- Avenida Loro Parque.
- Tel: 922 37 38 41.
In the language of its aboriginal Guanche inhabitants Tenerife means “Snowy Mountain”, a tribute to its most striking geographical feature, the dormant volcano of Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak. The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is a roughly triangular landmass rising steeply on all sides towards the cloud-capped summit that divides it into two distinct climatic zones: damp and lushly vegetated in the north, sunny and arid in the south. Tenerife offers a more varied range of attractions than any of the other Canary Islands, including its spectacular volcanic scenery, water sports and a vibrant atmosphere after dark. Its beaches, however, have unenticing black sand and are rather poor for swimming. The main resorts are crowded with high-rise hotels and apartments, offering nightlife but little peace and quiet.
Plaza del Pescador 1, Tel: 922 75 71 37 .
Fiesta del Carmen (first Sun of Sep).
The old fishing village of Los Cristianos, on Tenerife’s south coast, has grown into a town spreading out along the foot of barren hills. Ferries and hydrofoils make regular trips from its little port to La Gomera and El Hierro.
To the north lies the modern expanse of Playa de las Américas , Tenerife’s largest development. It offers visitors a cheerful, relaxed, undemanding cocktail of sun and fun.
A brief sortie inland leads to the much older town of Adeje and to the Barranco del Infierno , a wild gorge with an attractive waterfall (two hours’ round walk from Adeje).
Along the coast to the east, the Costa del Silencio is a pleasant contrast to most of the other large resorts, with its bungalow developments surrounding fishing villages. Los Abrigos has lively fish restaurants lining its harbour.
Further east, El Médano shelters below an ancient volcanic cone. Its two beaches are popular with windsurfers.
Towering over Tenerife, Mount Teide, surrounded by a wild volcanic landscape, is an awesome sight. 180,000 years ago a much larger adjacent cone collapsed leaving behind the devastation of Las Cañadas, a 16-km (10-mile) wide caldera, and the smaller volcano, Teide, on its northern edge. Today volcanic material forms a wilderness of weathered, mineral-tinted rocks, ash beds and lava streams. A single road crosses the plateau of Las Cañadas, passing a parador, cable car station, and visitors’ centre. Follow the marked paths for unforgettable views of this unique, protected area.
342 & 348 from Puerto de la Cruz.
1 & 6 Jan, 25 Dec.
The inhospitable badlands of Las Cañadas are inhabited by some rare and beautiful plants. Many of these are unique to the Canary Islands. Most striking is the tall Echium wildprettii , a kind of viper’s bugloss, whose red flowers reach 3 m (9 ft) in early summer. Other common plants include Teide broom, the Teide daisy, and a unique species of violet. The best time of year for flower-spotting is May to June. Displays housed in the visitors’ centre will help identify them. Don’t take any plants away with you: all vegetation within the park is strictly protected and must not be uprooted or picked.
C/ Las Lonjas s/n, Tel: 922 38 60 00 .
Carnival (Feb–Mar), Fiesta del Carmen (second Sun of Jul).
Puerto de la Cruz, the oldest resort in the Canaries, first sprang to prominence in 1706, when a volcanic eruption obliterated Tenerife’s principal port of Garachico. Puerto de la Cruz took its place, later becoming popular with genteel English convalescents. The town’s older buildings give it much of its present character.
The beautiful Lago Martiánez lido, designed by the Lanzarote architect César Manrique, compensates for a lack of good beaches with its sea water pools, palms and fountains. Other attractions include the tropical gardens of Loro Parque , where visitors can also see parrots and dolphins.
Outside town, the Bananera El Guanche plantation has an exhibition on bananas and other tropical crops. Icod de los Vinos , a short drive west, attracts crowds for its spectacular ancient dragon tree.
The landscaped Lago Martiánez lido, Puerto de la Cruz
C/ Calvario 4, Tel: 922 32 30 41 .
Carnival (Feb/Mar), Corpus Christi (May/Jun), Romeria San Isidoro Labrador (Jun).
A short distance from Puerto de la Cruz, in the fertile hills above the Orotava valley, La Orotava makes a popular excursion. The old part of this historic town clusters around the large Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción . This domed Baroque building with twin towers was built in the late 18th century to replace an earlier church that was destroyed in earthquakes at the beginning of that century.
In the surrounding streets and squares are many old churches, convents and grand houses with elaborate wooden balconies. The Casas de los Balcones and Casa del Turista have interior courtyards that are open to the public.
Plaza del Cit, Tel: 922 50 04 15 .
Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria (14–15 Aug).
This coastal town is famous for its shrine to Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria , the Canary Islands’ patron saint, whose image is surrounded by flowers and candles in a modern church in the main square. This gaudy Virgin, supposedly washed ashore in pagan times, was venerated before Christianity reached the island. In 1826 a tidal wave returned her to the sea, but a replica draws pilgrims to worship here every August. Outside, stone effigies of Guanche chiefs line the sea wall.
Plaza Adelantado s/n, Tel: 922 63 11 94 .
San Benito (15 Jul), Santísimo Cristo de la Laguna (14 Sep).
A bustling university town and former island capital, La Laguna is the second largest settlement on Tenerife and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
In its old quarter, best explored on foot, there are many atmospheric squares, historic buildings and good museums. Most of the sights lie between the bell-towered Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (1502), and the Plaza del Adelantado, on which stand the town hall, a convent and the Palacio de Nava .
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, La Laguna.
The rugged mountains north of Santa Cruz are kept green and lush by a cool, wet climate. They abound with a wide variety of interesting birds and plants, including cacti, laurels and tree heathers. Walking the mountain trails is very popular, and maps showing many of the best paths are readily available from the tourist office. A steep road with marker posts climbs up from the village of San Andrés by the beautiful but artificial beach of Las Teresitas. On clear days there are marvellous vistas along the paths, especially from the viewpoints of Pico del Inglés and Bailadero.
Winding down through the laurel forests of Monte de las Mercedes and the colourful valley of Tejina you reach Tacoronte with its interesting churches, an ethnographic museum and a bodega, where you can sample local wines.
Plaza de España 1, Tel: 922 28 93 94 .
Carnival (Feb/Mar), Día de la Cruz (3 May).
Tenerife’s capital city is an important regional port, with a deep-water harbour suitable for large ships. Its most attractive beach, Las Teresitas , lies 7 km (4 miles) to the north. Completely artificial, it was created by importing millions of tonnes of golden Saharan sand and building a protective reef just offshore. Shaded by palms, backed by mountains and so far devoid of concrete hotel developments, the result improves on anything nature has bestowed on Tenerife.
Santa Cruz can boast many handsome historic buildings. The hub of the town is around the Plaza de España , situated near the harbour. Just off it is the Calle de Castillo, the main shopping street. Its two most noteworthy churches are the Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción , with parts dating from 1500, and Baroque Iglesia de San Francisco .
Particularly interesting is the Museo de la Naturaleza y el Hombre , in the Palacio Insular, where Guanche mummies grin in glass cases. Inside the museum you can also see the cannon which is alleged to have removed the arm of the British admiral Nelson during an unsuccessful raid on the city in the late 18th century.
Other attractions include the Museo de Bellas Artes which features old masters as well as modern works. Many of its paintings focus on local events and landscapes. Contemporary sculptures adorn the Parque Municipal García Sanabria , a pleasant park with shady paths, laid out in 1926.
In the morning, visit the Mercado de Nuestra Señora de África , which combines a bazaar with a food market. Outside stalls sell domestic goods; those inside offer an eclectic mix of live chickens, spices and cut flowers. Santa Cruz is especially worth a visit during its flamboyant carnival.
The Canary Islands have many unusual plants, but the dragon tree (Dracaena draco) is one of the strangest. This primitive creature looks a little like a giant cactus, with swollen branches that sprout multiple tufts of spiky leaves. When cut, the trunk exudes a reddish sap once believed to have magical and medicinal properties. Dragon trees form no annual rings, so their age is a mystery. Some are thought to be hundreds of years old. The most venerable surviving specimen can be seen at Icod de los Vinos.
(Feb/Mar) , Santa Cruz de Tenerife. One of Europe’s biggest carnivals, this grand street party is a lavish spectacle of extravagant costumes and Latin American dance music to rival that of Rio de Janeiro. For years under the Franco regime, Carnival was suppressed for its irreverent frivolity. It begins with the election of a queen of the festivities and builds up to a climax on Shrove Tuesday when there is a large procession. The “funeral” of an enormous mock sardine takes place on Ash Wednesday. Carnival is also celebrated on the islands of Lanzarote and Gran Canaria.
(May/Jun) , La Orotava (Tenerife). The streets of the town are filled with flower carpets in striking patterns, while the Plaza del Ayuntamiento is covered in copies of works of art, formed from coloured volcanic sands.
Descent of the Virgin of the Snows
(Jul, every five years: 2010, 2015) Santa Cruz de La Palma.
Romería de la Virgen de la Candelaria
(15Aug) , Candelaria (Tenerife). Pilgrims come here in their thousands to venerate the Canary Islands’ patroness.
Fiesta del Charco
(7–11 Sep) , San Nicolás de Tolentino (Gran Canaria). People leap into a large saltwater pond to catch mullet.