The Island of Eternal Spring
A second time in this beautiful island, or should I say “small continent”. While back in 2013 we came here for a little longer than this time, on this occasion we spent the time to see what we did not visit the last time, which was pretty much along the west coast of the island and the northern tip Anaga Natural Park. The weather could not be better, but you need to think before coming to Tenerife if what you want is sightseeing or relaxing at the resorts and beaches. If the first, then it’s totally OK to get here for just a weekend as you can tour the entire island within the time, but if the later, then consider getting a week minimum.
In our case and as you already know by now, the first option applies. And since the island is not so big (still, it is the largest in the Canary Islands), the best and most relaxing way to explore every corner is by renting a car. If you don’t want to drive or hold a driving license, don’t worry, frequent buses take tourists to the Teide National Park and Volcano base which is the most important sight and likely to be one of the main reasons why to came to the island other than for its great weather all year round.
Santa Cruz itself is not too impressive compared to neighbouring San Cristobal de la Laguna; still, you will find very beautiful and traditional streets, old churches or the main square, Plaza de Espana, with it’s large fountain pools. For such a small city it is surprising to find out how many projects have been carried out by top class architects, being the latest its new waterfront and the ongoing construction of new apartment towers.
But the most important places are not Santa Cruz, or the southern resorts of Los Critianos and Playa de las Americas, where 95% of tourists go (to stay in a resort); but the Teide Volcano and National Park which are an unique sight of its kind in Europe, not to mention the 3rd largest volcano in the world (largest, not the highest).
Also not to be missed is San Cristobal de la Laguna, the 3rd largest city in the island, and UNESCO old town. Here you will see hundreds of old beautiful and original houses. The urban plan from this city was taken and replicated to all the new cities founded by the then recently discovered New World (the Americas) from the Spanish Empire. Walking down the streets might make you feel out of place, a bygone colonial era where time has stood.
Food, like at any of the Canaries, this is always great and inexpensive (of course knowing how to avoid tourist traps). One of the most traditional dishes is “papas arrugadas”. You will find it in every restaurant, in any of the islands, and are boiled potatoes in sea water hence the crust of salt that develops, served with the traditional mojo, the hot pepper sauce from the Canaries, usually green or red, or picon, the spicy one. Seafood and fish… well, an island in the Atlantic then there’s no need to further explain on that. Found everywhere, however check some places before deciding on one, prices in this vary significantly.
For more information about Tenerife check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Spain’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Tenerife
- Santa Cruz The Capital of the island, and jointly with Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, both the capital of the Canaries. Small but nice, and recently revamped with projects of renown architects and a new waterfront.
-Las Teresitas Beach Modernised by French architect Dominique Perrault. A short bus ride north from Santa Cruz (or 10 minutes drive), is one of the most recognised beaches in the island, however one of the most crowded during high season.
-Plaza de Espana Modernised by Swiss architect firm Herzog & de Meuron. It’s the main square in the city, with beautiful buildings around it and a nice fountain at its centre.
-Insular Palace One of the icons in the city, built in 1935 in rationalist style, home to the Council of Tenerife.
-Central Post Office The next construction after the Insular Palace, another beautiful piece of early 20th century architecture.
-Fountain Created by Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, stands in the middle, offering a great view towards the palaces.
-Monument of the Fallen Dedicated to the fallen in the Spanish Civil War.
-Obelisk of Candelaria Located in the contiguous square, Candelaria, is dedicated to the Virgin of Candelaria, the patroness of the Canary Islands.
-Guimera Theatre Opened in 1851 is the most important and prestigious in the island. Located on the street southwest from Plaza de Espana.
-Iglesia de la Concepcion The only church in the Canary Islands with 5 naves. Few meters south of Plaza de Espana, along Avenida Maritima.
-Museum of Nature and Man Depicting the history of the Canary Island and the life in Tenerife fom before the arrival of the Spanish with the Guanche culture, and pre-Columbian America. Across the road from Iglesia de la Concepcion.
-Auditorium Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, located along Avenida Maritima towards the south of the city, is the new landmark and icon not only of the city, but the island.
-Castillo de San Juan Bautista The second most important fort built for defense in the island. Next to the Auditorium.
-Torres de Santa Cruz The tallest residential twin towers in Spain. In the same area as the Auditorium and Castle.
- Around the island There are many villages and incredible volcanic landscapes like nowhere else in the Canary Islands. The extended lava fields are out of this world, and so is the endemic vegetation that fights such conditions to grow. Driving a circle in the island is what people usually do, it takes full day and you will enjoy all the sights.
-Teide Volcano The 3rd largest volcano in the world, UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. From the car park, take the 10 minute cable lift to the top station at 3550 meters high (25€ per person/return). Once at the top, you continue climbing on foot for a little more, however be aware of the altitude sickness. At this height oxygen levels drop, and so the temperature. While at the bottom is normal +25 degrees celsius, at the top reaching 0 is usual, with snow all year round.
-Teide National Park There is much more to see than only the volcano. From Santa Cruz you should drive the route TF-24. Soon after you leave the city, you will enter the National Park which is a dense Atlantic forest, with incredible views at all sides as you climb up. Soon you start seeing other islands nearby, and the Teide in the far distance.
-San Cristobal de la Laguna Is one of the oldest village in the island, an UNESCO World Heritage Site, which urban plan was taken as example to the cities built in the back then recently discovered “New World” (the Americas). The tram from Santa Cruz terminates in this city hence very easy to commute.
-Icod de los Vinos A small and old village on the northern side of the island where you can find the oldest dragon three in the world, “el Draco Milenario”. Not only for the three, but for the nice old town it’s worth the visit.
-Los Gigantes Literal translation for “the giants”, located at the southernmost tip of the island are the biggest cliffs in Tenerife.
-Puerto de la Cruz One of the major resorts, located in the west coast towards the middle of the island.
-Anaga Natural Park At the northernmost tip of the island, the lava mountains around here are big and covered in a lush Atlantic forest. The views of the wild coast on the west are impressive, cliffs and rocks, and the famous Roques de Anaga off the coast.
The island has 2 international airports, North and South. North Airport, also known as Los Rodeos is near Santa Cruz and La Laguna. Traffic was restricted to insular and national flights, however with the extension is now operational again for international flights. It is however much smaller than South Airport. As a note of history, it is this airport where in 1977 the worst ever aviation accident happened when a KLM and a PanAm 747s planes collided on the runway killing 583 passengers. The bus lines 102, 108 and 109 connect North Airport to Santa Cruz in few minutes’ time.
South Airport is one of the busiest in Spain, and where majority of airlines operate. There is a wide choice of routes operating to/from Tenerife, and finding a great deal during low season is not hard, to the point of being shockingly “cheap”. It is 60 kilometres south of the capital, with the bus route 111 operating towards the southern resorts of Los Cristianos and Las Americas; and bus route 341 connecting to Santa Cruz.
Once in Santa Cruz there is no need for taking any public transportation since distances are short. But in order to reach other cities, the best and only option are the many buses (guaguas) going everywhere through the island. A Tram line also connects Santa Cruz to La Laguna, while a second tram line services the city and its neighbourhoods.
Renting a car in the other hand is your best decision if you wish to explore the island in full, however this is not a limitation for anyone who do not drive. There are plenty of organised tours to the Teide National Park and you can reach any historic city by bus.
Everywhere in the island you will find resorts offering great deals, but you must note that in high season months prices rise sharply. If your plans in the island are sightseeing rather than beach, the best option is to stay at the capital and making it your base for trips to nearby attractions. A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms, Ebookers or TUI.
In the most recent trip, because there was no need to be anywhere precise as we’ve already visited the island before and we were more flexible than back in 2013, we went for one of the main resort area in the island, Puerto de la Cruz, and stayed at the Diamante Suites Hotel, in Calle Manuel Yanes Barreto 13. Managed a great, half-board. A great buffet dinner and breakfast so could not be any better, nice pools and short walking distance to the beach. Totally recommended to anyone.
From our experience back in 2013, we can highly recommend the Silken Atlantida, in Avenida del Tres de Mayo. Perfectly located next to the Calatrava opera house and therefore a short walking distance to all the sights in Santa Cruz. And the best of it, there is a nice jacuzzi on the top floor, although not too big, it’s in fact 2 small jacuzzi and a sun terrace, perfect for the generally good weather in the island. The staff was very nice, and so the room was large and comfortable. We managed a deal with breakfast included, something that is rare to find as a norm in the hotels in the island, unless you pay the extra for having it.
Album from the city of Santa Cruz
Album from El Teide National Park
Album from San Cristobal de la Laguna
Album from Icod de los Vinos
Album from Los Gigantes and Anaga Natural Park