What can anyone say about an island where the temperatures remain between 18 and 25ºC all year long? Well, that it’s a piece of heaven! Tenerife is an island located right by Morocco even though it is still Spain. This island was one of my last destinations and it’s specially recommendable when you want to mix relax and tourism at a calmed pace.
To decide the type of accomodation you want, either if you are traveling solo or with other people, Tenerife is a cheap destination to go and book a hotel. The people from this island, like in all the Canary Islands, are extremely welcoming and, even though there are some too touristy zones, it is still possible to find some quiet places.
The island is small and perfect to visit with a rented car. I If you don’t like to drive (like me, for example), it is possible to get to all points of interest of the island by bus, or guagua, as they call the buses there.
Main sights in Tenerife
If there’s a must see in Tenerife it has to be the Teide. This old volcano is the highest peak in Spain. It is possible to reach the base camp at 2.350m with public transportation from any of the big towns in the island using guaguas. But after my experience I can tell you that it is much more comfortable to just book an organized trip. The price won’t be higher and the trip to the mountain will be much faster.
It is possible to get to the mountain by different means. One option is to trek up to the Altaviste Refuge at 3260m and spend a night under the stars for barely 25€ the night. From there, it is possible to follow a route up to two observation posts. Or, if you have previously booked it, you can keep on walking to the summit.
Another possibility is to get to 3.550m via the Teide’s cablecar and then decide up there which route do you prefer to follow. Since the weather on the island is usually quite windy, check online that the cablecar is not closed (or ask at your ho(s)tel reception, they can call for you or check on their website to know about wind and visibility).
It’s important to consider the weather forecast before you plan your daytrip to the volcano. If you are as unlucky as me, you will find yourself surrounded by this warm fog called calima. In my case, this mist was so dense that from the top of the mountain it looked like if we were above the clouds. If you are lucky, the legend says that it is possible to even see the neigbouring islands (again, not my case).
Advice if you are going up there: bring closed shoes and a good coat. It is very cold all year round.
The zone comprising the volcano and its surroundings are a Natural Reserve and it is well worth it to just spend a few hours walking around. The vegetation of the park is the same one you can find in a desert (like in most of the island), but there are subtle changes depending on the altitude. There are some very weird plants showing up here and there.
The mysterious story of the Drago Milenario and the maids
Another interesting place to visit in Tenerife is the Drago Milenario (the millennial Drago). This is no more than a huge tree with quite a peculiar shape (it is wider than high – 20m vs 18m). This “little tree” can be found on the town of Icod de los Vinos, west to the Teide and a few kilometres off the coast. This Drago seems to be the oldest tree of this specie and it’s thought to be about 1000 years old. Like all well-exploded tourist sights, there’s a mysterious legend surrounding its past:
“A long time ago, a merchant arrived to the Atlantic coast on a summer afternoon looking for the miraculous Drago’s bood. Right after he moored the boad, he discovered these three local maids having a refreshing bath on the beach. When the girls saw him, they run away from him, but him being faster, was able to capture one of the maids. She fed him some local fruits to distract him waiting for the opportunity to scape by jumping nimbly a small ravine. He chased her while she hid amongst the vegetation. But then the merchant realized that the maid seemed to hide behind a tree that moved its branches like daggers and the tree’s body seemed to be formed by moving snakes. Both equally surprised and frightened, the man threw his knive to the snakes and watched surprised how the tree began to bleed from the wound. Scared by the situation he found himself in, the merchant started to run to the beach and his boat, leaving the island behind for good. Says the legend that those girls were no others than the Hesperides and the monster that came out on their help was no other than the famous Dragon…”.
Even though you can see it from a nearby balcony, the tree is “protected” by a park where it is possible to find a sample of the local vegetation (like I said before, cactus and other desert plants). In the zone, like it is possible to assume from the name of the town (Icod de los vinos, ergo, Icod of the wines), there are plenty of small wineries producing local wine specialities.
The Giants in Tenerife
Another beautiful natural landscape in Tenerife are a series of impressive cliffs in the west coast of the island: The Giants. The name couldn’t fit any better, these cliffs are huge and they make you feel like a small pea by comparison. Unfortunately, like in most of the coasline in Tenerife, the hotels grew so fast and uncontrolled that they have mostly eaten up the coast. The remaining beach are barely three meters of beautiful black sand only accessible at low tide. Right by the beach, there’s a sports port filled with extremely ostentatious boats and yachts.
The old capital: the Orotava
One of the cutest towns on the island, that it’s well worth a visit, is the Orotava. Located in a valley with its name, this small town is north to the Teide. Since it is in one of the mountain’s side, expect to climb many steep streets. Despite this, the ambiance on the streets is so cute that a visit is a must. While lost on their streets, one can’t help but think about how the first colonies on the islands must have been: all white streets and vibrant colours.
In this small town there are several interesting places to visit. I specially liked the Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción and la Casa de los Balcones. The Parroquia de la Concepción is considered to be the “Cathedral” of the Orotava. It is the greatest church of the town and its dome was inspired by the Duomo of Florence. Of baroque style, it was built during the 15th century, not much time after the first spanish settlement.
Another extremely picturesque place on the Orotava was la casa de los Balcones (The Balcony House). It was built during the 17th century, and even though in the outside there are some balconies that have nothing out of the ordinary, the backyard is what it’s really interesting. There, it is possible to find a small shop selling local ceramics, a guy cutting perfect slices of iberic Spanish ham and a small café-restaurant where you can have a refreshing drink. This backyard is a beauty. All decorated with plants, some birds and even a windmill wheel. Because it’s in the shadow for most of the day, the temperature is just perfect and it is just the perfect place to have the typical “pollo canario” (canarian chicken) with “papas arrugás” (wrinkled potatoes). There’s also a hourly tour to see other sections of the house and learning a bit more about the history of this place.
Something very typical from the old capital of Tenerife are the flower carpets. Every year, to celebrate the Corpus Christi, the streets of the old town and the cityhall square are decorated with thousands of flowers forming pictures that become pieces of art. Obviously, there are many more tourists on the town during these days, but it’s worth trying to make it.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The last place I am telling you about in this guide is Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the current capital of the island and of the whole archipelago. The most remarkable part of this city is the world famous carnaval they have there every year. Besides a combination of parties all around the city, there’s a competition to see which woman wears the most impressive costume. These brave women participate in a parade barely naked wearing suits that weight dozens of kilos to win and be crowned as the Carnival’s Queen.
If you like attractions with animals, in Santa Cruz it is possible to visit the famous Loro Park. This is kind of a zoo with many winged aimals besides some other species. Like in most of the zoos, animals don’t have a lot of space, but besides that they seem to be quite well taken care of.
And don’t forget about Canarian Gold
Canarian gold? Canarian’s bananas! We all know that it is the only fruit of love (el único fruto del amor). There are banana plantations everywhere on the island! There are some places where you can go and visit the plantations, or the factories that prepare them to send them to the rest of Spain. Some may think that they are normal bananas, but that’s far from reality. These little ones always have black spots, they usually are half the size of a normal banana and they are sweet as honey. They are quite different!
Ok, ok, but is Tenerife a good solo destination?
This island is in general a great destination for anybody looking for some tourism and some relax at an affordable price. Even though there are many hostels on the island, most of them are not close to the beach or to points of interest, so it can be a burden to move by guagua everyday. A mid-range hotel can go from 30 to 100 euros per night going solo, which is not that expensive, hostels are always cheaper.
About language problems, since I am Spanish, of course I had no problems there. Considering that there were more restaurants without a Spanish menu that without one in English, I think I can say that as long as you speak English… you are good to go!