travel journal: discover the world
TENERIFE, CANARY ISLANDS
Strongly influenced by the tribal culture of the Guanches (the original inhabitants), Tenerife was conquered by the Spanish 500 years ago. It's home to Mount Teide, Spain's tallest peak, and to the popular beach resort of Los Gigantes. Today visitors flock to Loro Park to see tropical birds, to Tenerife Zoo Monkey Park and to Parque Nacional Las Canadas del Teide's volcanic rock formations. Explore by car or with a "bono bus" ticket, which offers reductions on regular prices.
Tenerife is the biggest and best-known Canary Island, with over 10 million visitors a year, and finally the word is out that the landscape, sights and attractions here go way beyond beaches, lap dancers and the best bitter on tap.
The potpourri of experiences includes 350km of coast; tropical-forest walks and designer-shop struts; dark forays into volcanic lava; traditional Canarian cuisine and (if you must) egg and chips. As for the drama, this is where Tenerife really does soar high and above its neighbouring islands. At 3718m the Pico del Teide is Spain’s tallest peak, surrounded by a moonscape of rock formations and intense volcanic colours. It’s fabulous walking territory; pack your lace-ups. Tenerife is also diverse enough to allow an authentic Canarian experience. Simply put, the further you head away from the southwestern resorts, the fewer tourists you find. For example, the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is delightfully untainted by camera-wielding coach loads, although Carnaval gets packed with a clued-in crowd here for an experience second only to Rio in terms of raw fiesta spirit. The same cannot be said for Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Américas & Costa Adeje in the South where neon lights and over-sunned northern Europeans abound amidst the shimmering white sands of this resort-heavy area. In stark contrast, Parque Nacional del Tide in the Centre offers a bit more elbow space, at least by Tenerife standards.
Putting pleasure before business is an appealing quality of the Tinerfeños, which means there is plenty of nightlife choice, ranging from spit-and-sawdust local bars to big bad discos with international DJs and foam parties.