Palm trees and pine forests; caves and coves; folklore and legends. Edge away from the souvenir hunters and you’ll gain the true trophy – the real Tenerife uncovered
Sex, sun, sand and afternoon siestas. Not a bad recipe for a fortnight of hedonistic delight. But when you’ve had your fill it’s worth knowing that the real Tenerife serves up more sensory feasts than just those offered on a wide-screen platter by the media beasties who paint the island in simple primary colours.
If you like it wild and free, head for the hills. On the site of what was once a huge volcano, Mother Nature has decorated Teide National Park with a weird gallery of basalt and pumice rock statues rising from a sandy plain. Sci-fi film directors have often chosen this lunar landscape to shoot movies such as One Million Years BC, featuring Raquel Welch in a fur bikini.
For a grandstand view, a cable car trolleys visitors up Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain. From here you can see the islands of Gran Canaria, El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma, like distant whales basking in the ocean. Those with a surfeit of stamina can avoid the dangling crowds and leg it up – albeit slowly. Allow about four hours to reach 3,555 metres, 163 short of the crater. Owing to erosion concerns, to ascend the final stretch you’ll need to pick up a free pass from the National Park’s office in Santa Cruz. A number of other trails are signposted in the park. Information and maps are available from the visitor’s centre next to the Parador Hotel.
Further walking is recommended in the Anaga Mountains in the northeast. Here, hidden villages cling to the hillsides while the Atlantic pounds the cliffs into sheer submission. The 246 bus from Santa Cruz makes six daily stops at nearby Taganana, a good base to begin exploration far from the madding crowd.
TITSA, the unfortunately named Tenerife bus network, provides other escape routes all over the island. If you’re based in the south, the main depots are at Playa de Las Américas and Los Cristianos.
If walking’s not your thing and you’d rather sit in a café bar watching the locals be local, there are several spots to head for. El Puertito on the southwest coast has just one commercial enterprise: a bar whose opening hours depend on the mood of its proprietors. A short sandy beach frames one end of a small cove that’s becoming popular with boats mooring up but is still relatively unpestered by the bucket and spade brigade.
Garachico in the north is the Unlucky Alf of Tenerife. Redecorated by volcanic eruptions, battered by freak storms and decimated by epidemic, this whitewashed fishing village has repeatedly dusted itself down and been built back up.
If your idea of foreign is a sunny reflection of back home where excess is the norm then follow the holiday brochures. If you want to experience the real Tenerife get off the beaten track and steer clear of the neon. All that glitters is not necessarily gold.