Tenerife, the largest and most popular of seven Canary Islands, is definitely one of the hottest places for a vacation in Europe (yes, despite of its location being closer to Africa than Iberian Peninsula, it is a part of Spain and therefore a part of European Union). It’s all you need to escape from winter and immerse yourself in everlasting summer during your vacation. I was living in this gorgeous island and enjoying everything it has to offer for half a year. In this article I’m going to share with you 10 best things to do in Tenerife. I have selected the following list from my own experience and researching other insights as well.
The thing I like most about Tenerife is that it has the whole package – from luxury resorts, gorgeous beaches, different tourist activities, theme parks, restaurants and bars for comfort seekers to small, charming fisherman villages and hiking paths through lush green forests and majestic mountains, something that nature enthusiasts would appreciate.
Go to Volcano Teide
One of the top things to do in Tenerife is visiting Teide, the world’s third-tallest volcanic structure, 3718 m high. You can go to the top of this majestic volcano by using a cableway. There is an exclusive option of staying overnight at the refuge close to the top. By booking the night at the Altavista del teide refuge, you will be entitled to access the Teide Peak without having to apply for a permit. Purchase your ticket for the cableway or book the refuge here. However if you decide not to stay overnight, but still want to go to the peak, booking the permit is required. You have to plan your trip ahead and book the permit in advance (at least three weeks before going) due to the great demand.
Surroundings of Teide is a great place to spend a day if you are a nature lover. Covering the area of 18,990 hectares Teide National park is the largest and the oldest of the national parks of the Canary Islands. It has even been announced a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Rent a car and explore the beautiful scenery of the park. Don’t forget to stop every once and a while to have a deep breath of fresh mountain air and admire the picturesque landscapes. Los Roques de Garcia is a highly reviewed point of interest of Teide National Park among travelers on tripadvisor.
Visit Hidden Village – Masca
If you are visiting Tenerife you should include visiting a small, charming mountain village called Masca on your list. The village, known as a former pirate hideout, is located in the northwestern point of Tenerife, in the Teno Mountains. There is only one road to go to a lush green ravine where the village is hiding, and it is tricky to say less. If you love adventures and obtain excellent driving skills, then perhaps the extremely narrow, winding and steep mountain road going down to the village will be a nice challenge for you. However if you are not so confident about driving in such difficult conditions, where cars can’t pass each other simultaneously (one of them has to use a small passing place on the side of the road) I would recommend to hire a local driver (guide).
When the breathtaking part of getting there is over and you reach the destination you will be delightful to find a quiet and peaceful Masca village among the mountains. A nice place to relax with your family and drink coffee at one of the small cafeterias. Village of Masca is indeed very small, don’t expect to find more than just a few houses, some cafes, a plaza and a church there. However the deep green trees make a stunning scenery. And if you prefer outdoor activities over sitting in the cafe and sipping a relaxing afternoon cup of coffee, you can go hiking. It takes about two to three hours of climbing down the trail which is pretty steep. If you don’t want to climb back up there is a nice alternative option – take a boat from the coast to the nearby Los Gigantes. Find information about the trail and book the tickets for boat here.
Be a Part of the Second Biggest Carnival in the World
The best known festival of Tenerife is the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is held each February. It is widely known not only locally, but also globally being the second most popular and internationally recognized carnival in the world. Only the Rio Carnival beats it in popularity.
The carnival is celebrated in many different locations of the island, but the most important events are taking place in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, one of the capitals of Canary Islands.
Carnival starts with the Announcement Parade on Friday, when all participating groups march along the city announcing the opening of the carnival. After that comes the Carnival Saturday – a day dedicated to dance. There are many impressive dancing performances held on different locations of the city. The streets are filled with people dressed in colorful costumes. Everyone can take a part of this beautiful masquerade and see the world from a different point of view – colorful, fun and joyful! There are many different events following next days until the Ash Wednesday when the burial of the sardine is held, celebrating the conclusion of the carnival. A giant sardine made of paper is carried in a funeral procession and eventually burned. People are wearing black on this day.
Every year there is a different theme selected for the special event. The theme of the year 2015 was The Future. Robots, Martians and other future characters as fas as the imagination takes us were roaming around Santa cruz de Tenerife during the carnival this year. Even though the announcing of the Carnival is happening on Friday in February (February 13,2015), many events, music and dancing contests and election of the Queen of the Festival are held almost a month before it and continues even after the burial of the Sardine. Spanish really love their fiestas!
If you are not visiting Tenerife during the famous carnival season you should still visit the city itself. Santa Cruz de Tenerife holds the real soul of Tenerife. Here you can interact with locals, get to know the real Spanish culture and lifestyle, try local tapas and cerveza (beer) and rest from the busy everyday rush we are used to. Surrender yourself to the laid back, peaceful and joyful life here on the island, have lots of siestas (afternoon rest or nap) and don’t forget to ir de copas (go out to have some drinks) at the local bars in the evenings.
Some other highlights of the the city you should see besides the carnival are architectural wonder Auditorio de Tenerife, two 120 m tall twin towers called Torres de Santa Cruz, Plaza de España and a church Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción.
Visit Small Towns Along the Coastline
Tenerife is so much more than a vacation place. If you like to meet local people and see the true character of a place you can always avoid the touristy spots and go off the beaten path. One of the features Tenerife is holding are a bunch of small, charming villages along the coastline and in the midland as well. If you want to meet local people, drink a pint of beer at a small taverna, breath the sea air and watch the peaceful village life, you should rent a car and visit these small and quiet yet blissful places. Some of the small villages I would recommend to visit along the way are Garachico, Taganana, Vilaflor, Arico Nuevo and Icod de los Vinos.
Garachico, located on the northern coast of Tenerife, is a charming town, that has suffered a lot over time. It used to be an important port exporting Malmsey Wine and other local produce. In 1706 there was a grand volcanic eruption which destroyed the town’s livelihood. Nevertheless Garachico has recovered and with all its historic background and beautiful sites is well worth visiting. There are some beautiful natural water pools formed among the rocks after the eruption – great for swimming in summer time.
You will find Taganana in the northeastern part of the island. It is very small, authentic village with a character. Located among majestic mountain ridges, Taganana is a place to enjoy the beauty of nature. Be aware of the narrow and winding roads on the way there. They are in a quite good condition though.
Vilaflor, located at the south-central part of Tenerife, is the highest village of Tenerife and therefore offers outstanding views of the island. This place seems so far from the real world, perfect to recharge your batteries. Enjoy the silence and the romantic view with small streets, houses, mountains and forests.
Arico Nuevo is a village at the southeastern part of the island. I have to warn you – there really is nothing much to do, except walking and admiring the peaceful and secluded life of a small village in the mountains. A nice place to clear your mind and enjoy the moment! The characteristics of this village are white houses with sun bleached green doors and a small church at the village plaza.
Icod de Vinos, a small town located in the northwest part of Tenerife is surrounded by a fertile valley and offers beautiful views of the volcanic mountain Teide. A famous dragon tree that is considered to be a thousand years old is one of the highlights and a symbol of this place.
Have a Blast at Water Activities at the South of Tenerife
South of Tenerife is truly a paradise for different kind of water activities. The weather is warm here all year round. Even during the winter season in Europe the air warms up until 19°- 20°C during daytime. Most of the water activities starting from banana boats, parasailing, jet ski, diving to renting a yacht or participating some of the crazy boat parties can be found here in Las Americas, Los Cristianos and Costa Adeje. There is a big variety of beaches (mostly with black volcanic sand but there are also some white sand beaches) filled with nice restaurants and beach bars.
If you love water activities, diving with turtles, having fun on jet ski or simply spending a lazy day at the beach and sipping delicious cocktails, south of Tenerife is the place for you. Only downside is that these beaches can get quite crowded during summer season. South of Tenerife is definitely the most touristy part of the island.
Spend a Relaxing Beach Day at Las Teresitas
For the ones who prefer more quiet beach with just a few beach bars (chiringuitos) along the coastline providing vacationers with refreshing drinks and snacks, I recommend trying out Las Teresitas Beach. Located in the north of the island, in the San Andrés village, just 10 km from Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Las Teresitas Beach lays way further from all the buzz in the south. It is not only less crowded and touristy than beaches of the south, but also more beautiful if you ask me. Las Teresitas have white sand and a background with palm trees and mountains, revealing the picturesque scenery. This beach is more preferred by locals than the beaches in the south, so it’s just perfect if you want to spend a relaxing day with your family or alone reading a good book and avoid the tourist masses and sellers continuously offering you drinks, fruits, sunglasses and massages.
I was surprised to hear that he golden sand which covers the beach comes from the Sahara Desert. 270 000 tons of white sand where shipped from Sahara Desert to Las Teresitas in 1973, originally narrow rock and black sand beach.
The most stunning view of this place can be seen from the top of the hill nearby. Take a scooter or car and go up the hill until you reach the Punta de los Órganos and you will see the breathtaking view. This is a favorite romantic getaway place for couples.
Visit Puerto de la Cruz and la Orotava
Puerto de la Cruz is one of the biggest cities of the north of Tenerife. It historically developed as a port of the wealthy town la Orotava. Exporting sugar and wine, it was known as Puerto de La Orotava. In 1808 it obtained full municipal autonomy and it its name was changed to the current Puerto de la Cruz.
Puerto de la Cruz is a beautiful city with a nice promenade along the coastline for romantic walks. There are many wonderful restaurants along it, offering exquisite local seafood and other meals. Puerto de la Cruz is one of the places where carnival is celebrated at a large scale. It is also the city where the best salsa parties of the island are taking place. Don’t hesitate to visit this beautiful northern city of Tenerife which receives less rain and more sunshine than the rest of the north of the island but still has enough rain to sustain its lush green vegetation providing the city with abundance of beautiful gardens.
For the ones who love to learn more about history and architecture La Orotava is also a place that must be on your list. An educational afternoon walk among old architectural masterpieces, churches and museums as well as beautiful gardens is something La Orotava has to offer. Consider hiring the guide to get the most of the historical experience. There are plenty of restaurants offering delicious authentic tapas for complete satisfaction. Some places of interest in la Orotava are Iglesia de San Agustín, Jardines del Marquesado de la Quinta Roja (Gardens of Victory), Casa de los Balcones, Iglesia de la Concepción, Museo Iberoamericano de Artesanía and Mirador de Humboldt (Humboldt viewpoint), from which you will see the greatest panoramic view of the Orotava Valley.
Hiking in the Mountains of Anaga
Tenerife is not just about lazy days at the beaches and nights at the local bars and restaurants. It has something to offer to every kind of traveler. The nature here is omnifarious – from beaches at the south to forests and mountains at the north. The weather can change highly as well due to different altitude.
If your traveler type is explorer or in other words nature enthusiast, then you shouldn’t miss on trying out some of the hiking trails that are scattered all over Tenerife. One of the most recommended hiking places to experience the biggest variety of scenery along the way is Anaga Rural Park. Located in the north-eastern end of Tenerife, Anaga has the whole package – forests, mountains and gorgeous sea views. Hiking is something that is getting quite popular in Tenerife – increasing number of hiking trails are being developed and well maintained. If you are not very experienced at hiking don’t get discouraged! There are plenty of trails for beginners as well. Additional information about the Anaga Rural Park can be found here.
Here is a great list of hiking trails with detailed directions, pictures and maps that will be useful for Spanish speakers.
Have Some Fun at Siam Park and Loro Parque
There are quite a few different kind of theme parks in Tenerife. Among the others Siam Park and Loro Parque have become the most famous. Sim Park, a water park located in Costa Adeje, south of the Tenerife, offers many rides to choose from, for all types of swimmers and thrill seekers. One of the most fun rides is the Dragon, but the Tower of Power – almost vertical 28 m long drop in free-fall – is the most thrilling one. Siam park provides not only breathtaking rides for fun seekers but also family friendly zones for relaxation like Mai Thai River and Siam Beach. More information can be found on their homepage.
Loro Parque is not just a zoo. You can see many stunning shows with sea lions, dolphins and whales as well. Kids love them and well.. they are so adorable that you will love them too. Loro Parque is situated in a beautiful town at the north of the island called Puerto de la Cruz. More about Loro parque location and opening hours can be found on here.
Since the two parks are among the most popular tourist attractions in Tenerife they are collaborating and offering a special twin ticket, so you can visit both parks for a better price.
Visit Other Canarian Islands
When you have traveled all around Tenerife and still hungry for adventures, the good news is there are six other larger islands and a few small ones to explore. Each and everyone of them has something different to stand out.
I would recommend Gran Canaria for its stunning scenery with majestic mountains and forests. Some of the places worth seeing here are Roque Nublo 1,813 metres (5,948 ft) and Pico de las Nieves (“Peak of Snow”), as well as Maspalomas Dunes where the one can feel like dropped in the middle of Sahara desert.
Nature enthusiasts will love the green La Gomera island.
Fuerteventura has some of the most beautiful white sand beaches with turquoise blue water. Lanzarote has been described as sunny and romantic place – fabulous beaches and stunning views that inspire romance.
La Palma is for eco travelers offering lots of hiking trails and green scenery. Best for avoiding the tourist masses and enjoying the beauty of nature that traveling can reveal to you.
And then there is El Hierro, the least known and the most remote of the Canary Islands. It was declared Unesco biosphere reserve.
So there it is – a variety where everyone can find something suitable. Pick one or explore all of them – that’s up to you.
Even though there is a great, warm and sunny weather most of the time in the south of Tenerife all year around, if you go decide to go to the north cities like la Laguna and Santa Cruz de Tenerife during winter months you will need some coat and gloves, since the air temperatures are lower there.You can also experience colder temperatures of the air and fresh mountain air when you go to mountainous areas around volcano Teide or the Las Mercedes forests and Anaga.
The hottest weather in tenerife is from June until September (when the air temperature often exceeds 30°C). Anyway you still can experience warm weather with 20°C to 23°C during winter time.
Do You Know Other Things to Do in Tenerife?
I hope you enjoyed my selection of 10 things to do in Tenerife. Which is your favorite Canarian island? Have you ever been to the grand Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife? I would be happy to hear your thoughts on it! Perhaps you could also recommend other things to do in Tenerife. I would love to hear them.