Godfrey Hall is an award-winning UK based travel journalist and member of the British Guild of Travel Writers. He has been in search of elves in Iceland, traveled to the depths of central Australia and been off the beaten track in Bulgaria.

Situated in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco, North Africa, are the Canary Islands. Whilst they are part of Spain and a popular destination with northern Europeans they do have a distinct Central American flavour with their fantastic carnivals, rhythmic music and somewhat spicy food. One of the most popular islands is Tenerife, home to Mount Teide, the highest volcano in the Atlantic. An impressive sight as you approach the islands, it is easy to get to the top by car, coach and cable car. With warm winds and very pleasant temperatures throughout the year, Tenerife has over the years become a favourite destination both by plane and by cruise ship. Scratch under the surface and go away from the tourist hot spots and you will be pleasantly surprised with what you discover. With lots of banana plantations, tropical plants and exotic fruits, it is an island that does not disappoint.

Sunset over Mount Teide (Godfrey Hall)

Sunset over Mount Teide (Godfrey Hall)

Places to See

There are lots of things to do and see in Tenerife from child centred activities to paragliding, walking and taking the cable car to the top of Mount Teide. The south of the island has a large number of hotel complexes and developments and it is in this area you will find Europe’s largest water park Siam Park where you can experience three metre waves. Then there is Loro Parque with its varied wildlife and impressive aquarium. Jungle Park has its own forest and Aqualand near Costa Adeje has plenty of spills and thrills on its water rides.

In the centre of the island is Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain and part of a UNESCO World Heritage Park. This volcano is visited by over three million people every year. Home to a variety of flora and fauna, one of the most spectacular trips is to go to the top by cable car just as the sun is setting over the other six islands. This can be combined with a meal and star gazing under the guidance of a team of experts. Other activities on Tenerife include whale and dolphin watching. The islands provide ideal feeding grounds for pilot whales and several species of dolphin. Freebird Catamarans offer excellent trips combining lunch, a swim and a chance to see a wide range of creatures. The island has some amazing walks up in the mountains which are in the northern part together with mountain biking, and sea kayaking.

Under the Trees in a Santa Cruz Square (Godfrey Hall)

Under the Trees in a Santa Cruz Square (Godfrey Hall)

The town of Santa Cruz is well worth a visit with its shops, wide boulevards and seafront paths. The bazaar, just over the bridge, is worth a visit as is the museum nearby. There are many attractive squares where you can sit in the shade and have a cup of coffee or a snack. It also has a beautiful botanical garden which is worth visiting. Not far from the capital is the old town of La Laguna where you will come across some excellent traditional eating places with South American influences. To the east of the capital is Anaga. This spectacular part of the island is great for walking and mountain biking. The views are very special as are some of the tiny hamlets. The beaches in this area are popular with locals. My favourite places on the island include Mount Teide National Park and Anaga with its steep mountain roads and amazing vistas. If you are interested in tours that are a bit out of the ordinary then a good company to contact is El Cardon NaturExperience. They tend to use small minibuses and explore some of the more out of the way locations. They have a very good knowledge of local food and traditional customs such as shepherd leaping which is carried out in the mountains using an extremely long pole to leap between the ravines!

Bananas are grown in certain areas and a visit to one of the plantations will give you the background into how they started and how they are cultivated.

Northern Mountains (Godfrey Hall)

Northern Mountains (Godfrey Hall)

Accommodation

There are some excellent hotel complexes in the southern part of the island. These include a number of Iberostar developments including the Hotel Anthelia which has several swimming pools, beautiful grounds, amazing food and very friendly staff. The complex overlooks the promenade and the sea at Costa Adeje which has a long seafront, shops, beaches and a marina. If you want to stay in the north then the Hotel Botanico in Puerto de la Cruz is a luxury establishment with its own spa and wonderful tropical grounds. There are also several good hotels in the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife. For a quieter stay in more traditional surroundings you should look at the Hotel La Quinta Roja. This delightful establishment is located in the small seaside town of Garachico. It has a beautiful courtyard and is located in the main town square. From here you can easily get up into the mountains for walking and sightseeing. Many of the villages in the north have small individual hotels whilst the south tends to cater more for families and for those who want to enjoy the sun and sea.

Marina at Costa Adeje (Godfrey Hall)

Marina at Costa Adeje (Godfrey Hall)

Food and Drink

Tenerife has a wide range of different foods and drinks, from the more international cuisine to the traditional Canarian food.

Canary Island Potatoes (Godfrey Hall)

Canary Island Potatoes (Godfrey Hall)

Many of the resorts have cafés and restaurants selling various fish, pizzas and paella but if you are looking for something different then you will need to search out one of the local restaurants or make your way north. A popular vegetable on Tenerife is the Canary Island potato. These small potatoes are cleaned, left in their skins, boiled in salt water and then baked until the skins shrivel up. This leaves them with a salty crust on the outside. They are then served with mojo, a peppery sauce which comes in red and green varieties. They are considered by many islanders to be one of the best foods on the island.

Fish is very popular and often comes in a tomato sauce, Canarian style. Rabbit and chicken are also eaten frequently by local people. One of the most popular local goat’s cheese is Queso de Cabra. A meat soup known as Puchero Canario is typical and much of the fish is pan fried. It is said that the tapas in the Canary Islands is some of the best in the world. It is also known for its small, sweet bananas and other tropical fruits.

Barraquito (Godfrey Hall)

Barraquito (Godfrey Hall)

You will see lots of the locals drinking small coffees. These are made with condensed milk and are served in a small glass. Known as a barraquito, it is made from special Tenerife coffee. It usually contains a small piece of lemon zest and often a shot of liqueur is added. The island has some excellent red and white wines and plenty of different brands of beer, however most of the locals drink Dorada. In some of the more touristy areas, it is possible to buy a pint of beer for just one euro! However this is often used as a hook to get you in to buy a meal.

A good place to try regional dishes is at the Restaurante Meson del Norte near Buenavista in the north.

Nightlife

Local beer, one Euro a Pint! (Godfrey Hall)

Local beer, one Euro a Pint! (Godfrey Hall)

There is a great deal of night life. Many of the hotels put on evening entertainment in the form of singing and dancing.

Playa de las Americas has always provided the main club scene on the island, however if you are looking for something more local then you will need to go further afield.

Many of the main bars and clubs are in the south, however you need to remember that things don’t really get going until after midnight. Santa Cruz is a good place to make for, in particular the Noria district. Here the evening starts with a meal and then moves on to one of the more sophisticated venues such as Mojos y Mojitos or Los Reunidos.

As said earlier, the island has a very strong connection with Central America and so many of the sounds in clubs and bars reflect this.

Some of the locals known as ‘Indianos’, those who returned from Venezuela and Cuba, enjoy the strong Latin beat and so you often hear salsa and merengue music as opposed to the more European sounds. Azucar is a great club in Puerto de la Cruz that has a very Cuban feel to it if you are looking for Latin American sounds. There is also a similar bar of the same name in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital. Remember, however, that often the best time to go is around is 1 or 2 a.m. in the morning!

Carnival Band in Santa Cruz De Tenerife (Godfrey Hall)

Carnival Band in Santa Cruz De Tenerife (Godfrey Hall)

Transportation

There is an excellent motorway that runs from the south, right around the island to just west of Puerto de la Cruz. The other roads vary in quality and width. Mountain roads can be very narrow and extremely twisty. There are no trains on the island and most people catch the bus or take one of the many tours. These features whole island trips, visits to the capital and trips up to Mount Teide and into the National Park. There are a number of regular inter-island ferries. The nearest island to Tenerife is La Gomera. This can be reached in 40 minutes by fast ferry or 70 minutes by conventional craft. There are daily services to La Gomera from Los Cristianos. Tenerife has two airports, however the main one in the south caters for most of the international flights whilst the smaller one near Santa Cruz de Tenerife handles domestic flights. These include connecting services from Madrid which link with flights from the USA.

Whale Watching via Freebird Catamarans (Godfrey Hall)

Whale Watching via Freebird Catamarans (Godfrey Hall)


Fly.com Expert Tips


How To Get There: As noted by the author, the island of Tenerife has two airports, Tenerife North Airport and Tenerife South Airport. The latter is the larger of the two and is served by over 40 airlines, including British Airways, Lufthansa and Ryanair. More information about area transportation is available at here.

Best Time To Visit: Tenerife’s proximity to the equator make it an ideal destination all year round, where the average highs throughout the year is anywhere from the high-60s (in Jan. & Feb.) to the low-80s (Aug. & Sept.). When you go depends on whether you want to be there during the high seasons (Dec. to Feb. and June to Aug., plus the week of Easter) or the off seasons (rest of the year). If you’re hoping to score better flight and hotel deals and not deal with crowds, the off season is the time to go.

Sample Fares: Calendars display lowest roundtrip fares over the next 90 days to Tenerife from:

* All fares are roundtrip including all taxes and are accurate at time of publication. For updated pricing, conduct a new search on Fly.com.


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Featured Image: Tenerife, Canary Islands (Shutterstock.com)

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