By Ciaran Brooks
Thousands of tourists visit Tenerife every year to bask in the sunshine, laze on the beautiful beaches, admire the dramatic scenery, make the most of holiday rentals and explore the bustling resort towns. For an island destination that has given so much pleasure to so many holidaymakers over the past few decades, could there really be any hidden gems left to discover? Well, you may be surprised…
Despite being relatively compact, Tenerife is actually the biggest of the Canary Islands, so it has no shortage of things to see. With a vibrant island culture tucked ever so slightly away from the tourist resorts, the ‘real Tenerife’ is always close by. You just need to know where to look. So, on your next self-catering trip to the island of eternal spring, visit these hidden gems and experience an authentic slice of Tenerife life beyond the throngs of Playa de la Americas and Los Cristianos.
Image by Miguel. (respenda), used under Creative Commons license (CC BY 2.0)
San Cristóbal de La Laguna
Blending history and beauty, it’s no surprise that Tenerife’s former capital, La Laguna, has often been referred to as the island’s most scenic town. A colonial-era town dating back to the Spanish conquest of the Canary Islands, the historic centre also acted as a blueprint for the subsequent Spanish settlements in the New World. This makes La Laguna not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but also a fascinating place to wander.
The pastel-coloured buildings, winding streets and distinctly Canarian charm make La Laguna’s old town feel a world away from the busy beaches of the coast. As a small city of more than 150,000 people, to call it ‘hidden’ is a stretch, but, regrettably, only a few holidaymakers venture to the town. That doesn’t have to include you, fortunately, so make sure you include a trip to La Laguna on your holiday itinerary.
Image by BrainMaY, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)
The towering Mount Teide (Spain’s highest mountain) might dominate many of the views on Tenerife, but it’s the northern Anaga Mountains that may be the island’s finest. They certainly boast the finest routes for hiking. One of the best spots to take in the majesty of this mountain range is by trekking to the village of Tagana. The definition of a hidden gem, this tiny settlement gifts you with a jaw-dropping location amidst the mountains and rocky outcrops. Rarely visited by tourists, you can soak up a taste of laidback Canarian life in amongst the clouds.
The name La Orotava refers to both the charming town and wider valley that share its name. Home at different times to banana and sugar plantations as well as vineyards, it has long been one of the archipelago’s wealthiest towns thanks to the bountiful land. Luckily for visitors to the island, this prosperity resulted in the creation one of Tenerife’s most picturesque towns.
With delightfully cobbled streets, this 17th-century settlement boasts some fine religious buildings, such as the Iglesia de la Concepción and the Iglesia de San Agustín. The wider landscape offers just as endearing an experience, with the fertile La Orotava Valley providing a marked contrast to the otherworldly volcanic landscapes of other parts of the island. A gentle trek through the local pine forest is a captivating way to get close to nature as you walk through the canary pine forests, ancient volcanic flows and steep ravines.
You won’t find a beach at Garachico, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a dip in the sea. The town is home to the most unusual place to take a swim on the island – the Garachico rock pools. These take the form of natural volcanic rock pools that were created by an eruption centuries ago and have been adapted into an open air natural swimming pool. What better way to experience the balmy waters of the mid Atlantic?
A former history graduate, Ciaran Brooks’ love for old stories has led him around the world. A self-confessed adventurer, he fell into travel writing after his blog chronicling his year in Thailand was picked up by a national paper.