Tenerife – year-round sunshine on the most popular of the Canaries
It’s not often that having multiple personalities is considered a good thing, but Tenerife is an exception, says Joe Cawley.
From moonscapes to meadows, beaches to forests and buzzing resorts to sleepy villages, the island has more faces than you can shake a stick at. Admittedly some are not as obvious as its golden halo of beach resorts like Playa de Las Americas, Costa Adeje and Puerto de la Cruz, but each and every one provides a different answer to why so many people return year after year.
Within its 795-square-mile footprint (more or less the size of the Lake District) you’ll find at least a dozen microclimates. In winter, snow blocks the high roads while sun worshippers stretch out on the sand less than an hour’s drive away. And while the jungle-like canopy of the Mercedes Mountains is cloaked in moss and lichen, at the centre of the island black rivers of petrified lava twist and course through the surreal moonscape of Las Cañadas crater.
Many people come simply for the feelgood factor from a fortnight relaxing in the sun but, because there are so many sides to the island, Tenerife is many things to many people. Ever since ailing socialites and the well-to-do of the 19th century were prescribed a spoonful of ‘clement climate,’ the appeal of Tenerife has continued to grow in many directions.
Because of this the island has continually reinvented itself. What started as a health and wellness destination turned full circle in the 1980s, known as a hedonistic haven for Europe’s nightlife crowd and a family beach resort second to none.
More recently it’s nature not neon that’s taken centre stage. Pockets of astounding beauty and drama are being rediscovered as visitors realise there’s much, much more than just a few square miles of gilt-edged coastline in the south.
Hidden hamlets such as Masca clinging to the Teno Mountains, and Taganana buried in the folds of the lush Mercedes mountain range are becoming just as much ‘must-sees’ as the showcase beaches of Playa del Duque and Las Teresitas. And while the majestic giant of Mount Teide has always been a familiar but distant icon, word is most definitely out that it’s relatively easy to get up-close-and-personal with Spain’s highest peak (3,718 metres) and the third largest volcano on earth, by cable car or, for the more resilient, on foot.
Equal attention is also being paid to the natural wonders out to sea. Eco-conscious excursion boats, monitored by conservation volunteers, offer a glimpse of Tenerife’s resident whale and dolphin population. Those who have already ventured out on boats such as Must Cat catamaran never forget feelings of awe at seeing these magnificent animals swimming and playing within arm’s reach.
With visibility reaching 30 metres at certain times of the year, the Tenerife waters are some of the clearest in the world, making it a prime playground for diving, as well as a number of other aquatic adventures such as waterskiing and windsurfing.
It’s not just Mother Nature who has added to the varied appeal of Tenerife. Places such as Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz and the scream-inducing Siam Park in Costa Adeje have pinned the island firmly on the map when it comes to world class theme parks.
And an island once thought of as culturally bereft has put on its Sunday best in towns such as La Orotava, Garachico, La Laguna and the capital city of Santa Cruz. Here you’ll find palm-lined avenues and plazas where colonial mansions, bedecked with ornate wooden balconies, reveal an era of prosperous trading with the Americas, the UK and southern Europe.
It was through this trading that London’s Canary Wharf got its name and, although the banana plantations no longer supply the UK market, another local produce is slowly making its way onto the shelves of European supermarkets - Tenerife wine. Much favoured by the likes of Shakespeare, the lush valleys on the northern slopes of Teide are home to a number of vineyards, linked on special wine trails that offer a taste of the history and flavour of the island’s viniculture.
Those who’ve never been to Tenerife before will discover an island full of diversity - from golden beaches to fragrant pine forests, bizarre moonscapes to flower-freckled meadows, and cutesy fishing villages to buzzing nightclubs. Those who have been before will always discover something new. And whether you’re looking for an activity-packed holiday, island exploration or simple beachside chilling – you’ll find this Canary sings a tune just for you.
About the author
Joe Cawley is a travel writer and author of the award-winning More Ketchup than Salsa: Confessions of a Tenerife Barman. His work has been published in most of the UK’s national newspapers plus many international travel magazines and specialist websites. He lives in the hills of Tenerife with his family and an assortment of wildlife. You can follow Joe on Twitter @theWorldofJoe or via his blog at www.joecawley.co.uk
View Tenerife in a larger map
Of course the Canaries’ largest island is still, and always will be, a favoured haven for sun worshippers, and no wonder. In the south expect average daytime highs of 28C in summer and 22C in winter, although it can get much hotter. In the greener north, the temperature is usually a few degrees lower.
When to go
With the sun shining all year round, the island has a continual holiday season, though different times of the year attract different types. Summer sees an influx of families and the young landing at Reina Sofia Airport in the south, while winter signals the arrival of a bigger proportion of mature travellers seeking respite from the cold and grey of northern Europe.
How to get there
Accessibility also plays an important factor in Tenerife’s popularity. Many charter airlines offer low-cost routes for the four-hour hop from the main UK hubs and regional airports. If you’re looking for the best deal, you’ll find the best bargains between November and mid-December as well as March through to May, though avoid the Easter holidays if you’re on a budget.
Transfer times to most resorts are also short and inexpensive, a definite plus if you travel with young children. Expect to pay around €30-40 for the 20-minute taxi transfer to Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Americas and Costa Adeje in the south, or €80 for the 60-minute ride to Puerto de la Cruz in the north.
Bear in mind you can also hire a car at the airport if you prefer DIY transport, or just hop on a bus - here’s the bus timetable.