WORLD TRAVEL NEWS ARTICLE
TENERIFE – OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
Adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, over 180 miles from the coast of Africa, Tenerife is the largest of the Canary archipelago. The majority of the five million annual visitors make a beeline for the sun-baked tourist resorts of the south. And with winter temperatures rarely dropping below 20C in winter who can blame them? This leaves inland regions and the north of the island peaceful and unspoilt – it’s another Tenerife, with verdant mountains and valleys, historic towns, hidden hamlets and quiet coves.
In the centre of Tenerife visitors can test their stamina by hiking to the summit of its dormant volcano, the vast Mount Teide, which at 3,718m (12,195ft) is the highest peak in Spain. The mountain soars majestically over the island, and on clear, calm days affords jaw-dropping views of the entire archipelago. The climb takes around six hours; alternatively the cable car (www.volcanoteide.com ) will whisk you up in eight minutes to within 200 metres of the peak. To go right of the top you will need to get a permit well in advance. (www.reservasparquesnacionales.es).
Organised night visits (conditions permitting) take in fabulous sunsets, followed by Canarian cuisine and wine, and stargazing with guides through long-range telescopes. Thanks to low light pollution, the clarity of night skies and high altitude points the Canary Islands are among the best places in the world for observing the night sky. Remember to take warm clothing - it might be hot down on the beach but the peak of El Teide is snow-capped for much of the year.
If conquering the lavascapes is not your scene Tenerife has a host of other hiking trails, through mountains, valleys and rainforests, most of them undiscovered by tourists. The island is not well-known as a hiking destination but the varied terrain and natural beauty makes trekking a great option. Particularly scenic are the Anaga Hills, with deep valleys running down to the sea or the hike through the beautiful Barranco de Masca gorge.
If two wheels are more your style, Tenerife is an attractive destination for cyclists. Tracks run through pine forests and along steep inland roads. It helps to be fit especially if you have your sights on Mt Teide. World-class cyclists such as Bradley Wiggins (winner of the 2012 Tour de France) and Chris Froome (winner in 2013 and 2015) train on Tenerife's roads.
Along with the Azores, Tenerife is the best place in the world to go for all-year pilot whale watching. A large family pod live in the clear, warm waters off the south-west coast, between Tenerife and the island of La Gomera. Boats go out about three miles from the shore and whale spotting is virtually guaranteed. These playful creatures, mothers and babies among them, often come so close to the boat you can almost touch them. Just as thrilling to watch are the sociable Bottlenose or Atlantic spotted dolphins as they race and surf along with the boats.
Off the tourist track you’ll find genuine Canarian cuisine. Papas arrugadas, tiny jacket potatoes, are a speciality, dipped in green or red mojo sauces, made with crushed garlic, peppers, coriander and olive oil. Mojo sauces also accompany fresh fish (Tenerife’s staple), meat, cheese and vegetable dishes. In recent years the island has become something of a foodie destination, with four Michelin-starred restaurants and plenty of places to try local cuisine and wine. For a taste of Tenerife organic gastronomy, head to Dula y Pipa at La Granja Verde, near La Orotava (http://lagranjaverde.es ). Chef Juan Carlos Clemente comes up with wonderfully creative dishes based on produce from the farm - and accompanied of course by the scrumptious little Tenerife spuds. Combine a meal here with a visit to the historic centre of La Oratava, with its handsome colonial houses opening on to beautiful, plant-filled courtyards. This and La Laguna, Tenerife's former capital and a World Heritage Site, are the two finest towns on the island.
For a real flavour of Tenerife head to the rural northwest of the island. An ideal base is Garachico, which as the main port of Tenerife used to export Malmsey wine. The town was destroyed in 1709 by two rivers of molten lava but it was rebuilt and today is a charming little seaside town of colonial-style houses, cobbled side streets and refreshing lava-rock pools. Stay at San Roque Hotel (www.hotelsanroque.com), a beautifully restored 18th century manor house which feels a million miles away from the razzmatazz of the south.
Tenerife has two airports: Tenerife Sur (South), the main airport used for most international flights and the smaller Tenerife Norte (North). Over 20 airlines fly to Tenerife Sur from European destinations. Operators from the UK include British Airways, Thomson Airways, Thomas Cook, Monarch Airlines, Jet2 and Ryanair. Only British Airways flies to Tenerife Norte.
Flight Time: 4 to 4hr 30 min from London.
Check out the Tenerife website www.webtenerife.co.uk which is packed with useful information.
Essential reading for hikers is Tenerife Trails: Walk This Way Tenerife by Andrea and Jack Montgomery, available on Amazon. The authors have lived on the island for 13 years and tested out virtually every trail.
Just in case you may wonder about the flag above the article. The flag of Tenerife is a white saltire (or Cross of Burgundy or St Andrew's Cross) over a blue field. The arms of the cross are approximately one fifth the width of the flag and the field is navy blue (azul marino).
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