Explore Tenerife

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Explore Tenerife

Category : Europe , Tenerife

The Canary Islands unveiled: explore Tenerife’s wild side, food, and culture

Tenerife is home to wild nature spots, delicious food and plenty of fiestas. Discover it all with our extensive off-the-beaten-track guide

The Canary Islands are hardly an alternative destination. Even though you haven’t been there, you may feel you know exactly what they’re all about: overcrowded beaches, resort hotels, and tourist traps. Yet, as with most places, there are unseen and lesser-explored parts – places only locals know of. Until now!

Part one of the series is Tenerife, the largest and most populated of the seven islands. With a whopping five million people visiting the island every year, you will need a bit of guidance on where to go to avoid the crowds.

A hiking paradise

Tenerife is rich in hiking trails boasting beautiful landscapes
Tenerife is rich in hiking trails boasting beautiful landscapes

As well as the lure of its year-round, sun-soaked beaches, Tenerife is rapidly becoming known for its hiking, and with very good reason.

Teide National Park lies at the heart of the island, its surreal moonscape of lava crisscrossed by walking trails at the foot of Spain’s highest mountain. In the north-east, you will find many hiking paths going through the dense laurisilva rain forests of the Anaga Mountains.

To get a feel for what the pace of life used to be on the island, walk in the footsteps of Tenerife’s first inhabitants, the Guanches. Around 500 years ago, they carved a matrix of trails while moving their livestock between summer and winter grazing grounds. These trails are called ‘caminos reales’ – or royal roads – and they provide excellent walking routes and a palpable link to Tenerife’s past.

The famous hill resembling a sliced pie in the El Palmar Valley
The famous hill resembling a sliced pie in the El Palmar Valley

Walk the ‘camino real’ from El Palmar to Teno Alto. Climbing above the El Palmar Valley where former quarry works have left the landscape looking like a giant pie with slices cut out of it, the path reaches the ridge with splendid views of Mount Teide before arriving into the hamlet of Teno Alto. Pop into the little shop in the village for some of their homemade goat’s cheese which ranges from mild (‘fresca’) to tongue-burning (‘curado’).

Away from resort towns

The Paisaje Lunar rock formations in Vilaflor
The Paisaje Lunar rock formations in Vilaflor

To discover Tenerife’s real culture, you have to move as far away from the well-trodden path as you can. Some of Tenerife’s best-hidden secrets lie in small towns and villages around the island.

Though the lovely mountain village Vilaflor is located en route to Teide National Park, few tourists’ feet tread its streets. Spend a couple of hours sipping coffee in the leafy Plaza San Pedro, climbing to the tiny chapel of Ermita de San Roque for panoramic views over the south coast, or striding out along its ‘camino real’ to visit the extraordinary rock erosions of Paisaje Lunar.

A 40-minute drive from Santa Cruz, Arico Nuevo, a former 18th-century walled community, boasts charming white houses with green window frames and doors. Scarlet bougainvillaea tumbles down brilliant white walls lining cobbled streets. Cats stretch in the sun atop crooked roofs. The pacing is slow and feels like a movie set waiting for the cast to arrive.

The charming bandstand in Los Silos
The charming bandstand in Los Silos

Los Silos, located in the Isla Baja region on the verdant northwest of the island, is a charming little town with streets too narrow for tour buses to negotiate, a white church that looks like it’s coated in icing sugar, and an art nouveau bandstand serving delicious home-made cakes. If you’re around in December, make sure to stop by for the annual storytelling festival.

Though most head for the scenic views from Masca, neighboring village Santiago del Teide is often overlooked. Some of the experiences they’re missing out on include pony and trap rides from the Casona del Patio, the lovely church of San Fernando Rey, and a taste of ‘arepa’ (filled Venezuelan corn bread) from the kiosk in the picnic zone.

The taste of Tenerife

'Papas arrugadas con mojo', one of Tenerife's must-taste dishes
‘Papas arrugadas con mojo’, one of Tenerife’s must-taste dishes

Away from its purpose-built resorts, Tenerife’s traditional eateries have some savory surprises in store.

Tenerife’s potatoes, known as ‘papas bonitas’, were first brought to the Canary Islands from Peru over 400 years ago and now have their own certificate of origin. Boiled in salt water until a salty crust forms on them and served with mildly spicy sauces, they’re known as ‘papas arrugadas con mojo’ (meaning wrinkled potatoes with sauce) and are as prized by top chefs as they are loved by locals.

When it comes to seafood, here’s what you need to know. Vieja, or parrotfish, is never going to win any prizes in the looks department, but for taste, it’s hard to beat. Another favorite is a meaty white fish called ‘cherne'(wreckfish) which regularly appears on menus. Seafood lovers should try the tender ‘pulpo’ (octopus), served in salads or even whole.

Tenerife’s Malmsey wine was once so prized that Shakespeare received a barrel as part of his annual salary. Today, the island’s wines are once again causing ripples of excitement in sommelier circles. You can buy and try some of the best at Bodegas Monje in El Sauzal and at the nearby Wine Museum.

Where to eat for every budget

Enjoy a Michelin-starred dinner at El Rincón de Juan Carlos
Enjoy a Michelin-starred dinner at El Rincón de Juan Carlos 

From cheap and quirky to top notch, Tenerife’s gastronomic scene is as varied as its landscapes.

The ‘guachinches’, no-frills and frequently no tablecloth restaurants, have flourished in the northern hills since the 17th century. Tucked away in remote locations, expect a limited menu and wine from the owner’s own vineyard, all at ridiculously low prices. Head to the hills above La Matanza, El Sauzal, or La Orotava and look for a cardboard sign pinned to a tree directing you to a ‘guachinche’.

Away from the resort hotels of the south, you’ll find a proliferation of so-called ‘tinerfeño’ restaurants. These are traditional eateries serving unsophisticated food and ‘vino del pais’ (local wine). For unbeatable value, the ‘menu del día’ (day’s menu) provides three courses plus a glass of wine for under €10.

Seafood lovers will adore ‘cofradías’, restaurants run by the fishermen’s union, where you can be certain the catch is fresh from the nets. There’s a good ‘cofradia’ at the harbor in Los Cristianos and a very posh one – by ‘cofradías’ standards – in Puerto de la Cruz where a panoramic terrace overlooks the harbor.

If you want a go for a night of top-notch dining, Tenerife is the only one of the Canary Islands to boast a Michelin star and one of them is at family-run El Rincón de Juan Carlos in Los Gigantes. You’ll have to book a long way ahead, but it will be worth it when you will enjoy the exquisite food without the pomp or the Michelin price tag.

Go local at Tenerife’s fiestas

Cheerful, colourful and lots of fun – Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Cheerful, colorful, and lots of fun – Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife 

Tenerife’s fiestas are loud, colorful, and great fun, and the best way to enjoy them is like a local.

Carnaval, held each February in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is the biggest celebration in the Canary Islands. Nightly street parties with live music, food stalls, drinks kiosks, and general mayhem are the real heart of Carnaval, so don’t just stand on the sidelines watching a parade roll past. Get into a fancy dress, head to the streets around Plaza España after midnight and join thousands of costume-clad revelers partying until dawn.

If you happen to see a procession of locals in traditional dress throwing food to the crowd from the back of decorated carts, you’ve probably stumbled into a ‘romería’. ‘Romerías’ are a type of harvest festivals rooted in pagan and Christian beliefs and usually involve a procession of carts filled with food and wine, locals wearing traditional costumes, and lots of animals running freely.

Happening in towns and villages across Tenerife throughout the summer, freshly barbequed meats and wine are freely dispensed to onlookers. Buy yourself a ‘vaso’ (a small glass in a leather holder that hangs around your neck) from one of the vendors and thrust it at the nearest wine vat while catching a flying boiled egg or a pork chop.

Flower carpet at Corpus Christi in La Orotava
Flower carpet at Corpus Christi in La Orotava

At the yearly Corpus Christi, intricate carpets of flower petals are laid, transforming the streets of La Orotava into transient works of art. Outside the Town Hall, you can have a look at a complex tapestry constructed entirely of sand from Teide National Park. In the evening, the Corpus Christi procession walks over it all. To see the master ‘alfombristas’ (carpet makers) at work, head to La Orotava a day or so before the festival, go to a balcony on the first floor of the Town Hall and gaze down on the masterpiece in progress.

Cheap Flights to Tenerife

Origin Departure date Return date Find Ticket

Barcelona

23.11.2017

30.11.2017

Tickets from 26

Madrid

06.01.2018

20.01.2018

Tickets from 40

London

02.12.2017

16.12.2017

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Gran Canaria

13.02.2018

15.02.2018

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Newcastle

30.01.2018

28.02.2018

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Berlin

12.12.2017

26.12.2017

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Milan

14.12.2017

19.12.2017

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Frankfurt

14.01.2018

21.01.2018

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Dusseldorf

11.12.2017

17.12.2017

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Warsaw

15.01.2018

22.01.2018

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Brussels

08.12.2017

12.01.2018

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Dublin

15.01.2018

24.01.2018

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Billund

30.01.2018

08.02.2018

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Manchester

21.02.2018

28.02.2018

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Eindhoven

04.05.2018

25.05.2018

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Copenhagen

20.01.2018

31.01.2018

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Gdansk

30.01.2018

03.02.2018

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Bilbao

29.11.2017

11.12.2017

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Cardiff

14.12.2017

21.12.2017

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Vilnius

01.02.2018

09.02.2018

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Alicante

27.03.2018

07.04.2018

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Paris

08.01.2018

14.01.2018

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Seville

24.11.2017

01.12.2017

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Bristol

24.04.2018

01.05.2018

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Malaga

02.07.2018

09.07.2018

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La Coruna

12.12.2017

18.12.2017

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Riga

26.01.2018

06.02.2018

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Santiago De Compostela

12.12.2017

18.12.2017

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Katowice

31.01.2018

07.02.2018

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Rome

13.03.2018

19.03.2018

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Munich

20.01.2018

03.02.2018

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Prague

06.12.2017

09.12.2017

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Valencia

30.12.2017

09.01.2018

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Mulhouse

25.02.2018

04.03.2018

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Helsinki

23.01.2018

04.02.2018

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Zurich

07.02.2018

21.02.2018

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Nottingham

12.02.2018

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Krakow

13.12.2017

16.12.2017

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Budapest

10.05.2018

20.05.2018

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Moscow

29.11.2017

07.12.2017

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Amsterdam

20.11.2017

27.11.2017

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Kiev

16.01.2018

31.01.2018

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Bruges

09.12.2017

19.12.2017

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Venice

28.04.2018

05.05.2018

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Gothenburg

20.01.2018

31.01.2018

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Warsaw

21.01.2018

28.01.2018

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Memmingen

19.12.2017

13.01.2018

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Vienna

14.09.2018

30.09.2018

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Nuremberg

30.11.2017

04.12.2017

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Hamburg

30.12.2017

10.01.2018

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Oslo

03.01.2018

10.01.2018

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Porto

30.12.2017

09.01.2018

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Oviedo

29.11.2017

11.12.2017

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Tel Aviv-Yafo

02.02.2018

12.02.2018

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Saint Petersburg

20.01.2018

02.02.2018

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Bologna

06.12.2017

07.12.2017

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Santander

29.11.2017

11.12.2017

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Tallinn

19.05.2018

09.06.2018

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Birmingham

24.07.2018

03.08.2018

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Minsk

12.05.2018

20.05.2018

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Leeds

16.07.2018

02.08.2018

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Pisa

27.12.2017

02.01.2018

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Lyon

26.11.2017

26.11.2017

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Rostov

30.03.2018

13.04.2018

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Kazan

30.03.2018

13.04.2018

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Kaliningrad

01.12.2017

15.12.2017

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Astana

20.02.2018

20.04.2018

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Chisinau

26.04.2018

05.05.2018

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Nizhniy Novgorod

13.02.2018

22.02.2018

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Almaty

02.02.2018

27.04.2018

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Naples

07.08.2018

13.08.2018

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Tbilisi

14.08.2018

21.08.2018

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Ekaterinburg

25.03.2018

01.04.2018

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Antalya

04.01.2018

11.01.2018

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Paderborn

22.02.2018

03.03.2018

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Miami

08.02.2018

19.03.2018

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Samara

18.05.2018

01.06.2018

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Krasnodar

02.04.2018

08.04.2018

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Perm

20.01.2018

06.03.2018

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Chelyabinsk

09.03.2018

23.03.2018

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Casablanca

02.01.2018

06.01.2018

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Orenburg

23.03.2018

06.04.2018

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Stavropol

02.04.2018

08.04.2018

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Klagenfurt

28.04.2018

05.05.2018

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Nizhnevartovsk

30.03.2018

13.04.2018

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Tyumen

02.02.2018

16.02.2018

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Ufa

02.02.2018

13.02.2018

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Novosibirsk

02.04.2018

14.04.2018

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Irkutsk

13.04.2018

27.04.2018

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Krasnojarsk

30.03.2018

13.04.2018

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Omsk

03.02.2018

10.02.2018

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Odessa

24.11.2017

01.12.2017

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Hanover

22.12.2017

29.12.2017

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Surgut

24.11.2017

30.11.2017

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Ljubljana

28.04.2018

05.05.2018

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Aktyubinsk

01.05.2018

11.05.2018

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Murmansk

13.01.2018

20.01.2018

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Abakan

29.11.2017

07.12.2017

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Saratov

01.12.2017

12.12.2017

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Barnaul

10.01.2018

30.01.2018

Tickets from 683

Hotels in Tenerife Island: 4 stars

Hotel Stars Discount Price per night, from Choose dates

Flamingo Suites

★★★★

-8%

281258

View Hotel

Hotel Cleopatra Palace

★★★★

-7%

146136

View Hotel

Iberostar Bouganville Playa

★★★★

-17%

262218

View Hotel

La Casona del Patio

★★★★

-37%

15799

View Hotel

Iberostar Las Dalias - All Inclusive

★★★★

-27%

248180

View Hotel

Silken Atlantida Santa Cruz

★★★★

-6%

9286

View Hotel

Hotel Jardin Tropical

★★★★

-21%

267210

View Hotel

Hotel Colon Rambla

★★★★

-6%

8681

View Hotel

Hotel Vallemar

★★★★

-6%

118111

View Hotel

Dream Hotel Noelia Sur

★★★★

-16%

252212

View Hotel

Hotel Taoro Garden

★★★★

-11%

10190

View Hotel

Hotel Taburiente S.C.Tenerife

★★★★

-25%

9168

View Hotel

Bahia Principe Tenerife

★★★★

-12%

203179

View Hotel

Paradise Park Fun Lifestyle Hotel

★★★★

-35%

222145

View Hotel

Hotel Escuela Santa Cruz

★★★★

-8%

122113

View Hotel

Be Live Experience Playa La Arena

★★★★

-19%

232188

View Hotel

H10 Las Palmeras

★★★★

-18%

190156

View Hotel

Fañabe Costa Sur

★★★★

-20%

1 4501 154

View Hotel

Ole Tropical Tenerife

★★★★

-12%

148130

View Hotel

Hotel Las Aguilas

★★★★

-26%

12391

View Hotel