As one would’ve guessed, I took a lot (a lot) of photos during our vacation; it took a while to figure out what would make a good selection to put here. So, some photos and a short travelog is here in this post – check out the appropriate album in the photos-section for more pictures and accounts. Click on the thumbnails in this post to open the full photos.
Our base was in Puerto de la Cruz on the northern coast of Tenerife. Neither of us had been in the Canary Islands before, and we chose the location based on what we’d heard – i.e. it’s far from the “Tourist Hell” of Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos while also enjoying a much greener (which unfortunately also means wetter) climate. Many people seem to have the misconception that there is not much to see in the Canary Islands – or actually nothing to see. I also shared this prejudice to some extent before the trip and let me tell you – it’s so not true. For one, Tenerife is a hiking paradise with enough awesome routes to last for a month or two. Plus the islands aren’t called Hawai’i of the Atlantic for nothing either.
Puerto de la Cruz is a nice small city; nice in the sense that there’s a lot more going on than just tourists. It served as an excellent starting place for some island tours. While there is clean and reliable public transportation available to most parts of the island, having a car helped a lot. In the ten days or so we had a car, I drove over 1,000 kilometers which is quite a bit on an island that’s 100km from one end to the other.. However, whenever one leaves the only highway going two thirds around Tenerife, you enter hairpin curve territory and progress is often very slow. Thankfully all the roads were in very good condition.
I’d bought a Sunflower hiking guide beforehand, which served as a good guide to many excellent hikes in Tenerife. We were ill-equipped to handle the most strenuous hikes like climbing Mt. Teide, but found plenty of wonderful views along more humane hikes. For example, the photo on the right here was taken from a hike that circles Roque de Taborno near the village of Taborno on the Anaga Peninsula. The instructions in the guide were generally quite good and I think we only got lost a couple of times.. 😉 Even on the easier hikes, the paths were such that I’m sure some cultures would’ve put up plenty of warning signs like “WARNING: If you take one wrong step, you fall 200m and die.”, but most of the time things were okay. Still, there were plenty of hikes unsuitable for those suffering from vertigo.
When not hiking, beaches provided oppurtinities either for relaxing in the sun or exercising in the water – surfing. What comes to surfing, was very consistent and most of the time with good-sized swells – which for someone like me who surfs once or twice a year thanks to my northern domicile, means swells of 2m or less. The trouble was that many beaches had rock bottoms, which makes the occasional wipeout and washing machine-experiences not only uncomfortable but also dangerous on an unfamiliar beach. The Playa Martianez in downtown Puerto de la Cruz had an interesting surfing spot, partly protected by a breakwater but letting swell through nevertheless. It was often quite crowded, so a nearby Playa del Socorro (pictured here, photo obviously by Sarita) was a good alternative. Interestingly, all beaches everywhere had red flags on them every single day – indicating no swimming due to dangerous conditions – even when the sea was relatively calm – luckily, while the lifeguards drove away all potential swimmers who tried to enter the water, surfers were left alone. Either they knew they could handle the conditions or figured it was just as well to let them drown themselves.. 😉
The waves weren’t small everywhere, but luckily the huge waves were in areas where surfing would’ve been dangerous or suicidal. Check out the photo on the left, taken from a hill south of the city center in Puerto de la Cruz. There’s an awesome breaking wave and it looks perfect from afar. But take a look at the people walking on the coastline nearby and you get an idea on the size of this swell.. ouch.
The weather on our “wetter” coast was almost uninterrupted sunshine and temperatures hovering in the +20C to +25C range, so no complaints there. One nice surprise (for us anyway) that we discovered on any walks outside forests was that many places were teeming with small and medium-sized lizards like the one on the right here. Unfortunately we didn’t see any of the bigger lizards living on the island.
The number one natural attraction of the island is probably mount Teide, Spain’s tallest mountain at 3700m+. You’ll want to go here, but you do not want to hike up even from the 2,000m+-level to the 3,700m+ top unless you’re a very experienced hiker. Plus you now need a permit to get to the very top. However, there is a cable car running to almost the top to over 3,550m and a couple of great viewpoints (miradors) are within half an hours of walk up there. Also, the surrounding huge caldera offers some great walks and views of Teide, like the one on the left here. Note: Go early to the cable car station – so early that you’re at the lower cable car stop when it opens at 9am. We did, and were very very happy about it when we saw that a 2-3 hour queue had appeared by the time we descended a couple of hours later..
As for the local attractions, here are some hints and suggestions:
- Go to Mount Teide. See above for notes.
- Take some walks in the Anaga peninsula and/or the Orotova valley. There are walks of all difficulty levels and they offer some amazing views.
- Visit Loro Parque, advertisements of which cannot be avoided on the island. Cool dolphin and orca shows as well as some nice exotic animals – of course, if you hate zoos, you may want to skip this.
- Rent a car so you can drive around the island. Be prepared for slow traffic and plenty of hairpin curves outside the autopista (highway).
- Shop for electronics if that’s your thing. The taxes are much lower than in continental EU and thus prices are something like 20-25% less than in, say, Finland. Luckily at least the northern part of the island was almost completely free from pushy salespeople, which was a relief.
- Expect great food. See my earlier post about this nuisance.
- Go to Playa de las Americas or Los Cristianos, nothing but tourists there. Unless, of course, you’re weird and like that kind of stuff.
- Expect white sand beaches; the abovementioned resort cities have imported ugly sand and there’s only one beach – Playa de la Teresitas near Santa Cruz – that has nice light sand; imported from the Sahara, actually. All other beaches are composed of black lava sand which is quite coarse.
- Visit the Aquatic Gardens (Jardin Aquatico) in Puerto de la Cruz. The first pool of water is nice enough but the rest of the place is completely run down and ugly. Definately not worth the â‚¬4 admission charge. Instead, visit the public gardens nearby, facing the city with waterfalls & all.
- Expect people outside hotels and major attractions to speak much English. Learn some basic Spanish or take a dictionary with you.
- Be surprised of the strong police presence; they’re much more visible than in e.g. Finland. Most of the time it’s nice and subsequently the crime rate is very low, but sometimes the presence can scare you. Like once when we were driving on twisty mountain road, we suddenly after one curve find a camouflaged guy wielding an automatic rifle in the middle of the road, signalling us to stop. Turned out to be a cop – some more official uniform would’ve been nice..
A couple of days before we left, there was a storm and the island got its only rain during our stay. This turned out to be a good thing, as Mt Teide also got a snow-cap from the storm which looked quite stunning – photographs just won’t do justice, just like they simply don’t convey the altitude differences in many of the pictures taken from our hikes.
While the lack of good food was a major disappointment (and a possible show-stopper for us to visit the place again), Tenerife was all in all a positive surprise with stunning scenery and providing excellent opportunities for an active holiday. The people were generally friendly and escaping to somewhere sunny and warm for a while is alwas a good experience.