PHOTO: Garachico is a picturesque port town founded in 1496.
Tenerife may not be the first place that comes to mind when booking travel to Spain’s islands, but that is a serious oversight. Part of the Canary Islands, an archipelago of eight volcanic islands off the Northwest coast of Africa, Tenerife is known for its microclimates, national park, beaches and culture.
While other islands in Spain are better known for their beaches, luxury hotels and party scenes, Tenerife has a diversity that offers a much wider opportunity for niche travel rivaling other top Spanish destinations. For the avid traveler to Europe, the island also poses a perfect answer to the question “Where next?”
Although they are technically closer to North Africa, the Canary Islands are decidedly Spanish with a Latin American twist. During the ages of exploration, they were a popular stop for adventurers and traders from Spain, the most famous being Christopher Columbus, who would visit the island on his various expeditions to the Americas. Over the centuries, ships would dock in Tenerife and the other Canary Islands both before and after reaching the New World, which has created a culture rooted in Spanish traditions, but one that is distinctly its own.
Go Natural in Tenerife
The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife is a playground for travelers who like to try a little bit of everything. It’s a hot spot for adventure travel, nightlife, fine dining and wine, luxury, spa, culture and golf. All these activities are located within short distances from one another, making it entirely possible for one trip to include virtually everything. Within the island there are 250 miles of coastline dotted with 70 beaches. And with the average yearly temperature hovering around 80 degrees, the beaches are rarely out of season.
Since the island has 43 protected areas, it is a prime location for nature lovers. One of the biggest draws in Tenerife is Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the center of the island. The park is home to Mount Teide, the highest peak in Spain and the third largest volcanic cone in the world. A short cable car ride takes travelers near to the summit, where there are hiking trails that overlook the expansive volcanic landscape. At night Teide National Park is popular with stargazers since it is one of the clearest spots to gaze at the Milky Way. For more information on exploring the park, contact Tenerife Adventure at www.tenerife-adventure.com.
In addition to hiking, adrenaline junkies can dive, mountain bike and paraglide. Surfing also is one of the top draws to the Canary Islands Tenerife, including. Popular beaches for surfers are Playa de El Socorro, Playa de las Americas and Benijo.
Tenerife’s Spanish Heritage
Tenerife’s towns are brimming with rich, Spanish culture. Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital of the island, is less trafficked by tourists so it provides an authentic and local experience. The historic quarter is near the cruise port and the Plaza de Espaãa is a pedestrian street flanked with shops and restaurants. Santa Cruz also features the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (www.teatenerife.es), the Auditorio de Tenerife Adán Martín (www.auditoriodetenerife.com) and the Museum of Nature and Mankind, which is home to a collection of mummies discovered on the island that shed light on Tenerife’s indigenous past.
PHOTO: Las Teresitas beach, near Santa Cruz, is one of the 70 beaches along Tenerife’s 250-mile coast.
San Cristobal de La Laguna, the island’s former capital, is just a short drive outside of Santa Cruz. Culture seekers will not want to miss this city, which has a preserved historical quarter that was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. La Laguna is home to a wide range of museums, including the Museum of Science and the Cosmos (www.museosdetenerife.org) and the Museum of History and Anthropology. It also has beautiful examples of Canarian architecture, art galleries and great shopping. For a taste of the local life, visit San Pablo market (mercadosanpablo.com), a foodie paradise brimming with fresh, local fruits, spices, meat, fish and flowers.
In the evening, travelers can make their way to Garachico, a sleepy port town founded in 1496. Its narrow, cobbled streets flow up away from the cliffs overlooking the ocean and open up to small plazas, shops and restaurants.
Perhaps the best known city in Tenerife is Puerto de la Cruz, a vacation hot spot for Europeans. From the central Plaza del Charco, the pedestrian streets lead visitors to historic buildings, hotels and a waterfront offering a wide selection of fresh seafood restaurants.
Visitors to Tenerife would be remiss not to sample the local food and wine. The island has cultivated a centuries-old wine making tradition and has the culinary chops to match. Potatoes are the star product of Tenerife’s cuisine, often accompanied by mojo sauce. Mojo, either red or green, is a blend of peppers, garlic and chilies and can also be used with fish or meat. Cheese, usually made from goat’s milk, is another staple of Tenerife. And like the rest of Spain, you can’t go more than a few paces without finding excellent samples of Iberian ham.
Viticulture on Tenerife is booming, and many local wineries are open for tastings daily. One not to miss is Bodegas Monjes in El Sauzal (www.boedegasmonje.com). Wine enthusiasts can discover the array of reds, whites and rosés at the attached restaurant, which also serves a delicious menu of local Tenerife specialties. The winery’s cellar also can be rented out for private tastings or special events.
PHOTO: Tenerife’s Mount Teide is the highest peak in Spain and the third largest volcanic cone in the world.
Casa Museo del Vino La Baranda (www.casadelvinotenerife.com) is a traditional restored farm house from the 17th century. Today it is used to promote the local wine. Travelers can take in views of the sea and Mount Teide while visiting the museum, wine shop and restaurant.
One of the best and most local dining experiences on Tenerife is a guachinche, similar to an organic pop-up restaurant. These down-to-earth eateries can be located anywhere from a family garage to a street corner to a small wine cellar. The food is all homemade and the wine is homegrown, drawing a lively crowd of Tenerife locals. For a list of popular guachinches, visit www.webtenerife.co.uk/activities/eat-drink/guachinches.
For a more traditional restaurant experience, the seaside town of Los Abrigos offers some laid-back dining options overlooking the ocean. Not to miss is Restaurante Los Roques (www.restaurantelosroques.com), where the restaurant’s chef and owner has been serving relaxed fine dining with views over the harbor. The lobster wrapped in crispy potato is one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.
In Puerto de la Cruz, La Cofradia (lacofradia.sacanarias.com) is a bustling, casual seafood restaurant above the Fisherman’s Union overlooking the ocean. Naturally fresh fish abounds at this popular eatery, which is within walking distance to the attractions and shops of Puerto de la Cruz.
Staying in Tenerife
Iberostar Gran Hotel Mencey (www.grandhotelmencey.com) in Santa Cruz is a luxury hotel and spa that was renovated in 2011 and has been named a heritage site. Just steps from the city’s Old Quarter, the property puts guests in the heart of the action. The building has five stories, a central courtyard, gardens and a pool. There is a lavish breakfast buffet spread with all the trimmings, from caviar and champagne to Iberian ham and local breads.
For something more boutique, Los Roques in Garachico (www.hotelsanroque.com) provides a modern experience tucked in a historic town. The main structure of the hotel was built at the end of the 18th century. Guests will find 20 double rooms, eight duplexes with living rooms, two junior suites and two suites. La Torre (the tower) offers views over the town. Modern touches include satellite TV, hot tubs and contemporary art.
Celebrate in Tenerife
True to Spanish tradition, there is always a reason to celebrate in Tenerife. Throughout the year, the island’s towns and villages bubble with celebrations. The best known is the Tenerife Carnival, which takes place across the island the week before Lent in February. The best parties can be found in Santa Cruz, which has been known to throw one of Europe’s largest and most exotic carnival street parties. The parade has been likened to Rio de Janeiro’s in terms of size and pageantry.
Getting There & Around
Iberia Airlines (www.iberia.com) is the most convenient way to reach Tenerife from the United States. Year-round nonstop flights to Madrid leave from New York, Chicago and Miami. Between the end of March and the end of October, nonstop flights also depart from Los Angeles. Once in Madrid, Iberia has a direct flight to Tenerife.
While most of the towns in Tenerife are walkable, if your clients are looking to move from town to town, it is best that they rent a car. Tenerife has two airports, Tenerife North Airport and Tenerife South Airport, both of which have car rental facilities.
For more information on Tenerife, visit www.turismodecanarias.com, or contact the Spain Tourist Office at 212-265-8822 or visit www.spain.info.
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A version of this article appears in print in the March 2015 issue of Agent@Home Magazine.
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