Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and is a great place to travel. British, Nordic and German tourists come in their tens of thousands every year to visit its spectacular beaches and lively nightlife. It is also very popular among holidaymakers from the Spanish peninsula, especially during Easter time. It offers lush forests, exotic fauna and flora, deserts, mountains, volcanoes, incredibly beautiful coastlines and spectacular beaches.
The entire island is a Spanish province named Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which leads to inevitable confusion with the capital city Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The island is divided into 31 municipalities, belonging to three regions with their own distinct climate, history, and appeal.
|Metropolitan region (Anaga Rural Park, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, La Esperanza, San Andrés, San Cristóbal de La Laguna, Taganana, Tegueste)|
The northeast of the island is the most densely populated, and home to the only 2 cities on Tenerife, capital city Santa Cruz de Tenerife and historic capital San Cristóbal de La Laguna with is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The eastern tip of the island is covered by the Anaga Rural Park, a mountainous and very rural area.
|The north (El Sauzal, Garachico, Icod de los Vinos, La Orotava, Puerto de la Cruz, Teide National Park, Teno Rural Park)|
Due to the influence of the northeastern tradewinds, the northern coast tends to be cooler, with somewhat unstable and cloudy, springlike weather. It is home to many of the islands cultural and historic treasures, and the El Teide volcano.
|The south (Candelaria, Costa Adeje, El Medáno, Granadilla de Abona, Guía de Isora, Güímar, Los Cristianos, Los Gigantes, Masca, Playa de las Américas, Santiago del Teide, Vilaflor)|
The south coast has a hot arid climate, and it was not until the late 19th century that these areas started development. The south is the least interesting part of the island to tourists because it lacks the heritage and charm of the north, and most of the towns are residential, modern concrete constructions with little architectural appeal. There are however some picturesque towns to discover in the east (Güímar, Candelaria) and Vilaflor on the southern slopes of El Teide.
Cities and towns
- 1 Santa Cruz de Tenerife — the capital
- 2 La Esperanza — town, in El Rosario municipality, founded by Castillian conquerors
- 3 San Andrés — one of the oldest settlements of Tenerife with a large white sand beach
- 4 San Cristóbal de La Laguna – a UNESCO World Heritage site
- 5 Taganana — traditional town in the Anaga Rural Park with a rich tradition in sugar cane and wine cultivation
- 6 Tegueste — Guanche era colonial town, famous for its wines
- 7 El Sauzal — town surrounded by rolling hills with vineyards
- 8 Garachico – a harbour city, partially destroyed and rebuilt after a volcanic eruption in the 18th century
- 9 Icod de los Vinos — famous for its millenary Drago tree, local wines, and the largest volcanic cave in Europe
- 10 La Orotava – a stately, beautiful city
- 11 Puerto de la Cruz – a laid-back, more family-friendly resort with the Loro Parque Zoo
- 12 Candelaria — known for its basilica and pilgrimage
- 13 Adeje and Costa Adeje - Adeje/Americas/Cristianos is the most popular tourist resort with beaches
- 14 El Medáno – a laid back, alternative haven, and one of the windsurfing capitals of the world
- 15 Granadilla de Abona — former Guanche kingdom and home to the best restaurant of Tenerife
- 16 Guía de Isora — desert town known for its greenhouse cultivation of tomatoes, bananas, and flowers
- 17 Güímar — town known for its lava rock pyramids and badlands
- 18 Los Cristianos - Adeje/Americas/Cristianos is the most popular tourist resort with beaches
- 19 Los Gigantes – popular with tourists and locals
- 20 Masca — picturesque mountain village in the Teno Massif
- 21 Playa de las Américas – with Los Cristianos and Costa Adeje, a city built for tourists with beaches
- 22 Santiago del Teide — desert town straddled between Teide National Park and the Teno massif
- 23 Vilaflor — an off-the-beaten-track place that has largely retained its originality, and a popular place to spend the night for those seeking to climb the volcano
- 1 Teide National Park — a UNESCO World Heritage site surrounding El Teide, with 3718 m the highest peak on Spanish territory, an active volcano, and most visited natural wonder in the country with over 4 million visitors in 2016.
- 2 Anaga Rural Park — or Macizo de Anaga protected area redesignated from natural park to rural park.
- 3 Corona Forestal Natural Park — Protected environmental zone with an area of 410 km², making it the largest protected natural area of the Canary Islands. It extends from ca. 300 m above sea level to the slope of 4 Mount Guajara at 2718 m. Most of the area is covered by Canarian pine forests.
- 5 Teno Rural Park — One of the 3 volcanic formations that make up Tenerife, in the northwestern part of the island. The massif is 5 to 7 million years old and furrowed by deep ravines. It ends abruptly in a series of high cliffs that plummet over the sea known as Los Gigantes. The park spans an area of 80 km² and is known for its basaltic lava flows and diverse flora resulting from its microclimate.
Tenerife, the largest island of the Canary Islands archipelago and home to ca. 900,000 inhabitants, is a fantastic holiday destination. The island has a rich cultural history dating back thousands of years when it was populated by the Guanche aborigines, and colonial architecture dating from the 1497 Spanish conquest of the island can be admired in many of its modern towns an cities. Historic capital city San Cristóbal de La Laguna is an architectural gem on its own, and its centre is one of the island's two UNESCO World Heritage sites.
In addition to its cultural assets, Tenerife also has many natural treasures. The most famous of which is Teide National Park, the island's other UNESCO World Heritage site, and home to Spain's tallest mountain El Teide, also the world's 3rd highest volcano (after the Hawaiian volcanoes). It is the oldest and largest protected area of the Canary Islands, and receives ca. 3 million visitors annually. The north of the island is also a natural reserve, the Anaga National Park.
A poor, banana-growing region in past decades, Tenerife has been brought up to European living standards since the arrival of mass air travel in the 1960s, which brought industry and millions of tourists each year. Over the decades this has led to many complexes and houses being built, making parts of the island highly urbanized. While part of the EU for political purposes, the island remains outside its customs and VAT area, making high tax goods such as tobacco and alcohol cheaper than elsewhere in Europe. Because almost all goods must be imported, food and clothing in particular are more expensive than on mainland Europe.
Many of the young tourists hang out on the south of the island with older and family tourists choosing Puerto de La Cruz and its environs. On the south side there is consistent summer, little to no wind, and pretty much perfect beach-weather for much of the year though there have been rare instances of cool to cold weather in the Jan-Feb period. Also expect some very wet days for that time of year though most days will still be sunny. There are plenty of hotels, activities and British food and drink.
On the north side of the island you will find more green and vibrant local culture. There is a more Spanish year-round springtime feel. The weather fluctuates a bit more here, but is also mostly pleasant though not as hot as the south.
In between the north and south of the island sits Spain's tallest peak, the barely dormant volcano El Teide (3718 m above sea level). Tours previously allowed people into the crater, but tourists are no longer allowed into the crater for safety reasons.
|Climate chart (explanation)|
The Atlantic ocean absorbs heat in summer and releases it in winter, granting Tenerife fairly constant temperatures throughout the year, with typically less than 10° difference between summer and winter. In combination with its proximity to the equator, this results in mild temperatures from fall to spring, and hot temperatures in summer (June to September). Fortunately the ocean winds cool the island down, and at higher elevations the temperatures are very mild even when the low laying parts of the island succumb under a scorching heat.
Tenerife receives most of its precipitation during the winter months (November to February), which always falls as rain at sea level and as snow on El Teide.
The native language is Spanish, more specifically Canarian Spanish. In this local dialect a soft 'c' is pronounced as 's' rather than as 'th' on the Spanish mainland, so cinco (five) is 'sinko', not 'thinko'.
Despite of the prevalence of tourists on the island, English and other European languages are not understood by many locals, even in larger cities such as La Orotava and San Cristóbal de La Laguna, but rather only spoken around tourist attractions such as El Teide. Staff in hotels and restaurants generally know enough basic English to take your order or help with problems. Many restaurants have a multilingual menu (Spanish/English/German). In smaller towns such as Santiago del Teide or Vilaflor, understanding of English is very limited and you'll need to rely on your own translation skills.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the capital city and, despite its importance as a seaport, has a very local demographic; languages other than Spanish are therefore rarely heard in the streets.
As with any small island, Tenerife's ecosystem is vulnerable and is already suffering from the consequences of invasive species (both fauna and flora) introduced to the ecosystem by travellers. Examples are the large prickly pears cactus and agave, both originating from the Americas, but nowadays so common on Tenerife that they are often mistaken for endemic species. Among invasive animals are hedgehogs and termites. Few of them have natural enemies on the island, allowing them to replicate rapidly and taking over the entire ecosystem.
When travelling to Tenerife, carefully check luggage for stowaway seeds and insects (including eggs and larvae). This is particularly a risk when travelling from a similar climate, giving stowaways a high chance of survival. If found upon arrival, dispose of them through incineration (can be as simple as burning with a lighter). If you believe exotic fauna or flora has already escaped, alert authorities immediately.
Tourists are often considered to be among the more harmful invasive species, displacing local fauna and flora, and consuming massive quantities of fresh water. Consider the scarcity of fresh water on the island during your stay, and use rain water to wash clothes or flush toilets if your accommodation allows you to do so.
As an island the usual way to arrive is by air. There are two airports, Tenerife South (Reina Sofia) near Los Cristianos and Tenerife North (Los Rodeos) by San Cristóbal de La Laguna. Titsa buses run from both airports to other towns, though you may have to change routes. They stop around midnight and start again around 05:00-06:00.
- 1 Tenerife Norte (Los Rodeos). (TFN IATA) Most services into this airport are from the mainland of Spain. Iberia offers several flights a day from Madrid (although normally quite expensive), Air Europa also flies from Madrid; Air Europa and Vueling offer flights from Barcelona, Malaga, Valencia and Seville to Tenerife North. In addition to these flights, Binter Canarias operates a fleet of turboprop aircraft flying to the neighboring Canary islands. There are international flights to/from London (LHR), Helsinki, Rome, Agadir, Casablanca, and Funchal. This airport is the older of the two on the island and Tenerife South Airport was built in part due to persistent fog problems which also played a role in the Tenerife Airport disaster of the 1970s when two 747s collided on the runway. There is a monument to commemorate the disaster in San Cristóbal de La Laguna.
- 2 Tenerife Sur (Reina Sofia). (TFS IATA) Named after the previous Queen of Spain this is by far the busier of the two airports. Flights from various UK airports are available through EasyJet, Ryanair, Jet2, and TUI Airways. Flights from the Spanish mainland are offered by Iberia, Air Europa, and Vueling. There are also flights from Germany offered by Ryanair, Eurowings, and Condor among others. There are many other destinations apart from those mentioned here.
If you are in the possession of a driver's licence, a rental car is the best option for discovering remote locations on the island. Renting a car straight from the airport can cost as little as €100/week. When choosing one of the cheapest companies (like Goldcar), make sure to understand the terms & conditions, since there may be hidden fees or tricks.
There are 8 rental services to choose from, all of which have an office in Tenerife Sur Airport (TFS) and many also in Tenerife North Airport (TFN):
- Cicar — Spanish rental service
- TUI Cars
- AutoReisen — German rental service
- Top car
When choosing a rental service and car, pay particular attention to the power of the motor (HP) and the insurance policy. Tenerife is an island of volcanic origin with a young geology, and mountain roads are often steep and unpaved. A car with a more powerful motor may cost a bit more but will save you the frustrations of not being able to get up a mountain slope. When in doubt, ask the rental service what they recommend.
As roads are quite often narrow and unpaved, there is a risk of damaging cars by ricocheting stones and pebbles. Inspect your rental car carefully before signing the contract, and consider adding insurance to the contract conditions for a surcharge. When your rental car is fully insured, returning the vehicle is as simple as dropping off the key.
Choose a car that is just large enough to fit all passengers and luggage, but try to keep it as small as possible. A small car is much easier to find a parking spot for in the historic centres of towns and cities, and passing another vehicle coming from the opposite direction becomes less of an adventure on narrow mountain roads.
Driving the roads
Most of the road network is in good shape, although roads in the mountains may be less well maintained. Fallen rocks blocking the road are a recurring hazard, especially on roads carved into the mountain side. The highways around the island are toll-free and mostly limited to 120 km/h. Everything called "Calle" or "Camino" in the rural and residential areas is likely to be very narrow and potentially steep and curvy.
The road network is under active (re)construction. As of 2019, your rental car's built-in navigation system may still be missing some of the newer main roads. Google Maps appears to be fairly complete in terms of major roads. OpenStreetMap provides very complete maps of the islands roads, hiking trails and other points of interest, with the added advantage that maps can be downloaded in advance and don't require an active internet connection like Google Maps.
When planning excursions and trips, keep travel times in mind. Satellite navigation systems usually assume you'll be travelling at the speed limit, which is unrealistic on most of the road network. An actual average speed of 30 km/h or below is realistic for tourists, although locals who know the road network well can be seen racing up and down mountains occasionally.
Buses on Tenerife are called guaguas. TITSA buses cover most of the island and the buses are fairly frequent. A ten+ travel card is a good idea if you intend to spend some time travelling on the buses. Cards can be bought and recharged at more than 500 locations across the island. Only one card is needed by any number in a group.
Cycling can also be a flexible and environmentally friendly way to get around the island. Tenerife is less than 100 km long, and fairly easy to explore with a city bike or mountain bike. Most of the major roads are well maintained and not too steep, although you'll need to take your time to get up El Teide if you wish to climb the volcano on a bicycle! The TF-28 for example leads from the capital Santa Cruz to Candelaria, Güímar, and all the way down to Granadilla de Abona on a nearly perfectly asphalted road surface.
For an island less than 100 km long, Tenerife boasts as surprising variety of landscapes, biomes, and climates. Thanks to the climate altering effects of its volcanic mountain ranges, hot arid climates in the south transition to wet and cool climates in the north and east of the island. This makes Tenerife a formidable holiday destination, because visitors are rewarded with many different views without having to spend considerable time travelling.
Unsurprisingly, much of the appeal of Tenerife comes from its numerous natural treasures. Almost a third of the islands area is protected and well preserved. Of particular interest are
- Teide National Park is best known for volcano El Teide (3718 m) at its heart, surrounded by desolate landscapes of lava rock. El Teide is not only the highest mountain on the Canary Islands but in all of Spain. Over 4 million visitors are attracted to the volcanic landscapes of Teide National Park annually, making it the most visited national park in Europe. The park occupies the entire interior of the island, and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Anaga Rural Park covers 140 km² in the north-east of the island and has been a Protected Biosphere since 2015 because it is home to the largest number of endemic species in Europe. It is best known for its mist forests, and numerous tiny villages that have largely preserved their historic life style.
- Teno Rural Park is on the opposite side of Tenerife, covering most of the western tip of the island. It has a mountainous landscape abruptly ending in the ocean with tall cliffs called Los Gigantes. The best known settlement in the park is Masca, the islands most picturesque village.
- Corona Forrestal Natural Park covers large swaths of forest of Canarian pine trees on the slopes of El Teide, and is with an area of 410 km² the largest protected area on the Canary Islands. It stretches from an altitude of 300 m up to 2715 m.
Tenerife is an island of contrasts. The northern and eastern regions of the island are green and covered with forests and banana plantations alike, with flowers in every imaginable colour blooming almost around the year. The charms of the misty forests and lush vegetation make the northern half of the island a paradise loved by millions of visitors every year. The southern region of Tenerife has a very arid and hot climate, and most of it is a desert landscape with little vegetation aside from cacti, woody shrubs, and countless wind turbines. This vast region is sparsely populated and has little to offer to tourists except the brutal hardships of its desert climate, and the fauna and flora that have adapted to it.
The Teide National Park is a must see attraction when visiting Tenerife. The breathtaking volcanic landscape with black lava rocks are worth the journey up the mountain which takes around 90 minutes from La Orotava or Vilaflor. When weather conditions allow, 1 travelling up the summit by cable car offers a fantastic view of Tenerife and neighbouring islands provided there are no clouds. It is also one of the best locations on the planet to observe the sky, and a visit to the Teide Observatory is a highlight of any visit for astronomy enthusiasts. There is a free visitor centre for Teide National Park in La Orotava that is worth a visit.
Volcanic activity has also created some of the largest volcanic cave systems, the 2 Wind Cave. With a length of 17 km it is the largest system in Europe and 5th in the world, after those of Hawaii. A tour around the cave takes visitors into the heart of the volcano. Places are limited so make sure to book tickets online well in advance.
Tenerife is home to hundreds of endemic species of fauna and flora, including beautiful flowers such as the bright red Echium wildpretii only found on El Teide, lizards, birds, and cacti. Among the most recognizable ones are drago trees, which can grow up to several hundreds of years old. The most famous one is the 3 Drago Milenario in Icod de los Vinos, said to be over a thousand years old and one of the symbols of Tenerife since it became a national monument in 1917. Drago tree seeds can be purchased in many gift shops on the island, offering the chance to take home a unique live souvenir without harming the islands natural beauty.
The variety in foliage resulting from Tenerifes many different climates is easily recognizable by the many species of trees that can be seen growing in the wild. Canary pine trees, drago trees, and the iconic Canary palm trees are examples of flora unique to the archipelago. All of the endemic palm tree species, complemented by dozens of exotic species, are on display in the 4 Palmetum in Santa Cruz. The park is in the heart of the capital, and a must see for nature lovers. It features different biomes for palm trees, ranging from arid to an entire artificial rain forest, and offers fantastic views over the ocean and the city itself.
Much of Tenerifes wildlife is difficult to observe in the wild for tourists, especially aquatic animals roaming the oceans. A recommendable alternative is 5 Loro Parque, regarded as the best zoo in the world in 2018 and with 40 million visitors annually the most popular attraction on the archipelago. Loro Parque was established in the 1970s as a paradise for parrots, and has since grown into a sanctuary for fauna and flora including over 4000 parrots of 350 different species. It is also home to dolphins, sea lions, and orcas, the largest indoor penguin exhibition in the world, a massive aquarium with shark tunnel, and an orchid garden with numerous rare orchid species.
In addition to its natural treasures, the island also has many architectural and cultural highlights. Tenerife has a long history dating back 2 millennia when the first settlers arrived from North Africa. These Guanche cave dwellers left many artifacts and structures, and many of their cave homes are still inhabited today in the southern regions of the island where they are a cooler alternative than above ground habitation. Some of the most remarkable remains predating Spanish colonisation are the 6 stepped pyramids in the Ethnographic Park of Güímar, the most popular archaeological site on Tenerife. Just like their counterparts in Egypt or Latin America, the origin of the pyramids has been the subject of scientific debate, and the museum presents the hypotheses as a series of interactive exhibits. The 6 stepped pyramids and the museum are well worth a visit.
The Guanche aborigines also had burial rites involving mummification of their dead, and numerous mummies have been found by archaeologists across the island such as in the Barranco de Badajoz. Many are on display in the Museum of Nature and Archaeology in Santa Cruz.
Spanish colonisation in 1496 brought cultural revolution to Tenerife, as Spanish settlers began construction of towns and cities that mirrored their homeland. Historic architecture is easily recognizable as Spanish, with several unique Latin American touches in its finishing. The historic capital city 7 San Cristóbal de La Laguna is a UNESCO World Heritage site with a completely pedestrianized historic centre. It is a paradise for architecture enthusiasts with well preserved religious and residential masterpieces concentrated in a handful of streets. The many estates, belonging to early conquistadores, have beautifully restored facades and inner courtyards that are often open to the public. The renovated Casa Salazar is one of the finest examples, completely erected in cut volcanic rock. The cathedral in a Spanish colonial style has been transformed in a museum of religious art, complete with audio guide. Taking a walk down the Calle San Agustín gives a fair impression of what life in a colonial city must have been like. For those less interested in history and architecture, the Museum of Science and Cosmos is only a few tram stops away from the historic centre, has a radio telescope and planetarium, and is one of the few indoor attractions in the event of rainy weather.
Catholicism introduced by the Spanish colonists gave rise to countless chapels and churches on Tenerife, and nearly ever village, town or city has one or more that are worth visiting. The most spectacular of all is the 8 Basilica of Candelaria, which looks out over the Atlantic Ocean, and is an attraction that should not be missed. The Basilica receives over 2.5 million visitors annually and is the most prominent tourist attraction in the southern region of Tenerife. The square in front of the basilica is decorated with bronze statues of each of the Guanche kings. Each February it is the scene of an elaborate parade with historic fancy dresses empowered by the locals, which has also spread to Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal de La Laguna. It is said to be the third largest carnival scene after Rio de Janeiro and Notting Hill.
Less famous than San Cristóbal de La Laguna is 9 La Orotava, a very stately historic city on the slopes of El Teide. La Orotava has a wealth of attractions to offer to those prepared to explore its narrow and steep streets, such as Casa de los Balcones, a small museum housed in an estate mansion dedicated to the life style in Tenerifes colonial era. And there is no better place to rest out after another day in paradise than having a barraquito in the lounge sofas of nearby Casa Lercaro!
Tenerife has numerous scuba-dive operators. The seas are diveable all year, with temperatures from 18°C in January to 25°C in August. Go around the harbour wall in Puerto de la Cruz for fantastic volcanic rock formations, or feed the stringrays at Las Galletas for something a bit different.
El Condesito is a vessel that sank near Las Galletas on the south coast of Tenerife and is now a popular dive site. The deepest point of the wreck is at 21 m and the shallowest at 6 m. Visibility can exceed 35 m. The hull, engine room and cabin used to be intact with only the bow having been torn away. Shoals of sardines may be seen at the top of the wreck, and large trumpetfish are often found around the propeller. It is not uncommon to spot barracuda, red sea stars, rays, octopus and eels within the wreck. There is a 36 m drop off nearby which is often dived by more experienced divers to see black coral before ascending to the El Condesito to decompress.
Other beach & water activities
Those available include surfing, wind surfing, speed boat parashooting and jet-ski. Noone seems to rent canoes.
On the beach, Playa Americas is black volcanic sand but Los Cristianos is yellow imported sand. The black sand feels the same as the yellow but is not as pleasing to look at. Beaches often have sun-loungers with parasols available to hire for the day, but if you are doing this for a few days it is probably better to just buy a parasol and some beach mats.
Whale and dolphin watching trips run near Playa de las Américas.
Tenerife is an excellent destination for hiking. There are routes for anyone, from leisurely one hour strolls to extremely strenuous full day hikes in demanding terrain with either a huge ascent, descent or both. There are several books describing hiking routes, such as two Landscapes of Tenerife books from Sunflower Books, one covering the northern side and the other covering the southern side. It's a good idea to get a guide book before you go to Tenerife, as they might be difficult to find there. Another option is using openstreetmap/wikiloc as guide.
These are the most interesting hikes:
- A demanding hike up to the summit of Teide (and /or Pico Viejo) is possible.
- Closed since 2018: Probably the most popular (and somewhat crowded, compared to other Tenerife treks) path - 1 Masca valley. Starting at Masca village, going down all the way to a beach, in-between massive cliffs. Taking the hike uphill requires at least water supplies, in case of high temperatures.
- 2 Barranco del Infierno (Hell's Ravine). Close to Adeje popular with hikers, you need to book to go on the walk. There is little to see but vegetation on this walk and a tiny waterfall at its end.
- 3 Punta de Teno (There are some hike paths available from roads towards El Palmar). The most western point with excellent views, with a lighthouse. .
- 4 Bosque de Esperanza, Mirador de Ortuño. 24/7. A paradise for hikers, the Boque de Esperanza forest is both mysterious and untouched by mass tourism. Its narrow mountain roads, great hiking trails, twisted fairytale woodland landscape, and breathtaking views are worth a visit on their own. Free.
- 5 Roque del Conde. One of the most prominent mountains on the south coast. A few hours hike from the nearby Arona village goes through a relatively big canyon of Barranco del Rey and at top provides good views to all sides (unless mist builds up)
- Anaga Rural Park (Parque Rural de Anaga) — a fantastic place to go hiking, with numerous targets.
Tenerife attracts a large number of cyclists all year around. Whether mountain biking or road biking, Tenerife has plenty of beautiful roads and dirt tracks. If you want to avoid the hassle of bringing your own bike, you can rent bikes on the island, for example in Las Americas or El Médano.
Cycling is hard to do casually although bikes are available to rent, the coastal roads are busy and there is little room for bikes except often in the gutter. However if you like cycling up hills there are plenty of steep roads to climb as soon as you leave the coastline. For those less fit, one tour company offers a car trip to the top of El Teide with a cycle down, no pedalling required.
There are good attraction parks.
- Jungle Park — well worth a visit, the bird of prey show is a must.
- Siam park — opened in 2008, this is a fantastic water park, created by the owners of Loro Parque - and it has been beautifully designed, like a modern Lago Martianez! Look out for the 2 metre high artificial waves.
- Aqualand — a water park.
Santa Cruz has a big market by the station on Sunday mornings, and a local picturesque market Mercado Municipal Nuestra Señora de África (open daily until 14:30). Las Americas has one Thursdays and Saturdays and Los Cristianos on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Keep in mind that almost all goods with the exception of fish and fruits must be imported, so buying clothes or electronics is neither economical nor ecological. In addition, the quality of hardware such as cameras and binoculars sold in gift/souvenir shops or by street vendors is questionable.
Local taverns are called guachinches, typical for the Canarias and particularly common on Tenerife and Gran Canaria. They serve their own wine accompanied by homemade traditional food, often grilled fish or roasted meat. Stews of all kinds are very common and only cost a few euros for a portion. This blog keeps an overview of the best guachinches on the island.
Fish is a large part of the local diet with restaurants that allow you to choose a fish from their selection (often hand caught) which they will cook for you. Black potatoes called Papas arrugadas are served unpeeled, wrinkled and crusted with salt ready to be dipped into a local sauce.
As in the rest of Spain, tapas are eaten a lot with local specialties including garlic sauces, fried beans and squid. Typical Spanish meals such as tortilla (potato omelette) and paella (rice dishes) are common too.
Fast food is becoming increasingly common on Tenerife, catering to younger demographics and tourists. Restaurants with international cuisine (Indian, Chinese, ...) are abundant in larger cities. Especially in the south of the island, there are plenty of restaurants serving exotic foods such as hamburgers, pizza, fries, etc. There are 15 McDonald's including some on the beaches. In touristic hotspots such as Playa de las Américas, menus are available in numerous languages ranging from English and German to Russian and some Scandinavian languages, making it very easy to choose even if you are not familiar with the local dishes' names or don't understand Spanish.
The nicest bars are found in Puerto de la Cruz, La Laguna, and in the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife. They serve a wide variety of locally produced beers, wines, and liqueurs. The best wines also originate from the north of the island, where cultivation of the malvasia grape variety has a long tradition since export began in the 17th century. 50% of Canary wine denominations originate from Tenerife. In addition, countless wines are produced in house by guachinches in small quantities, often as mixtures of red wines with fruity wines.
Beers produced on the island are also widely available, most notably Dorada (gold) and Reine (queen), although their taste is not particularly special. Because of the size constraints (arable land) on the island, the entire production is consumed domestically, so you won't find these beers anywhere else.
The abundance of fruits also yields a variety of liqueurs and other drinks with high alcoholic content, most notably banana liqueurs.
The coffee Barraquito (also called barraco) is a Canary specialty and very popular on Tenerife and on La Palma. It is served in a small glass, with a base of condensed milk, espresso, and a shot of Licor 43 (Cuarenta Y Tres). It is often served after the meal, finished with cinnamon and lime zest.
The south of Tenerife has a 'booze scene' reputation, with Playa de las Américas and Los Cristianos providing ample locations for those that enjoy 24 hour clubbing and drinking, with clubs charging between €10 and €25 entrance. The drinks available are the same as the rest of Europe (predominantly British) with prices being slightly less than those of continental Europe. Better alternatives are found in the north of the island, especially in La Laguna, where there are no entrance fees and drinks have a higher price/quality ratio.
To preserve the authenticity of its historic towns and cities, there are few hotels close to tourist hot spots — hotels like those in Calle San Agustín in San Cristóbal de La Laguna are reserved for the happy few with deep pockets. Instead, authorities have deliberately opted to build accommodation where it's less of an eye sore: in the desert in the south of the island. Unfortunately, these are very far away from the locations and attractions of interest to visitors, which are all concentrated in the northern and eastern regions of Tenerife! You'll be one or more hours (depending on whether you're travelling by car or TITSA bus) away from the nearest attraction if you accidentally get stuck in a desert town!
When booking accommodation, pay close attention to the address of the venue. Keep in mind that the entire island is administratively part of a Spanish province called Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and some hotels have been known to exploit this naming confusion to trick travelers into believing they are actually booking a bed in the city Santa Cruz de Tenerife. In reality, there is a chance you may be booking a featureless concrete room somewhere in the desert 70 km south of the capital! If the address you have been given points to a location in Los Cristianos, Playa de las Américas, or Costa Adeje, you probably want to look elsewhere unless you are on a tight budget — in which case AirB&B can offer better alternatives.
Tenerife is an immensely popular holiday destination for many continental Europeans, and therefore hotel accommodation is in high demand. Expect to pay hefty rates for a nice room close to the historic centre of San Cristóbal de La Laguna or La Orotava. Hotels like the 1 MC San Agustin submerge travellers in the atmosphere of a Spanish colonial city, but have only a few rooms and sell out quickly — you'll need to book months in advance and be flexible with your dates. A less glorious but more budget friendly alternative is searching for a hotel room in Puerto de la Cruz, where high rise hotel blocks were built in the 1960s and 1970s to accommodate for slob tourists. Hotel blocks like 2 Valle Mar are incredibly ugly on the outside but rooms are surprisingly comfortable, even at discount rates if you're prepared to travel in the less popular winter season.
Another alternative is looking for hotels in smaller, less popular towns such as Tegueste, La Esperanza, or San Andrés. Accommodation there is generally cheaper, and has the added advantage of being less crowded. Those looking for a beach holiday will likely find something to taste in one of the brand new residential areas of 3 Puertito de Güímar.
Wild camping is prohibited in Tenerife. Along with a few commercial campsites, there are free comunal campsites called acampadas. The acampadas are usually in the inland, usually above 1000m altitude, they have water and toilets. To sleep at one free acampada, you have to book the night in advance on the website of the town council (cabildo). Unfortunately, the website is only in Spanish, very slow and sometimes down.
You are a guest of the island and are allowed to spend a night on a wonderful campsite for free: to show recognition, take care to leave the place as clean and tidy as possible before leaving.
Tenerife is generally a safe place to visit but as always, beware of pickpockets. Do not take electrical devices, credit cards or large amounts of cash to the beach if you plan to leave your goods unattended while swimming. Walking alone late at night in certain suburbs is not advisable, although the inner parts of town aren't problematic. Take note that when walking through Playas De Las Americas there is a lot of clubs round here and some drunkenness in the night hours. Taxis are widely available, and not too badly priced.
Camping and sleeping at the beach is only permitted at allowed zones. Doing so in frequented beaches may lead to arrest.
Many, many shops on the island selling electrical and optical goods as well as cameras. You may think you are getting a bargain from these smooth talking salesmen but you aren't. You will overpay for something you could buy cheaper at home and even cheaper off eBay. Your goods may be faulty. Your guarantee will probably be worthless. Your video camera may be SECAM which means a B&W picture in the UK (PAL). These shops are everywhere in the tourist areas and so many people have been cheated by them for so many years. Also, beware of places that sell video games (mainly for the Nintendo Game Boy or DS) as they are usually bootlegs.
If you are holidaying in Tenerife you are probably going to be approached by "scratchcard touts" whose main aim is to part you with several thousand pounds for worthless contracts for time-share apartments. This view is backed up by the UK's Office of Fair Trading who suggest that every year 400,000 UK consumers fall victim to these scams in destinations such as Tenerife, the Costa del Sol and Gran Canaria. On average each victim loses more than £3,000. Bogus "scratchcard touts" offer cards that will always be a winner, but to collect their prize, people need to attend a lengthy presentation and are persuaded into signing a contract for an "exclusive" club on the basis of false claims as to the price, range and quality of holidays available. The OFT's is advising people to ask three simple questions: can you take away the contract to consider at your leisure? Is everything you were promised in the presentation in the contract? Do you know exactly what you are getting for your money? If the answer to any of these questions is no, then simply walk away.
The other main irritant on Tenerife are the Lookey Lookey men who try to sell you sunglasses, watches, jewellery and other cheap knick-knacks known as Lucky Luckies. They are quite harmless and generally don´t mean to cause trouble, they are just trying to make a living, but a firm NO generally works!
Tenerife is a volcanic island. The latest outbreak was 1909 from the El Chinyero vent in the northwest part of El Teide. On geologic time scales this is very recent, and although El Teide is dormant, it is still considered to be an active volcano. However, it is constantly monitored very closely so that an upcoming eruption would hopefully be detected well in advance.
Falling rocks are a constant issue in many parts of the island, and you will often find paths, beaches or even roads temporarily or permanently closed due to the danger.
The sun is extremely strong this close to the equator so use plenty of high factor sun cream and do not sun bathe between midday and three o'clock (this is when the beaches are busiest anyway). Remember that the sun is even stronger up in the mountains, even though it may feel cool and breezy.
There are no scorpions or snakes to worry about. Mosquitoes can bite at night, especially away from the coast, but they do not carry malaria or similar diseases.
- La Gomera - a hiking paradise - is only 1 hour away by ferry.
- Gran Canaria island is 2.5 hours by ferry.
- La Palma and El Hierro islands are also accessible by ferry.