Tenerife Travel Guide
It is hardly a well-kept holiday secret. Last year, more than 1.6 million UK tourists visited Tenerife with early indications suggesting even more of us will have turned up by the end of 2013. That is more than 4,300 incoming Brits each day: a boggling number for this pork-chop-shaped mid Atlantic island, particularly when you consider that much of its landmass consists of inhospitable volcanic slopes pricked by spiky euphorbia.
So, why do we come? Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands archipelago around 130km across at its widest point and built its reputation as a package-holiday destination in the 1970s, when the rapid development of a string of hotels and apartment blocks along the south-west coast began. This high-rise strip Playa de Las Americas, Los Cristianos and the Costa Adeje now hosts the majority of visitors, drawn by year-round sun, imported white sand and prices to suit every budget.
Do not be dismayed if the prospect of crowds of sunbathers does not sound immediately appealing. This island rewards exploration beyond the tourist resorts. Tenerife's central asset is a dormant volcano, the vast Mount Teide, which rises to 3,718m and is often described as the highest mountain in Spain the Parque Nacional Del Teide is centered on the vast crater at its summit. There are plenty of hiking routes on offer, with information available from the visitors' centre. Wrap up warm, though; the chilly upper slopes of Teide are a marked contrast to the heat of the coast.
Some civic charisma
The archipelago once had an important role as the mid Atlantic staging posts for Spain's colonization of the New World. Santa Cruz, the pretty capital of Tenerife, which lies in the northeast of the island, is where the conquistador Alfonso Fernandez de Lugo planted his holy cross in 1494.
For a real slice of a colonial city, board the Linea 1 tram from Intercambiador, Santa Cruz's main station, and take the half-hour trip to nearby La Laguna. Now a Unesco World Heritage Site, this charming city was the blueprint for Latin American outposts such as Havana and served as Tenerife's capital for 200 years. Tenerife caters for families brilliantly, with some diverting fun parks. One of the biggest and, well, wateriest of them is Siam Park, pictured, near Los Cristiano.
The Canary Islands are well known as places to spot cetaceans, with sightings of bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales often guaranteed by the many boat operators in the resorts in the south-west. If you prefer to paddle your way around the island, Teno Activo runs kayaking and walking adventures, including trips to the pretty beach, which lies at the end of the Masca Gorge, hidden alongside mighty cliffs known as Los Gigantes. There are, of course, plenty of beaches to choose from. You can usually escape from the crowds at Santa Cruz's local option, Playa de las Teresitas, pictured. It is reached via bus 910. This stretches of artificial sand hides below the Anaga Mountains themselves well worth a day trip and offers gentle waves that are perfect for families.
Tenerife's green little sister lies off its west coast and offers you a landscape riven by deep valleys, graced with ancient laurel forests, and populated by a culture still renowned for a strange whistling speech called Silbo Gomero. The island makes for a great day-trip via the regular ferries, which run from Los Cristianos to San Sebastian, the capital.
Inter-island flights depart from Tenerife North, which is easily accessed from the capital Santa Cruz. More information webtenerife.co.uk