10 “THINGS” YOU MUST DO in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain)

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?

Tenerife is part of the Canary Islands

Tenerife is part of the Canary Islands (Spain)

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.

Mount Teide

Mount Teide

At the top of Teide... lava fields galore!

At the top of Teide… lava fields galore!

Above the clouds!

Above the clouds!

How close you can get without a permit.

How close you can get without a permit.

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)

anaga3

Driving along the Northern coast

Driving along the Northern coast

View of Las Teresitas - In 1973, 270,000 tons of white sand was shipped from Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara, part of the Sahara Desert) to create an artificial beach of white sand

View of Las Teresitas – In 1973, 270,000 tons of white sand was shipped from Spanish Sahara (now Western Sahara, part of the Sahara Desert) to create an artificial beach of white sand

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).

Our Lady of Los Remedios Church-Cathedral

Our Lady of Los Remedios Church-Cathedral

Even though they warned me it would go off... I still jumped :-)

Even though they warned me it would go off… I still jumped!

The bell towers at Our Lady of the Conception Church

The bell towers at Our Lady of the Conception Church

Views from the bell tower

Views from the bell tower

Pedestrian streets make it easy to navigate

Pedestrian streets make it easy to navigate

4. DRINK A BARRAQUITO –  Tick this one off the list while in La Laguna. It’s a delicious Canarian coffee drink consisting of:

  • Milk
  • 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.

DELICIOUS!

DELICIOUS!

 

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!

Pure shenanigans on the streets

Pure shenanigans on the streets

Music celebration in the town square after!

Music celebration in the town square after!

Free wine = WIN

Free wine = WIN

Traditional Canarian dress

Traditional Canarian dress

The carts would throw food off their carts!

The carts would throw food off their carts!

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

Meat, potatoes, eggs, and wine - 100% Canarian ;-)

Meat, potatoes, eggs, and wine – 100% Canarian 😉

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!

La Barranquera - a small "local" beach

La Barranquera – a small “local” beach

I LOVE picking up sea glass!

I LOVE picking up sea glass!

Tabaiba on the east coast

Tabaiba on the east coast

 

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).
    Gorgeous views of the coast!

    Gorgeous views of the coast!

    Chinamada cave houses

    Chinamada cave houses

  • 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!
    View from mid way up the mountain

    View from mid way up the mountain

    The last 2 hours of the hike along the coast... just to get an idea of the trail. OH MY!

    The last 2 hours of the hike along the coast… just to get an idea of the trail. OH MY!

    Houses in the valley as we descended into Afur.

    Houses in the valley as we descended into Afur.

  • 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.
    Heading towards the coast

    Heading towards the coast

    In the woods at the beginning of the hike

    In the woods at the beginning of the hike

  • Igueste – From the town to the abandoned look out house. Pretty legit & fast elevation gain. AWESOME views of the coast!
    Looking out towards Igueste and Santa Cruz

    Looking out towards Igueste and Santa Cruz

    Old look out house

    Old look out house

  • 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!
    Taking a break at the peak

    Taking a break at the peak

    Looking out from the cave

    Looking out from the cave

    Almost there! The black dot near the middle of the pic is where we ended up camping

    Almost there! The black dot near the middle of the pic is where we ended up camping

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

View of the coast of Puerta de La Cruz.... that BONFIRE!! oh my!

View of the coast of Puerta de La Cruz…. that BONFIRE!! oh my!

To get you pumped for your midnight plunge into the sea...

To get you pumped for your midnight plunge into the sea…

Fire fire everywhere!

Fire fire everywhere!

 

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.cam1 camarones

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.

 

Wine tasting at Cafe Brasil in Valle de Guerra

Wine tasting at Cafe Brasil in Valle de Guerra

Drinking a Dorado at my local beach beer stand thingy

Drinking a Dorado at my local beach beer stand thingy

Caramel rum with paella = perfection

Caramel rum with paella = perfection

 

ADDITIONAL TIPS:

  • 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%!
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