Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, off West Africa. It’s dominated by Mt. Teide, a dormant volcano that is Spain’s tallest peak. Tenerife may be best known for its Carnaval de Santa Cruz, a huge pre-Lent festival with parades, music, dancing and colorful costumes. The island has many beaches (with sands from yellow to black) and resort areas, including Los Cristianos and Playa de las Américas.
While most visitors to the largest of the Canaries will likely not venture beyond the beach, there’s so much more to the island of Tenerife. Here are reasons to experience the island at least once in your life.
The Dramatic Los Gigantes cliffs.
One of the most spectacular natural attractions on the island, Los Gigantes cliffs form part of this west region, home to numerous secluded resorts. The impossibly steekp formations rise to a giddy 800 metres (2,625 feet), resorts have black volcanic sand beaches and plenty of secluded rocky coves boast of beautiful, clear water.
Whale and Dolphin Watching.
The temperate seas surrounding Tenerife are home to almost 30 different species of whales and dolphins, which can be viewed from aboard boats departing from either Los Cristianos or Los Gigantes on most days. Trips take approximately three hours, and some boats are decorated like pirate ships (a treat for little ones).
Tenerife’s Flamboyant Carnival.
In the week leading up to Lent, Carnival celebrations take place throughout the island. Twinned with Rio de Janeiro, Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s Carnival is considered by some the most famous in the world after the Brazilian city’s. Each year, the Grand Opening Parade kicks off celebrations with a colourful themed procession of floats and costumes making its way through the streets. The end of Carnival is marked by the somewhat bizarre Burial of the Sardine ritual on Ash Wednesday: a giant effigy of a sardine sits on a throne, which is carried through the streets of the capital, followed by a procession of wailing ‘widows’; the sardine is then set on fire when it reaches Plaza de España.
Masca Valley hikes.
Named after a tiny village in northwestern Tenerife, the Masca Trail is one of the most popular hikes on the island, beginning at the village and winding down to the rocky beach below. Beginners can arrange guided tours with various local companies, or more seasoned hikers can navigate the trail themselves. Walkers get plenty of opportunities to soak up spectacular scenery along the five-mile trek and can take a boat at the end to the majestic Los Gigantes cliffs.
Tenerife’s position between the Sahara and the Atlantic – as well as its lack of light pollution, high altitudes, clean air, and exceptionally clear night skies – makes it an ideal place to stargaze. Officially declared a Starlight Tourist Destination, the island offers many opportunities to stare at the night skies, whether through official tours or on your own. But for the ultimate star-gazing experience, the luxury Ritz-Carlton in Abama hosts private summer star parties, which include an exclusive tour of the observatory, a chance to look through the world’s largest telescope, and a gourmet stargazing picnic.
Mount Teide exploration.
Dominating a huge area in central Tenerife, Teide National Park is all about Mount Teide – at over 3,700 metres it’s the highest point in Spain. It offers diverse volcanic landscape, pine forests and green valleys with stunning views across numerous hiking routes. Less adventurous travellers can still drive through the protected national park to admire the beauty of this part of the island.
While certainly not known as a dining destination, it might surprise many to discover that the island is home to no fewer than five Michelin stars across four restaurants. M.B. (Martín Berasategui) is a two-Michelin-starred establishment, housed in the Ritz-Carlton, Abama, and arguably Tenerife’s finest. Foodies should also try the family-run El Rincón de Juan Carlos for some spectacular interpretations of classic Spanish cooking.
Magnificent sandy beaches.
It’ll come as little surprise that Tenerife has some genuinely spectacular beaches – (albeit sometimes with a little help from some imported Sahara sand). One popular stretch for locals and tourists alike is the pine-fringed Las Teresitas, just 10 minutes’ drive from the island’s capital. On the northern coast, one of the island’s prettiest and more remote natural beaches is the dark, volcanic El Bollullo. Meanwhile, naturists can find a spot to bare it all on long golden sands of La Tejita on the other side of the island. Two firm family favourites are the Playa del Duque and Playa de las Vistas, both on the south coast. Basically, there’s a beach for everyone!
Now, why else won’t you visit Tenerife? Africa indeed is a beautiful continent. What do you think? Share with us in the comment box below.