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July 15, 2019
Tenerife is package holiday royalty. Every year, millions of Brits flock to its sandy shores in search of affordable fun in the sun.
Year-round sunshine, 70 beaches to choose from and a short, four-hour flight from the UK are the obvious draws, but there’s plenty more to love.
Whether you’re after family fun, natural beauty or are primed to party, there’s something to suit.
Teide National Park is home to Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak and the third-tallest volcano in the world. The snowy white of its summit contrasts with the tongues of black lava petrified on the slopes.
“La Rambleta” cable car runs from the base station at an altitude of 2,356m to a lookout point at 3,555m, taking eight minutes to make the thrilling climb. Tickets are €27 per adult and €13.5 per child.
The national park itself is full of dramatic volcanic rock formations, with good drive-through views, but it’s worth stopping off at one of the two Visitor Centres to learn about the geology, flora and fauna, and take a self-guided walk along one of the clearly marked and well-signposted trails.
The calm, clean water of the straits between Tenerife’s south coast and its sister Canary Island, La Gomera, is populated by up to 600 pilot whales and 300 bottlenose dolphins, making it one of the best spots in Europe for whale and dolphin watching.
Sightings of these two species are virtually guaranteed, plus there’s a chance of getting a glimpse of another 23 migratory dolphin and whale types, in addition to rays, sharks and turtles.
A range of different boats and catamarans offer whale-watching cruises – some have glass panels in the bottom, others submarine TV links, and some allow passengers to swim in the sea.
As Tenerife’s volcanic lava sizzled into the sea many millions of years ago, it very conveniently formed a number of natural swimming pools, which provide some spectacular but safe places to swim to this day.
Watch the sunset from the water at Mesa del Mar or marvel at one of the most beautiful corners of the island at Charco de la Larja.
Thai-themed waterpark Siam Park is one of the biggest and best in Europe, and is a must if you have a yearning for an adrenaline rush.
Watercoaster Singha will whip you back and forth 14 times in its 240m length, The Dragon will plunge you into pitch darkness before a laser display, and you can reach speeds of 80kmh while dropping 28m down The Tower of Power (and this is before you shoot through an aquarium of sharks and rays).
Scaredy-cats are ok too, with a range of tamer family rides and relaxing activities, from a lazy river to sea lion island. Tickets start from €38 per adult and €26 per child.
If you like a little spice, then go searching for some mojo. Sauces of this name originated in the Canary Islands, and there are two main varieties, green and red. Base ingredients of olive oil, salt, peppers, garlic and paprika are mixed with cumin, coriander or other spices. Green mojo is most often served with fish, and red with meat, but both come with iconic dish papas arugadas or wrinkled potatoes, which have been boiled in seawater. Fried cheese is often served with mojo too.
Don’t miss Tenerife wine, either – they’ve been making it since Shakespeare’s time. These days there are more varieties on offer than the sweet white Malmsey The Bard wrote of, including rosés and reds, all the product of the island’s volcanic soil and sea air.
You could also finish a meal with a Barraquito – a coffee with a few drops of grappa, condensed milk, and cinnamon.
Lava tubes are formed after a volcanic eruption, and northeastern Tenerife is home to the largest in Europe. (It’s actually the fifth-largest in the world, after four others – all in Hawaii.)
Pop on a helmet with a headlight and take a tour of the ten-mile long ‘Cave of the Winds’, which was shaped by lava flows from volcano Pico Viejo. Stout shoes are necessary, and even though there are handrails and steps, visitors need to be careful not to miss their footing. It’s worth it though, to walk inside the volcanic rock, experiencing pitch darkness, hearing about how the island was formed, and about the fossils of extinct megafauna (specifically giant rats and lizards), which have been found here.
Some say Carnival in Tenerife is second only to Rio de Janeiro, and it’s definitely one of the most raucous in Europe, with rhythm, costume and colour transfiguring the streets of the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife for up to three weeks in the run up to Lent each year.
Carnival ‘krewes’ march through the streets in costume, Carnival Queens (child, adult and even senior citizen versions) are elected and visitors can join in too, encouraged to participate in the fancy dress and dancing.
Each year a theme is announced, with the last decade seeing everything from Bollywood to horror films, and flower power to the 1980s.
The Museum of Science and the Cosmos in La Laguna is free to visit from 4pm til 8pm on Friday and Saturday afternoons, and is whizzy and interactive enough that even the grumpiest child won’t start shouting ‘borrrr-ing’ and demand to leave. They can play at cosmonauts, get lost in a hall of mirrors, get a bird’s eye view of the island and see a show at the Planetarium.
You can whet your appetite for the star show with the real thing – Tenerife is one of the best places in the world to get a clear view of the night sky. The Teide Observatory is home to GREGOR, the largest solar telescope in Europe. You can see a lot with the naked eye, however, or some rural hotels have their own small telescopes for some DIY stargazing.
Some have compared Masca to Machu Picchu, and while likening this hamlet and gorge to the Peruvian icon may be over-egging things a little, it is a spectacular spot found in the island’s wild North West.
The village is Tenerife’s prettiest, with clusters of small, white houses nestled in verdant vegetation between the Masca and Madre del Agua gorges. Mountains soar on three sides, but there’s still a view of the ocean. This was one of the last refuges of the Canaries’ original Guanche people, who were defeated by the Spanish conquistadors in 1496.
The restaurants serve local specialities made from fresh ingredients, there are craft shops selling traditional goods, and a hike in the gorge showcases seven million years of geology.
Jungle Park near Los Cristianos, also home to a multitude of wildlife including lemurs, leopards, sea lions, orang-utans, penguins, eagles and falcons, where prices start from €26 per adult, €18 for 5-10-year-olds, and €11 for under 5s.
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