Tenerife holds many old memories for me.
Rewind the clock to 2004 and my friends and I are negotiating the minefield that is a girly holiday. I say minefield because at the tender age of nineteen a holiday with your girl pals truly is a coming of age experience.
One that leaves you bruised, tired, possibly scarred and sunburnt but grinning from ear to ear, until, standing thick as thieves with your ladies, you emerge into airport arrivals with an exhilarating feeling of simply having survived.
For a giggle, check out my posts on:
- the roles you will all play on your girly holiday, and,
- ten reasons why English girls will never be beach goddesses.
Back then, it was Playa de las Americas that lured us to Tenerife with its package holiday deal promising sunshine at the seaside, proximity to the pool and a boggling array of bars and clubs to keep us dancing until the wee small hours each night.
And I’m sure Playa de las Americas is still the setting for many such memorable holidays. However, I recognise that I am no longer nineteen years old with a penchant for drinks served in a fishbowl, so this time around I was eager to see what the rest of the island had to offer.
And what I discovered overwhelmed me: Tenerife (the rest of the island, away from the murk of a nightclub open until seven in the morning) is beautiful, diverse and entertaining on so many other levels.
Staying in Radazul
I enjoy that feeling you get when on holiday and you are surrounded by locals. Radazul was one such place. Here, my rudimentary Spanish was put to the test as I ordered my tapas and I loved it.
Radazul is situated on the coast about 10 kilometres south of the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. It is built into the cliff, nestled between the vertical, rocky backdrop and the ocean. Our apartment was down on sea level by the tiny port. This was the perfect spot to sit on the balcony and watch the activity on the street below. This mainly consisted of numerous people wriggling into wetsuits and slipping into the water to scuba dive.
I now appreciate that to visit Tenerife without realising that the centre of the island is dwarfed by the gigantic Mount Teide is a little remiss of me. The Mount Teide national park has an area of nearly 19,000 hectares and is the largest of the Canary Island’s national parks. The Teide volcano itself is 3,718 metres high and is the highest peak in Spain.
Enjoy your drive through the lunar-like landscape of the national park. You ascend to the peak of the volcano by cable car, which is exhilarating in itself. From up the top you are treated to views as far as the eye can see, spanning all the way across to Tenerife’s neighbouring islands of Gran Canaria and La Gomera.
Keen walkers can apply for a permit to trek up to the top of the volcano. Those not so able to take on such a challenging walk can explore the nearby tracks spanning out from the top-station of the cable car. Remember to bring extra layers with you, sunglasses and a hat as it is cold and exposed at the top, even on a sunny day.
Los Gigantes is situated on the west coast of the island, popular with holidaymakers who come to enjoy the sunshine and the impressive views of the colossal six mile long cliffs jutting 1,600 feet out of the Atlantic. The focal point of the town is the bustling harbour from where a variety of boat trips operate to take visitors to admire the cliffs from sea-level. I enjoyed a delicious slice of cake in a café called The Friendly Dolphin.
Another added bonus to these boat trips? The chance to see dolphins and whales in their natural environment. We took the Masca Express boat trip and were lucky enough to float alongside a pod of about 15 dolphins leisurely enjoying their day.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The capital of Tenerife boasts colourful buildings, tram ways, public squares and beautiful old churches nestled away in the narrow streets.
There is plenty to fill your day here, from museums and galleries, but don’t miss the beautiful Mercado Municipal Nuestra Senora de Africa. The main market in the town is the place the locals go to score vegetables, fruit, cheese and all manner of fresh produce. A two storey building set around interior courtyards, it boasts wonderful archways and colourful tiles surrounding a central clock tower.
Playa de las Teresitas
On a volcanic island famed for its black beaches, Playa de las Teresitas stands out due to its golden sands imported from the Saharan desert. Just to the north of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, this beach is best viewed from a point just above it if you follow the coastal road beyond the entrance to the car park.
La Roque de la Bodega
For a fantastic day trip head past San Andrés, north of Santa Cruz, and into the Montanas de Anaga. Here you will enter a world of hairpin bends and steep gradients on roads carved out of the rock that weave across the crevassed mountain.
Stop to admire the houses clinging to the rocks at Taganana amidst terraced fields where locals harvest their crops. These vertical green-growers reminded me of the terraced rice fields I saw when I was travelling in Bali.
Further round the shoreline you will discover the beautiful hamlet of Roque de las Bodegas, which according to history was a place where merchants used to sell barrels of wine to passing sailors and pirates who rowed ashore.
Nowadays, the wine merchants are (sadly!) gone, but you can admire the waves crashing over the rock that gave the place its name. Enjoy a beautiful lunch of freshly caught fish at one of the small restaurants along the beach.
Tips for Tenerife
If lying on a beach the for a week is not your idea of fun – although that can be achieved here without much issue – then Tenerife has a lot else to offer.
Hiring a car from the airport is the easiest way to get around the island. I would recommend doing so as the drives through the mountains and along the coastal roads were stunning and best enjoyed at your own pace rather than on an organised coach trip.
I visited in January for a dose of winter sunshine and found the temperature to be perfect for sightseeing.
Have you ever visited a place as a hedonistic youngster only to revisit a few years later and see it in a completely new light?
Ever been to Tenerife? What’s you favourite thing to do there? Let me know!