Quirky Travel Fact: Tenerife means White Mountain’ in the ancient Guanches language of this attractive island off the coast of Africa. The Guanches, according to my Berlitz Tenerife guide book, were tall, fair-skinned, blue-eyed people who somehow reached the Canary Islands in the 1st or 2nd century BC from NW Africa and were related to the Berbers. They worshipped the snow-capped Mount Teide, one of the world’s biggest volcanoes, which towers over the island. With popular seaside resorts, excellent beaches and plenty of activities for all ages, Tenerife attracts holidaymakers all year round.
I visited this island in February to experience the Tenerife Carnival (one of the biggest in the world) and was sunbathing on the beach whilst the UK was freezing cold! The great appeal of Tenerife, Spain’s largest island, is its pleasant climate. With an average annual temperature of about 22°C (up to 35°C in the summer) it is a genuine year-round holiday destination. The weather in Tenerife in January and February is especially attractive for us Brits who crave winter sunshine at this time of year. The north of the island is cooler, windier (and up near El Teide, snowier) in winter so head for the south coast where there are plenty of resorts to suit every taste and budget.
There is a lot more to do than just lie on the beach. Tenerife is a great island for interests and hobbies of all kinds. If you’re into plants you will be in botanical heaven here. It has the most glorious profusion of sub-tropical plants, including the exotic-looking Bird of Paradise’ flower, a vast array of cacti and the quirkily named Dragon Tree. In Icod de los Vinos you’ll find the Drago Milenario, the biggest dragon tree in the Canary Islands, probably over 500 years old.
The capital Santa Cruz has the Palmetum, which showcases all the world’s palm trees in one park. The Jardin Botanico in Puerto de la Cruz has over 30,000 lush specimens. One of the island’s most beautiful and popular towns, La Orotava is in the heart of a very fertile valley and the Hijuela del Botanico (Daughter of the Botanical Garden) was established in the early 1920s with plants from. What it lacks in size it makes up for in number – over 3,000 tropical and sub-tropical plants, shrubs, trees and flowers.
However, one of the biggest attractions has to be Loro Parque. the huge area contains many animals and birds, magnificent orchids and dragon trees. (DK Eyewitness Guide to the Canary Islands.) I reckon all the family would love this as there is a penguin house (the whole world seems to be penguin-mad at the moment!) and daily shows with parrots, killer whales, sea lions and dolphins.
The nearest I got to Mount Teide was Bodegas Montje vineyard, which has a great view of the mountain; the volcanic soil has created ideal growing conditions for wine production. I gather it is a rather stark landscape but growing on its slopes is one of the symbols of Tenerife, the Echium Wildpretii, similar to viper’s bugloss with bright red stalks, which grows up to 2m tall.
I stayed at the Bahia del Duque Resort Hotel in Adeje which, like many of the bigger hotels, has beautifully landscaped grounds. Wandering past enormous post of bright red geraniums under elegant palm trees to the swimming pool adds a touch of colourful nature and reminder that Tenerife is a genuine botanical paradise.