Chrissy Nason explores the quieter side of the popular island and finds much to delight in, with excellent food.
There is nothing quite like the warmth of early spring sunshine on the skin, particularly at the moment – a welcome reminder of happier times.
In mid-March, the weather during our trip to Tenerife coincided with a cold, wet and grey spell. Whereas the UK had Mediterranean temperatures! It wasn’t quite the holiday we expected, our light spring clothes stayed packed in our suitcase. Instead, we explored historical towns, ate wonderful food and drank excellent local Canarian wine. Every cloud!
Mount Teide, at 3,715metres the highest mountain in Spain, dissects the island of Tenerife: the northern part lush, green and tropical so prone to more rainfall; the south rather barren with a drier and warmer climate. That’s not the only difference. The north has historical towns offering a more authentic Spanish experience with great bars and restaurants serving excellent local foods and wines; the south, high-density tourist accommodation and quite a different holiday. We ventured down south to have a little look see and, from what we saw, although limited, were glad we had stayed up north to experience authentic Tenerife.
Our first destination was La Orotava, a few miles inland from Puerto de la Cruz on the north west coast. One of the oldest towns in the Canary Islands, it was founded in the early 16th Century after the Spanish conquest and has a rich heritage of architecture and customs, with grand municipal buildings, churches, museums and two small botanical gardens. Ornate wooden balconies adorn the houses and large doors open onto interior courtyards with beautifully crafted wooden galleried balconies overlooking lush gardens and patios.
The historical centre of La Orotava is compact and easy to walk around in a few hours. Built into the hillside with steep streets, unfortunately it’s unsuitable for anyone with walking difficulties. At the time of our visit many of the churches and municipal buildings were not accessible due to covid, though we visited the most famous balconied house, Casa de Los Balcones. The house is now open as a museum showcasing the best example of elaborate wooden fretwork by local craftsmen and the traditional architecture of the islands.
There are many great bars and restaurants and I can highly recommend our favourite, Bar Parada – so good we ate there twice. Super friendly, Parada serves tasty tapas, main meals and great local wines. My husband declared his Revuelto Morcilla, (scrambled eggs with blood sausage) to be the best thing he’d eaten in a long time and my Gambas Parmesano, prawns in a rich cheese sauce, equally delicious and incredible value at E15 each including drinks and service!
We stayed in a typical Canarian house, sympathetically renovated and stylishly furnished by a Dutch architect and his interior designer wife whose passion is bringing life back to traditional houses. It was perfectly located in the heart of the town within a few minutes walk of everything, including a great supermarket where I bought delicious croissants and juiced fresh oranges for breakfast. With all the comforts of home, three bedrooms, fully equipped kitchen, dining area, large bathroom and lounge with a vaulted ceiling that opens onto a fabulous patio, Casa Boutique offers high standards and excellent value.
We found Puerto de la Cruz disappointing so headed to Garachico, originally the main port in northern Tenerife until it was destroyed in 1706 by a volcanic eruption. Sandwiched between the rocky volcanic coastline and the backdrop of Mount Teide, Garachico has cobbled streets, traditional brightly painted houses, historic buildings and, for such a small town, an impressive tree-lined main square. The church, Santa Ana, has been beautifully restored as have several other buildings of note, such as the Convent of San Roja, now a small upmarket hotel. We enjoyed a great lunch at Restaurante Los Pinos, again good value.
As a final treat we stayed for two nights at the wonderful 5* Hacienda del Conde Melia hotel, Buenavista del Norte, on the rocky northwest tip of the island. (Read Chrissy’s separate review of the Hacienda del Conde hotel here). Adjacent to the spectacular golf course designed by Seve Ballesteros, the hotel attracts a lot of golfers, has an excellent spa with numerous pools and sunbathing areas set in beautiful grounds.
The hotel has 117 spacious rooms and suites, a relaxing lounge with complimentary drinks and snacks during the day on a help-yourself basis, a buffet restaurant for breakfast and dinner that served a wide choice of delicious food as well as an a la carte restaurant.
Within walking distance of the hotel, next to the sea and coastal path there is an excellent local seafood restaurant, El Burgado. We arrived for lunch before a long queue developed and, after tasting the food, I understood its popularity. The food was excellent and reasonably priced. After lunch we had a bracing walk along the coastal path to the local village, Buenavista, though not much of note to see there.
On our final day we visited La Laguna, or San Cristobal de La Laguna to give it its full title. The historic centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 because of its 15th Century colonial architecture and layout, replicated in many other Spanish towns and cities. With its large number of churches, municipal buildings and neo-classical cathedral, it’s well worth a visit. There are many tapas bars and restaurants so we enjoyed a last traditional meal of papas arrugadas con mojo – salted new potatoes with spicy pepper sauce – before heading south to the airport.
We were very unlucky with the weather on this trip but hopefully when we return – as indeed we will – we will pack an umbrella just in case!
Find out more:
- Casa Boutique, La Orotava: https://www.airbnb.com/h/casasboutiquetenerife
- Hotel Hacienda del Conde, La Buenavista Norte: https://www.melia.com/en/hotels/spain/tenerife/hotel-hacienda-del-conde-melia-collection/index.htm
Read Chrissy Nason’s separate review of her stay at the Hacienda del Conde hotel
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