This article is part of our series on Discovering Something Different in the Canary Islands. Be sure to check out the central hub to this series here.
We’re probably all familiar with the Canary Islands. This Spanish Archipelago that sits in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco has long been a favourite destination for Europeans looking for year-round sun. I’m sure many of you reading this will, at one time or another, have even holidayed there. However, many visitors to the islands will never go much further than their resort or hotel, which is a great shame as these volcanic islands are stunningly – even otherworldly – beautiful and offer visitors a whole host of experiences and potential for adventure.
A Landscape format image. The Sun sets over the Atlantic Ocean. In the distance, we can see the island of La Gomera. The sky is vivid blue with a flash of red and gold in the centre. The Silhouettes of rocks emerge from the ocean in the foreground.
Tenerife is the largest, most heavily developed and most populous of the Canary Islands. Travelling along the coast, you’ll find a chain of habitations ranging from sleepy fishing villages, seemingly little touched by modern life through to ultra-modern resort towns and cities – basically, there’s something here to cater to ever taste. Don’t let this fool you, though, you don’t have to travel far before you see that there’s still plenty of wild spaces on the island!
Tenerife is a large island and, whilst it is absolutely possible to enjoy wild experiences there without a vehicle, it’s helpful to have access to a car if you really want to explore the island. The roads on the island are generally great and you can easily hire a car at the airport or in most of the large towns – and certainly the resort towns – on the island.
A Landscape format image. The summit of Mt. Teide dominates Tenerife. Framed by a cloudless vivid blue sky and with wisps of cloud in the foreground, the flanks of the mountain show vivid red and orange tones in the rock. On the right of the image, we can see the upper cable car station and cable car lines that transport visitors towards the summit.
Below, we’ve outlined some of our suggestions to allow you to explore and discover a different, nature based side to Tenerife allowing you to truly switch off and connect to the world around you.
Born From Fire – The Teide National Park
You can’t talk about Tenerife without mentioning it’s defining feature: The 3,715m (12,188ft) tall, and thankfully dormant, volcano Mount Teide is the tallest mountain in Spanish territory and quite literally towers above the island. Mount Teide is the centrepiece of the Teide National Park which takes up a good portion of the centre of the island. What’s truly remarkable is that Mount Teide and much of the surrounding park itself, sits inside the crater left by the collapse of a far, far larger volcano that dominated the island close to a quarter of a million years ago! The Teide National Park is a must-see for anyone planning on visiting Tenerife. With many kilometres of well-marked trails, there’s plenty of fantastic hiking opportunities for walkers of all abilities, ranging from short, family-friendly walks that can be completed in a morning, to intense trails that would challenge skilled mountaineers. We’ve listed some of our favourite routes here. If you’re not into hiking, a drive through the alpine landscape of the park is still well worth doing and a regular cable car service will even take you to close to the summit of Teide itself. TUI can organise a rang of experiences in the Teide National Park – many of which won’t require you to hire a vehicle – including this 4×4 safari, this tour of the park, this nigh time tour of the park including stargazing experience and this tour including a cable car journey to the Teide summit.
A Landscape format image. A rolling volcanic landscape of loose, red-orange rocks, punctuated by groves of lush green trees fills most of the frame. The imposing summit of Mt. Teide sits in the background beneath a cloudless blue sky. The overall colours are warm and golden.
Sea Swimming, Snorkelling and More
You’re never far from the sea in the Canary Islands and Tenerife does not disappoint with its coastline. Aside from fantastic coastal views and beautiful beaches – you can take your pick from golden sand, volcanic black sand or pebbles – there’s plenty of opportunities for sea swimming and snorkelling. Tenerife beaches pretty much have it all. The coast line is dotted with natural and semi man-made sea-bathing pools that offer sheltered swimming even when the sea is rough. Pop on a snorkel mask and be prepared to be dazzled by the sea life that’s visible even close to shore including corals and rainbow-coloured fish and crabs. Relatively close to the shore – though still much further out than most people would swim from a beach – the Atlantic Ocean drops to a great depth and this means that whales and dolphins can often be spotted close to the islands. You’ll find a list of swimming spots and the best beaches on Tenerife here and, if you can book a range of boat and whale watching trips via TUI’s website including this and this, which offers a chance to swim in the open sea too.
A Landscape format image. A volcanic landscape in the Teide National Park. Red-orange volcanic rock is framed by lush pine trees and golden grasses. A bank of low level clouds fills the middle of the frame with higher peaks of volcanic rock visible in the background.
Road Trip into the West
Los Gigantes – the towering sea cliffs that lay just north of the popular resort town of Puerto de Santiago – mark the start of a particularly spectacular coastal region in Tenerife. Head down the TF-436 towards and past the mountain village of Masca to experience what’s got to be one of the most spectacular road routes in the Canary islands. There a plenty of pull in points along the way to take in the views as well as routes down to the coast to explore secluded beaches and coves. If you don’t fancy driving this route, there are options available for guided tours – this one takes in the Teide National Park too – and you can also explore this part of the island by sea, with regular boat tours leaving Puerto de Santiago and Playa de Las Americas.
A Landscape format image. The Atlantic Ocean meets an ancient lava flow on the coast. The ocean is blue-turquoise and turns into foaming white waves as it crashes against the black, red and orange volcanic rock.
It might sound like a cliché or a cop out to recommend taking in a Sunset – everyone recommends that everywhere, right? Well, there’s something undeniably special about the light in Tenerife and, more specifically, the way it interacts with the landscape. From fading purple tones diffused by sea spray on the cliffs at Los Gigantes to the light on neighbouring island La Gomera shifting from vivid blue to almost flame red in the space of a few minutes as the sun dips below the horizon, the sunsets here really are something else. Whether you’re trying to take a perfect photo or just want to soak in the experience with a loved one (or alone!), you should absolutely take some time to pause and look out to sea when the light starts to dim.
A Landscape format image. The Iconic Los Gigantes cliffs tower above a sailboat in the ocean. It is sunset and the scene is lit by cool blue and purple light. In the foreground, gentle waves lap against a black volcanic sand beach.
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