As much as I do not want to admit it, I had absolutely NO IDEA that Tenerife existed before I found a posting on Workaway.info. Having lived in the USA all my life, my vacation destinations were either in a different state, the Caribbean, or mainland Europe. I had heard of the Canary Islands but had you asked me to point out the island of Tenerife on a map, I would have failed miserably (AND I got an A in Geography in college). So where is Tenerife?
Therefore, as I committed to a two month stay at a hostel on the island and booked my flight, I literally had minimal knowledge of where I was going. In my traditional adventurous fashion, I thought, I’LL JUST WING IT!
Prior to my arrival this is what I knew about Tenerife: a. It was an island, b. I would be by a beach.
Yup…yup… that is where my knowledge ends.
Fast forward to now, after my glorious two month stay on the island, and I am teeming with stories, adventures, and memories from my time in Tenerife. With it’s breathtaking landscapes, joyous locals, and delicious culinary delights, Tenerife is truly a unique and special place to visit.
Here are “THINGS” you MUST DO while in Tenerife (in no particular order…)
1. TEIDE NATIONAL PARK – It is centered around 3718 m Mount Teide, the highest mountain of Spain and the islands of the Atlantic (it is the third largest volcano in the world from its base on the ocean floor). The Teide is the most famous natural icon not only of Tenerife but also of all the Canary Islands (Wikipedia). There is a tram car that you can take to the top to walk around (which I did). If you want to hike to the tippy top it requires a special permit. Many locals recommended hiking up to the top for sunset. The views are breathtakingly beautiful.
2. ANAGA MOUNTAINS – If you have a car take a drive through the twisty roads (main road is the TF-12). The views are AWESOME! You can stop off at multiple viewpoints to snap photos and take in the scenery. If you don’t have a car there are various buses you can take to enjoy the route as well.
The Anaga Mountains occupy a large section of the northeast part of Tenerife and consist of coastline, ravines, forests and villages that are so remote it is amazing that anyone actually lives in them. This whole area is a protected natural landscape, is breathtakingly beautiful and full of twists and turns that will delight and amaze.With all its great beauty, the panoramic Anaga Mountain region is still relatively unexplored and small villages, cut off from the main roads reveal a “Hidden Tenerife”. In these villages some people actually still live in caves; visit, spend some time and discover! (http://www.spain-tenerife.com/UK/anaga.html)
3. LA LAGUNA – Wander around this cute and charming town. There are so many shops, cafes, and prime people watching. Just bring a jacket because it tends to get breezy!
The second-most populous city of the island. La Laguna’s historical center was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999. The city was the ancient capital of the Canary Islands. La Laguna lies right alongside the city of Santa Cruz, thus the two cities and municipalities form a single large urban center(Wikipedia).
4. DRINK A BARRAQUITO – Tick this one off the list while in La Laguna. It’s a delicious Canarian coffee drink consisting of:
- Coffee ( espresso is the best)
- Condensed Milk
- Ground Cinnamon
- A bit of lemon peel without the white to avoid a bitter taste
- Licor 43, or Tia María
They are super cheap!! Most I found were under 1 Euro.
5. ROMERIA – I was fortunate enough to attend a Romeria in Valle de Guerra my first weekend on the island — and BOOOOOY was I surprised! Free food and wine? SIGN ME UP! The streets were packed with people, carts, animals… it was just a crazy fun time all around.
A Romería in Spanish is a religious pilgrimage. The word “Romería”/”Romaria” comes from “romero”/”romeiro”, meaning those travelling towards Rome. It is a Catholic celebration that consists of a trip or peregrination (in cars, floats, on horseback or on foot) that ends at a sanctuary or hermitage. It is not necessarily always a trip, but in some cases a celebration that lasts all day long. <— PARTY ALL DAY!
6. EAT AT A GUACHINCHE – Be prepared for a food coma. Yummy food. Homemade wine. Simple and delicious.
A guachinche is a makeshift, no-frills restaurant in which the wine comes from the owner’s own harvest, the menu is limited and the food is home cooked and ostensibly only there to keep the wine company. Guachinches spring up in sheds, garages, back gardens and courtyards all over the north of Tenerife at the mere mention of the word “˜fiesta’. – See more at: http://www.tenerifemagazine.com/lifestyle/the-guachinche-%E2%80%93-an-authentic-dining-experience.htm#sthash.Fho4PAdM.dpuf
7. LOADS OF BEACHES (and picking up seaglass) – My local beach was La Barranquera on the northwestern-ish coast. I adored it. Black volcanic sand, volcanic rock formations, and not crowded. I prefer the more “local” beaches to the touristic ones because I love to read and sunbathe in silence. If you want a smaller “off the beaten path beach” — ask a local (in a store or on the street for recommendations). You can also clear up those tan lines because topless sunbathing is common!
8. HIKE – This is by far one of my favorite memories of Tenerife! Here are a list of some of the hikes I did:
- Punta Hidalgo to Chinamada – My first hike with AMAZING coastal views. About a 4 hour round trip with A LOT of uphill (pretty much all uphill the way there).
- Taganana Loop – TOUGH hike! It’s nearly 10 miles with a lot of uphills and downhills. The scenery is diverse (forest, valley, coastal). Bring LOTS of food and water – it will take around 8 hours!
- Cruz del Carmen to Bajamar – an “easy” hike considering a lot of it is slightly downhill. Takes about 4 hours. Scenery is boring to start but then opens up closer to the coast.
- Igueste – From the town to the abandoned look out house. Pretty legit & fast elevation gain. AWESOME views of the coast!
- Hiking/Camping to Playa Antequera – Quite an adventure with a heavy backpack strapped to your back. Straight UP the mountain, down the mountain, through the valley to the other mountain, then down the mountain some more to a secluded beach. You can only get there by hiking or boat! We camped in a cave and were the only people. The path is difficult to detect at times… you have to rely on other hikers stacking rocks to indicate the way. My suggestion – Do it on a cloudy day. Our hike was nothing but sunshine and we were melting!
9. LA NOCHE DE SAN JUAN (The Night of San Juan) – Another fun party night – grab some friends and head to Puerta de la Cruz – I was told that is one of the best spots on the island to celebrate this night!
Celebrated on June 23rd: San Juan is a festival celebrated on June 23rd, a magical night that welcomes the summer season. The celebration takes place during the shortest night of the year; the summer solstice. It is a celebration that is usually held on the beach with roaring bonfires, drinks, food and friends. Legends, tradition and magical rituals are connected by a common elements: fire and water. – See more at: http://www.livinglanguage.com/blog/2012/06/22/la-noche-de-san-juan-the-night-of-fire/#sthash.F6K6KG2H.dpuf
10. EAT CAMARONES – little tiny shrimp. My local friend bought them at a bar where fisherman bring their daily catch. You can eat the whole thing after you rip the head off. They are salty and delicious. Add a cold beer and BAM – perfect snack.
DRINK LOCAL WINE, BEER, & CARAMEL RUM (This doesn’t really need a number because it’s BOUND to happen.)– It’s cheap. It’s devine. It’s inevitable. A glass of wine at most places is 1.50 Euros. A beer is typically around 1 Euro. Can’t get much better than that! At some cafeterias (bar) they even give you a free tapa or snack.
- If you are looking to make some local friends attend the Couchsurfing meeting in La Laguna. I met some nice people to explore the island with!
- If you don’t have a car, buy a bus pass… it will save you money!
- The south is very brown, dry looking, and touristic while the north of the island is very green and nature-y. Take your pic 🙂
- Talk to the locals – THEY ROCK! I couldn’t speak Spanish that well but everyone I met was nice and helpful. They will also guide you to the “hidden gems” and let you know about special events.
- I volunteered at Lagarto Backpackers Hostel on the northwest side of the island (close to Bajamar). The guys who own it are AWESOME – I recommend staying there 100%!