Visiting Tenerife - What to See and Do
(Tenerife South Airport TFS, Spain)
The sun-drenched island of Tenerife
is well-loved among chilly northern Europeans seeking refuge during the winter. Millions of tourists visit every year to enjoy its beautiful beaches and the sea. However, Tenerife is much more than just sand and coastal attractions. There is a vibrant culture at work here too, which lends a special dimension to a holiday.
Throughout its past, Tenerife has been influenced by the cultures of South America
just as much as those of Spain
. The capital Santa Cruz is one of the island's many cobblestone colonial towns where this ethnic diversity manifests itself in the cuisine, lifestyle and entertainment on offer.
Nature ultimately provides most of the diversion, from the lofty peak of Mount Teide where sunrises rarely look sweeter, to the thick forests of the Orotava Valley. There are volcanic rock pools for a saltwater dip, insanely picturesque golf courses and an island-wide street party during the annual Carnival. The balmy year-round weather ensures any and every outdoor activity is a joy to pursue.
Ten things you must do in Tenerife
- Mount Teide is Spain's highest peak, but its moonlike landscape that surrounds the summit is what makes a trek into this otherworldly national park a must for any nature lover. It is also the third-highest volcano on earth, and at sunrise the views over the Canary Islands are simply breathtaking.
- Visit during the annual Carnival celebration that lasts a week and is held sometime in February or early March. Both Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz transform into full-on party zones as street parades, dancing and music rock the island from dusk to dawn.
- La Orotava is a colonial gem, well worth a day or two of leisurely exploration. Its cobbled streets hold many secrets and a number of lovely colonial homes open to the public, such as Casa Lercaro and Casa de los Balcones. The town has an almost fairytale quality and can easily distract you from the fact that you came to Tenerife for a beach holiday.
- The volcanic pools of Garachico are a natural wonder. They were created when the volcano poured lava over the town's harbour centuries ago. Today they provide a unique and entertaining way to swim in tiny saltwater swimming pools complete with tropical marine fish and other fanciful sea creatures. The historic town of Garachico is also well worth a day's visit.
- Santa Cruz's main public park, the Parque Garcia Sanabria, is an oasis of shade, coolness and greenery in the heart of Tenerife's capital. This attraction is a surprisingly fun little park, with sand paths that wind through bamboo groves, pieces of artwork and ponds that croak with the sound of hundreds of tiny emerald frogs.
- If you want a little mystery to enhance your visit to Tenerife, spend a morning checking out the Pyramids of Guimar. They are strikingly similar to ancient pyramids found in South America, though the experts are still undecided on their actual origin or purpose. The great adventurer Thor Heyerdahl was the one who discovered them and created the park for their protection.
- Tenerife has a wonderful zoo called Loro Parque that is definitely worth a day off the beach. Its main inhabitants are the 4,000 or so parrots who live here alongside gorillas, tigers, dolphins and other creatures from land and sea. A highlight is the Planet Penguin attraction, an indoor penguin habitat with an iceberg where it can actually snow.
- An alternative to the rough waters of Tenerife's beaches is the amazing swimming pool complex designed by famed architect Cesar Manrique. The Lago Martianez is a series of pools the size of lagoons, complete with quirky fountains and other water features that make for fun swimming. Even better, after dark the casino below the pool complex opens for a night of high-rolling chance.
- Despite its out-of-place name, Siam Park is a really exciting and fun water park. The Thai theme of this adventurous water playground includes some of Europe's most creative and frightening water rides. This is no kiddie park, but the youngsters will definitely have as much fun as their parents.
- Venturing out in a boat looking for whales and dolphins is a major activity in Tenerife. The area around the stunning Los Gigantes cliffs is where these creatures like to hang out, with almost 30 different species known to inhabit the area. Many tour outfitters run trips to Los Gigantes, but only the boats that fly a yellow flag are certified as ecologically conscientious, so it is worth patronising the companies that do their part to preserve these gentle giants.