Tenerife is one of my favourite places in the world. The island offers a huge variety of landscapes and activities, ranging from tropical beaches lined with palm trees to lunar volcanic deserts.
When I was asked to participate in the SpainOnMyMind campaign I was thrilled at the opportunity of writing about Tenerife. I spent two months living on the island, and would love to return one day.
There is more to Tenerife than the tourist resorts you might be thinking of. Tenerife is actually a very exciting destination, where you can go surfing, paragliding, whale watching, hiking and many other outdoors adventures.
Floating over Tenerife’s dramatic scenery, strapped to a professional paragliding pilot, gives you a wonderful perspective on the surrounding scenery – as well as a real thrill. Flights normally last 20- 30 minutes and you can take off at about 40 different points around the island.
No experience is required and there is no age limit, though you do need to be able to run for a short distance for launch and landing, depending on the location. Flights rely on the right weather conditions and safety is always put first.
Wrecks, reefs, deep waters and diversity of ocean life have made Tenerife a popular island for scuba diving. Green turtles, rays, parrot fish, moray eels, sea horses and angel sharks are among the marine species in Tenerife’s waters. Diving centres around the island cater for all abilities, including absolute beginners. Ocean Friends (oceanfriendsdiving.com) offer a diving baptism always in a small group with a maximum of two per instructor. After learning a few fundamental skills and hand signals, novices are taken by dinghy to inshore waters for an introductory dive – at a maximum depth of 12 metres (39ft). The instructor is in charge of handling all the equipment so all you need to is breathe steadily through the regulator and remember to swim with your flippers – and not your arms!
Tenerife is one of the world’s best spots for all-year whale-watching. The clear, warm waters between Tenerife and La Gomera are feeding grounds for both resident and migratory species.
Half-day catamaran trips, with snacks and drinks on board, depart all year round from Puerta Colón, Puerta de Los Cristianos or Puerto de los Gigantes. Pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins can be seen all year round and there is nothing to beat the excitement of encountering these sociable creatures, often right up close to your boat.
Teide National Park
Rising above the clouds is majestic Mount Teide, which at 3715m (12,188ft) is the world’s third-largest volcanic structure and the highest mountain in Spain. All around it are bizarre and fascinating volcanic landscapes with weird rock formations and hardened lava flows. Reaching the summit of El Teide by foot is not for the faint-hearted (see Hiking below) but a cable car can whisk you up in seven minutes to within 200m (656ft) of the peak. A trip to El Teide is justifiably the most popular attraction on the island and there are day and evening tours available from most resorts on Tenerife.
Alternatively, you can go independently by car. Take warm clothing whatever the time of year. In winter temperatures can drop below freezing and even in summer it can be very cold.
Hikers are spoilt for choice with trails through majestic mountains, deep valleys and spectacular volcanic landscapes. The steep ascent to the peak of the Mount Teide is a serious challenge, taking 6-7 hours and requiring plenty of stamina – as well as a permit (www.reservasparquesnacionales.es).
Less challenging are the lunar-landscape walks around the volcano. There are over 20 waymarked trails in the Teide National Park. The favourite mountain region for hiking is the beautiful Anaga Massif, with its steep-wooded slopes, ravines and fine sea views along the cliffs. Popular too is the Teno Massif with its dramatic green mountains and rocky landscapes.
A great hit with families, this Thai-themed water kingdom (ww.siampark.net) spreads over 14 ha (34 acres) and boasts state-of-the-art aquatic attractions set within exotic gardens. Expect temples, dragons, and alligators along the way and for a real adrenalin rush head for the Tower of Power with a 28m (90ft) drop climaxing in an aquarium of sharks and rays.
Surfers can enjoy the wave palace with 3m (10ft)-high manmade waves, while sunbathers can relax on loungers on the manmade beach, with white sands from Portugal.
Visit the Mount Teide National Park by Night
Of course, our first choice is to visit Mount Teide and the surrounding craggy landscapes of Las Cañadas del Teide during the evening, sunset and night. Going to the Teide National Park is an adventure by itself but visiting the Park by night is something we know you will never forget. With all the air and light pollution we are not used seeing all the stars in the night sky, with our Teide Excursion by night you will be able to watch the stars from one of the best places in the world for astronomical observation, and you won’t even need a telescope to enjoy the stargazing!
Make an excursion to the Anaga Massif
Ancient laurel forests used to be found in the Mediterranean Area in prehistoric times but due to climate changes, these forests are a relict only remaining on the Canary Islands, Madeira and the Azores. Our favourite Tenerife Excursions are those starting at Cruz del Carmen in the Anaga Massif to discover the foggy laurel forests that make us feel like we’re in a Jurassic Park movie. If you have time, we recommend you to drive down to the town of Taganana and its wild beaches.
Spend the day at the Diego Hernandez Cove in Adeje
This beach from the south of Tenerife is only accessible by foot, which makes it less crowded and more adventurous to visit. Make sure to wear sneakers and bring some food and drinks because you’ll want to spend the whole day! After a 15 min walk from the town of Diego Hernández, you will find white sand beaches with crystal clear and calm water, perfect for snorkelling. Sometimes even turtles can be seen in this cove! For more info, read our latest post about the best natural sandy beaches in Tenerife.
Go fishing in the Atlantic Sea
If you have the opportunity to go fishing in Tenerife, we recommend you to do so in the Area of Los Gigantes. The sea between Tenerife and the Island of La Gomera is known for being calm and because you can find lots of tuna fish and other Atlantic species. Maybe you will even be able to watch dolphins and whales!
Snorkeling from La Punta de Teno
There are lots of places to go in Tenerife but La Punta de Teno is one of our favourite ones, you truly feel like you’re on the edge of the world. From this spot, you can see the cliffs of Los Gigantes and you can jump into the sea from the tiny mooring point and snorkel in deep blue waters.
Visit the town of Garachico
Garachico is one of the most charming towns in Tenerife and you can tell it was once the most prosperous harbour of the island. A series of events like diseases, fires and a massive eruption of Volcano Arena Negra in 1706, destroyed part of the town and ended with its supremacy. Nevertheless, this small town lays away from massive tourism and you feel like time has stopped. Don’t miss the promenade and the beautiful colonial buildings and squares such as the San Francisco Convent and La Plaza de la Libertad. To cool off during the hotter summer in Tenerife, you can swim in the natural pool of El Caletón.
Tenerife is a great place to observe the stars thanks to low light pollution, clarity of night skies and high altitude points. Companies offer special guided night visits to view the glorious sunset from El Teide, taste Canarian cuisine and Tenerife wines, followed by stargazing with guides through long- range telescopes from high up on El Teide.