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Legend has it that Tenerife actually made up a number of the visible peaks of the lost city of Atlantis, which disappeared into the ocean thousands of years ago. Historical evidence, however, points to early, very basic, settlements around 200BC by a group known as the Guanches, who came from north-western Africa.
In the late 1400s, Spain began to demand the submission of the last of the Canary Islands, held independent by what records say were a brave and powerful people. The Spanish forces, however, had superior technology and arms, and eventually defeated the Guanches in 1494, enslaving most of the natives and wiping out many with new diseases such as smallpox and influenza.
The island saw rapid population growth over the next few centuries, with new immigrants clearing forests to make way for new crops like grapes, bananas and sugar cane.
The 1700s saw multiple attacks from British invaders, most notably in 1797, when Admiral Horatio Nelson famously lost his right arm. Pirates have also seen the island as a worthy target, with Dutch, French and Berber ships all calling uninvited into the port at Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
In the 1890s, when word of Tenerife’s beauty began to spread, the isle became a popular tourist destination, which was then stemmed by Tenerife’s involvement in the Spanish Civil War, and the misery and emigration that followed.
The boom in mass air travel of the 1960s meant that Tenerife was placed firmly on the map of favourite sun destinations, ushering in an era of holiday homes, beach resorts and top hotels.
You might be considering a holiday in Tenerife because it’s relatively cheap and easy to get to. But you’ll end up choosing this destination—and loving the resulting trip—because of its incredible beaches, exotic inland forests, and soaring volcano. As the largest of the popular Canary Islands (there are seven) lying just north of the Sahara, Tenerife has all the modern luxuries a reputable tourist island calls for, whether you’re into hiking or lounging on a unique black-sand beach.
A cheeky flight to Tenerife might be the start of just the short break you need.
View wildlife and spend a day with the family at this zoo located near Puerto de la Cruz.
Housing the history of the Canary Islands, this museum is actually a complex of three different museums.
This expansive park features a huge volcanic crater and the highest peak on the island. It's a great escape for a day of hiking and exploring.
Enjoy the breathtaking cliffs of Los Gigantes, located on the west coast of the island. Featuring massive cliffs that tower above the Atlantic, this is a must-see for travellers.
A favourite among wind and kite surfers, this beach features a boardwalk for an ocean-side stroll.
A rich ravine complete with a waterfall, this site offers picturesque views.
A hugely popular shopping district in Santa Cruz, this area offers plenty of boutiques and shops where you can buy everything from electronics to local fashions.
A tiny village at the base of the Teno Mountains, Masca is believed to have been a hideout for pirates.
The capital city of the island is the place to be for parties and celebrations. The Carnival festival is quite the show, with wild outfits and parades on display.
The bright and beautiful architecture of this town is truly worth seeing in person. Every view looks like a postcard.
Situated in the south east of the island, about 26 kilometres from Santa Cruz, these pyramids are actually six square, terraced structures built in the 19th century from local lava rock. Some believe that they were piles created when people moving to the rural interior were clearing the land. Others insist that the pyramids, similar to those found in Mexico and Peru, were connected to the Guanches and were aligned astrologically. Stand on top of the largest one on the day of summer solstice to observe a double sunset.
Tenerife has a number of sites related to the Guanches, but the most fascinating remains of their culture are to be found hidden in the south of the island, where cave paintings have been discovered in the archaeological sites of Cambados and El Barranco del Rey in Arona.
The sunny island may be a magnet for beachgoers and nightlife lovers, but it is rich in culture too, and Tenerife is justifiably proud of its museums and heritage sites. Begin your tour at the Municipal Museum of Fine Arts, which has a comprehensive collection of works by Canary Island artists, plus pieces from the Prado in Madrid. As well as art and sculpture, this museum houses wonderful collections of antique furniture, weapons, porcelain and coins. Bring yourself right up to date at the Museum of Contemporary Art, and then get a taste of science, nature and archaeology at the Natural and Human History Museum, where you’ll find out what life was like for pre-Hispanic man on the islands.
On the west coast of Tenerife are ‘The Giants’¬—sheer cliffs that plunge 800 metres down to the sea. You can trek out there from the neighbouring town of Los Gigantes, and inch out on your stomach to get a better view. Or choose the non-death-defying option and take a boat trip to the base, where you can gaze up at the dramatic rock face above.
Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday
This water amusement park is located in Costa Adeje and features artificial waves and several cafes.
This cafe is an excellent place to grab a delicious bite to eat for any meal, as well as enjoy music on the weekends.
More than just your typical beach, this site may catch some holidaymakers off guard due to its black volcanic sand.
Located on the northeastern region of the island, this mountainous area is rather remote and unexplored. It's a great place for pristine views and photo opportunities.
Popular among locals, this restaurant offers regional favourites such as cazuela, a tasty fish casserole.
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The island's weather varies by location, as the geography affects conditions significantly. In the winter months, it is possible to experience snow and warm temperatures within miles of each other. When travelling to the island, keep the changes in weather in mind, and pack accordingly. The island experiences warm temperatures throughout the year, with an average of 20Â°C in the winter and 28Â°C in the summer. The summer months, from May to September, bring the least amount of rainfall, so travellers wanting maximum time outdoors should visit Tenerife during this time.
Considered the biggest on the planet after Rio and Notting Hill, the carnival in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is not to be missed. Celebrated every February, this explosion of music and dancing attracts a huge number of visitors, with thousands taking to the streets in wacky outfits. Highlights include the dazzling opening parade, the ‘burial of the sardine’ and the election of Carnival Queen.
Reaching higher than any other mountain in Spain, El Teide is an active volcano (last erupted in 1909) definitely worth exploring. It’s set in the craggy volcanic landscape of Teide National Park (a UNESCO world heritage site), and is home to a surprising number of plant species, reptiles, and birds. You’ll need special permission to hike right to the top, but halfway up there’s an observation deck with telescopes. There’s also a cable car that will take you up almost to the summit—beware of altitude sickness!
With waters that only drop to a low of 18 degrees in winter, Tenerife is a great place to try a spot of scuba diving. Among the assortment of diving sites, you’re likely to see some fantastic marine life such as impressive moray eels, parrotfish and stingrays. There are also some dramatic volcanic rock formations, especially around the harbour at Puerto de la Cruz.
One of the best ways to take off and see the craggy scenery of this volcanic isle is on a powerful quad bike. Thrilling excursions are mainly off-road, and a 35-minute trip costs just under €30 (£25).
A UNESCO world heritage site, La Laguna is a beautiful old city that was once the capital of the island. It sits in the sheltered countryside of the Aguere valley and is home to bustling La Laguna University and the Cathedral of La Laguna. In this charming town you’ll find plenty of surprising architecture, museums, ancient churches and some great local restaurants.
Tenerife has some really great deals when it comes to accommodation, even if your checklist includes a pool, gym and beauty salon. Hotasa Lagos De Cesar Hotel is a surprising budget option, with great staff, a quiet location, and huge rooms. The location in Puerto de Santiago is perfect for exploring the north and south of the island, and there are all-inclusive packages, though you may want to try the many dining options nearby.
If you’re looking for something directly on the seafront, go for the Cleopatra Palace Hotel, part of a Mare Nostrum hotel complex made up of three buildings. Two of the buildings—the Julio César and the Marco Antonio—are Roman themed, with thick columns and statues of the gods, while the Cleopatra Palace has pyramids and palm trees. Kitsch and fun, this five-star option is like Vegas by the sea.
At the H10 Las Palmeras Hotel, you get a good-value hotel in Tenerife where you can relax surrounded by wonderful subtropical gardens, or treat yourself to lunch at the poolside bar. The dinner buffet here is wonderfully varied, while the hotel is also very close to a black-sand beach, with perfect waves for those interested in surfing.
For really spectacular views, choose the Gran Hotel Semiramis, built on the edge of a cliff in Puerto Cruz. The sound of the waves breaking on the rocks below drifts up to clean, comfortable rooms, while guests can choose between the refreshing outdoor pool or the heated semi-indoor pool.
Depending on where you’re staying, you’ll either take a flight to Tenerife South airport (Reina Sofia, which handles most international flights) or go to Tenerife North (Los Rodeos) airport. You’ll find a good bus system at both which runs from about 5am to midnight (check current times on airport website), and serves the major cities on the island. The trip from the airport to the capital, Santa Cruz, takes around 15 minutes from the northern airport or an hour from the south. Both arrivals terminals have ATMs, banks where you can change money, and competitive options for car hire in Tenerife.
There is also the option of taking a ferry to Tenerife. Boats (with surprisingly comfortable sleeping quarters) leave from Cadiz in Spain, and the journey takes two days.
If you want to travel the island on a budget, get yourself a bus card (ask at any bus station or your hotel), which can be used on all lines and will reduce your fare. Taxis are another good option if you haven’t hired your own car—drivers on the island are generally honest and reliable, and all cars should be metered. There are ferries that you can take if you feel like checking out some of the other Canary Islands.
Rated as a favourite time and again by travellers, Los Roques (Calle La Marina 16) is a gem of a restaurant, tucked into an unassuming spot fronting the harbour in Los Abrigos. If it’s a special occasion, book a table on the terrace at sunset and go for the seven-course taster menu—it’s a stunning experience that you’ll be talking about for weeks. The friendly hosts and the ambience make it worth the trip, no matter where on the island you’re staying.
In Puerto de la Cruz you’ll find Toucan (Calle Sebastian Padron Acosta), a reasonably priced offering run by an especially friendly German couple. Fresh ingredients and loving preparation make the difference here. Go for the tasty fish dishes, or try the veal with cranberry sauce for something different.
If you like a little entertainment with your evening meal, then stop in at pub/restaurant Original Wigan Pier in Adeje (Local 11a Mareverde). There are pub quizzes, singers, and even a hilarious drag act, ‘Mister Sister’. For a pint and generous helpings of tasty pub food, this is the place to be—the atmosphere is bursting with energy too, and the sangria has a great kick to it.
Much-loved by regular Tenerife holidaymakers, the Monte Christo (Avenida Bruselas) is a pricy option that’s worth it for a top-class dining experience. Five-star service adds to the gourmet modern Italian food, with warm herb bread accompanying crispy pizzas and tender steaks.
Given the volume of people constantly out and about in the larger cities and beach resorts of Tenerife, it is generally a safe destination to wander around with friends. However, petty thieves and opportunists are always ready to make a purse, bag or camera disappear, so be sensible with your belongings, especially if eating outdoors in a busy street.
If you do need help, the number to dial for police is 061. Tenerife has excellent healthcare and your hotel should be able to find an English-speaking doctor or dentist if needed. If you need emergency help, call Hospital Las Americas on +34 922 75 00 22.
Sunstroke and sunburn are a real hazard here, so make sure to keep the sun-cream handy and go for water or juice whenever possible, as alcohol from the night before dehydrates the system. Mosquitoes are an annoyance here, but don’t carry malaria.
Be aware of scams involving timeshare apartments; if someone offers you a scratchcard, or encourages you to attend a presentation on holiday homes, be wary. Contracts that thousands of unwitting holidaymakers have been persuaded to sign here are illegal, with false claims about the holiday deals you’ll get when you hand over your bank details.