Posted in Europe on January 30, 2013
I recently spent 2 weeks in the lead up to Christmas on the island of Tenerife, Spain (the Canary Islands). It was my first time on the island, and as with any new place when you are only there for a couple of weeks, it’s not possible to experience every aspect of the island in that time. However, what you can do is gain a good first impression. The following was my first impression of Tenerife, what I learned about the island, and what you can expect should you ever go there yourself. The great thing about it is that if you are based in the UK there are lots of cheap flights to Tenerife if you would like to discover it with your own eyes too!
Escaping the tourist resorts…
In the UK (where I come from) Tenerife has a reputation as a package holiday resort. Personally I have no problems with people who go on package holidays – they are just not my thing. What disapointed me a little bit though was that despite how beautiful this island is outside of the resorts, not many people seemed to venture out beyond them, i.e. many of the visitors to this island were completely unaware of it’s beauty, culture, and charm. This for me was a real shame.
If you ever come to Tenerife and you really want to get to know the island from a locals perspective then you really need to stay away from areas like Playa Las Americas as much as you can. These areas are good for getting drunk on the cheap but that’s about it. They are essentially tourist towns created for that very purpose – to service package holiday tourists with food, drink, and ‘entertainment’.
Venture out just a little further to the beaches of El Medano and you will still find some tourists, but the clientel is totally different. It’s a mix between surfers and local Spanish tourists! The beaches are also much more beautiful, you can take surfing lessons there, and you’ll find more places to eat and drink local Canarian and Spanish cuisine that still matches the cheap resort prices.
Santa Cruz & the North
Situated in the north of the island is Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz is the capital city of Tenerife and the shared capital of the Canary Islands. A lot of local governmental buildings are housed here, as well as lots of shops. There is also the main port for coming in and out the island. Other than a few stand out architectural pieces such as the Auditorio de Tenerife (which reminded me slightly of the Sydney Opera House), Santa Cruz isn’t anything necessary to write home about. It’s the kind of place you go to on the island if you need to buy a car, go shopping, or catch a ferry. That said, it was nice to see a local Canarian city and get a balanced view of how local people live on the island versus what you see in the large tourist city of the south, Playa Las Americas. The adjoining town/city of La Laguna is also a cool place to visit if you’re interested in meeting a student-type crowd as it’s home to the University of La Laguna, a major University in the Canary Islands.
The most beautiful part of Northern Tenerife however is the mountains. There are many beautiful trails to walk and areas of stunning natural beauty!
Los Amigos Backpackers
One of the hostels I stayed at in Tenerife was Los Amigos Backpackers. In terms of a cool chill-out hostel with a funky vibe, Los Amigos really is one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in! For that reason I had to give them a mention here. You can totally tell that this hostel has been created by backpackers for backpackers because they just get how to make a good hostel. Hearing the owner’s story of how they started this hostel with just a few bunks while he was still doing bar work – and now seeing how it is today - was also very endearing. If I had not had to come home on Christmas Eve to Scotland I think I would have been quite content to stay at this hostel for many weeks, just chilling out, and going to the beach every day! I highly recommend you stay here if you ever come to Tenerife!
Amazing sunshine weather!
One of the reasons why Tenerife is so popular with Northern European tourists during winter is because of the weather! On average the temperature when I was there in December was around 22 – 24 degrees Celcius during the day. On one day we even reached as high as 29 degrees, which during the middle of winter is amazing! The reason for this is the location of the Canary Islands, situated just off the West coast of Africa (although technically owned by Spain, hence the cheap European flights!) These warm temperature year round will always make Tenerife a popular destination for Europeans in the North who are looking for some sunshine!
The volcano and other stunning scenery
Unfortunately the day I had planned to go up the volcano was the one day we had bad(ish) weather in Tenerife and the winds were too strong to take the cable car. My plan is to hopefully go back at some point for a few days at least to do this one thing. However, the views of the volcano from all around the island were truly incredible. This is the main reason why I think people should come to Tenerife. In the middle of the island you have stunning views of the volcano and surrounding it are beautiful beaches and Ocean views. As a winter escape in Europe you couldn’t really find a better place…