The 10 Linchpins of Tenerife
30 August, 2016
We were blown away by the island of Tenerife, which has countless charming spots. Among other things, it boasts a stunning volcano, magical laurel forests, buildings revealing impossible architectural feats and the dizzy heights of cliffs plummeting into the sea. These are the essential spots in Tenerife, the things you simply cannot pass up and which make up the very essence of the island. Here, then, is a selection of Tenerife’s top ten. Do you know any of them?
1. Teide National Park
This is undoubtedly the island’s most iconic landmark. The Teide National Park was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2007 in the category of Natural Properties. It was also awarded the European Diploma by the Council of Europe and is part of the Natura 2000 Network. Indeed, there is no dearth of reasons for earning such accolades. First, Tenerife boasts the most comprehensive supra-Mediterranean vegetation on earth. It also features one of the most stunning volcanic landscapes in the world and, of course, the most prominent one in the Canary Islands. Further information here.
2. Historic Quarters
Tenerife boasts a large number of historic sites. First, there is La Laguna Historic Quarter (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999), a unique example of an unwalled colonial settlement. The original, 15th-century layout – as pinpointed by the engineer, Leonardo Torriani, on his map of La Laguna – has survived virtually intact. This is a must-visit town as it served as the blueprint for colonial cities in the Americas, notably Old Havana, Lima and Cartagena de Indias, characterised by the same aesthetic in their streets and houses. Other must-visit venues include the Arona Historic Quarter, the Buenavista del Norte Historic Quarter, and the historic quarters of Garachico, Guía de Isora, Güímar, Icod de los Vinos, La Orotova, Los Realejos, Los Silos, Puerto de la Cruz and San Juan de la Rambla. Further details here.
3. Anaga Rural Park
Just a few minutes’ drive from the capital (Santa Cruz de Tenerife) lies the Anaga Rural Park, listed as a Biosphere Reserve, with its exceptionally well preserved natural assets. You would not be the first visitor to be awed by its beautiful, rugged range of sharp peaks. And, its deep valleys and gorges run down to the sea and fan out in the form of numerous beaches where you can have a refreshing swim. The area is also rich in indigenous fauna and flora.
4. Whale Spotting
The island’s south-west coast is ideal for whale spotting. There, you will see the whales drifting calmly along in the ocean. Whale encounters are an exciting experience and you will get the chance to photograph them close-up. Tenerife has several companies that organise excursions to see these cetaceans in the wild but, be warned – you should look out for pleasure boats with the “Barco Azul” (Blue Boat) ensign, as they are the only ones authorised by the Canary Island government to run these outings. You should heed this warning for safety purposes – both for your own safety and that of the whales – as these vessels are certified as complying with the standards designed to safeguard these species. The boats sail from the ports of Los Cristianos, Puerto Colón and Los Gigantes and you can choose from an array of prices and travel times to best suit your needs. Further information here.
5. Parque del Drago
Located next to the San Marcos parish church, the parque del Drago (Dragon Park) is the main attraction in Icod de Los Vinos. Its famous Drago Milenario (millennial dragon tree), although officially only 800 years old, is one of the leading natural, cultural and historic symbols of the Canary Islands. The Icod dragon tree (Dracaena draco canariensis),considered to be the oldest in the archipelago, is 16 metres high and has a circumference of 20 metres at its base. A garden of indigenous species has been created around the tree. Particularly edifying and illustrative for visitors, the garden also features smaller dragon trees, cactus spurge and sweet spurge, etc. The nearby church square also has some interesting botanical specimens.
6. Teno Rural Park
The Teno Rural Park is located at the north-western tip of Tenerife and stretches across parts of the Buenavista del Norte, Los Silos, El Tanque and Santiago del Teide municipalities. With a surface area of 8,063.3 hectares, it is one of the island’s most beautiful nature parks. Its ecological, cultural and landscape value has been preserved largely on account of its remoteness. The scenic variety is striking, ranging from stunning cliffs to valleys, low islands, laurel forests and magnificent examples of traditional architecture.
7. Huge Cliffs
This cliff, aptly named Los Gigantes (the Giants), is situated in Santiago del Teide and is part of the Teno Rural Park. At some points it towers 600 metres above the sea and the cliff-face is sheer, capable of making you giddy if you look at it from the bottom. The seabed at the foot of the cliff, some 30 metres deep, is home to a great variety of natural species, attracting enthusiasts of diving and deep-sea fishing.
8. Basilica of Nuestra Señora de la Candelaria
At the end of the 14th century – that is, about a hundred years before the conquest of Tenerife – a Gothic carving of Our Lady of Candelaria turned up on the coast of the Güímar Valley. The local Guanche people worshipped the statue under the name Chaxiraxi. Designed by Enrique Marrero Regalado, the basilica was built in 1959 on the initiative of the Bishop of Tenerife, Domingo Pérez Cáceres, a native of Güímar. Regionalist in style, it has three naves, a faux Mudéjar ceiling and a 25-metre-high dome surmounting the transept.
The Teide National Park is ideal for observing such amazing features of the night-sky as the rings of Saturn, the Moon’s craters and distant galaxies and nebulae. Teide and Cumbres de Teide were recently awarded Starlight certificates, which endorses them as privileged international spots for star-gazing.
Set at 2,400 metres above sea level, the telescopes of the Teide Observatory are managed by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, which bears out the excellent state of night-sky observation on the island. Enthusiasts can book a guided tour in which the innards of those huge devices are described in detail, as are the telescope-observation methods used by scientists the world over. Further details here.
10. Gastronomy and Wine
Island cuisine is another of Tenerife’s identity traits and, of course, the tastiest one. Dishes are based on locally sourced products and make up a cuisine in which tradition blends with the avant-garde. Papas, mojos, gofio, cheese, fish, honey…
Tenerife wines are unique for their original flavour and the sacrifice involved in their making, as the vineyards are often cultivated in remote, narrow stretches of land. These conditions, together with nutrient-rich volcanic soils, endow their wines with features which have been lauded in Europe since the 16th century. There are five DOs in Tenerife – Tacoronte-Acentejo, Ycoden-Daute-Isora, Valle de la Orotava, Valle de Güímar and Abona. Each of these areas yields wines with a personality of their own, be they red, white or Malvasia. Further details here.
Itching to discover Tenerife through its greatest hits? Check out our flights here.
Text and images by Turismo de Tenerife
30 August, 2016