I had to admit that before I started this article, I spend a lot of time on planning how to introduce you to Canary Islands in the easiest way. This beautiful Spanish archipelago located only 100 km from Morocco is a real treasure trove full of attractions and places to visit. There are hundreds of ways to visit Las Canarias, because we are talking about eight big islands and many smaller islets surrounding them. To explore all of them, we would probably need at least few months, so if this is your first visit in Canary Islands, I suggest to choose one, maximum two islands and book 10-14 days in your calendar. It should be enough time to visit the top attractions and without rush.
Of course you can always catch a plane and spend a spontaneous weekend in one particular destination, it’s completely up to you! I had never been in Canary Islands before that trip, so it took me a while to choose where to go and what should I prioritize. Finally I decided for Tenerife and Lanzarote and today I will start with Tenerife North because this is where my adventure started!
When it comes to traveling to Tenerife, many people divide their stay to the North and South. First of all, because both sides of the island have an airport so you can land on one of them and fly out from another. Secondly, because the landscape varies a lot on each side and you have a feeling like if you were visiting two completely different places. This mix of contrasts is actually what I loved the most about Tenerife, together with an amazing weather and and a very good public transportation. I visited Tenerife in December and the temperature was perfect, around 20-25 degrees!
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Santa Cruz is the capital of Tenerife, known as a cultural and shopping centre of the island. The city is very well connected with both airports and only 20 minutes away from the North Airport. The best way to explore the capital is definitely on foot, but if you want to earn some time, there is a tram which runs through the center and connects different neighborhoods. Most of the top attractions are situated very close to each other and are possible to see in one day. An absolute must in Santa Cruz is Auditorio de Tenerife Adán Martín and it’s wave-like curved shape. As the finest modern building in the Canary Islands, it’s considered a symbol of Tenerife which hosts the most important concerts and artistic performances.
Among other important places are the main square of the city – Plaza España – and San Cristobal Castle, whose ruins are hidden under the square and can be visited following the stairs from the plaza. If you want to walk in the shade, Rambla de Sant Cruz is a good option – this wide promenade crosses the entire city and will protect you from the sun. Something I didn’t do but I think it’s worth your time is visiting Casa de Carnival. Did you know that Tenerife’s carnival is the second biggest in the world right after the one in Rio de Janeiro? This museum is a home to an impressive collection of costumes and I’ve heard it does a great job of getting you in the mood for the carnival!
Playa de Las Teresitas
Tenerife is mostly known because of its black sand beaches arising as a result of volcanic eruption of Teide, but there are still some exceptions where you can find a golden sand. The closet beach to Santa Cruz de Tenerife is Playa de Las Teresitas which was build with the sand from the Sahara Desert in Africa and is the only golden sand beach you will find in the north of island. Situated only 20 minutes away from the capital and right below the Anaga Rural Park, Las Teresitas is a perfect option for those who are looking for a calm and wide beach. Las Teresitas stretches for a kilometer and a half and is surrounded by charming cafes to enjoy together with the views.
Pirámides de Güímar
Located about 26 kilometers from the city of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Pirámides de Güímar are six constructions in the form of stepped pyramids whose origin has been a subject of debate for a long time. There are several theories about the origin and antiquity of the pyramids. Some researchers propose that they are mounds of stones, called ‘majanos’, placed by farmers to clear the land in order to cultivate it. On the other hand, other investigators related the existence of the pyramids to ancient civilizations, arguing that the construction details of the pyramids resemble the architectural principles used in the Old and New Worlds. The latest research demonstrated that the pyramids are astronomically oriented to the summer and winter solstices. As you can see, the debate continues! The pyramids of Güímar are now opened to the public as an ethnographic park and I recommend this place to everyone who like secrets. You can’t miss discovering the botanical garden with poisonous plants from all over the world.
San Cristóbal de La Laguna
Santa Cruz has not always been the capital city of Tenerife. The ancient capital of the island was San Cristóbal de la Laguna and its colonial style will make you feel as if you were walking through any city in Central America. Why? La Laguna was build on a grid structure and the streets of many cities across the Americas, like Old Havana, Lima or Cartagena, rised up in a similar way to this small Canarian city. La Laguna remains most of its original street layout until today and is recognized as one o the most authentic places across the island. It’s one of those places where you literally feel the history in the air and you can easily get there in 20 minutes drive from Santa Cruz.
Icod de los Vinos and Drago Tree
Icod de los Vinos is a small town in Tenerife North with its economy based on the cultivation of the vine and fishing. My reason number one to visit this place is definitely the gastronomy: potatoes with mojo and salted fish, wines and artisan cheeses… everything so good! Speaking of wine, I arrived in Icod de los Vinos right after Fiesta de San Andres, a famous wine tasting festival which occurs each year on November 30. Such a shame because I would love to participate! So if by any chance you can plan your visit during this time, you will have an opportunity to tase a lot of wine 🙂
The historical and artistic heritage of its old town is another of the points most appreciated by visitors – walking the cobbled streets and small squares with fountains in the heart of the town is a real pleasure, especially with one of the best views of Teide, the highest peak in Spain.
The Millennial Dragon Tree is probably the figure that most identifies Icod de Los Vinos. Why would I recommend you a tree? Because it has existed probably since biblical times and was declared a National Monument. The Dragon Tree is 22 metres high, weighs 70 tonnes and is considered to be an absolute minimum of 1,000 years old, but it could have been even 3,000 years!
Garachico isn’t just one of the nicest places to visit in Tenerife North – it also stands out with its inspiring history. Over the centuries the town has been turning all the obstacles into opportunities. More than 300 years ago lava from Trevejo volcano devastated the town, destroying its port and turning this once rich and sophisticated town into ashes. But Garachico broke the cliches and used the eruption to rebuild the town even more beautiful than before. Its historic heart has been well preserved along with its Canarian architecture, particularly in the main square called Plaza de la Libertad, which has a statue of South American revolutionary Simon Bolivar, whose ancestors originated in Garachico.
A walk through Garachico means enjoying its architectural heritage, its culture and its peaceful atmosphere. During the 16th and 17th centuries Garachico was the commercial and economic heart of the island and we can see it reflected in the layout of its streets and in the architecture of its buildings.
Located only 15 minutes from Puerto de La Cruz, La Orotava is a real pearl of northern Tenerife. Situated in the middle of the valley of the same name, it stands out for its perfectly preserved buildings, which has led to the city center being declared a Historic-Artistic Site. La Orotava is also the municipality with the largest forest area: Approximately 78% of the Teide National Park is part of it! I will guide you through Teide Park in my next Canarian post 🙂
La Orotava is mostly known for its hanging wooden balconies that adorn the facades of its traditional houses, the colonial churches and the carpets of flowers and volcanic earth that are made every year in La Orotava during the Corpus Christi celebrations. If you have ever seen Semana Santa in Andalucia, there is another event you should not miss. The traditional Holy Week has been celebrated there since the century XVII!
Puerto de la Cruz
The combination of its flower gardens, black sand beaches, seaside shopping area and picturesque cobbled streets captivates visitors and offers a wide variety of activities for everyone who visits Puerto de la Cruz. This beautiful city is also an ideal destination to practice active tourism and enjoy more than a thousand kilometers of trails. The sea offers a multitude of sports activities, from paddle surfing or bodyboarding to diving. In addition, the spectacular underwater volcanic tube known as La Rapadura attracts many expert divers every year. Those who want to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean with a little more calm, can choose between the natural pools of San Telmo, the volcanic sand beaches or the Lago Martianez pool complex.
I spent an entire day on the black beach of Playa Martianez, and if surfing is your thing, you have an area enabled to spend hours and hours practicing your favorite sport. It was the first time I saw black sand! At the other end of the city you will find the garden beach of Playa Jardin, possibly one of the best in northern Tenerife and the most popular in Puerto de la Cruz. The beach is one kilometer long and also characterizes by fine black sand, in this case set against a backdrop of fabulous tropical garden.
I also recommend you to visit the traditional fishing district of La Ranilla, which offers an innovative activity – Puerto Street Art – an open-air museum where 13 world-famous artists have captured their works on large walls! And before you leave, you should save some time for one of the most peaceful experiences in the city and head to the botanical gardens which are a home to plants from the four corners of the globe!
I hope those 8 reasons convinced you to visit Tenerife North and if you feel like you’re craving for more, wait for our next article! We will take you to the South and we will climb Teide together 🙂
I also have to add that I explored most of the island by public transport which surprised me very positively – Tenerife is very well connected and I can say the same about Lanzarote. Maybe I will write more about transportation on Canary Islands later on! However, I would definitely rent a car to be more independent next time. It’s simply much easier to travel by car, and it applies not only to Tenerife but to any island in the world.
Would you add any places to our list? What are you more into, North or South?