To the Carnival Beat in Tenerife
No question about it – there is one time in the year when Santa Cruz de Tenerife comes alive, and that is at Carnival time. It is world famous, extremely popular and one of the biggest on earth, rivalling Carnival in Rio de Janeiro (it’s twin city) and Venice. Tourists, sightseers and fun lovers who head for this spot in the Canary Island archipelago end up hopelessly drawn in by the beat, the dazzle and the colour of this splendid fiesta. Lasting for a month, it features a host of activities showcasing mainly music and fancy dress.
This time around, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife lasts from 1 February to 5 March. As in previous years, thousands of people in fancy dress roam the streets, eager to fall under the spell of Carnival magic. The festivities are hosted by over a hundred groups of around fifty people each, compering murgas (ensembles singing to satirical lyrics), comparsas (dancing carnival troupes), fancy dress groups, rondallas (street bands) and musical troupes – quite a feat! Take note of the following rundown of the highlights of the Tenerife Carnival for your requisite getaway.
The Carnival Queen
One of the loveliest moments in the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Carnival is the Gran Gala, at which the Carnival Queen is elected. Beholding the spectacular costumes studded with rhinestones, glittering ornaments and elegant feathers is a magical experience. Amazingly, those costumes can weigh up to between 150 and 200 kilos and have to be transported on wheels. A stunning, must-see extravaganza!
The Opening Horse Parade
As its name suggests, this event marks the start of Carnival and what better way to get the ball rolling? In style, with a spectacular horse parade at which all the Carnival troupes march past, including the queens and maids of honour, who ride in carriages escorted by the troupes. Four hours of rhythmic percussion and Latin beat which extend well into the night.
Another date to jot down on your Carnival agenda is Carnival Saturday, when the streets of the city again become inundated with music and dance. Most of the activity is centred around the Plaza de la Candelaria, the Plaza del Príncipe and the Plaza de Europa.
The Gran Coso Apoteosis
This celebration, the veritable closing ceremony of Carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is possibly one of the most exciting moments in the festivities. It is the day all the carnival troupes, carriages, floats and queens parade along the Avenida de Anaga, marking the grand finale of Carnival proceedings.
Like any Carnival worth its salt, the arrival of Lent is heralded by the “burial of the sardine”. The event takes place in the main city streets, suitably draped in mourning, with balconies sporting black ribbons. A giant sardine is paraded through the streets, before being ceremoniously burned at the end of its itinerary. The Tinerfeños or inhabitants of Tenerife bid farewell to Carnival by staging their sorrow in the form of a lament, although they also mark the occasion in comical satire and by lampooning the Church. So, don’t be surprised if, while wandering through the streets, you come across people dressed up mostly as priests, bishops or monks carrying sexual props of all kinds.
Book your Vueling to Tenerife, don your fancy dress and get into festive mood as you attend one of the most popular Carnivals in the world.
Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS
Image by Philippe Teuwen
The 10 Linchpins of Tenerife
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 Tenerifemore info
Nine Watersports in Tenerife
In addition to a long list of land-based leisure activities, the island offers another extensive gamut of sports and activities in the ocean. Tenerife is practically one huge outdoor gym, open 365 days a year. Its climate, landscapes and natural setting make it eminently appealing for doing sport, attracting professional and amateur sportspeople alike. Here are a number of sea-based sports and activities. They cater to all tastes, from those done solo to others involving pairs or the whole family.
Entertainment? The Sea is the Medium
The Atlantic Ocean’s waters are one of Tenerife’s great treasures, thanks to their perpetually crystal-clear condition and pleasant, stable temperature all year around. Here are nine sports that will make you want to never go back to the humdrum of the rat race.
Let’s start by putting our head under water. What can you see down there? The island boasts 60 diving spots fringing the whole coastline, with sandy or rocky sea floors or volcanic reefs. The seabeds are varied and teeming with life. Vision is incredibly clear on account of the crystal-clear waters that enable the sun’s rays to penetrate to a depth of practically 40 metres.
Let’s continue with sports involving immersion. Apart from the sea, the island has centres for learning or perfecting free diving. The sea temperature, the scant variation in temperature between depths of 0 and 50 metres (hardly 1 degree centigrade) and the acute visibility up to about 20–25 metres, are some of the striking diving conditions here. There are diving spots all around the island, but the best area is the west, on account of the unusual relief features, which make the temperature, currents and weather ideal for doing all forms of snorkelling and free diving. All the necessary equipment is available for starting out in this watersport or perfecting your technique.
Here, the watersport par excellence is windsurfing. Some beaches are perfect for amateur windsurfers, notably El Médano, whose success lies in having more than 300 windy days a year. The town has stores that sell or rent out equipment, as well as repair shops and companies offering courses. Top-level competitions are held in Tenerife, including the World Championships.
As with windsurfing, El Médano (Granadilla de Abona) is one of the best spots for kitesurfing; indeed, it is actually one of the best in Europe. The winds are strong virtually year around and the water temperature ranges from 16 to 26 degrees centigrade between winter and summer.
Surfing and Bodyboarding
The island’s coastline is packed with places for surfing and bodyboarding – you can find the ideal spot for them virtually anywhere along its perimeter. The most powerful waves are on the north and northwest coastline, while in the south and southwest the breakers are less intense. The sea can, however, be rougher or calmer depending on the time of year.
Stand Up Paddle
This watersport is becoming increasingly more popular around the world. Ideal spots for SUP can be found along various stretches of the eastern and southeastern coastline. This activity can be done on one’s own, in pairs or with the whole family.
Kayaking has become very fashionable as it provides access to spectacular land formations along the coastline, notably the 600-metre-high cliffs known as Los Gigantes which include grottoes and coves. Kayaking is easy to learn – just try it and you’ll see!
Sailing and Dinghy Sailing
The island’s calm waters and pleasant climate make it ideal for sailing. It boasts a total of nine marinas (see here) for mooring vessels scattered especially across the south, but also the north, which makes taking up this sport a hassle-free affair.
This is a sport that is acquiring increasingly more enthusiasts. In addition to the island’s ideal climatic and sea conditions, Tenerife also sits along the migratory route of a large variety of species, including the blue marlin and tuna.
If you’d like to find out more about these sports and activities, as well as accommodation, specialist schools or companies, check out the offers at Tenerife No Limits.
Come and experience these sports for yourself. Check out our flights here.
Text and images by Turismo de Tenerifemore info