We enjoyed our “break” on Tioman Island, Malaysia at the beginning of our big adventure and felt it was fitting that we should end the big adventure with another break.
Tenerife in the Canary Islands appealed because it is such a popular winter escape for the Europeans, especially those that are surrounded by snow. Now we know why.
The climate is mild here, we have had temperatures in the early 20s by day and high teens by night, a little rain and wind and a good deal of sunshine. At the same time we are getting news from German friends that they have been snowed in.
Puerto de la Cruz is the biggest tourist city on Tenerife and is a popular destination for northern Europeans. The local people tend to speak German rather than English and the German menu is the second most important after Spanish.
We are travelling out of season, so the biggest concentration of tourists appear to be those wanting to avoid the cold for their aches and pains. I am sure a lot of families would enjoy school holiday breaks here as well.
We hired a quaint little car and toured the island. It wasn’t the first time that little car had toured the island – it had done 100,000km and was looking and feeling rather tired.
We didn’t manage to reach the south of the island, where I believe you will find yellow sandy beaches.
In the centre of Tenerife is the volcano El Teide. It actually sits inside a massive Caldera or broken crater formed by an older volcano. Part of that crater collapsed leaving a fertile slope on the northern side of the island above Puerto de la Cruz called Valle de la Orotava.
El Teide is the highest point in Spain, reaching 3,718 metres. A cable car takes you from 2,356 metres to the station at 3,555 metres. It is possible to go to the peak, but you need to book that and our information for the booking was incorrect.
We followed the walking paths to the east and west of the cable car station, which gave amazing views over the desolate caldera and beyond towards Playa de la Américas in the south west and the green valley towards Puerto de la Cruz and the coastline to the north east. El Teide and a number of other volcanoes in the caldera are active, however the last eruption was in the 18th century.
The eastern peninsula of Tenerife is a protected park. It is made up of enormous cliffs that are heavily wooded. The woodland is fed by a sea of clouds which they say produces four times as much water as rain would. That water feeds the valley of La Laguna where the cities of San Cristobal de La Laguna and Santa Cruz de Tenerife lie.
The road through the park is windy and often too narrow for cars to pass. Fortunately there was very little traffic and the drivers were patient and courteous. The views from the ridge are stunning. We took a walk through Llano de los Loros, part of the woodland, along tracks that were used by the country folk known as Gangocheras (gangocha means interchange) who swapped their produce such as fish or fruit or vegetables. The woodland area is very misty and the steep tracks were slippery, so canals were cut to allow water to flow and avoid erosion. These tracks had been used for hundreds of years and are still available to walk today.
And yes, as we walked through that lovely wood, we could hear canaries singing.
We drove down to San Andrès, with the vegetation changing from woodland trees to cactus and succulents, and along the coast to the capital city, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The city is modern with the typical pedestrian area in the commercial centre of town. The waterside is a busy port and not a place for the beach seeking tourists. The central meeting place is the Plaza de Espaňa. The stunning city gardens Parque Garcia Sanabria has a path through it edged by the most amazing array of cacti and succulents.
As you can expect, everywhere on the island are Canary Island data palms, the same type we had in our front garden at Ocean Street.
Monte de Agua
Our third journey took us to the north west of Tenerife. First we visited the town of Icod de los Vinos, famous for its oldest tree, the Millenary Drago. The dragon tree is said to be a thousand years old and was in full bloom when we saw it. It’s name is derived from the sap which turns bright red as it falls. The town has a lovely array of houses typical of the Canary Islands, colourful with wooden balconies, and perhaps the worst coffee in the world.
Next we drove to the western end of the north coast and then climbed the Monte de Agua. Once again we were in terrain of enormous cliffs and the little car chugged up the Monte slowly and deliberately. Unlike the wooded east of the island, the vegetation was an amazing array of succulents and cacti, like we had seen in the city gardens. The gorges that had been formed over the years were steep and spectacular, and we could easily see the clouds hovering above the island of La Gomera to the west.
From there we drove down to Los Gigantes on the west coast, said to be stunning cliffs with the sea 600m below. They may have been at one time but all we could find was a massive tourist development with apartment blocks clambering up the steep cliffs.
We set Jane, out TomTom mistress, for the road around El Teide, unable to resist another look at the beautiful volcano. She took us through country lanes and tiny villages to make up for going off course to Los Gigantes. The drive from west to east on the south side of El Teide, through pine forests pushing out of black volcanic rocks, then the desolate caldera of many colours, was spectacular.
Puerto de la Cruz
When not driving around the island, we explored Puerto de la Cruz and the little village beside it Punta Brava. The beaches are black sand and the waves were big and fierce. As well as the beaches, the sun worshippers had the Casino Lago Martiánez which is a complex of swimming pools of various shapes and depths. Sun lounges and umbrellas are available to hire and there were many who were stripped down to bare minimum to enjoy the mild sun.
The week went quickly as the thought of packing up and the long flight home loomed.
Here is a map of Tenerife. Zoom out to find its position in the Atlantic Ocean. Then scroll further for photos.