Despite its status as the most commercial of the Canary Islands, holidays in Tenerife needn’t boil down to days spent bronzing on the beach before crawling the bars for the cheapest drinks promos. Away from the heady resort centres, there’s plenty for discerning travellers to discover. Continuing our series of posts looking at the alternative side to mainstream holiday destinations, let’s take a look at Tenerife, off the beaten track…
The Mount Teide National Park is home to the world’s third largest volcano, which provided a location setting for the film, the Clash of the Titans. In the Anaga Mountains you’ll find some especially beautiful terrain for walking and climbing, with laurel and eucalyptus forests, often wreathed in clouds of atmospheric mist. Make sure you get a hiking permit in advance so that you can take advantage of an early morning trip and catch the spectacular sunrise. Stop off in some of the many mountain villages to sample some authentic traditional cuisine, where the simple restaurants often make you feel as if you’re dining in a local’s own family kitchen. Try dishes like Puchero, a delicious Andalucian meat and chickpea stew.
See the Stars
The Teide Observatory celebrates its 50th birthday this year. Although it’s only open to the public on certain annual visitor days, it’s a great spot to take in the Milky Way. Perched on Spain’s highest mountain, it’s earned a reputation for being one of the world’s most important observatories, due to enviable atmospheric viewing conditions.
Those of you who enjoy spotting our feathered friends will be spoilt for choice on your Tenerife holiday. Some particularly interesting and colourful species to look out for include the rare and endemic Blue Chaffinch, Ring Necked Doves, the Great Grey Shrike and the striking Hoopoe, with its unmistakable head fan. Most are best spied in mountainous areas, though there are large populations of waterside waders too.
If you hanker after a sense of gentle adventure, you could go horse riding in the south of the island. This provides a wonderful way to appreciate some of the scenery around El Medano and Los Galletas. There are a number of excellent English-run fincas (or horse farms) within easy striking distance of the main resort centres.
There are still a few enclaves resisting the lure of mass tourism on Tenerife. One of the most interesting is El Medano, which retains an alternative vibe, thanks to its relative lack of English bars and its popularity with hippies, kitesurfers and windsurfers. The original capital of La Laguna is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is also well worth exploring for its Colonial architecture.
Tenerife’s reputation as a wine producing region continues to grow. The wine is surprisingly good here, thanks to the rich, volcanic soil, and William Shakespeare once counted among its fans, making over 130 references to Canarian wine in his work. Today you can tour several of the island’s best vineyards.
Fiestas and Cultural Events
The tiny fishing village of Los Abrigos, famed for its waterfront strip of seafood restaurants, may not quite be the well-kept secret it once was, but it does play host to some of the island’s most interesting local events. The San Blas Fiesta in September, named after the patron saint of caves, features a charming Sunday procession which ends with statues being taken out to sea on fishing boats, with people blessing the waters for a bounteous haul. Throughout summer, a series of vibrant inter-cultural celebrations in the region highlight everything from Senegalese music to Peruvian tribal dance.
Have you glimpsed the cultural side of the Canary Islands? Share your tips on offbeat places to go and things to do on your holidays in Tenerife!