The Canary Islands conjure very fond memories of childhood for me, including our trip to the island of Tenerife. My parents worked in hospitality, so our holidays were limited to the winter months, usually between November and February. Finding warm weather at this time of year without travelling long haul from the UK meant that we spent a lot of time in the Canary Islands.
I have fond memories of climbing Mount Teide with my Dad and the strong eggy smell of Sulphur from inside the crater. I remember visiting a water park with an Octopus fountain, which at the time I felt was the height of awesomeness and a German kid at the hotel I’d named “the Splasher” because he’d splashed water in my face. Returning to the islands never fails to bring these memories back, some of which I thought I’d long forgotten.
The Canary Islands are situated just over 100km from the west coast of Morocco. This gives the islands a subtropical climate which is hot in the summer yet remains warm during the winter months. Having visited the islands several times between November and February, the islands are perfect for a winter sun escape.
As the largest of the Canary Islands with the largest population (approx. 900,000), Tenerife has turned its trade to tourism, more so than the other islands. This has resulted in the growth of many resorts catering entirely towards the tourist trade. Most of these are clustered in the South West of the island including Playa de Las Americas, Playa de Los Christianos and Playa Adeje.
That being said, accommodation can be found throughout the island and the more discerning traveler should not be discouraged from visiting Tenerife by the reputation of the more touristy areas. The island filled to the brim with amazing sites and places to visit. So much so that we’re planning our return visit.
My Top 5
1 – Masca
I instantly fell in love with this village. Masca is perched in a valley between staggering and beautiful cliffs making the village a real hidden gem. The descent into the village from above is a dramatic one as the road which reaches the village has literally been carved into the side of a cliff face. It’s easy to understand why there was no road access to this village until the 1970s and the village has maintained a sense of seclusion and isolation which I really loved. Adding to this is a history shrouded in mystery including the islands indigenous population (the Gaunches) and pirates.
2 – Parque Nacional Del Teide
No visit to Tenerife is complete without a trip Mount Teide and the surrounding Teide National Park. Teide is one of the highest volcanoes on the planet and the highest point in Spain. The remains of former volcanic eruptions can be found throughout the national park which has remained barren, rugged and intact despite it being hundreds of years since Teide’s last eruption (850AD from the Summit – there have been more recent eruptions from smaller vents). The volcanic eruptions have created a number of spectacular rock formations (of which the Titan is probably most well-known) as well as a volcanic crater which stretches for over 11 miles.
The lunar landscape has more recently been the setting for Hollywood movies (Star Wars, Planet of the Apes and the Ten Commandments according to google) and the testing of space technology (Teide’s terrain is claimed to similar to Mars).
It’s important to note that the weather around Mount Teide can be temperamental and the cable car and access to the summit will close in adverse weather conditions. During our 10 day visit to the island, the cable car was only open for two days, and the summit of Teide was not visible when we visited the national park. There is still plenty to see without ascending the mountain, however if you are particularly keen to climb the mountain you should plan your visit carefully.
The Teide App will give you updates on the status of the cable car which can save you a journey if the cable car is close.
Also note that a permit is required for those who wish to access the summit. The permit is free but limited numbers are available.
The cable car is generally open from 9am to 4pm and costs around 27 Euros per adult (Longer hours between July and Sept) – Get there for 9am to beat long queues.
3 – Whale and Dolphin Watching
There are a number of dolphin and whale watching tours available on the island, most of which set sail from Peurto Colon in Costa Adeje. We opted for one of the smaller tour operators offering tours from smaller vessels. Our yacht had a maximum capacity of 12 compared to some of the larger boats which can fit up to 140 tourists. This paid dividends for us.
The smaller boat allowed the tour to feel more personal and for each passenger to have a conversation with crew. We were greeted on board by a glass of cava and refreshments were available throughout free of charge.
The smaller boat size also made it easier for us to see the whales and dolphins. Even when the dolphins were on the wrong side of our boat, they were never far from view.
We were taken 3 miles out to sea to see a pod of pilot whales. Pilot whales aren’t actually whales – they are a species of dolphin and are typically smaller than killer whales (also not a whale – who knew?). They also tend to remain fairly static in the water.
The dolphins were much more attentive to our presence and we saw a large number dipping in and out of the water. They are fast movers so getting a good photo of them was quite tricky (the burst option on my iPhone came in handy).
Before finishing the tour, we were taken to a secluded cove for some snorkeling (optional) and some lunch which was provided (gluten free options were catered for).
We set sail with Tenerife Sailing Charters who also offer hotel pickups.
4- La Tejita
Looking out towards the Atlantic from Tenerife South airport, you will spot a red mountain which is one of the island’s extinct volcanoes. Nestled beneath this volcano one of the islands natural beaches, Playa La Tejita. As opposed to many beaches on the island where white sands have been imported, the sands here are dark brown in color and aside from the occasional life guard station, there is little sign of tourism here.
The beach is extremely peaceful. So much so that we’d been on the beach for almost an hour before we realized that it is a popular nudist area which is testament to how secluded the area is.
The rocks around the volcano were particularly beautiful although it was difficult to take many photographs without being voyeuristic, so I had to settle for photos from a distance.
To the west of the beach are a number of quant eco cabins as well as small shopping mall filled with small boutique stores and locally owned restaurants which are perfect for a lunch break whilst on the beach. We visited a small Italian restaurant and received a particularly warm welcome from the staff.
We reached La Tejita by bus from San Blas.
5 – Reserva Ambiental de San Blas
This is another hidden gem which we would have missed if it hadn’t been linked to our hotel, the Sandos San Blas. We were feeling brave so decided to explore the reserve on our own although guided tours are available each day from the hotel.
We were pleasantly surprised by what we found in the park. Admittedly parts of the park are bleak and rocky, yet with a bit of exploring we discovered some spectacular rock formations and a lot of the local wildlife. As we walked through some of the vegetated areas we could hear the lizards scuttling from the path in front of us.
I was particularly interested in some of the caves which had been previously inhabited by the indigenous people of the island, the Guanches. It was surreal to imagine people living in and around these caves. We were only brought back to reality by the planes overhead (the reserve sits below the flight path for Tenerife South Airport – it’s a great spot for plane spotters).
The guidance for the park said the trails were suitable and accessible for most. We found some of the walking to be difficult and in some areas the paths were unclear and overgrown, but we felt that this added to the seclusion of the park. We also struggled to follow the map that we were provided and got quite lost as there are more paths than are on the map. There are also areas designated as picnic spots and camping areas which were little more than piles of rocks when we arrived although we weren’t looking to use these so were not disappointed.
We really enjoyed our trip to the reserve and left feeling we had seen a side of the island we hadn’t seen previously.
Where to stay?
We stayed at the Sandos San Blas which is a 10-minute taxi ride from Tenerife South Airport. San Blas is a relatively quiet area although there is some noise from the nearby South Airport. The towns in this area are much quieter than the larger tourist resorts and have a nice balance between tourists and locals. Los Abrigos and La Tejita are also options here.
I would personally avoid the resorts on between Los Christianos and Playa Fanabe as these have become very tourist orientated. The resorts towards Los Gigantes gradually become quieter.
When to Visit?
Tenerife is blessed with a warm climate throughout the year. Summers are hot (May-Sept) whereas winters remain warm throughout.
I’d like to spend more time exploring the north coast of the island as the climate here is wetter, creating a greener, lusher environment. I’d also like to spend some time in the island’s capital.
Our Last Visit