A Guide to Tenerife – Canary Islands, Spain
Tenerife is the largest of the seven main Canary Islands and it’s the one which attracts the biggest number of holidaymakers.
Although it’s a part of Spain it is actually far closer to North West Africa than the Spanish mainland. The island lies just north of the Tropic of Cancer, 300 kilometres west of Morocco, and enjoys near-perfect weather conditions all year round. With a sub-tropical climate tempered by the Trade Winds and Gulf Stream, Tenerife has an average winter temperature of 18C and an average summer temperature of 24C.
The island’s ideal climate, superb beaches and huge range of visitor attractions make it a favourite holiday destination for winter sun seekers from northern Europe. Spaniards from the mainland flock to Tenerife in the summer months to escape the blistering heat of the cluttered Costas and to enjoy the island’s lively night life.
The Volcanic Landscape
Tenerife’s most famous feature is its extraordinary volcanic landscape. The island is home to the world’s third highest volcano – majestic Mount Teide, which at 3,718 metres, is the tallest peak in Spain. The volcano is the centrepiece of Las Cañadas national park which is littered with eerie lava formations. And the black sand and shingle of many of the island’s beaches are further reminders of Tenerife’s volcanic nature.
The 14-minute cable car ride to the summit of Mount Teide is top of the excursion list for most visitors to the island. The crater is a staggering 20 kilometres wide and has an 80-kilometre circumference. It’s home to one of Spain’s most unusual government-owned Parador hotels where guests enjoy the unique experience of sleeping inside an extinct volcano and waking up to the most breathtaking views imaginable.
The busiest tourist resort is Playa de las Americas, at the South West tip of the island, which is wholly geared to the package holiday market. It’s chock-a-block with high rise hotels, pubs, clubs, discos and beach activities. There are plenty of quieter family resorts around the island’s coast and some charming farmhouse-style small hotels in the interior.
When it comes to things to see and do on Tenerife, visitors are spoilt for choice. Top attractions include the Octopus Aquapark at Playa de las Americas, the seven-pool Lido at Puerto de la Cruz and the six Chacona pyramids in the Valley of Guimar in the south of the island.
You can take a boat trip to see the whales and dolphins which inhabit the waters off the west coast or head for Loro Park at Puerto de la Cruz where parrots, penguins, jaguars and various exotic creatures keep kids and adults alike amused for hours.
At Icod de Los Vinos on the West coast of Tenerife, you’ll find the world’s largest volcanic cavity and the famous Dragon Trees which have thrived on the island since the Ice Age.
Car hire is relatively cheap if you use one of the local firms rather than the big international companies and there’s a motorway encircling the island so renting a car for at least part of your stay is a good way to uncover the many delights of Tenerife. For the more adventurous types, there are quad bike excursions, donkey trips and camel safaris.
Places of interest in Tenerife
This is the Island’s most important church. Its nave and four aisles shelter interesting Baroque works of art and most valuable reminders of Canary history. There, La Cruz de la Conquista (the Cross of Conquest) is kept together with the flags taken from Sir Horatio Nelson, the British admiral, on the occasion of his unsuccessful attack on the fortified city. Carta Chapel and the beautiful choir stalls, which are found in the presbytery today, are also of interest to art lovers. Another church worthy of special mention is San Francisco’s, which is 18c Baroque and sits next to a beautiful square.
El Principe Square
With its lush laurel trees its a delight to explore the Municipal Museum of Paintings and Sculpture containing important paintings by Ribera, B. Brueghel, Madrazo and Van Loo as well as a department especially dedicated to Canary painting.
A beautiful and broad thoroughfare skirting the port area of Santa Cruz (Right) where you will find the Paso Alto Castle and Military Museum – where objects reminiscent of the past are stored and displayed. Here you can also find a peaceful place to walk, near to the Royal Yacht Club of Tenerife, which lies in the vicinity of the Nautical School and close to La Casa del mar. Here you will find a magnificent view of the bay.
The Provincial Public Library and the Provincial Office of Records are found in La Casa de la Cultura, Comodoro Rodin St.
A 1,500m long artificial beach of golden sands. Especially noteworthy is the picturesque Taganana with the El Roque and Almaciga beaches of black sand.
Lies inland and is the most important town after Tenerife the capital. It lies in the Aguere valley among magnificent countryside. Picturesque walks take the visitor through silent, straight streets lined with stately houses. Other places of great interest are the University City, the 16C Cathedral with interesting carvings and paintings, the Institute, the Provincial Library in the University, the Episcopal Palace and La Nava Palace, San Francisco’s, where El Santisimo Cristo de La Laguna is worshipped, and the ancient Dragon Tree in El Seminario Garden.
Its township includes the Bajamar area and Punta del Hidalgo, which are practically linked by El Arenal beach and form an important tourist centre with lovely natural pools on the edge of the sea. Near La Laguna, there is Mount Las Mercedes which has splendid vegetation of laurel and pine trees as well as other Canary species. From La Cruz del Carmen and Pico del Ingles observation platforms, there are magnificent views of the La Laguna plain and Anaga Sierra.
Is the centre of the lovely La Orotava with scenery of indescribable charm. From La Cuesta de la Villa there is a splendid panorama of the valley and El Puerto de la Cruz. The place as a whole is a beautiful sight with beautiful gardens, balconies and stately houses.
Also remarkable is the collection of hand-made objects from the Canary Islands and of Spain which can be admired in the Casas de los balcones (The Houses of Balconies) – two residential buildings from the 17C built with typical resin-rich wood from the old pines of the island.
Las Canadas del Teide
After crossing the upper part of the valley and the forest of Aguamansa sits a huge crater with a circumference of 80Km at an altitude of 2,000 m. There are large piles of lava of different colours, multicoloured ashes covered with sand and pumice stone. This is the place where El Pico del Teide stands amidst a scenery of great beauty. The Teide, with its snowcapped top in winter, is one of the most widely known attractions of the archipelago. A Cable car is able to reach the summit in about fourteen minutes.
Puerto de la Cruz
The main tourist centre of the province and one of the most important in Spain. Martianez beach and excellent natural pools are found on Colon Avenue. Along the coast, the Martianez complex was built by Cesar Manrique and attracts many tourists. Puerto de la Cruz has excellent hotels, nightclubs with international attractions, excellent restaurants and cafes as well as other tourist facilities. Numerous national and international congresses and conventions are held here.
Also very interesting is the Acclimatization Garden, built in 1788 on the order of Carlos III. It lies halfway between La Orotava and Puerto de la Cruz, to acclimatize plants and trees from all over the world.
A visit should also include San Felipe Castle and the Church of Nuestra Senora de la Pena de Francia as well as the Naval Museum of Iriarte House (in the street of the same name), which shows the history and evolution of navigation.
Los Realejos lies amongst banana-trees and cultivated fields. It is here that you will find the Church of Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion with its magnificent Baroque retable and a jasper font, the Parish Church of Santiago that dates back to 1498 (the oldest church on the island).
Icod de Los Vinos
A beautiful location at the foot of the Teide, it is famous for its wines from the valley of the same name, a true rival in beauty to that of La Orotava.
Further sights of interest are San Marcos Church with its Renaissance portal and large Baroque retable, El Cristo de Las Aguas in the Franciscan church, the Convent of San Agustin, El Pilar Square, Los Dolores Chapel and the famous age-old Drago Tree – truly a marvel of nature.
Like a pearl in the sea and in times gone by the most important harbour on the island. It is a very beautiful place with interesting sights, such as San Miguel Castle and the parish church. El Puertito is a black-sand beach and there are natural pools at El Caleton.
A picturesque village on the South coast which has become a magnificent summer resort in winter due to its climate and excellent hotel facilities. You will also find magnificent beaches with clear, clean water and golden sand. There is also a yacht club.
From Los Cristianos, it is possible to reach La Gomera by taking a ferry.
Las Galletas – (Costa del Silencio – The Silent Coast)
This is a sheltered beach right next to San Lorenzo Valley with breathtaking views.
Granadilla de Abona
Lying in in a rich and fertile area of the island this is a very important agricultural centre where the best oranges are grown. El Medano beach lies 11km away and contains numerous housing developments. This is also where the international airport of Tenerife, the Reina Sofia Airport can be found.
A lovely, whitewashed village that faces the Guajara summit. Here you will also find the beaches of Los Abrigos, Chico and Abona.
A picturesque village surrounded by white hamlets in a countryside full of rockrose, cactus and pine forests. On top of the round, volcanic Fasnia mountain there is the Hermitage of Nuestra Senora de Los Dolores.
It lies in the valley of the same name in startling surroundings with remarkable, deep gorges such as Chinico, El Coto, El Rio and Badajoz.
Beaches worth a visit include El Socorro and El Puertito consisting of 1,600m of black sand and pebbles.
A place of pilgrimage where the throne of the Virgin of La Candelaria can be seen. The image was destroyed in 1826 and replaced by a copy, which is kept in the basilica.
Las Caletillas beach consists of three small, sheltered coves, where a tourist centre with good hotel facilities has grown.
Playa de las Americas
Lies in the townships of Arona and Adje and must be mentioned because of its importance as a first-class international tourist centre.
Santiago del Reide
Here you can find Acantilados de Los Gigantes (Cliffs of the Giants) surrounded by extraordinary beauty. There is also a yacht harbour and good hotel establishments.
Famous for its wines with several tourist centres.