Four hours flying time from the UK Tenerife, the largest island in the Canaries, is ideal for anyone wanting a relaxing holiday with lovely weather, and a guaranteed average temperature of 22 degrees. Natasha Blair reports
The island is known for its miles and miles of sandy beaches on both the north and south of the island with, because the island is volcanic, some having black sand. The South has been built up with row on row of hotels bordering the promenade and coastline. The North has more historic buildings although its Capital Santa Cruz, the largest city in the Canary Islands, has some notable modern architecture including the Auditorio, designed by the renowned architect Santiago Calatrava, perched dramatically on the edge of the coastline.
In February, Carnival takes over the Island, particularly in Santa Cruz, with extravagant colourful celebrations.
Situated in the middle of the island, one of the ‘musts’ is a visit to Mt. Teide. An UNESCO World Heritage Site, it has the largest peak in Spain, volcanic landscape, and is snow-capped for most of the year. At its base, the Forest Crown Natural Park is a dense forest of mainly Canary pine. A great place for hiking or biking if you don’t mind steep hills! Fortunately, the mountain can also be accessed by road. A cable car takes visitors almost to the summit for breath-taking views. The ideal spot for anyone who enjoys or wants to learn about star gazing. Tenerife’s skies are believed to be among the best on the planet because of its clean, clear air. II’s definitely worth taking a night tour with a specialist guide who provides professional telescopes, and can point out stars and constellations not clear to the naked eye.
Several towns and villages dating back to the 15th and 17th centuries, have been preserved. In the north, San Cristobal de La Laguna, the Capital of the country until the early 1800s, is a colonial town, and UNESCO World Heritage site. There you will see traditional mansions and courtyards with typical wooden balconies, usually made of pitch pine, which have beautiful carvings. Other historical villages include La Orotava, Garachico, and Icod de Los Vinos.
The majority of hotels have at least one swimming pool and usually more plus a Kid’s Club so it’s easy to relax. There’s even a choice of where to swim as natural pools have been formed by lava from water that flows into the sea so it’s possible to bath in them as well as swimming in the Atlantic Ocean. For the more active, sports such as kayaking, windsurfing, scuba diving, surfing, and paragliding are all available. There are also routes for cycling and hiking from sea level to altitudes of over 2,000 m. and nine golf courses, both inland and bordering the sea, some particularly unique because of the volcanic landscape. A colony of bottlenose dolphins have made their home in In the South West of the island as have turtles, and around 400 pilot whales some of which can be seen on a catamaran cruise.
The island is a big producer of small bananas, and visitors are welcome at the Finca Ecologica La Calabacera, a certified organic farm, which also has a vineyard. With a micro-climate and volcanic soil, the wines of Tenerife are unique, and with a bit of research, it’s possible to discover small vineyards which although tucked away, welcome visitors, and offer tastings.
At Costa Adeje, adults and children will adore Siam Park, an enormous water park with rides and slides for both the very young and the young at heart. For children, there are gentle slides and waterfalls as well as a white, sandy beach. Thrill seekers will want to climb the oriental style tower which has an almost vertical 28m. drop into a water-filled aquarium.
On the outskirts of Puerto de la Cruz, Loro Parque is a zoological park with oriental architecture inspired by Thailand. The zoo promotes itself as a place for conservation and protection of animals as well as plant species using vegetation that recreates the natural habitats of their animals.
Local delicacies of Tenerife are wrinkled potatoes often served with red and green sauces; honey; almonds, and baccalav, salted cod. In rural areas, it’s worth investigating guachinches, small family-run eateries, often on the terrace or in the garage of someone’s home where wine is provided from their own vineyards, and is accompanied by traditional food.
I stayed at the Hotel Botanico in hilly Puerto de la Cruz in the north of the island. Although a short walk from the coast, the oriental style building is old style luxury enhanced by tropical gardens, with an outdoor golf practice area. As well as the main swimming pool, the luxurious spa has its own swimming pool and gardens.
Natasha travelled to Gatwick Airport on the Gatwick Express from London Victoria Station which takes 35 minutes or less. Worth booking on-line for discounted prices.