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.