TRAVEL: The lesser-known more authentic experiences in Tenerife
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, dominated by Mt Teide, a dormant volcano that is Spain's tallest peak. Tenerife may be best known for sun, sea, sand, and Santa Cruz Carnaval, but the island has much more to offer than many people realise. Here are eight experiences that prove the island is more than first meets the eye.
1 Go caving.
Ditch the swimwear and flip flops for long trousers and sensible footwear to explore Icod de los Vinos' Cueva del Viento (Wind Cave). With its 18km long tunnel, it's the largest volcanic tube in the EU. Ass you fly into Tenerife you will see the bruma in Icod de los Vinos, a mist that turns the island's woodland into enchanted forests.
Book your slot in advance and you can enjoy a 45-minute tour inside the cave, during which time you will be able to explore around 250 metres of the tube.
2 Look up at glittering night skies.
The Canary Islands' low levels of light pollution make the stargazing experiences available in Tenerife a night to remember. Observe the Milky Way with your naked eye or get up close and personal by using a telescope.
By day, the car park at the Parador de las Cañadas del Teide offers spectacular views of the lunar landscape. By night, you can see the moon and more in a magical show. A professional astronomer will be able to help you join the dots of the Great Bear and Orion, the Hunter constellations.
3 Go bird watching.
Tenerife's tropical climate is popular with migratory birds and Waders from North America such as the Lesser Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpiper, which head south in search of more hospitable weather. As do American Ring-Necked Ducks and Green-Winged Teals.
The Parque de Rural Anaga's rainforest-impersonating laurisilva is a fantastic bird watching spot. This laurel forest is home to the Atlantic Canary which takes its name from the islands rather than the other way around.
The Great Spotted Woodpeckers regenerate their population in May here, with the females of the species laying up to seven eggs at a time. Look out for the Canary Islands kestrel too, one of the most striking birds of prey. Another beautiful bird to spot is the Hoopoe which wears its head feathers like a crown.
4 Explore the volcanoes.
You will have plenty of stories to tell about the adventures you have biking and hiking around Tenerife's volcanic terrain. The Canarian archipelago was formed by eruptions that took place millions of years ago. Lava and magma made them what they are today.
Teide is more than 3,700m high. It's Spain's tallest mountain. You can take a cable car near the top but to reach the peak, where the air becomes thinner and the sulfurous fumes of the dormant volcano get stronger, you will require a permit which you will need to reserve in advance.
The Siete Fuentes volcano was formed in the early 18th century. The Berber-descending Guanches who occupied Tenerife before the Spanish thought Teide housed a demon. This was a viewpoint shared by the Bishop of Tenerife who performed exorcisms on the affected mountains and these days the descent into the Pedro Gil crater is devilishly difficult.
5 Experience local fiestas.
The biggest event in Tenerife is Santa Cruz carnival, the second largest carnival in the world after Rio de Janeiro's. Move your feet to the frenzied beat of the partygoers that take over the island’s capital for two whole weeks.
Whereas carnival dates vary from year to year (normally, Carnival takes place between the end of January and February every year), the Fiestas de San Andrés are always held on the same date: November 29th. This is a party timed to coincide with the release of new wine. In Icod de los Vinos, locals whizz down the steep Calle del Plano at night on wooden boards they use like sledges.
If visiting in May or June, try and catch the San Isidro Labrador Pilgrimage in La Orotava. The pilgrimage first began in the 17th century with people parading through the town centre in traditional dress. The event is just as lively today with lots of Canarian food, singing, dancing and bright colours on display.
6 Go wine tasting.
Tenerife is the largest producer of wine across the Canary Islands. Its volcanic terrain and salty Atlantic spray give its vintages a particularly distinctive flavour and there are more grape varieties on Tenerife than on any other Iberian island.
There are five wine regions in Tenerife. The majority of wineries are in the north of the island. You can visit and try and buy vintages from around 70 that are open to the public. A guachinche, an informal restaurant, is a good place to try wine paired with classic Canarian cuisine.
7 Stroll the villages.
The traditional hamlets and villages of the north offer an escape route from the tourist bubbles of the south. They allow you to time travel to Tenerife's rural past which still many of the islanders make their livelihoods from.
Buried deep in the northwest Teno mountains is Masca. Electricity here is a recent addition to the straggle of houses balancing precariously on ridges. Previously, you could only reach it by trail rather than by road. The whitewashed buildings of Taganana, meanwhile, form a contrast to the green Anaga mountains. El Bailadero is the place to hit for panoramic views.
8 Have an outdoor adventure.
Some 900km of hiking trails wrap the island, so it is easy to explore by foot. Head inland to wind up the iconic Teide, or head to Parque Rural de Anaga to stand at the most northerly point of the island.
Tenerife is just as easy to explore on two wheels, whether you challenge yourself to an uphill climb or have a gentle cycle along the seafront. The Atlantic Ocean is home to many adventures, too including kitesurfing. Venture to El Medano in the south for kitesurfing lessons. Further around the coast is Los Gigantes Marina where you can hire a kayak and paddle beneath the cliffs.