I can’t believe with all the places I have spoken of that I have never talked in much detail about my local town, Los Cristianos. I live in Chayofa, which is a village so my nearest ‘real’ town is Los Cristianos, which is only 2.5 miles down the mountain.
Los Cristianos was one of the first holiday resorts established in the south of Tenerife and while still popular with holidaymakers, lost its crown to Las Americas during the 1990s. Today it is difficult to determine where Los Cristianos finishes and Las Americas begins however, the two resorts are very different.
LOS CRISTIANOS HAS HISTORY
The impression often portrayed is that like Las Americas, Los Cristianos is purpose built and full of sun-worshippers, clubbers and pubbers. The reality is Los Cristianos is a real town with a history pre-dating the boom of tourism.
Historical references date back to the 16th century. For many years, it was a fishing village but remained unsettled until the latter part of the 19th Century. According to records in 1860, it consisted of “three one-storey houses, one two-storey house and a hut”. By 1888, it had grown to 29 houses. In 1909, the first quay was built; it is still there and known as “El Puerto Viejo” (Old Quay). In 1919, tomato and banana plantations sprang up along with a resin factory, salt mines and a fish-salting factory. This resulted in an influx of workers and gradually the village grew into a town with a church, Chapel of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and a larger port, to accommodate not only the fishing industry but also commercial shipping, as the town was a thriving import/export centre for south Tenerife.
BIRTH OF TOURISM IN LOS CRISTIANOS
The origins of tourism lie with a Swede called Bengt Rylander. He came to Los Cristianos in 1956 suffering from multiple sclerosis to take advantage of the warm climate. He found it extremely beneficial and being a writer and TV personality by trade, he was able to spread the word and the rest as they say is history.
Los Cristianos grew as a resort for ailing Swedes who left their mark, by naming the main street “Avenida de Suecia” (Avenue of Sweden) and the “Casa Sueca”, a Swedish Church, situated on the seafront. Other nationalities followed and needed accommodation, so Cristianmar, Rosamar and the Oasis Moreque Hotel (now called Big Sur) were built and are still standing today – not the prettiest of buildings but when they were built in the 60’s architecture was more functional than aesthetic. It was only in the 1970’s and 80’s when the South Airport was opened that the Brits arrived.
LOS CRISTIANOS TOWN
Los Cristianos is often described as all high-rise purpose-built apartments, purpose-built hotels and purpose-built beaches. It is true that Los Cristianos has grown over the years but it has managed to keep a little of its original architecture and atmosphere as a quaint fishing village. It has an old town centre, complete with church square, narrow streets and you can see evidence of its humble origins in the typical architecture of the old houses in which much of the town’s local Canarian population still live.
Nowadays the town is still relatively small, pedestrian friendly and easy to wander around, without the chance of getting lost. It can provide a relaxing shopping experience that offers a range of small stores, catering for both tourists and residents alike and every Sunday it is home to the biggest street market in Tenerife.
As the town realised its potential to attract tourists, the first area to be developed was around the seafront and this has recently been updated, buildings renovated, new boulevards, board-walks and wide avenues added. Many newer holiday complexes are set a little further away from the seafront but none of these are high-rise and they have been built with much attention to appearance and style. Style even extends to roundabouts! Los Cristianos has what many locals call the ‘Magic Roundabout’ an attraction in its own right, which is magical to look at even if it is a beast to tackle. The council has spent over half a million Euros installing fountains, light displays, sculptures and a garden to welcome drivers into the town. It is absolutely gorgeous.
LOS CRISTIANOS PORT
Los Cristianos has a pretty harbour that still has its fishing fleet and fresh fish is on sale each day. It is an ideal stopping off point as the marina has good facilities for craft waiting to set sail for exotic climes and you can often see international yachts of all shapes and sizes. A bigger port was constructed in 1975 and ferries leave the port for the surrounding islands several times a day. There are plenty of excursions running from the harbour, such as fishing trips, glass bottomed boats to see whales and dolphins and diving excursions so there is always something to do and to see. What you can´t see is the Virgen del Carmen, a 600 kilo life size sculpture, submerged 40 metres down to bless the craft that pass overhead, but do look out for a scale copy of the shrine at the harbour edge.
LOS CRISITANOS BEACHES
Although Los Cristianos has beaches that extend the entire length of its seafront, the quality does vary. There are two main beaches, suitable for soaking up the sun and swimming. These are the town beach, next to the port and close to the hustle and bustle of the town. It is sandy, sheltered by the harbour and boasts a number of facilities including beach volleyball and children’s play area. The most popular, Playa las Vistas is in the bay beyond the harbour and is man-made with sand taken from the Sahara and ideal for the disabled visitor. It is wide and you can always find your own space. It is protected by the breakwater and also boasts a number of facilities including water sports, showers and a tourist information office. There are smaller beaches at the far end of the town that stretch from the Arona Gran Hotel and then from the ‘Peacock Villa’ to Mount Guaza but these are poor with black volcanic sand and shingle.
A promenade runs the whole length of the waterfront where you’ll find many good restaurants, with a wide choice of menus and styles and an equally wide variety of prices.
COMPARING LOS CRISTIANOS TO LAS AMERICAS
Los Cristianos is a match for Las Americas in the quality and variety of its restaurants and for the holidaymaker partial to a drop of liquid refreshment, there is no shortage of bars. It also has night-life, but serious clubbers may wish to take off to Playa de las Americas particularly the area known as ‘Veronicas’ if they are wanting to party until 6am.
One of the best places to view Los Cristianos is from Montaña Chayofita, a volcanic mound complete with crater that rises to 116 metres above sea level. At the top, you can see the spectacular backdrop of the Atlantic with La Gomera clearly visible on the horizon and in the foreground the full extent of Los Cristianos with its rows of sun beds and sunshades. On the subject of hills, Los Cristianos for the most part, does not pose undue problems, except perhaps for visitors with severely limited mobility.
So to summarise Los Cristianos is a fairly small town with an authentic Spanish atmosphere, it has fine beaches, usually good weather, an international clientele who are seeking a well-established resort with attractions suitable for the whole family all within easy reach of the town.
If you walk around the resort today you can recognise many of the spots where the old photos above were taken, some of the original buildings still remain. Check this LINK for more than 50 old images of the town.