Lying near the coast of North West Africa, the Spanish island of Tenerife is known for being a winter sun destination for Northern Europeans wishing to escape their dull and dreary winters. During the last forty years Tenerife developed a reputation as a cheap and cheerful package holiday island where working class British especially went for their annual dose of sunshine in surroundings that weren’t too foreign to be off putting. It was an image that stuck, and subsequently Tenerife was crossed off the ‘must visit’ list of most discerning travellers who believed the hype that all that it had to offer was a mix of almost guaranteed sunshine, all day greasy British breakfasts and karaoke bars.
The karaoke bars and all day British breakfasts do exist but they are, and always have been, a minuscule part of an island whose treasures will surprise and delight those visitors who seek them out.
Whether visitors are looking for a modern resort with lively night life; traditional town where entertainment comes courtesy of fiestas; a tranquil picturesque fishing village; a city full of museums and art galleries or a sunspot with stunning views, Tenerife has somewhere to suit most people’s preferences.
Tenerife for Fun Lovers
The name Playa de las Américas has become synonymous with cheap holidays and drunken Brits. It’s often referred to as ‘Britain in the sun’, but these days only by people who don’t know it. The area around the Safari Centre is full of stylish restaurants as well as scores of live music bars – some good, some not so good. It is also home to the luxury Mare Nostrum Resort, part of which includes the Pirámide de Arona, the Las Vegas type venue for the rousing Carmen Mota flamenco shows.
Playa de las Américas is the cabaret capital of Tenerife and suitable for anyone seeking a lively after dark scene and a good choice of international restaurants. It wouldn’t suit anyone interested in local culture or history.
Tenerife for Sun Lovers
Whilst the whole of Tenerife enjoys year round warm temperatures (sizzling hot in summer months), there are some places where the sun shines just that little bit more than others. One of these is Los Gigantes in the south west of Tenerife. Like Playa de las Américas, Los Gigantes is purpose built for tourists, but life moves at a gentler pace here. The resort’s crowning jewels are the towering cliffs after which Los Gigantes was named; they rise from the sea beside the town providing a breathtaking backdrop.
Los Gigantes is a good base for exploring Tenerife by land and by sea and whale watching trips depart from its attractive harbour. Being purpose built, it doesn’t have the same level of culture as Tenerife’s older towns.
Tenerife for Traditional
Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast is Tenerife’s original tourist resort and has been attracting travellers for centuries. First and foremost a working town, the leafy plazas in the town’s old quarter bustle with families from the Orotava Valley. Whilst there are a few bars designed for visitors, most are aimed at the resident population and the music emanating from inside them is Latino as opposed to the western pop of the southern resorts. Similarly most restaurants feature traditional Canarian cuisine, but there are also chic international and vegetarian choices. Most months see a fiesta of some sort, with the biggest being Carnaval in Feb/March when the whole town parties for a week.
Puerto de la Cruz is an ideal base for anyone wishing to experience Canarian culture. In the north, although the weather is much better than most of Europe in winter, it can rain, especially in November and February.
For those who like to combine the traditional with a get away from it all holiday, picture postcard pretty Garachico on the north west coast is a perfect option. The town was once the main port for Tenerife until lava from a volcanic eruption in 1706 destroyed its harbour. Because of its location the town has hardly changed in centuries and features beautifully preserved narrow streets and shady gardens and plazas where the local menfolk gather to play cards and dominoes loudly. The lava filled seafront is now a series of rock pools which attract visitors from near and far.
There are a handful of small boutique hotels in Garachico; all perfectly attuned to the architecture of this historic little town. Once the day trippers leave, the town becomes very, very quiet…unless there’s a local fiesta.
Tenerife for Culture
For culture vultures it has to be Tenerife’s capital city, Santa Cruz; a place rich in history and tradition. Admiral Nelson suffered his only defeat here, losing his right arm in the process. Look beyond the city’s modern shell to find historic streets, churches, baroque and colonial architecture, great shops, art galleries, sculpture trails, museums, beautiful parks and a pavement café society where there’s always a tempting tasca to re-energise with some tapas.
The area around Noria district illustrates perfectly the wonderful blend of the old and the new with its mix of small colonial cottages and town houses and the ultra modern TEA arts centre.
Unmissable is the eye-catching Tenerife Auditorio; Santiago Calatrava’s architectural masterpiece and venue for opera, ballet and rock concerts.