1: Visit a 1000-year-old tree
Known linguistically as The Drago Milenario, the 59-foot tall Dragon tree of Icod in Tenerife is the largest of its kind and has become a symbol of the island. From a distance, it almost looks like two trees intertwined in a permanent hug; the gnarly trunk stands strong beneath branches that look like raised hands. It is a local legend that the Guanche people held special meetings under the tree hundreds of years ago.
Now the tree sits in the pleasant Parque del Drago with pathways that meander through wildflowers and trees, including younger Dragon trees. The park is also located next door to a butterfly farm, so nature lovers have double the reason to visit. The Dragon Tree is located on the northwest side of the island.
2: Stand on top of a volcano
El Teide is an active volcano, but don’t worry, it hasn’t erupted since 1909. At 3718 meters, it is actually the highest mountain in Spain. The views in this area are breathtaking, and you won’t know which direction to look first. There are a couple of visitor centers, where you can pick up maps and souvenirs.
It is possible to take a cable car almost all the way to the summit, and this is a great way to go up the volcano and enjoy the views. Your tickets can be booked here. You can then walk the rest of the way up. You will need to get a permit for this and they can be reserved at Mount Teide Access Permit. As there are a very limited amount each day, it is worth booking your permit as soon as you have booked your flights. It is very cold in the mountains, so it’s a good idea to have trainers and a jumper or jacket with you.
If you are adventurous, it is possible to hike all the way up to the top of El Teide.
3: Hand feed some cute lemurs
Monkey Park is a fantastic place to spend a couple of hours. You can actually feed some of the animals here, which children and adults love! You buy a tub of food or two on the way in and then enter the feeding area.
You can easily spend an hour or so in here, and probably will! It is lovely to have little monkeys come over to you, and take some of the food. There are also many guinea pigs that will enjoy being fed by you. The best part though is being in with the lemurs, and being able to stroke and feed them. What I like is the animals seem so used to human contact that they come over to say hello because they want to (and because they want your food).
There are also other monkeys and animals, such as crocodiles and tortoises, to see once outside the feeding area. The animals here have a lot of room and are well cared for, well fed, and clean.
4: Wander through a lava cave
Located to the west of Puerto de la Cruz on the northern coast of Tenerife is a unique cave system that is a favorite among caving enthusiasts. Cueva del Viento was carved from a lava flow in the island’s distant past. Now it is a ten-mile long journey of geological history and a roundabout way to get some physical exercise with your caving adventure.
The trip through the caves will take only 45 minutes, but the hike to the cave is twice as long. Expect to take approximately two hours from start to finish, but it won’t be boring. There is life in those caves if you wish to see it, and plenty of time to think about the complexities of our planet. On the way to the cave systems, you will see plenty of farmland and other beautiful parts of Tenerife that you didn’t know existed.
5: Swim in lava pools
Garachico is a lovely place to stop for a while, about 25 kilometers west of Puerto de la Cruz. There is much to explore here, such as shady narrow streets, lovely cafes in hidden squares, and local craft shops.
The best attraction is the lava pools. These are naturally formed and are great for a dip in the ocean. There are some that are very deep, and many people dive and snorkel in them, and there are others shallow enough for children to paddle in while watching tropical fish swim around their feet. You can also enjoy walking along the paths between the pools, and just enjoy the view.
It’s a good idea to check when high tide is, and avoid it if you want to spend time in or around the lava pools.
This unspoilt paradise is a great place to escape the crowds.
6: Hike up a ravine instead of down
The tiny village of Masca is set in a gorge at the bottom of the Teno Mountains, and wouldn’t be out of place in a Jurassic Park film. The hike down the ravine from Masca to the beach is on one of the most spectacular trails in Tenerife, but why walk down like a normal tourist when you can walk up!
This is an amazing hike, where you will find yourself enjoying beautiful views, scrambling over rocks, paddling through crystal-clear streams, and watching out for local wildlife, such as lizards, colorful butterflies, and even osprey flying overhead.
It is possible to buy tickets for the Masca Express water taxi, which will take you from Los Gigantes to the beach at the bottom of the hike. Walking this way means you will avoid most of the people, and might not even meet anyone until you are over halfway up the ravine.
The trail can get pretty busy with tour groups from around 11 am, so best to start early.
7: Spend a day getting lost in nature
The Anaga Mountains are a place all of their own. The range sprawls across the northeastern part of the island, spewing green across the sandy landscape. The Anaga Mountains are for people who want a little variety in their beach vacation. In these mountains, you’ll walk in the clouds, surrounded by lush, green trees and plants of all varieties.
Hiking through the mountains will take you generations back, as the people who live here are relatively untouched by the luxurious and somewhat commercial aspects of some parts of the island. You might be even be invited in for rabbit stew.
Physically, the Anaga Mountains represent some of the oldest rocks in the area, making it popular among geologists and other rock enthusiasts.
8: Sea Kajak with Dolphins
On a visit to Tenerife, many tourists will go on a boat trip to see dolphins in the wild. While these boat trips are good, there is something you can do which is even better and gets you very close to the dolphins. This is sea kayaking with dolphins.
After getting your kayaks out into the sea, you will head towards some fish farms where a permanent colony of dolphins lives. If you are here in the winter, you will see mothers and their calves jumping out of the sea, while the male dolphins come over to the kayaks, jumping out of the water and then swimming underneath them. You may even be lucky to have a wild dolphin be curious enough to rest its nose in your hand!
Everything is included, and the instructions from the guide make this easy even for novices.
This has to be one of the best ways of seeing wild dolphins in their natural habitat, and getting so close to them because they want to come to you. You will not regret choosing sea kayaking as a way to watch them.
9: Kite surf in paradise
El Médano is everything you imagine a beach paradise to be, plus a little more. While you have the sandy beaches and the sun-filled sky, you also have beachfront shops where you can catch a break from the water and grab a beer or ice cream cone. The refreshing ocean breeze whips through your hair and cools off your sunburnt skin.
While the breeze makes it hard to have a beachfront picnic, it is perfect for kitesurfers, windsurfers, and kite-flyers. In fact, El Médano is the surfing and windsurfing capital of the island. The atmosphere at El Médano is a cross between a hippie camp and a surfer-dude club. The people are laid back, non-materialistic and pleasant to be around.
10. Sunbathe on a black sand beach
Playa Jardin can be found in the north of Tenerife, on the outskirts of the town Puerto de la Cruz. It is a picturesque black sand beach, surrounded by palm trees and the botanical gardens. You will find many tropical plants and flowers, and cascading waterfalls in this unique location. This is an excellent place for scenic photos.
This beach is lovely to relax on, and enjoy the views. One thing I like to do is to stroll barefoot on the soft volcanic sands from one side of the beach to the other. The water is of a high quality but does have waves, sometimes very high ones, which is when you will find the surfers in the eastern bay. There are plenty of lifeguards on duty to make sure swimming is safe.
The promenade is beautiful and runs along the whole beach, and also through the gardens. Here you will find a few nice restaurants, traditional Spanish cafes, and charming gift shops.
Text and photos by Lynne Knightley
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