Spain’s Canary Islands, just off the coast of West Africa, have one of the finest climates in the world. Tenerife is the largest of the islands and winter and summer temperatures here don’t vary hugely. This scenically stunning island is a sun-filled winter hot spot and a busy, year-round holiday destination. Appealing beaches vary from volcanic black to shimmering white and as winter depresses other countries, Tenerife erupts with a huge Carnaval that’s colourful, garish and second only to that staged in Rio.
On top of the world
You’ve landed in Tenerife and the one thing you can’t escape is the presence of the towering mountain of Mount Teide. At almost two and a half miles high, it is certainly the welcome elephant in Tenerife’s room as well as the highest peak in Spain. It lures you to pay it a visit and guests are never disappointed. The views from the top are space-age and span over any clouds to Canary Island neighbours. These include Gran Canaria and smaller volcano sibling, Mount Telde. More Tenerife spectacles include the mysterious Black Pyramids at Guimar. Natural history buffs don’t want to miss out on Adeje and Barranco del Infierno, also known as Hell’s Gorge. Here, walking a two-hour trail, you’ll experience magnificent island scenery and ancient burial caves. It’s well worth taking these excursions from your hotel; after all, the beach will still be there tomorrow and the Tenerife sun will still be shining.
February fun in Tenerife
Throughout Spain there are some very trendy and stylish fashion stores. This is the case in Santa Cruz, but in the lead up to February’s Carnaval, it’s mega-business on the cosmetic and costume counters as women are joined by men, eager to become Tenerife’s most outrageous participant. This is no easy task and throughout the many hotels, towns and villages, folk prepare well in advance for Carnaval time in Tenerife. Following Carnaval, there’s Entierro de la Sardina, the traditional burial of the sardine. On these occasions and ever year, a giant fish-shaped vehicle is accompanied through crowd-filled streets by pseudo- mourning fishermen’s widows. All is not as it seems, and there are plenty of laughs to be had along the way. The best and biggest events are in the island’s capital, Santa Cruz. Everyone joins in, including visitors holidaying in the Tenerife hotels. Many historical and hysterical fictional events are re-enacted in unique Carnaval style. The secret is to book early so that, next February, you won’t be frozen out.
Tasting the difference
Tenerife hotels tend to follow the usual trend of offering tourist menus that guests are used to back home. There’s much to savour though, away from your hotel and as you discover some of Tenerife’s traditional cuisine. Breakfast will never be the same again once you’ve experienced Churros Con Chocolate. This consists of delicious, diet defying, deep fried dough dipped in a thick, hot chocolate sauce. Examples for later meals include the very filling chicken and potato soup, Rancho Canario. Ropa Vieja is another stew, with a beef, chicken or pork base. Pollo al Salmorejo is a marinated chicken dish. Papas Arrugadas is an absolutely essential side dish, consisting of small Canary potatoes, boiled in salted water and served in their skins. You’ll soon get a taste for dining out in Tenerife!
Most arrivals and departures are to and from Tenerife Sur (South) Airport. This is the second largest of the Canary Islands’ airports. The convenience is a real joy with transfer times of around only 20 minutes to Tenerife’s major resorts of Playa de las Americas, Los Cristianos and the slightly quieter Golf del Sur. If heading to the lusher, greener and somewhat cloudier resorts in the north and around Santa Cruz, the transfer is likely to take in excess of an hour. Inclusive holiday visitors will have their transportation included. Otherwise, you can get a taxi, but get the driver to quote before you jump in. TITSA buses are much cheaper and go to a number of resorts. Once you’ve settled in, there are plenty of trips designed to get you off the island again. Catamaran cruises and whale-watching excursions are very popular. There are regular ferries from Santa Cruz to other Canary Island locations including La Palma and Las Palmas. Don’t confuse the two, they’re entirely different.
What’s in a name?
The romantically sounding Canary Islands weren’t named after that twittering little bird at all. Canaria is in fact the Latin word for dog; but Isle of Dogs doesn’t have the same ring to it! On some of the more remote beaches and around hotels in Tenerife, particularly those in the sun-drenched south, you’ll still see packs of harmless dogs roaming around and scavenging for food. Another theory is that the Canary Islands were named after the seals that used to inhabit the islands and called sea dogs by the Romans. Whatever the preferred version maybe, the largest island, Tenerife, always gets that universal seal of approval! Another name to conjure with is the popular tourist resort of Los Gigantes, The Giants. The cliffs surrounding the resort were once believed to be sacred. Today, they are best viewed from the sea to experience their true spectacle. They are majorly impressive and will form one of many treasured memories of Tenerife.