I have been a member of Tripadviser for ten years. With the number of posts and reviews I have made and the fact that I live here, it is frequently assumed that I am the oracle for all things Tenerife. Without exaggerating, I am asked weekly what are the ‘MUST DOs’ and despite regularly answering, with so much to see and do, I still find it difficult because the island is a world of contrasts with so much to discover.
Some say Tenerife is a land of mystery and legend with its uncertain origin somewhere in Atlantis, but legend aside, for me, Tenerife is paradise in a small area.
- It has UNESCO World Heritage sites,
- A National Park,
- Numerous protected areas and of course,
- its weather makes it the “Island of Eternal Spring”.
Nonetheless, here goes I will stick my neck out and list a few places that, in my opinion, should be on any “To Do List”.
Starting with the highest peak, Teide. It is the most visited National Park in Spain and the imposing mountain’s breathtaking landscape meant that in 2007 it was included in the World Heritage List of UNESCO. The more adventurous can opt for walking the network of trails that cross the park or climb to the peak. For the rest of us the cable car whisks you close to the top and offers spectacular panoramic views without too much walking. There is a variety of volcanic cones, domes and lava flows as well as rich flora and fauna to enjoy and the romantic can watch the day break or the sun set over what must be one of the world’s most spectacular backdrops.
If you like walking, one of the oldest tracks on the island starts at Cruz del Carmen in the Anaga Rural Park. The trail is so narrow in parts that you can only walk in single file as it winds through a series of bends down to the Llano de Los Loros where you get dramatic views of the northern coast. Halfway down you come to the hamlet of Chinamada where houses are hollowed out of the rock.
On the subject of walking, Masca reputed to have been a haven for pirates is a picturesque hamlet situated in the Teno Rural Park. Until recent years, life here was preserved due to the sheer difficulty of access to the village. The stunning scenery and deep ravines can be walked by the physically fit in a couple of hours. Once down and to avoid a tortuous climb back there is the option to take a boat to Los Gigantes. Most will be impressed with the views of the cliffs as they tumble into the sea and if you are lucky, there could also be sightings of dolphins and whales. The south and southwest coast of Tenerife is a privileged place for whale watching in the wild. It is said you can spot different species but I have only ever seen pilot whales as there are colonies of these that live here all year round.
Moving on, I am going to ignore the resort towns of the south, people staying there will quickly learn it is easy to travel between these simply by walking along the seafront. I am a little reluctant to advise anyone to spend too much time in the capital. Personally, I love it but Santa Cruz is like any other major city. Unless you specifically want architecture, museums and shopping you could be almost anywhere. If you do decide to visit, there are stunning views of the Auditorio and the relatively new Palmetum as well as the César Manrique Maritime Park if you want to sunbathe. From the parking area it looks nice with plenty of amenities, but as I don´t search out the sun, I’ve not been in.
In contrast I would have no hesitation in recommending the historic centre of La Laguna it is a joy to walk around. For me it has a very different vibe to Santa Cruz and is easy to get to, as you pick up the tram in Santa Cruz and it takes you directly to the centre. So click the link and find out what is there.
Staying on the northern side of the island you can visit another resort, Puerto de la Cruz. It sadly has a reputation for “being full of pensioners” I haven´t particularly noticed, but being a pensioner I wouldn’t would I? The attractions are mature rather than frivolous so seem to back this up with lots of gardens and plenty of small squares for people watching. Suits me – I am a great people watcher. However, the town also has Loro Park and the Lake Martiánez complex an unmistakable design of César Manrique. So whilst it isn´t Veronicas Strip there is enough to keep even a youngster amused.
Puerto has a good bus service that will quickly take you to several easy reach places, including La Orotava (a bit of a tourist trap) Buenavista (great if you like cakes as there is El Aderno, one of the famous bakeries on the island) and of course Garachico.
Garachico declared an “Historic Site” back in 1994 is a traditional Canarian town and the golden age of its colonial past can be discovered walking around its ancient buildings. There is a suggested route here. After admiring the churches, convents and houses you can enjoy a meal in one of the many restaurants and if the weather is kind perhaps a dip the natural pools known as El Caletón.
My list would not be complete unless I mentioned El Medano. As many know one of my FAVOURITE places. Originally a fishing village, it has the longest beach on the island which is much loved by many, particularly the young and sporty crowd, as due to the usually windy conditions the town is a Mecca for both amateur and professional water sports enthusiasts predominantly windsurfers or kite surfers. El Medano is one of those towns where you can escape the crowds but never feel isolated as there are plenty of restaurants serving good Canarian food and with a cold beer to beat the heat of the day a nice spot to continue with the people watching.
On an island like Tenerife, you probably want to visit a beach or two. Whether you want tranquillity or fun, dark volcanic or soft golden sand there is plenty to choose from. For those who want to escape the tourist areas and enjoy some quiet time, in the north, Benijo with its large black sand beach is consider by some to be one of the most beautiful in all the Canary Islands. The sea is clean, but it is not always advisable to swim due to currents and strong waves that sometimes break against the shore. Nevertheless it is a sublime setting.
In the south, I can´t omit my Shirley Valentine beach at El Puertitom the small fishing village that lies between the cliffs close to Playa Paraiso. Hotels have bypassed the village leaving it untouched and traditional and all you will find is a smattering of whitewashed houses including one in a cave, a church, a bar and very little else apart from the brightly coloured boats that bob on the clear sea. From here you can swim, fish and dive with the turtles that live in the waters close to shore and only 20 minutes from Las Americas. An oasis of calm, this romantic bay is yet another face of Tenerife.
Another of my favourite hideaways is Abades a small village where most of the houses are painted white. There is almost no tourism but the small plaza by the sea offers 2 or 3 bars. The beach is usually empty and the sand is golden, lapped by turquoise waters making it a heavenly spot.
And for those who prefer the tourist amenities within stretching distance of your sun bed, enjoy Las Vistas, La Pinta and El Duque. These along with others are part of a continuous succession of impressive beaches where the swimming conditions are always optimal as breakwaters protect from the waves and the backdrop is picture postcard perfect with La Gomera sitting on the horizon.
These are just a tiny selection of the places to enjoy in this jewel of the Atlantic. I am sure anyone reading this will be able to add several more but Tenerife is one of those destinations where there is so much to discover that you just want to return time after time.
Step Through the Looking Glass and read the Red Queen Musings