Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands is a volcanic shard sticking up out of the Atlantic 600 miles from mainland Spain. Away from the beaches bustle and blare of the coastal area another island of lunar landscapes and strange exotic flora awaits any hardy traveler with water, rucksack and sensible shoes.
The paths and cobbled walkways in central Tenerife are a reminder of the culture that existed here prior to the Spanish invasion in 1509. The Guanches people, indingenous to Las Canarias were enslaved and generally had a pretty rough time. Their legacy of switchback tracks, tiny hamlets, troglodyte caves and stunning vistas enchant walkers, photographers and those seeking a glimpse of a landscape unscarred by man. Think pine needles, silence, canyons and panoramas.
The highest mountain in Spain, Mt. Tiede is visible from every corner of Tenerife and is a serious challenge. At over 12,000 feet its snow tipped caldera should not be taken lightly. The temperature can be twenty degrees lower up here than on the coast and the weather changes in an instant. At the first sign of breathlessness, faintness or a general feeling of weird, turn around and head back down the path to where the air is denser. Altitude sickness is a nasty business and should be treated as an emergency. That said, the crater and its twisted landscape is like nothing else on Earth. The forces of nature are visible here, the lava frozen as it was at the time of the last eruption.
At sea level and requiring less effort are a number of stunning coastal walks. Start in Los Cristianos and make your way along the coast to Las Galletas, stopping off for tapas at Palm Mar, a village that seems to have been placed here for the sole purpose of re-fueling travelers.
The Camino El Suarez is a path that begins outside Arona and over 6 miles takes you through the ravine of Barranco el Rey to the village of Ifonche where refreshments may be taken. The return trip is on the path known as Camino del Topo and affords another view of Barranco el Rey as well as vistas of the coast and the town of Los Cristianos.
The mountains of Tenerife are said to be all that remains of Atlantis. Over time the island has been planted with species from all over the globe. You’ll see exotica from three continents here, like jacaranda, flame of the forest and tulip trees as well as indigenous species such as the extraordinary dragon tree, which looks like a survivor from the age of the dinosaurs.
As night falls the bars and restaurants beckon. In La Orotava following a tapas and perhaps a glass or two, wander through cobbled streets and Renaissance architecture to gaze at the traditional houses with their ornate balconies. In Garachico walk the promenade and see where the harbour was destroyed by the eruption of 1709 before settling in La Libertad square for a fino.
Tenerife is much, much more than a tourist trap. It’s an enchantment for anyone with an eye for the extraordinary and legs which don’t give up easily. Stunning describes it perfectly.