Apr 8, 2016

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9 things you probably didn’t know about Tenerife

Yes Tenerife is a popular option with Brits for a year-round sunshine escape, but there’s a whole lot more to the island than beaches, bars and all-day-British-breakfasts, writes Andrea Montgomery.

From above the clouds to below the ocean, there are myriad ways Tenerife will surprise you, and here are just a few of them…

1. You can dine in one of four Michelin-starred restaurants

Michelin Star Cuisine El Rincon de Juan Carlos Los Gigantes Tenerife

Michelin Star Cuisine El Rincon de Juan Carlos Los Gigantes Tenerife

Tenerife’s foodie scene is firmly on the up, with ritzy restaurants and gourmet menus opening like parasols on a beach.

The frontrunners in this burgeoning food scene are the island’s four Michelin-star restaurants, the only ones in the Canary Islands, of which two, MB and Kabuki, are within the fabulous Ritz-Carlton Abama hotel (Carretera General, TF-47, km 9, Guia de Isora Tenerife, Santa Cruz de Tenerife; +34 922 126 000).

Just along the coast in Los Gigantes, the family restaurant of El Rincón de Juan Carlos (Pasaje de Jacaranda, 2, Los Gigantes, Tenerife; +34 922 86 80 40) finally got the Michelin star it has so long deserved in 2015, and last but not least in this fab four is the Japanese restaurant, Kazan (Paseo Milicias de Garachico, local 5, 38002, Santa Cruz de Tenerife; +34 922 24 55 98), in Santa Cruz.

2. You can enjoy close encounters with amazing wildlife

Bottlenose Dolphin. Dolphin watching boat trip from Los Gigantes, Tenerife, Spain

Credit: Art Directors & TRIP

Warm waters off the west coast of Tenerife are rich in microscopic marine life which supports 26 species of cetaceans who inhabit these waters or stop off to feed here on their migratory routes.

Seeing these amazing creatures in the wild is one of those experiences that you never forget. There are daily sailings out of the harbour at Los Gigantes to see bottle-nosed dolphins and pilot whales swimming alongside the boat, and spot basking Bryde’s whales who come to feed on shoals of sardines.

To get even closer to the marine life, Flyover organise shallow dives to swim with huge ocean turtles.

3. You can stay in a banana plantation

El Patio in a banana plantation Tenerife

El Patio in a banana plantation Tenerife

Unlike the manicured gardens and infinity pools that surround five-star hotels in the southern resorts of Tenerife, it’s in the midst of banana plantations and fruit orchards that you’ll find many of the island’s most characterful and boutique rural hotels.

Among them, on the coast below Garachico, nestling in a sea of banana plants, is the 16th-century manor house of El Patio (Finca Malpais, El Guincho, Garachico, Santa Cruz de Tenerife 38450; +34 922 133 280) which has been in the hands of the Ponte family since the Spanish conquest. An oasis of colonial charm, the elegant palm trees in the patio garden were planted by the owner’s grandmother in 1902.

4. You can stargaze in one of the clearest skies on the planet

Starry night and milky way in Teide national park, canary Islands, Spain.

Credit: DAVID HERRAEZ Alamy

Thanks to their clear atmosphere and low light pollution, there are only two other places on Earth whose skies are as clear as those of the Canary Islands – one is Hawaii and the other is Chile – and neither of those is just a four-hour flight from the UK.

Stand in Teide National Park on a moonless, cloudless night and you’ll be hard pressed to find a coin-sized patch of sky that doesn’t have twinkling needlepoints of light.

Go on a Sunset and Stars Tour and even if you can’t tell your Orion from your elbow, you can’t fail to be impressed.

5. You can walk above the clouds

Sea of clouds at Teide national park

Sea of clouds at Teide national park

Away from its sun-soaked beaches and lively nightlife, Tenerife has some of the most diverse hiking in Europe, taking you from pretty coastal paths and lush palm groves into ancient mountains and rare rainforests. And because the island is so steep, you can find yourself walking in the sort of scene usually only visible from an aircraft window.

Set out along trails in the upper La Orotava Valley, along the crater ridge in Teide National Park, or through Vilaflor and you could find yourself striding with a brilliant blue sky above you and a dense sea of clouds below your feet.

6. You can enjoy potatoes so precious they have their own Denomination of Origin

Mojo potatoes

Mojo potatoes

Anyone who’s enjoyed a traditional meal on Tenerife is guaranteed to have been served the island’s signature dish of papas arrugadas con mojo – small, wrinkled, salty potatoes served with a red and a green sauce.

Prized by top chefs for their distinctive flavour and perfect texture, these ancient potatoes were first imported from the Peruvian Andes more than four centuries ago. When the rest of Europe switched to varieties that provided bigger yields, Tenerife farmers stayed with the ones they knew.

Today, 26 varieties of these precious potatoes are so rare that, in order to protect their heritage, they have been designated their own Denomination of Origin.

7. You can swim in solidified lava pools

Lava rock pools Garachico Tenerife

Lava rock pools Garachico Tenerife

More than 400 years ago, the thriving port of Garachico was engulfed in lava from an eruption that destroyed much of the town and its natural harbour. At that point, the town could have given up hope but instead it turned disaster to advantage, rebuilding its streets and gouging a series of swimming pools from the solidified lava.

Today it’s Tenerife’s most picturesque town and one of its most popular day trip destinations. On hot days, the pools are the perfect place to cool off. There are plunge pools for diving, shallow pools for toddlers and pools filled with rainbow tropical fish.

8. You can dive to the wreck of a DC-3

Scuba diver underwater with camera, Tenerife

Credit: Charles Stirling (Diving) Alamy

As mesmerising as Tenerife’s volcanic landscape is, it gets even more amazing underwater where stingrays, manta rays, trumpet fish, scorpion fish and moray eels live among barnacled basaltic columns, vast plateaux and rocky overhangs.

But nothing makes for a greater adventure dive than a submerged wreck, particularly if it’s the fuselage of a plane.

During a storm in 1966, a DC-3 aircraft crashed off the coast of El Sauzal and now its wreckage lies 33 metres below the surface, the perfect hiding place for a multitude of marine life, and an adventure playground for the divers who come to spot them.

9. You can see pyramids and mummies

Mummy's hand Museum of Man and Nature Santa Cruz Tenerife

Mummy’s hand Museum of Man and Nature Santa Cruz Tenerife

Although not nearly so impressive as the pyramids of Giza, Tenerife’s pyramids are no less mysterious.

Uncovered by the Norwegian explorer and archaeologist Thor Heyerdahl, the pyramids of Guimar (Calle Chacona s/n Güímar; +34 922 514 510) are stepped, like those of Peru, and Heyerdahl believed they were constructed by the guanche, the first people ever to inhabit the Canary Islands. A primitive race of farmers and livestock rearers, the guanche worshipped the sun and embalmed their important dead.

Many of their mummified remains have been uncovered in Tenerife’s caves and you can see some of the best preserved ones in the Museum of Man and Nature (Calle Fuente Morales, s / n 38003. Santa Cruz de Tenerife; +34 922 20 91 23) in Santa Cruz.

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Can you add any unusual facts about Tenerife? Leave a comment to let us know.

  1. Anonymous says:

    If I ever want to do them, I will be sure to call you.

  2. Nwosu Emerie says:

    please am planning to come to Spain for vacation in November, i need a very cheap and pocket friendly tour.how do i go about getting affordable tour for 4-5 days.

    Your quick response will be highly appreciated.

    • Hello Nwosu,

      Thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, we can’t recommend any specific tours. I would suggest looking for “cheap Tenerife tours” on Google as a starting point. That way you will be able to find something that suits your exact needs.

      Regards,

      Joey

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