Canary Islands Guide - Tenerife
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Teide National Park shows off its mountain.

Tenerife Island
By Lucy Corne

Tenerife is an island of superlatives. It’s the largest island, attracts the most tourists and boast the highest mountain, not only in the Canaries but also in Spain. For decades the island has been known for its winter sun and bustling resorts offering year-round party action, but in fact those resorts take up a tiny (albeit increasing) corner of the island.

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It’s sad that many people fail to get out and explore the island, but try to go against the grain and see what else Tenerife has to offer. In the northeast and northwest there are natural parks offering fine hikes and traditional villages that are a far cry from the garish multi-storey hotels in the south. The north is dotted with charming towns and cities all offering tidy streets lined with architecture spanning a few centuries. There are also some fine museums in the north of the islands and it’s worth remembering that all of Tenerife’s government-run museums offer free admission on Sundays. For those seeking a beach holiday, Tenerife will not disappoint, although most of its golden beaches are actually man made. Beaches in the south can get crowded, but as soon as you stray from the built-up resorts you’ll find quieter stretches of sand.

Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Tenerife’s capital is the second largest city in the archipelago, though it feels like a much smaller place that its great rival, Las Palmas. It snatched the title of capital from La Laguna in the 19th century and today it’s a fine place to shop, picnic and party. The Canary Islands lack decent city parks but Parque García Sanabria is a wonderful place to wander and enjoy a bocadillo (sandwich). The city’s other park, Parque Marítimo César Manrique, lacks greenery, but it’s still worth visiting for the sculptures and on summer evenings for the open air bars that spring up along the seafront. The striking centrepiece of the park is the Auditorium, opened in 2003 and inspired by sails fluttering in the wind.

Tenerife Island plant life

As you would expect Santa Cruz has a few decent museums, including the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum) and the Museo Militar with its 30m² model of the 1797 battle where British Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson lost his arm. The best museum though, and among the finest in all of the islands, is the Museo de Naturaleza y del Hombre. Set aside a full afternoon to explore the huge collection looking at the volcanic origins of the islands and the lifestyle and customs of Tenerife’s pre-Hispanic inhabitants, the Guanches. Entrance is free on Sundays.

The city itself doesn’t have a beach, but the golden sand of Las Teresitas is just 7.5km away in San Andrés. It’s not a natural beach, but that doesn’t stop the citizens of Santa Cruz flocking en masse at the weekend – stick to weekdays if you want to find a spot for your towel.

And if there’s one time to visit Santa Cruz it’s in late February/early March for the carnival celebrations. Thought by many to be second only to Rio, Tenerife’s capital hosts an immense two-week party featuring parades, makeshift bars, lots of costumes and the all-important crowning of the carnival queen.

Continue to: Tenerife Island Page 2 - La Laguna, Parque Nacional del Teide

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Canary Island photographs provided by Lucy Corne.
Copyright 2009. Jerrold's Travel Guides, LLC, holds exclusive rights for internet publication.
Liinks updated December 2011