The Canary Islands were always a mainstay of family holidays during my childhood. My parents worked in hospitality so we took out holidays when business was quiet. This often meant we were looking for reliable, sunny escapes during the winter months. As a consequence, the Canaries conjure fond memories for me, including our trip to Tenerife.
A lot of time has passed since then and it has been a long time since my last visit to Tenerife. And during this time I had forgotten about many the places that had made Tenerife so magical to me as a child. I forgot all about the island’s fantastic attractions and associate the island with mass tourism, parties and package holidays.
There’s no denying that Tenerife caters well to mass tourism. If you’re looking for a poolside holiday, look no further. But there’s a side to Tenerife that receives much less attention. There is so much to discover here.
So I’m getting onto my soap box to shine a light the hidden side of the island. Forget what you already know about Tenerife, the island is a gem and it’s hidden in plain sight!
Where is Tenerife?
The Canary Islands are just over 100km from the west coast of Morocco although the islands belong to Spain. The islands have a subtropical climate which is hot in the summer yet mild/warm during the winter.
As the largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife has turned its trade to tourism, more so than the other islands. Therefore, there are more flight connections to Tenerife than the other Canary Islands. Expedia will help you find the best flight for your requirements.
You may want to visit the other Canary Islands while you are here. If so make the mot of the ferry connections between the islands. Also, see my blog on Lanzarote which is another popular island in the Canaries.
5 Reasons to Plan Your Visit to Tenerife
Parque Nacional Del Teide
Did you know that the most visited national park in Europe is in Tenerife? Over 4 million people visit the Parque Nacional Del Teide each year, and for good reason. There’s nowhere on earth quite like this.
At the centre of the park is Mount Teide, one of the highest volcanoes on the plant and the tallest point in Spain. Most of the park sits inside a gigantic volcanic crater which stretches for over 11 miles. You can find evidence of previous volcanic eruptions littered throughout the park, much of which remains barren and intact despite there being hundreds of years since the last volcanic activity here.
As well as the summit of Mount Teide, the park is famous for its spectacular rock formations. The Titan is the most recognisable amongst these.
There are many different ways to experience the Teide National Park and a quick search on Viator will provide options to suit any traveller. We chose to visit the park as part of a Jeep safari.
The weather around Teide can be temperamental due to the altitude and often the summit will close. There is plenty to see without climbing the mountain,but if you are particularly keen to climb the mountain you should plan your visit carefully. You will also need a permit to visit the top.
Fall in love with the village of Masca. On the west coast of Tenerife, north of Los Gigantes, Masca sits between staggering cliff faces.
The journey into the Masca gorge is a spectacular one. The road zigzags, literally down the side of a cliff from the towering peaks of Los Gigantes offering astonishing views of valley below.
The road is a relatively recent addition to Masca. There was no road access to the village until the 1970s which helped the village to maintain its sense of isolation. This isolation remains largely intact. The village is home to less than 100 people, significantly smaller than the neighbouring towns and villages.
Added to this seclusion, Masca has a mysterious history including pirates and Guanches (the isalnd’s indigenous population) who used the valley for protection from attack.
The village has a small public square and a tiny church, plus a number of small restaurants which are perfect for a spot of lunch.
If you are feeling adventurous, you could attempt hiking the Barranco de Masca which is a 3 hour trek from Masca to the coast. However this hike is fairly strenuous and you should allocated six hours if you are making a return journey.
Whale and Dolphin Watching
The Canary Islands are a great location for whale watching and one of the only locations in Europe where whales are present all year round. You can see pilots whales and dolphins at any time, however lucky visitors may also see sperm whales and orcas who pass the islands during their migrations.
There are many different tour providers who will bring you closer to dolphins and whales. Again, looking on a site such as Viator will help you to find the right tour for your requirements. The majority of the tours set sail from Puerto Colon and offer hotel pickups.
We opted for a smaller tour operator with a maximum capacity of 12 passengers. Some of the larger boats can host up to 140 tourists which can make it more difficult to see the whales.
The tour took us three miles out to sea towards a pod of pilot whales. Pilot whales aren’t actually whales – they are a species of dolphin and are typically smaller than killer whales (also not a whale – who knew?). They also tend to remain fairly static in the water. The dolphins were much more attentive to our presence and we saw a large number dipping in and out of the water. They are fast movers so getting a good photo of them was quite tricky (the burst option on my iPhone came in handy).
Reserva Ambiental de San Blas
This nature reserve is a hidden gem and you won’t find this on many Tenerife itineraries. You can find the reserve in the south of the island, close to the town of San Blas. The reserve is part of the Sandos San Blas resort but is also available to external visitors.
The park is small in size but makes up for this with rock formations and wildlife. As we walked through the park we could see the lizards scuttling from the path in front of us. The park also has archeological significance and there are excavations of Guanche settlements here.
Admittedly, parts of this reserve are a little rough around the edges. Some of the walking trails are difficult and the map was difficult to follow. The map marked picnic sites and camping areas which were little more than a pile of rocks. We weren’t hoping to use these so we weren’t disappointed.
As with all of the Canary Islands, it’s all too easy for visitors to bypass the capital cities. The infrastructure between airports and tourist hubs means that most visitors to Tenerife won’t see the beautiful city of Santa Cruz.
The main draws for visitors to Santa Cruz are great shopping, stunning architecture and the bustling atmosphere of a cosmopolitan Spanish city.
The Auditorio de Tenerife is probably one of the city’s most iconic attractions and many recognise the building as one of Spain’s best examples of modern architecture. The building hosts music events, conferences and awards ceremonies. On the coastline surrounding the Auditorio de Tenerife, you will find rocks which have famous faces painted onto them. These faces represent famous names in music and are a nod to the concerts hosted in the Auditorio. If you look carefully, you may even spot a Eurovision winner in there
To get the most of your visit to Santa Cruz, you should visit during Santa Cruz Carnival which takes place in February / March. The festival internationally recognised and thousands of performers participate each year.
Playa De Las Americas
Ok, I’m going to defend this recommendation. Playa de las Americas is one of the largest tourist resorts on the island and caters almost entirely to mass tourism. As a consequence this part of Tenerife draws comparisons with Benidorm in mainland Spain.
A trip to Playa de las Americas will show you how commercialised parts of Tenerife have become. The coastal strip is fit to burst with irish bars, drag shows, English breakfasts and souvenir stores. A relaxing stroll along the seafront is sufficient to sample what Playa de Las Americas has to offer.
Other attractions here include surfing, diving and shopping.
So there you have it, 6 reasons why you should book a trip to Tenerife. I really enjoyed returning to the island after so long and rediscovering as side to Tenerife I had long forgotten.
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