Tenerife’s idyllic island life

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Garachico is billed as the prettiest town on the island of Tenerife. (Shutterstock)
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Balloonists take in the sights of Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. (Shutterstock)
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The Auditorio de Tenerife was designed by Santiago Calatrava Valls and has become an architectural symbol of Santa Cruz. (Shutterstock)
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Visitors to Tenerife should be sure to sample the seafood. (Shutterstock)
Updated 12 June 2019

Tenerife’s idyllic island life

  • Ignore the stereotypes and embrace one of Europe’s most enthralling destinations
  • The mountains are filled with wonderful scenery and spectacular coastal hiking trails.

DUBLIN: Tenerife might conjure up images of greasy English breakfasts and Brits abroad, but this island has a huge amount to offer the more discerning traveller. Yes, there are plenty of all-inclusive resorts and cheesy karaoke venues, but there are also picturesque villages, wonderful, buzzing port towns, and stunning scenery.

The best place to start exploring the largest of the Canary Islands is the vibrant capital: Santa Cruz de Tenerife, in the northeast. Your first stop should be the Auditorio, the Santiago Calatrava-designed home of the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra. Once you have updated your Instagram feed, head to the Museum of Man and Nature, which tells the story of the Canary Islands from their chaotic, volcanic beginnings to the present day. There are three floors of exhibits, which include mummified remains of the islands’ earliest inhabitants.

Next door is the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes, which is home to a variety of modern art from the islands, and a popular café where you can chow down on a three-course lunch menu for less than $12. If you fancy some retail therapy, head to El Corte Ingles, located in the center of the city’s shopping district. The seventh-floor café offers spectacular views of the Anaga Mountains just north of the city. The mountains are filled with wonderful scenery and spectacular coastal hiking trails. The weather here is often wet (even when the sun is shining on the rest of the island), so make sure to bring suitable clothing. The trade winds bring all manner of plant life to this part of the island – look out for Dragon trees, prickly pears and a host of intriguing plants and shrubs.

Of course, it’s not just the northeast of the island that’s home to world-class hiking, and the jewel in the island’s crown is Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site comprising a 10-mile-wide volcano which rises 3,718 metres above sea level and dominates the center of the island. On a clear day, ride the cable car to the top for spectacular views of Tenerife and the surrounding islands. If you prefer to get there on two feet, there is a hiking route to the top, just be sure to bring plenty of water. The park is filled with picturesque trails, and you will often be the only one on them. Once night falls, the park attracts stargazers from around the world, as the volcanic landscape and lack of artificial light provide the perfect backdrop to scanning the heavens. Base yourself in the Parador de Las Canadas del Teide, a lodge-style retreat located in the volcanic crater.

Back down at sea level, you could do worse than head to Costa Adeje, which offers plenty to do, from watersports and whale- and dolphin-watching to countless restaurants, cafes and nightlife. It’s a bit more reserved than the raucous Playa de Las Americas further down the coast, and all the better for it. After a few days R&R, we recommend heading back up north to the wonderful fishing village of Garachico. Billed as the prettiest town on the island, it’s also one of the unluckiest, once being one of the richest towns in Europe, before nature — more specifically the Montana Negra volcano — interceded, destroying the town’s harbor. The disaster ensured much of the town is preserved as it was hundreds of years ago, and it’s an extremely pleasant place to spend a few days in.

Less than an hour’s drive from Garachico is Cueva de Viento, the largest lava tube system in Europe, and the most complex volcanic tube in the world. It consists of 17km of tunnels, filled with multiple passageways, lava pits and terraces. There are daily tours and tickets must be bought online in advance. It’s a great way to end your Tenerife journey, in a place that’s beautiful, surprising and cultured in equal measure.

Chill out: top cities for a cold winter break

Get planning that all-important vacation now. (Shutterstock)
Updated 11 September 2019

Chill out: top cities for a cold winter break

DUBAI: Yes, we know, the summer holidays have barely ended. So is now really the time to discuss winter breaks? Well, we all need something to get us through the daily grind, right? And visualizing your next escape is a good way to beat those back-to-work (or –school) blues. Here are a few suggestions for great places to visit for a true ‘winter wonderland’ experience.

Bergen, Norway

Thanks to its coastal location near the Gulf Stream, the ancient city of Bergen can be up to 20 degrees warmer than Norway’s capital, Oslo, in the winter. (NB: It can still get very cold.) It’s a ridiculously picturesque location surrounded by astonishing scenery, from the mountains to the east to the fjords to the west. Its docks are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Vienna, Austria

The Austrian capital is so beautiful in the wintertime that it’s more like an artist’s imagining of a perfect winter scene than an actual place. And despite the temperatures, there is plenty to do and see even on the coldest days in this wonderful old city. It’s a great place all year round, but we’d recommend a visit to the winter market to really experience the magic of this place.

Bolzano, Italy

This unsung gem, located in a valley near the Dolomites range of the Italian Alps, might look like a typical provincial city, but as Lonely Planet says, Bolzano is “worldly and engaged, a long-time conduit between cultures.” Even if you don’t venture into the mountains themselves, at least take a cable car into the hills and enjoy the jaw-dropping scenery. It’s also a popular city for winter shopping, and Italians know how to shop.

Minneapolis, USA

It’s not the most obvious place to visit if you’re heading to America, but Minneapolis really shines in the winter. Aside from its numerous indoor options for culture-vultures and foodies (and its miles of climate-controlled pedestrian footbridges connecting much of downtown), the city is home to the Great Northern Festival (begins Jan. 23, 2020) — a 10-day celebration combining the premier winter events in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul’s, which includes carnivals, hockey championships, live shows and more, much of which is free.

Abisko, Sweden

This small town, north of the Arctic circle in Swedish Lapland, is just next to the stunning 75-square-kilometer Abisko National Park, which is widely recognized as possibly the best place in the world from which to view the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). As well as reindeer and lemmings, the park hosts the Aurora Sky Station — situated on Mt. Njullà — a site specifically created to ensure the best possible environment in which to view the phenomenon.