If you’re looking for beautiful weather, sunny beaches, and fantastic adventures, then the Canary Islands are just waiting for you to come and explore! These islands sit off the coast of Morocco but have kept their Spanish feel. Although they stand out of the water in close proximity, each features very different landscapes and environments. This beautiful travel destination is often overlooked, but is truly an adventurer’s paradise.
The day after we got married, Pep and I flew to Tenerife and spent our honeymoon on this fascinating and diverse island. We got to experience a wonderful and adventure-filled island, enjoying the very different landscapes of the north and south sides. Here’s how you can too!
The Desert South
Instead of a desert with sand and dunes, you’ll find here a beautiful landscape with banana trees, volcanic black rocks, and the blue of the ocean always present. This arid landscape receives much less rain than in the north, and for good reason: El Teide, the highest mountain in Spain and an active volcano (we’ll talk more about that below!).
The best ways to enjoy the south of Tenerife:
- Head to the Beach
The beaches along the southern coast are gorgeous, and you’ll find the perfect spot to sit back and relax, or enjoy water sports such as surfing, diving, jet skiing, and more. The type of sand depends on the place: you will find beautiful white beaches, such as windswept Playa el Médano, along with black sand beaches, like the immaculate Playa de la Arena.
- Wander the Coastal Roads
Tenerife is great for driving, and the roads that follow the southwestern coast offer beautiful views of the Teide above and the rich, blue waters of the Atlantic below. Get a rental car for your trip and take the TF-47 to see the sights up the southwestern coast.
- Explore Former Fishing Villages
Although some of these small villages continuing as the sleepy towns that they always have been, others have bloomed into beautiful touristic destinations featuring lovely beaches, boutique shops, and delicious food. Don’t miss places like Los Abrigos, Los Cristianos, and the beautiful town of Los Gigantes with giant-like cliffs rising dramatically across the bay.
The Mountainous North
In stark contrast to the dry, windswept landscapes of the south, the north of Tenerife boasts beautiful mountains and lush, green forests. The metropolitan capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a must-see highlight, as well as the nearby historic center of La Laguna. (To get there, take the tram from downtown Santa Cruz for about 3 Euro).
Here’s how to enjoy the north:
- Have Adventures in the Forests
The northern tip that juts out at the top of Tenerife is filled with beautiful and dramatic mountain landscapes. We recommend spending the better part of a day exploring here, as we did! Start your adventure by heading up through San Cristobal de La Laguna, and stop at Dulceria El Rayo for a sweet and delicious breakfast! Then, continue up the TF-12 and work your way into the wandering paths of the mountains. There are plenty of places to leave your car and head for a quick hike into the dense forest, and we highly recommend it!
- Loro Parque
If you’re traveling with children (or if you’re a child at heart, like us) then head to Loro Parque for a fantastic zoo experience! (Note: I am not normally a fan of zoos because I don’t like how they treat the animals, but the staff at Loro Parque obviously cares a lot about the creatures inside their gates, and the result is a beautiful, natural setting with healthy, happy animals.)
- Puerto de la Cruz
With a beautiful history highlighting its lovely spas and Victorian appeal, this charismatic city offers good food, interesting museums (such as the Archeological Museum) and a lovely botanical garden.
You cannot visit Tenerife without seeing the Teide, mainly because it is so tall that it can be seen from nearly everywhere on the island. There are many ways to explore and enjoy this wonder of creation.
Driving up to the arid plains just below the Teide is a spectacular climb and offers views of the other Canary Islands, such as Gran Canaria, La Gomera, and La Palma. Access is available either from the north (by taking TF-21 from La Orotava to Portillo de la Villa and crossing the park) or from the south (by taking TF-21 from Vilaflor upwards, or the TF-38 from Boca de Tauce to Chio and upwards, and connecting with the TF-21 that way).
Once here, you can ride the cable car from the lower station (which stands at 2,356 meters) and head to the upper station (at 3,555 meters). The cable car is open from 9:00am to 4:00pm in the winter, or to 5:00pm in the summer, and will cost 27 Euros for nonresidents. Don’t forget to dress warm, because at the top there will probably be snow!
From the upper station, they are different hiking routes to take and thus enjoy the full beauty of the volcanic Teide. The Telesforo Bravo route takes you directly to the peak, allowing you to view the crater of the Teide and the incredible vista of the ocean below and the rest of the Canary Islands on the horizon. However, you need a special permit for which you can apply without charge here.
If you’re a bit more adventurous, start hiking from the peak of Montaña Blanca within the Teide National Park, and climb upwards over 1,000 meters to the Altavista Refuge. Here you can stay overnight in the well-equipped refuge, having your own bed in one of the three dormitories and sheets and blankets. The next day, finish your trek to the peak of the Teide in all its splendor, reaching a total height of over 3,700 meters.
When to Visit
Tenerife is located in prime ocean real estate, and its temperatures do not vary much during the year. If you’re looking for hot beach weather, then May through July is a good time to visit. August will be a bit crowded, but you’ll find that the prices for flights will be cheaper during the months of September to December, and the weather is still fantastic! Pep and I went in the beginning of April and the temperatures were consistently in the early- to mid-20’s Celsius. We brought our bathing suits and got to use them too!
How to Get There
If you’re looking for cheap flights, check out the low-cost airlines that fly from mainland Spain. For example, Vueling and Ryanair will fly from the main airports in Madrid, Barcelona, and Malaga for less than 100 Euro roundtrip in the off season! Tenerife has two airports, one in the south and one in the north, but the northern airport tends to have cheaper flights.
Tenerife is a lovely island that has been touched by tourism but still holds on to its history and its charm. Take some time to visit this beautiful place and enjoy both sides of sun-soaked Tenerife!