7 minutes reading time Spain
The Canary Islands continue to charm their way to the hearts and minds of those who surrender to the call of wanderlust. Nestled in the entrancing turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean, this Spanish archipelago’s unrivaled beauty alone makes it a favorite holiday destination, most especially for European tourists to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
The Canaries is home to the gem of an island Tenerife, the largest and most populated of the eight major islands of the archipelago. With its spectacular landscapes molded by the elements, grandstanding vistas, charming villages, and massive holiday resorts, Tenerife (which comes from the Guanche language meaning “snow mountain”) seduces even the most discerning of world travelers. Let this island of about 950,000 people surprise you and allow its beauty unfold right before your eyes.
One of the things that endears millions of tourists to Tenerife is how easily accessible it is from mainland Europe — a four-hour flight will get you here. The island has two international airports: Ciudad de La Laguna Airport in the north, the smaller of the two airports and is about 10-km. drive to the island’s capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife; and the Reina Sofia Airport in the south (60 kilometers away from the island’s capital), the busier and more popular as tourists beeline to the south, where most of the seaside resorts and usual parties are.
Summer (June to September) and Winter (December to March) are high seasons for tourism in Tenerife, so as Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Easter (it’s a predominantly Roman Catholic island). But whether low or high season, there are a lot of things in store for all kinds of holidaymakers — from fiestas, music festivals, beach parties to the famed carnival. Make sure to brush up on your Spanish as the simple hola! (hello!), gracias (thank you) or buenos dias/buenas noches (good morning/good evening) will go a long way while interacting with the locals during your stay, especially when you are out there to explore the island.
Beyond its golden- and black-sand beaches, the island is a captivating destination with lush forests and fantastic views that it is best to rent a car to give you the freedom to explore the easy-to-drive-around island at your own pace. Depending on where you are staying on the island, you can score rental cars that are less than 100 euros… per week!
It is true that the island’s capital of Santa Cruz in the north is almost always skipped by tourists for the more popular, and always warm and sunny southern portion of the island. But Santa Cruz is where you can soak in Tenerife culture. Stroll around the southern extension of the city and it will reveal a rich history through its amazing architecture like the Neoclassical building Cabildo Insular de Tenerife on Plaza de España, where the island government offices are and the intricate Círculo de Amistad XII de Enero at the corner of Jose Murphy and Ruiz de Padron Streets.
There’s also the hard-to-miss Auditorio de Tenerife, a performance art venue and home to the Orquesta Sinfónica de Tenerife (Tenerife Symphony Orchestra), which has become an architectural symbol of the archipelago. Be sure to check out its GastroMag cafe and restaurant, and grab a cup of coffee or snack while enjoying the unobstructed view of the calm sea.
About two kilometers north of the Auditorio is a must-see and -experience Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África (Market of our Lady of Africa). It’s a feast for the senses once you enter the North African-styled bustling market, with an iconic archway that leads to a central patio, as it boasts a wide variety of goods — from fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, spices and cheese to jewelry and crafts. Inside the central patio are shops, and small restaurants and cafes that are perfect for quick snacks after a morning of exploring the city. It is open every day from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Bring some cash with you if you decide to shop here. Also note that prices in Santa Cruz are relatively cheaper compared to the more touristy areas of the south.
What’s unique about the island is the many influences it has taken from different cultures. This very much echoes in traditional Canarian food that are widely influenced by Spanish, African, and Latin American flavors. There are Papas arrugadas, which are wrinkly potatoes that are boiled skin on and usually served with mojos, a type of sauce; Conejo al Salmorejo, marinated and stewed rabbit in red or white wine; Cherne or wreckfish, a type of white fish that is often served grilled; and the scrumptious Principe Albert chocolate mousse/cake dessert, which you will find in most restaurants’ menu on the island.
A common misconception about the island of Tenerife is that it is all beaches, parties and carnivals. Though those are also part of the island’s cultural tapestry, the island also has a couple of UNESCO World Heritage Sites that are very much worth visiting like the town San Cristobal de la Laguna in the north, where some churches, public and private buildings date back from the 16th to 18th century.
While on the island — whether to while away on the beach or to discover cultural jewels in picturesque towns — make sure to include Teide National Park to your itinerary. This UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the municipality of La Orotava, is the most visited national park in Spain. Take an early drive to the national park to beat the throngs of tourist coaches from the resorts in the south. Almost always with clear skies, you will see the majestic Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain (3,718 meters) with a sea of clouds beneath it. From the basecamp, you can hike to the viewpoint near the summit but there is also a cable car priced at 9.50 euros for locals and 13.5 euros for foreigners. Make sure to book ahead online as the queue for the tickets can be quite long most of the time. If you want to hike all the way through the summit of the volcano, you are required to have a free permit that you’ll need to obtain in advance. Night sky tours are offered here because it is one of the best, if not the best, places in the world for stargazing as it is away from any light pollution. The Observatorio del Teide can also be found here.
While away the hours under the sun in the many beaches that you can choose from, whether in the golden sand in the south, and the black sand in the west or north. The inviting crystal waters of Playa del Duque in the coastal suburb of Costa Adaje is perfect those seeking a luxurious escape to the island. Meanwhile, Playa de Las Americas is one of the island’s more popular beaches because it is a nightlife and club mecca, and prices are fairly cheaper here compared to other beaches. However, expect that the party atmosphere sometimes remains way beyond the night.
Probably one of the better areas to stay is Los Cristianos. Just a few minutes away from the energetic Las Americas, this former fishing village has been transformed into a charming beachside town. Stroll on the boardwalk for the sights of the sea and sand. There are also shopping opportunities here. Almost everything is just right at your doorstep, may it be beaches, bars or boutiques.
When in Tenerife, let your senses misbehave and soak in the island’s most vibrant and breathtaking surprises. There are a thousand and one more reasons to give in to the lure of the island so be ready as Tenerife will definitely snatch your heart away.
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