From the glorious Anaga and Teno national parks to the lunar landscape of Mount Teide, you will find a wealth of nature and outdoor activities in the pint-sized island of Tenerife.
A sea of fluffy clouds stretches below me as far as the eye can see just like a giant foaming bubble bath. Sleepy Mount Teide, Spain’s highest point at 3,718 metres, keeps a watchful eye over us from its iconic triangular cone which last erupted in the 8th century.
It was raining when we left Puerto de la Cruz an hour or so ago but here above the amazing Sea of Clouds, a thermal buffer created when hot air is above cold air, I’m bathing in blue skies and sunshine.
We drive on through Teide National Park past huge craters, small volcanic cones – there are 320 in all – chunks of black lava and white/blue pumice stone. We stop at Roques de Garcia to admire fanciful rock sculptures carved by the Trade Winds including one which featured on the 1,000 peseta note.
We return to the Sea of Clouds and watch the sun disappear over the horizon in a blaze of glory, lighting up the terracotta rocks behind us with its golden glow. It’s a peaceful, almost spiritual experience.
We have dinner at a local restaurant, where a rich pumpkin soup is delicious. Afterwards we head out into the car park for the finale. An expert stargazer armed with a laser pointer shows us how to locate the North Star and explains how people navigated by the stars in days gone by. We watch two satellites buzz about the dark skies and she points out the various star constellations such as Gemini and Cancer.
Some tours provide telescopes so that you can get a close-up view of twinkling stars. Check when you book if you want to do this.
You will, of course, find lush as well as lunar landscapes on Tenerife. Imposing massifs, deep ravines and jagged peaks greet us on our drive to the pretty mountain village of Masca in the Teno Rural Park. Here you will find walking trails and diverse plant life, including 15 endemic species. If you want to hike in the Masca canyon (with or without guide), you will need to buy a permit from the visitor centre.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant. At the Meson del Norte we enjoyed a constantly flowing array of delicacies, including baked Teno goat’s cheese which was creamy and absolutely delicious.
The north-west region is steeped in traditions and, during our coastal walk by the Buenavista golf course, we were treated to a demonstration of the shepherd’s leap – a way of traversing difficult terrain with a three-metre stick. Local José Maria, aged 49, swiftly descended the bank by climbing down the stick, his feet on the rocks and body horizontal before he leapt to the ground – not to be tried at home!. Nowadays the art is reserved for competitions.
In the north-east of the island, the Anaga Mountains is another great area for hiking. We enjoyed a fairly steep and sometimes slippery descent to the coast, where we enjoyed yet another wonderful lunch in a local restaurant.
For a walk with a difference, head to the Cueva del Viento (Wind Cave), and explore the 18km lava tube system, the fifth largest in the world. It was formed 27,000 years ago from lava flows from the Pico Viejo volcano next to Teide.
Diverse landscapes provide a multitude of activities and the group I travelled with were able to enjoy everything from windsurfing, paragliding and surfing to diving, yoga, bird watching, whale-watching and cycling.
We did spot pilot whales on our catamaran experience from Adeje but not quite as many whales as we did banana plantations which you will find growing all over the island. Canarian bananas are delicious – make sure you try them.
Activities and tours are offered in hotels and travel agencies in all the main holiday resorts.
- My Secrets of Teno tour was offered by www.elcardon.com
- Cycling tours and hire from www.bikepointtenerife.com
- For information on Tenerife, visit www.webtenerife.co.uk