The town of Tacoronte lies on the north coast of Tenerife and, up until the early part of the twentieth century, was the place where anyone wishing to explore the island would begin their journey; it being the last stop on the tram line from Santa Cruz.
Today, this is food and wine country. The heart of the Tacoronte-Acentejo region, it has the largest density of vineyards in the Canary Islands and its beautiful hillsides are cloaked in lush vines, a marked contrast to the banana plantations of its neighbour, La Orotava Valley. As befits the home of Viña Norte award winning wines, Tacoronte also reputedly contains the best restaurants on the island; as one local told me: “If the King of Spain comes to Tenerife, he eats in Los Naranjeros.”
Popular guide books are surprisingly scant on this pretty, historic town with such a big reputation. Its fine beach at Mesa del Mar, fishing village of El Pris, splendid churches, well preserved traditional architecture and ancient Laurisilva forest of Agua García are all waiting to be discovered. Round your visit off with a meal fit for a king and a bottle of the best wine in the Canary Islands.
The municipality of Tacoronte was one of the original nine Mencey kingdoms of the Guanche; the natives who inhabited the island before its conquest in the fifteenth century. Their King, Acaymo, was known for his bravery and his love of his people and he aligned himself with five Menceys who fought to protect the island from the Spanish invaders. Many of the citizens of Tacoronte were involved in the defeat of Alonso Fernández de Lugo at La Matanza de Acentejo in 1494. The brave tradition of Tacoronte’s people was again brought into service in the eighteenth century when the infantry regiment stationed in the town helped to repel the attack of Santa Cruz by the British Navy under the command of Admiral Nelson.
The settlement of Tacoronte was founded by Sebastián Machado, a Portuguese who had fought alongside De Lugo during the conquest and been rewarded with a large piece of land. In 1508 he founded the small Ermita of Santa Catalina Mártir around which the settlement grew.
In 1911 the title of city was bestowed on Tacoronte by King Alfonso XIII in recognition of its endeavours in agriculture, industry and commerce.
What to See
The old, historic quarter of the town is easy to discover on foot starting at Carretera Tacoronte-Tejina which runs down by Plaza Estación to Plaza del Cristo; the main square surrounded by the church of El Cristo, the cultural centre housed in the former convent of the Augustine order and the ayuntamiento (Town Hall).
The hewn stone façade of the church of El Cristo de los Dolores (Patron Saint of Tacoronte) dates from the seventeenth century. Over the door is the crest of arms of the Castro family, the church’s founder, flanked by a couple of fierce looking gargoyles. Inside there are three naves arched in local stone and an eighteenth century altar and tabernacle, beautifully worked in silver.
Carrying along Carretera Tacoronte-Tejina, the road crosses Calle El Calvario where a small wooded park houses the three figures of El Calvario; a line of Canarian pines stand as sentries either side of the group. Above, you can see the seventeenth century grain warehouse of La Alhóndiga which used to act as a communal warehouse in times of need. Today it continues to bring people together by hosting International wine festivals and regional wine tasting contests.
Opposite El Calvario is the tranquil little Parque Hamilton; open every day except Monday. Inside there’s an information board showing the seven different ways that vines are cultivated in the Canary Islands and a sample of each method for you to identify.
Keeping Parque Hamilton on your left, continue along Calle El Calvario to the stunning church and plaza of Santa Catalina; Tacoronte’s oldest church and site of its birthplace. The church dates originally from the fifteenth century and was extensively refurbished during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Inside, there’s a substantial collection of valuable paintings and carvings as well as some beautiful Mexican silver work.
The plaza has a fountain and is surrounded by picturesque traditional architecture. A walk along the pleasant Calle Teobaldo Power will take you back to Plaza del Cristo.
What to do
Start at the small fishing village of El Pris, with its cluster of houses clinging to the steep hillside, fish restaurants and natural swimming pool and then follow the path along the coast. Magnificent views of Puerto de la Cruz and beyond will keep you company until you reach cafes, boardwalks and another natural swimming pool at Mesa del Mar. A tunnel through the cliff leads to a long sandy beach where, if you fancy a night on the beach, you can stay in a small wooden cabin at Playa de la Arena.
(+34) 922 564 236; €18 per cabin per night
Wine connoisseurs should enjoy a visit to this Bodega, surrounded by verdant vineyards, which produces wine on behalf of 660 local growers in the Tacoronte-Acentejo area, including the Viña Norte label. Gleaming steel vats stand alongside Bordeaux style wooden casks, still used to age wines by traditional methods; treat yourself to one of the award winning wines available from the Bodega’s shop.
(+34) 922 570 617; Vereda de Medio, 8-b; www.bodegasinsularestenerife.es; open 08.00-13.30 and 15.00-17.00; Bodega tours morning only
Straight down the middle
A must for golf lovers; Real Club Golf El Peñón, one of the oldest courses on Tenerife, has narrow fairways lined with mature trees and is set in lush countryside. If your game’s a little below par, the impressive views of Teide may compensate.
(+34) 922 636 607; Calle Campo de Golf, 1; green fees €75 for 18 holes; open to non-members 08.00-13.00 Monday to Friday
Park and ride
Take to horseback at Los Brezos riding school to soak up the atmosphere of the ancient Laurisilva forest of Agua García; alternatively, if you think ‘neigh’ to this suggestion, the visitors centre at Agua García is a good starting point for walking trails.
Riding School; (+34) 922 567 222; Calle de Candelaria-Monte, 101; from €12 per hour
Centro de Información de Agua García; (+34) 922 584 560; open 09.00-13.00 Monday to Friday
For a Tacoronte shopping recommendation, priority must rest with food and wine:
Mercado del Agricultor
This is one of the largest agricultural markets on the island with 110 stalls groaning under the weight of fruit, vegetables, cakes, pastries, locally produced wines, honey, preserves, ornamental plants, cheeses and herbs. There’s even a pretty little tea bar with numerous varieties of herbal and natural teas for you to try before you buy. Today’s prices scroll around an electronic screen suspended from the ceiling so you always know what your ‘best buys’ are.
Calle Tacoronte-Tejina, San Juan; Open Saturday and Sunday 09.00-14.00
This small specialist shop has wines from all over the Canary Islands as well as every possible accoutrement to ensure you enjoy your purchases to the full.
(+34) 922 570 039; Carretera General del Norte, 106; Open Monday-Friday 10.00-13.30 and 17.00-20.00, Saturday 10.00-14.00. Closed Sunday; www.vinotecacanaria.com
Where to Stay
There are a number of rural houses in the municipality offering a good standard of accommodation, usually in refurbished traditional Canarian houses. Amongst them are:
La Deseada- a small working farm set amidst vineyards in countryside outside the village of Caridad.
El Adelantado – excellently located in the old town, this seventeenth century refurbished finca also gives lessons in Bonsai!
Houses are bookable through ATTUR (Asociación Tinerfeña de Turismo Rural). You can turn up on spec’ but don’t be surprised if nobody’s there, it’s wiser to book in advance.
(+34) 922 215 582; www.ecoturismocanarias.com ; prices start from €65
Club Parque Mesa Del Mar
Located at the top of the serpentine-like road down to Mesa Del Mar, offering apartments with coastal views, swimming pools, gymnasium and tennis courts.
(+34) 922 561 300; Urbanización Mesa Del Mar; Apartments from €66 per night
Where to Eat
The stretch of road between Tacoronte and Los Naranjeros boasts many excellent restaurants, the most prestigious of which must be Los Limoneros, the choice of Kings and Princes, well Spain’s anyway. Classically elegant décor, scarlet rose petals scattered on white tablecloths and unique dishes such as Eels, Salmon and avocado makes dining here a right royal treat.
(+34) 922 636 637; Los Naranjeros-Tacoronte; open 13.00-midnight, closed Sunday; average cost of a main course €30
Extremely popular restaurant in the picturesque old part of town; a modest exterior conceals a surprisingly stylish dining area. The menu consists of whatever fresh produce is available that day; simple, but delicious fare.
(+34) 922 563 734; Calle El Calvario, 65; open 11.00-22.00 Tuesday-Saturday, 11.00-17.00 Sunday, closed Monday; average cost of a main course €6
Immaculately designed traditional house with polished wooden floors and exposed beams, serving international cuisine; a favourite local choice is Vieja (parrot fish).
(+34) 922 563 820; Carretera General del Norte, 398; open 12.30-17.00 and 20.00-23.30, closed Sunday evening; average cost of a main course €12
Peccati Di Gola
Imaginative Italian dishes in another charming, traditional casa. Irresistible offerings include mozzarella empanadas with honey and tagliatelle mar y monte, consisting of local ingredients from the sea and surrounding hills.
(+34) 922 570 954; Carretera General del Norte, 342; open 13.00-16.30 and 20.00-midnight, closed Wednesday; average cost of a main course €10
Fiesta Canaria provides a second chance to admire close up this year’s beautiful Carnaval queens with their spectacular costumes. Carnaval themed shows, traditional folklore, exhibition hall and Canarian cuisine in a large traditional mansion should satisfy any Carnaval cravings until next February.
(+34) 922 571 668; Las Toscas, 99, Santa Catalina
For a more contemporary night out try M30; this bar claims to be one of the best of its kind in Tenerife. Coffee shop during the day, it puts on its party outfit at night, with music and dancing from nine o’clock.
(+34) 922 570 995; Los Naranjeros-next to supermarket Mercadona; open 08.00-01.00 for coffee and snacks, music from 21.00-late
From Puerto de la Cruz, the 101 route runs every 30 minutes from 06.00 to 21.00 (€2). From Las Americas and Los Cristianos catch the 110 service to Santa Cruz (€6), and then change to the 101 to Tacoronte (€1.50).
The taxi rank is beside Plaza Estación on Carretera General del Norte; telephone number 922 570 800.
There’s a very good tourist information office opposite Plaza Estación, where the road forks to Tejina, which can arrange free guided tours of the town.
(+34) 922 570 015; Carretera Tacoronte-Tejina; open 09.00-14.00 Monday to Friday
The best chance of finding a space is in the streets around the quieter old part of town, or along the road leading to Tejina. Be sure to check whether the area is pay and display.
The most colourful fiesta is Corpus Christi in May/June, when Plaza del Cristo is carpeted with elaborate tapestries of coloured sand and flowers while smaller carpets occupy the surrounding streets.