenerife’s topography. The full tour will take approximately three and a half hours, though many do it in two hours, so be sure to wear some sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Passing rural retreats and ancient mills, taking in some jaw-dropping views across the Old Town and out to sea, you will then start to follow the ravine’s riverbed. As you get to the lower parts of the ravine, you will notice a change in both temperature and the plant life around you, as scorched brown vegetation turns green, while dragon trees and wild jasmine add to the magic of the place. The trail ends when you come to the magnificent waterfall, cascading down 200 metres into its watery basin. Go early in the morning to beat the midday heat, and take both a warmer jumper and your sunscreen. There are 14 tours a day if you prefer to enjoy a lie in and a later start.
Chances are, you will be staying in one of the resorts on the island’s lively and fun south side. Remember, Tenerife is one of the easiest holiday destinations to drive around – I know as I have driven from south to north, and back, comfortably as a day trip. Car hire is a must on this island if you are to get the most out of your holiday. The best use of that hire car would be a trip to the most fabulous beach on Tenerife – and quite possibly anywhere! Bask on real Saharan sands at the stunning Las Teresitas Beach. These idyllic fine golden sands curl along the coast, fringing the base of the stunning Anaga Hills, home to Tenerife’s wild palm tree forests. The clear waters that wash the shore are shallow and, being protected by a dam, are very safe and populated by tiny colourful fish – perfect for a gentle paddle. If you are out from the south of the island for the day, when you leave the beach, head for the fishing village of San Andrés. Islanders settled here around 1497, making it one of the oldest villages on Tenerife. Its pretty streets tumble down the hillside, with views out to sea and its restaurants have the pick of the catch of the day here, making it the perfect stop off for a romantic fish supper as the sun sets on your long lazy day stretched out on those warm Saharan sands.
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