Tenerife, a year round holiday destination

By | Category: Travel destinations
Mt Tiede at sunset

Mt Tiede at sunset

Millions of years ago volcanic activity created what is now known as the seven Canary Islands of which Tenerife is the largest. With temperatures in the twenties, Tenerife is a year round destination. While the weather is still cold in the UK Tenerife is lovely and warm with blue skies and, because of its position, apparently never gets too hot. The south of the island has been developed as a tourist destination with one hotel after another. This is the place for sun worshippers with miles and miles of sandy beaches, some of them with black volcanic sand. Judging from the amount of bling in the shops I would imagine it to be football wives’ country! On Thursday and Saturday mornings a market sells local souvenirs.

The north of the island has more character. The Hotel Botanica in Puerto de la Cruz apparently one of the better hotels, although not by the sea, has a beautiful tropical garden with floodlit palm trees at night. Michael Jackson stayed here when he visited the island, and guests can sleep in the Michael Jackson room. At night the promenade is the place to come for a stroll. A group of kids, surrounded by on-lookers were hip-hopping. In the square, surrounded by eateries people sat under awnings enjoying the street performers, a band of young people playing the drums.

All kinds of water sports are available and with the trade winds coming from the north, paddle boarding is very popular. A group of us spent the morning on a boat scuba diving and snorkeling in Buertito Bay, an area which is, as yet, uncultivated. Having put on my wetsuit I, however, didn’t have the courage to dive, but was fortunate to see a turtle as it rose to just below the surface.

San Cristoal de la Laguna

San Cristoal de la Laguna

The historical centre of San Cristóbal de La Laguna dating from the 17/18th centuries and, formally the capital of the island, is a World Heritage Site. The area is pedestrianised with several of the buildings open to the public. Courtyards surrounded by beautiful architecture are hidden behind closed doors so take a peek through the cracks when you have a chance. Santa Cruz is now the capital and, if on the island during the first week of every February, you should go to the carnival which is a large outdoor party where everyone dresses up and the carnival queen is chosen.

Tenerife is a wine producer with many vineyards spread around the country. At the Bodegas Monje, they grow fourteen different grape varieties on their slopes and have wine tours visiting their cellars. The owner Felipe Monje has also introduced food pairings including one called ‘Wine and Sex’! Above the cellars, and overlooking the vineyards which taper down to the sea, their restaurant serves local dishes. As I was walking through the chef was taking out crispy legs of Canarian pork which had been roasted in a wood-fired oven.

a white peacock at La Granja Verde Farm

a white peacock at La Granja Verde Farm

Not far from Porto de La Cruz, La Granja Verde is a farm with a restaurant Dula y Pipa where they grow their own fruit and vegetables as well as having a small zoo. An attraction for children, the fruit and vegetables are divided into sections with an explanation of all the items. A strange mix of animals includes a camel, lamas, a cow, sheep and even a black and a white rabbit. The restaurant is a foodie destination with a high profile chef serving stylish food.

Although only 84 miles long the island is volcanic with lots of mountains. Its highest Mount Tiede at 12,196 feet is the tallest in Europe. The upper part, a World Natural Heritage Site, is a national park with paths to go trekking. I went on a five mile walk which I was told would be easy but with the heat and paths that went uphill, I was pleased that I was physically fit. Driving up, the views are amazing, and with five levels of vegetation and over 20 different Alpine plants, the scenery is always changing. Pine trees give way to expanses of lava and unusual rock formations in different colours depending on their age. Some are green from the sulphur, shades of red/brown from the oxidisation, and black from the volcanic eruptions of centuries long since past. A cable car took me nearly to the top where there is often snow but thankfully not on this visit. Above the clouds, I was able to watch the sun setting in a blaze of red with the colours of the lava changing as the sun set. Going above the clouds, the clarity of the sky makes it an exceptional place for stargazing. I joined a group to see the sky at night through ultra strong telescopes which had been set up pointing at the different constellations which can’t be seen with the naked eye. Where I could only see a few stars, looking through one of them produced an explosion of stars with one telescope allowing us to see a crater on the moon.

Bodegas Onje winery and its owner Felipe Monje

Bodegas Onje winery and its owner Felipe Monje

After a strenuous walk, the Hotel Villa Alba in the village of Villafloor was a welcome stop and, as a bonus, it serves traditional local food. A local speciality is the papas bonites which consists of wrinkly baby potatoes grown in volcanic earth that are eaten dipped into mojo rojo, a red pepper and garlic mix and garbanzas compuestas, a hearty, rich tomato soup with a pieces of pork belly, sausage, black pudding, and chickpeas. That constitutes a meal in itself!

Land seems to be in abundance and many of the hotels have spacious foyers and many swimming pools. The star rating system is rather bizarre and to make sure you have the dream holiday you expect, it is definitely worth checking what people have to say about the hotel you want to book. Smoking is still tolerated and hotels have smoking floors.

Tenerife is one of the most accessible destinations for British and Irish holidaymakers with direct links from most regional airports If you are flying from London then Gatwick or Stansted is your likely departure airport. The Gatwick Express goes directly to the airport and takes 30 minutes from LondonVictoria. Southern Railway is cheaper and takes longer but it’s well worth investigating the deals on offer with the Gatwick Express as the differential can be minimal. The newly named GWR, links Reading with Gatwick enabling passengers from Wales, the west country, the Cotswolds and Oxfordshire to reach the airport via public transport.

For more about Tenerife, click here.

 

 

 

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