And yes, I've added yet another place to my experience portfolio list!
Tenerife is the largest of Spain's Canary Islands, which lie off the northwest coast of Africa. The island boasts an average temperature of 75 degrees, making it a perfect year round destination. March to May and September to November are the best months, as summer and winter tend to draw the largest number of tourists.
The 43 miles of beach and the lively resort areas in the southern area of the island are big attractions, especially for Europeans and Brits looking for a warm escape. And while the island attracts well over 6 million visitors each year, Tenerife has plenty of areas to explore beyond the tourist spots - places free from crowds.
Those seeking calmer ambience, stunning nature, scenery and hiking opportunities head to the northern part of the island. This is the area where my clients stayed and explored the most.
Before I share their story, a little background:
- The Canary Islands are part of Spain (politically, not geographically). Spanish is the official and most widely spoken language on the island, though English is spoken at the resorts and main tourist attractions.
- Tenerife hosts the second most popular Carnival celebration each year, second only to the one held in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil).
- Tenerife boasts the third highest volcano in the world - Mount Teide. It divides the islands in two, the cultural North and bustling South.
- The island features different micro-climates, from the lush tropical north (where you'll find the Anaga Mountains) and sunny, dry south to cool and humid at the base of the volcano, pine forests and moon-like landscape and frigid air (and possibly snow) at the top.
- Tenerife has 5 different wine making regions hosting over 70 boutique wineries. Reds, whites and rose - take your pick. Winemaking dates back to the 15th century, and the sun, warm weather, volcanic soil, subtropical location, tradewinds and humidity combine to make exceptional wines, including international award winners. But you need to drink them while here as very few are ever exported.
The roads were mostly perfect and all of them were paved. There are some stretches of multi-lane highway, but we like sticking to the local roads which wind through small villages and hurtle down mountains with one hairpin turn after another. Drivers are very courteous, and I don't think we ever saw an accident. Lots of bikers are testing their endurance on some of these mountains and they must be testing their courage as their are virtually no shoulders.
Our base was the small town of San Andres. Santa Cruz, a larger city just south of San Andres, has a long, lovely promenade along the port ocean and everyone is out there morning into night. There are also many pedestrian only streets in the city with other parks. Much like Europe mainland with shops and cafes. This is typical of any town of any size there.
The Anaga Mountains were our favorite area to explore. Some of those roads aren't on a map, but we followed every one. From north to south you travel along a ridge, sometimes so narrow that you are looking down to the ocean on the east side , but just go around that curve and the view has changed to the west. Roads go off it to other incredible views of gullies and towering rock formations. There were also trails and many hikers were using those.
The southern coast is more touristy, especially along by Playas de las Americas, with lots of condos and hotels and fast food joints. Could be any tropical resort area.
The saving grace is bananas, miles of plants with big full bunches of perfect fruit. Some plantations are only lightly fenced, others have a type of screening over them. We had never seen so many banana plants , with bright green fronds and clean yellow bananas.
The beaches on the southwest coast are very popular, even in November and host all kinds of activities such as swimming, surf sailing, paddle boards, sail boards and gliding down from the mountains above. Those people are all active!
Of course El Teide National Park and the mountain dominate the island. They sit right in the middle of it and the pyramid peak of the mountain is visible from all sides. You can be in the Anagas or heading for the beach and suddenly, there it is rising above the other hills below it.
There are two major roads up to the park and they become one that takes you through the center of a huge area with many different rock formations and many different colors of ancient lava flows. Some rock formations are eroded into fantastic shapes and some are solid walls and cliffs. There is even a section of green rock, and a "beach" of pumice sand. Craters abound and other parts are flat like a desert.
The first time we went up toward El Teide we just wanted to see the mountain and the observatories near by, (similar to Hawaii). It was really too cold to do much exploring so we drove around looking at views of the peak.
A few days later we saw there was snow on the mountain so we went up and took a few photos of that and threw snowballs at each other. The peak is about 12,000 feet and we were between 6000 and 9000 as we poked around. You can ride a cable car up to or near the top, but it was bitterly cold. However I must reiterate the views in all directions were spectacular. We spent a whole afternoon and early evening driving through the park and stopping at various sites. There are informational signs and directions to trails.
We had our evening suppers in San Andres, and lunch wherever we were exploring. Never a problem. Stop at a restaurant with high decor and tablecloths or a small cafe or even a gas station and you find a delicious meal for less than $ 10 per person, often half that. Always beer, at never over $3 a pint. And always very friendly staff that loves to hear us practice our broken Spanish. Sometimes English is hard to find but we tried not to use it anyway.
Laurie, I am a few months and 12,000 miles away from this trip, so my memory is not perfect. I have not researched facts or numbers. I just know it was a delightful experience and we've never been to such a small island with so many diverse areas... except perhaps Hawaii.
I love publishing your stories! Thank you for letting me share exciting trips with my readers. It's wonderful inspiration.