Conquest of the Canaries

In the fourteenth century the islands of the Canaries were divided into fiefdoms and were ruled peacefully by Menceys, who in turn had their own tribal council to mete out judgements and enforce the laws of the land. Tenerife, for instance, had nine separate kingdoms and although there were occasional disagreements, rivalries and skirmishes on the whole they lived a peaceful existence. The majority of them lived in caves and survived off the land, farming, herding, hunting, while others built small round houses to raise their families in.

The problem for the Guanches and the Canary Islands as a whole was that strategically they were in a prime position for trade and as a way-station to the Americas. Realising this Spain made the islands a colony as early as 1483, using them as a refilling station on their way to the New World. Before this period, however, the indigenous population had to deal with invading forces first from the Portuguese and then the French.

A military expedition sent by the King of Portugal in 1341 arrived among the Seven Islands under the command of Niccoloso da Recco, principally as a fact gathering mission. Samples of gofio and several cultural artefacts were gathered and the resulting contact with the local population saw four Guanches captured, taken back to Portugal and sold as slaves.

It was not the first contact the islanders had had with outsiders but this was to set a precedent that was to bathe the near future in blood and a war that was to last a hundred years.

During the following years another expedition was sent, this time from the king of Mallorca with the intention of colonising the islands and turning the natives to the path of Christianity. It was in essence a peaceful mission, benign, and the first incursion of Christianity spread throughout several of the islands, which was to last from 1350 to 1400.

Full scale invasion came to the Canaries in 1402, though, with the landing of Jean de Bethencourt on the north side of Lanzarote. He was a Norman/ French explorer from the court of King Henry III of Castille and from this base went on the conquer Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, La Gomera and El Hierro with comparative ease. The invaders were not met with open arms, however, on Gran Canaria, Tenerife and La Palma, each of these islands resisting with an indomitable will and any weapons they had available.

Where the French were quipped with weapons made of iron, were armoured and well prepared for war, the Guanches only wore hides made from goats and carried lances, clubs studded with pebbles, javelins, rudimentary shields and polished battle-axes made of stone. Not a very well-balanced match by any means but the invaders didn´t reckon on the fierce determination of the islanders.

Holding the coasts proved to be an impossible task for the natives and they were slowly pushed further inland, continuing a retreating battle into the mountains. It was from these familiar surroundings that they were able to make something of a stand, hitting the invaders sporadically, never meeting them head to head but attacking them and harrying them at every opportunity.

This underground resistance was to continue none stop, with the islands being occupied but seemingly unconquerable in the long run. Still neither side were willing to admit defeat so the skirmishes raged on for years to come.

True the French had claimed large areas of the islands and even proclaimed the Canaries as their own, but the uprising and resistance continued unabated until the final decades of the 15th century. So even though they perceived themselves as victorious, the European colonies were nothing more than coastal enclaves surrounded by a hostile force that just would not give up.

The Portuguese attempted to wrest what control the French had in 1424 but didn´t attempt a full-scale invasion until 1446 where they were repelled after many bloody battles and then again in 1468. The French were determined to hold on to the islands no matter the cost in lives but the Portuguese were just as determined that they were going to oust the French no matter whose blood was shed, theirs, the enemy´s and even the Guanches caught in the crossfire.

The death of King Henry IV of Portugal in 1474 propelled the conflict into another, fiercer level as King Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabelle of Castille laid claim to the Guinea Coast nearby to slow the Portuguese invasion into West Africa. The response was immediate, bloody and saw the death toll rise even further as the Portuguese struggled to gain a foothold in the Canary Islands.

Virtually five years of warfare ensued until a peace treaty was signed in 1479 and the Portuguese desisted in their takeover plans and the French renounced their navigation rights in African waters. The war between the French and the Portuguese was over. Now it was the turn of Spain to try and capture the Canaries.

It was actually in 1461 that the Spanish launched a serious offensive to take over the islands but it wasn´t until 1478 that a foothold was gained in Gran Canaria by Juan Rejon. They then built a fort as their base of operations and from this beachhead Spain planned their next all out assault on the war weary Guanches.

With the sun blazing down and a stiff breeze to fill his sails on the third of May 1494, Alonso Fernanzez de Lugo landed his ships at Añaza Beach, his troops bolstered by several hundred natives from Gran Canaria who had been Christianized and had decided to support the Spanish in their crusade.

And they weren´t the only ones.

Prior to landing on the coast between Anaga and Guimar, Alonso had reached an agreement with four of the nine Menceys on the island. These four kingdoms, Guimar, Anaga, Abona and Adeje, possibly because they were indoctrinated over the years by Spanish missionaries, submitted peacefully and accepted the Spaniards with open arms.

The Great Mencey of Taoro and the island´s main king, Bencomo, refused to accept the occupation and was determined to fight the invaders to the last man. Together with the kingdoms of Daute, Icod, Tacoronte and Tegeuste they made up the richest and the most populated areas of Tenerife and formed a powerful and determined army.

Alonso Fernandez de Lugo gathered his troops on the beaches and began his march into Tenerife to subjugate the last bastion of resistance. Crossing Aguere Valley he arrived at the North shore, encountering not one of Bencomo´s men along the way. As he continued his confidence and arrogance grew, believing that the ignorant savages had retreated and were even now cowering in their caves and so, unsuspectingly, his guard down, he proceeded into Taoro, the very heartland of the resistance.

Pausing in the ravine of Acentejo(pouring waters), Alonso heard a mighty roar erupt from the surrounding slopes. Scores of his men fell, screaming in agony as spears rained down seemingly from everywhere, piercing hearts, throats and killing them instantly.

The day of bloodletting had begun.

Los Cristianos – Wish You Were Here?

First Impressions
A surfeit of restaurants, cafes, ice cream parlours and bars spill their tables and chairs onto the palm and bench lined promenade and into the narrow streets behind the seafront. The blindingly white church sits in its plaza, chiming the hour and acting as focal point for fiestas and concerts. Shops provide everything from groceries, cheap cigarettes and souvenirs to fashion and property, satisfying the needs of those already here and beckoning ever more ex-pats to a new life in the sun.
And everywhere you look, the sea dominates the life it spawned here; the daily ferries to the other western islands dwarf the fishing boats in the harbour; ticket offices entice trips to see dolphins and whales, go deep sea fishing or gaze through glass bottom boats; fishing boats unload and string mackerel portside and sailing boats, kayaks and pedalos tack across the horizon.

A former fishing village, the bustling, colourful harbour is still the beating heart of Los Cristianos, placing it at the doorway to the islands of La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma and lending it its touch of Canarian character, absent from its newer and shinier westerly neighbours.

As late as 1955 Los Cristianos was a hot, dusty fishermen’s shanty with just 1,200 residents. Then a Swedish broadcaster suffering from MS discovered the curative properties of its climate and within 40 years its population had grown tenfold and Los Cristianos found itself firmly on the mass tourism map.
In deference to its roots, wheelchair access is still high on Los Cristianos’ agenda making it Tenerife’s most disability friendly resort.

Accused of looking a little tired compared to her upwardly mobile neighbour, Los Cristianos is tidying her skirts and re-doing her face; the plastic chairs are being replaced by rattan, the torn umbrellas by straw parasols and the recently extended promenade is elegantly landscaped and furnished.
With newfound style and a Canarian culture, Los Cristianos might just have found a winning formula.

The Right Climate
It’s in the south of Tenerife, so you can pretty much say goodbye to rainy days for most of the year; the weather here’s like a cross between Antonio Banderas and Jack Dee – hot and dry.

A Good Night’s Sleep
In the Thick of it – Hotel Reverón Plaza (4*) Stylish good looks, elegance and charm come together in this centrally located piece of Los Cristianos’ history. If being woken at 8am by the sound of the church bells is not your idea of quaint, ask for a room on the other side of the hotel.
(0034) 922 757120; www.hotelesreveron.com; double room and breakfast from €100 per night)

Room with a View – Hotel Oasis Moreque (3*). The somewhat dated looking exterior of this hotel doesn’t do it any favours but the rooms are big and bright and if you request a sea facing room you can enjoy ringside views over the harbour and romantic sunsets over the enigmatic La Gomera.
(0034) 922 790 366; www.h10hotels.com; double room and breakfast from €114 per night)

The Quiet Life – Arona Gran Hotel (4*). Set at the southern end of the bay, the Arona Gran offers luxury, style and tranquillity from the moment you step into its cavernous lobby dripping with foliage. (0034) 922 750 678; www.springhoteles.com; double room with breakfast from €172 per night)

Sun Loungers
At Playa de Las Vistas great swathes of golden sand have been imported from the Spanish Sahara, cleaned, filtered and pressed to create a beach so big that only half of it gets used. Rows of sunbeds and umbrellas hug the water’s edge leaving a desert of hot, golden emptiness behind them beyond which an oasis of ice cream parlours and restaurants shimmer in the heat haze waiting for their bronzed, coconut oil scented clientele.
There are lifeguards, showers, toilets and full facilities for the disabled including sunbathing terraces, amphibian chairs and the Red Cross on hand to ensure that this paradise remains barrier free.

In the centre of the resort alongside the busy port is the equally golden but smaller Playa de Los Cristianos which has all the same facilities as Las Vistas and a well used beach volleyball court which provides spectator sport for those who break a sweat just watching. Behind the beach, the long promenade provides no end of playthings including amusement arcades, crazy golf and petanca courts.

The further along Paseo Marítimo towards the Arona Gran Hotel you go, the smaller and less crowded the beaches become until you reach Playa Callao whose sand is rock strewn and unkempt for those who prefer their beaches a little more ‘au natural’, which is also what some of the sunbathers are apt to be.

Wine & Dine

Special Occasion
French cuisine is always reliable for adding that extra je ne sais quoi when you’re after something a little bit special. The eponymous Alain of Le Bistrot D’Alain (C/Del Valle Menéndez, 23; (+34) 922 752 336; closed Monday) performs magic as a culinary cupid, combining herbs and sauces with unlikely partners and creating matches (quail and pear, chicken liver with honey and apple) made in gourmet heaven; French flair at its finest.

Going Local
The place in town to mix it with the locals is La Tasca de Mi Abuelo (CC San Marino; (+34) 922 794 466; closed Monday). A wonderful tapas menu includes mushrooms wrapped in Serrano ham. You might even get treated to some live music courtesy of the owner…if he’s had enough to drink.
Camerones and cervesa (shrimps and beer) are the perennial favourite in Tenerife’s fishing villages; La Taberna del Puerto (C/Dulce María Loainz, 12; (+34) 922 796 277) serves this and other classic tapas dishes in inviting voguish, rustic surroundings.

Family Friendly
Italian restaurants are always a good bet to please all the family and Los Cristianos has so many that visitors could be forgiven for thinking they’re in a province of Italy rather than Spain. One of the oldest and most dependable is the Little Italy Taberna (Paseo Maritimo; (+34) 922 792 570) overlooking the beach and harbour. There’s a good choice of dishes to keep the adults happy and, more importantly, they’re child friendly.

Meat Free
With a menu as diverse as Tenerife’s scenery, The Olive Garden (El Carmel, 5 (+34) 922 791 115) delivers a truly international range of choices whether you’re vegetarian or not. Owners Sally and Rob initially tested the water with a few vegetarian additions to the menu and the response was such that they’ve extended the veggie menu to rival that of their meat and seafood dishes. The ‘wicked Italian veg-balls’ are…well, wicked.

After Dark
Los Cristianos has a reputation for being a bit of a quiet wallflower compared to its exuberant neighbour and whilst this holds an element of truth, accusations that there’s little nightlife to be found in the resort are somewhat inaccurate.

Roll back the years and head along Paseo Marítimo to the bars around Chicago’s where the likes of Billy Idol and Rod Stewart imitators perform nightly; the eighties will never die as long as tribute acts remain popular.
Mestizo’s in the same area and Groucho’s in the centre of town provide more bohemian sanctuaries to those who view cabaret bars as an anathema.

However, it’s in C.C. San Telmo where the resort’s dark nocturnal heart starts beating a heady rhythm as the night progresses and those who head for home before midnight might never know what they’re missing. On one side, wide terraces belonging to wine, tapas and cocktail bars overlook Playa de Las Vistas, whilst on the roadside, tables and chairs ranging in style from chrome retro minimalist to rich chocolate coloured rattan chairs and leafy ferns give San Telmo’s arched terraces a 21st century Colonial aspect.

Bonus Points
The Monkey Zoo is where you can get up close and personal with the primates. You can buy dried food at the ticket booth but they much prefer fresh fruit so stock up on grapes, bananas and apples and make new friends in an instant. Don’t wear your best T shirt though; potty training is still ‘work in progress’. (0034 790 720; www.monkeypark.com)

Water sports. From hands-on to passive observer, the Los Cristianos coastline offers as diverse a range of sea-based activities as there are fish in the Atlantic. Choose from whale and dolphin watching, deep sea fishing, sailing, kayaking, diving…the list is endless.

Ferries. Really take advantage of the fact that you’re based at the crossroads to the Western Canary Islands and take an early ferry to spend a day exploring the capital of La Palma, La Gomera or El Hierro where life moves to a very different rhythm.

In the Shopping Basket
The Sunday market next to the Gran Arona Hotel is good for picking up some interesting knick-knacks. Because the town has a resident Canarian population, it has some ‘real’ shops where prices are friendlier than those in ones aimed purely at the tourist market; good news for self-caterers. Avenida de Suecia has a range of independent clothes shops with styles which actually deserve the designer label tag.

R we there yet?
Only a fifteen minute drive from the south airport, so there’s no worry that you’ll nod off on the coach journey from the airport and start dribbling over your new holiday clothes.

Suits You, Sir
Some cruel soul suggested that Los Cristianos should be renamed Los Crustianos because it’s favoured by more mature British visitors. It has a less frenetic feel to it than Playa de Las Américas which is part of the reason it attracts people for whom partying isn’t the be all and end all. Once again that’s only part of the picture; the town also has a young resident Canarian population, so it isn’t all Saga in the sun.

Living Tenerife’s Star Ratings for the Resort of Los Cristianos

Accommodation: 3 stars – A surprisingly small selection of hotels for such a prominent resort with no five star option available and one or two establishments in need of a makeover.

Restaurants: 4 stars – There’s a good choice of cuisines from around the world, including plenty of traditional establishments, so even the Victor Meldrews out there will struggle to find something to complain about.

Beaches: 5 stars – Playa de Las Vistas is probably the south’s best beach. Add to that the Los Cristianos beach and the resort’s wonderful ‘access for all’ policy, and the stars stack up easily.

Nightlife: 3 stars – There are bars to suit those who want ‘Stars in Your Eyes’ type entertainment and there are stylish haunts for anyone seeking something more sophisticated; there’s just not a lot of either.

Lasting Impressions: 3 stars – Sun, sea and sand at a gentler pace with some great restaurants and some genuine Tinerfeñan character. The lasting impression is definitely the busy and colourful port.

And the downside… like spiders on a web, the timeshare touts lie in wait; they’ll take “no” for an answer, it’s just that you get heartily tired of saying it.

Abona – kaleidoscopic arcs of kites

Behind me, the kaleidoscopic arcs of kites soar and dip in the wind, teased by the skilled hands of kite-boarders as they hurtle across the water’s surface.
The same wind is whistling around my ears and creating mad woman’s hair which whips into my eyes as I walk up the side of Bocinegro. Taking a less well trodden path I descend back to the shoreline on the far side of the little mountain where the landscape is transformed into a Salvador Dalí canvas. The rocks have been worn smooth by the action of the sea and have formed large, flat stepping stones. Lining the infinite blue of the horizon, small coves pepper the shoreline and above them the sand and salt has been eroded by the wind into a sculpted white wall of layer cake beyond which the burgundy sides of Montaña Roja rise.

Through my mad fringe I detect movement and turn to see a pair of buttocks moving off at some speed, scurrying across the rocks like the white rabbit in an adult version of Alice in Wonderland. Unperturbed, I continue along the rocks but quickly realise something’s amiss when naked buttocks, and more, begin to fill my every horizon. I’ve inadvertently stumbled into a male, gay naturist zone, and judging by the quantity of its occupants, a very popular one at that. Everywhere I look, it seems, my gaze is met by the Full Monty and any further attempt to explore is aborted amidst muttered “Ooops” and persistent thoughts of a classic line from the movie “Priscilla Queen of the Desert” …only without the frock.

Abona
Once part of one of the largest Guanche kingdoms, Abona, the areas of Granadilla and San Miguel are products of their environment. The distinctive white landscape of moisture retaining jablé (pumice) coated terraces is testament to the area’s lack of rainfall which, before the southern water canals were constructed, relied on cereal production to sustain subsistence farming.

Travel within the municipality before the southern road was constructed in the 1930s was on foot and by mule along mountain tracks, and the only way to travel to other municipalities was by sea from the ports of El Médano and Los Abrigos.

Ironically, where once travel was so limited, today is the site of the south airport and millions of visitors arrive here annually. But slip into walking sandals and you can quickly find the isolation that once characterised this area, a mere stone’s throw from the busy tourist resorts of the south.

As I walked out…from El Médano to Montaña Roja.
Leaving the naked men of Bocinegro behind, I take the path that winds up the side of Montaña Roja. The wind is now at my back, pushing me forward up the steady 173 metre climb and turning my water bottle into a flute every time I take the cap off to drink.

When I reach the summit there’s a couple sunbathing, half hidden by a rock. For a moment I think they’re naked and wonder if I’m the only person in El Médano who bothered to get dressed this morning, but as I get nearer I realise they’re just down to their underwear.

The red of the mountain grows deeper when viewed above the beige, arid plains of the south which stretch as far as Las Galletas in the west and back to the wind-catchers of El Médano in the east. Directly below lie the white sands of Playa La Tejita on which a turquoise tide is forming small semicircles along the shore, creating a scalloped edge to its perfection.
In the middle distance a plane is taking off from the south airport, the sun glinting off its wings as it climbs into blue.

Meanwhile, here on the summit, more walkers have appeared and I can’t help feeling sorry for a girl who seems to have hiked all the way up here for a bit of peace and quiet in which to read her book; it’s positively crowded up here. At the furthest edge of the summit where the wine coloured rocks jut out over a sheer drop to the ocean, the wind is strong enough to do a Kate Winslet ‘Titanic’ pose but I decide that’s probably not wise given the size of the drop and opt instead for the slower way down to the beach and lunch.

Playa la Tejita is behaving as if it’s in a Bacardi advert; a small wooden beach bar with a palm frond roof is serving up cold beers and snacks to smiling, bikini clad girls and sun tanned men. Straw umbrellas are throwing eclipsed circles of shade onto the white sand and golden bodies glisten on their blue sun-loungers.

Looking like the most un-cool person on the beach by, say a million miles, I have to play a one-woman game of Twister with my sarong which the wind is determined to steal from me before I flop in an ungainly sprawl across it, my mad woman hair going for the Oscar.
It’s a heavenly spot for lunch but the sun is proving too hot for the amount of flesh I have covered and, gathering up my sarong, I set off back, past the naked man on the sun-lounger, to the bohemian sanctuary of El Médano where there’s an ice cold Dorada with my name on it and at least the waiter’s wearing shorts.

Discovering Abona

Hikers…
The coastal landscape around Montaña Roja is quite unique, even on an island with such diverse landscapes as Tenerife; however heading into the hills brings a very different experience. The old Camino Real (Royal Road), which used to link the tiny communities of the south with the commercial centres in the north until as recently as the 1930s, still exists; although nowadays it’s somewhat hidden away. I struggled to find it, in the end resorting to asking a postman who shrugged.

“Sorry, I don’t know this area very well,” he answered rather disconcertingly.

After a few false starts I eventually stumbled across it. Starting at the Iglesia de San Miguel in the town of the same name, the route runs alongside the town houses on Calle General Franco until it reaches the barrio of Tamaide. At Calle de la Cruz a left, followed by a right turn leads to the cobbled old road. From this point walkers enter a different world. Accompanied by the cries of kestrels circling the cliffs that rise above the path, the trail meanders past jablé terraces, old farmsteads and through arid ravines. It’s a route which provides an insight into rural life in the south before tourism brought its riches. This is especially evident at the tiny hamlet of La Hoya with its traditional agricultural architecture. Here there’s also an old tile oven used for making the red tiles which are predominant on the roofs of the older houses. It’s possible to imagine chattering farmer’s wives, their goods piled high on their heads, passing on their way to market. The path ends at the Mirador de La Centinela and incredible views of the volcano pockmarked landscape of the south of Tenerife (return 10km, approx 3-4h).

…and strollers
If it’s views you’re after, then the paths around the Mirador de La Centinela have expansive ones along the south coast which can be enjoyed with the minimum of effort. A panorama setting on the camera is essential to capture them.
At El Médano, the bleached wooden boardwalk which leads from the town towards Montaña Roja, passing kite-boarders’ and windsurfers’ multicoloured canopies, makes for very pleasant and easy strolling, but once it ends you’re in Lawrence of Arabia territory. Negotiating the stretch of sand dunes which lie between the end of the boardwalk and the paths around the ‘Red Mountain’ can feel as though somebody’s tied lead weights to your feet. The trails around the mountain are generally quite flat and suitable for casual exploration, if discovering ‘nature in the raw’ isn’t a bit too avant-garde for some tastes.

The ‘WOW’ factor
Stunning vistas always impress; however, they’re pretty much an essential of any decent walk. The real ‘well I’ll go to the foot of our stairs’ moments are the unexpected surprises, especially when they’re to be found only a hop, skip and a jump away from Tenerife’s main tourist spots. La Centinela Mirador is impressive, but the treasures around Montaña Roja are quite unique; the salt crusted lagoon behind the dunes; a small cove of deep red sand at the base of the mountain – the sort of place where you could imagine Martians sunbathing; and quite literally, to top it all, the views of Playa La Tejita’s golden sand and turquoise seas from Montaña Roja’s summit rival those of the tropical paradise of Las Teresitas beyond Santa Cruz.

Refuelling stops
The great thing about bohemian towns like El Médano is that they also have bohemian bars; laid back affairs perfect for chilling out at the end of a hot walk. Along the boardwalk places like the ultra surf-dude haunt, Flashpoint are great watering holes to sink a ‘cool one’ and watch the rainbow coloured displays in the sea. An even more casual affair is the beach bar at the foot of Montaña Roja on Playa La Tejita. Part shack, part WWII bunker it’s in a beautiful location and popular with…err, beach bums.
In the hills, the La Centinela restaurant may be more formal, but for anyone who wants views with their lunch, it’s hard to beat. For some top notch Canarian cuisine head into one of San Miguel’s wonderful restaurants such as La Tasquita de Nino.

Be prepared
The paths around Montaña Roja are quite well signposted with plenty of information boards full of interesting snippets. The old road which links San Miguel and La Centinela is a different prospect altogether. Unlike most other Caminos Reales on Tenerife, this one doesn’t have a single signpost to inform you that you’re on the right track. Where the cobbled path crosses an asphalt road it takes a bit of searching to rejoin the trail. Starting from La Centinela, it’s very unclear where the path begins as some smart soul has built a rock border across it.
A word of warning if carrying a packed lunch; the stone bench below La Centinela is a wonderful spot to enjoy a snack with a view, but the second you unwrap those bocadillos, the place turns into a lizard version of Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.

Living Tenerife’s Star Rating for Tenerife’s Best Walking Locations: Abona

Views: 4 stars – Awesome. La Centinela offers a very different visual perspective of the south coast as a landscape filled with volcanic cones. However, the number one vista has to be from the summit of the ‘Red Mountain’. Beautifully blue seas, golden sand stretching into the distance and secret coves; it’s a fitting reward for those who make the effort.

Interest: 4 stars – Man and nature have collaborated to provide a mixed bag of goodies in this area; from partly abandoned rural hamlets on the Camino Real to the eclectic mix of sights, shapes and colours of the landscape, and the people who frequent it, around the coast.

Variety of Terrain: 3 stars – The cobbled paths through the arid lands in the hills and rocky paths along the coast are good, level walking surfaces; however, ultimately, this is walking in the dry, open desert landscapes of the south; variation isn’t its USP.

Watering Holes: 5 stars – You’re never far from a welcoming bar. Plenty of choice from cosy cantinas by the sea, tascas where the views are as cool as the beer, or atmospheric restaurants in charming old houses.

Get-lost-ability: 3 stars– On the coast it really is impossible. You see there’s this big red hill…enough said. In the hills, while it’s unlikely that anyone could get lost in the wilderness, the lack of signage is frustrating when trying to find starting points either in San Miguel or at La Centinela.

And the downside…
All joking aside, if turning a corner to find yourself faced by a naked man is likely to cause offence, or embarrassment, avoid the area at the base of Montaña Roja. On the other hand there are others who might consider the prospect as a definite plus point and possibly even think it should be included as a ‘WOW’ factor – not on the day I was there, I can assure you.

Puerto de la Cruz – Wish You Were Here

First Impressions
Banana plants; palm trees; laurel trees; bougainvillea; frangipani…like Alice in Wonderland after a swig of the ‘Drink Me’ bottle, they all grow at an alarming rate in Puerto de la Cruz giving it a lush, tropical identity that separates it from the south of Tenerife by more than just distance.
Known as Tenerife’s sophisticated resort, it’s Spanish and Canarian voices that dominate the airwaves, and all through the summer months, it’s Spanish mainlanders who throng the streets, plazas and hotels.

Puerto de la Cruz was Tenerife’s first tourist resort and original destination of those wealthy and adventurous enough to visit the Canary Islands back in the 1960s and early 1970s. But when the south airport opened its runway and package holidays came within the financial reach of a vast untapped market, millions of Brits headed south for the holy grail of a guaranteed suntan. In Puerto, the Canarios re-claimed their favourite party town while the mainlanders remained loyal to its cobbled streets and fishing harbour.

Today, it’s both a tourist resort and a busy working town where Plaza Charco, the heart of the old quarter, fills every evening with families spending time together after the day’s work and where the worst traffic queues are on Sunday evenings when the ‘Domingueros’ (Sunday strollers) come into town in their finery to see and be seen.
By the harbour, retired fishermen sit around small tables playing dominoes or cards, a cigar glued to one corner of their mouths while the food stalls that border the quayside fill the air with the fragrant smoke of paella, fried sardines and succulent pork pinchos (kebabs).

Resolutely Canarian in character, Puerto has managed to retain its identity at the heart of Tenerife culture, where even the opening of a new roundabout is adequate cause for a fiesta, while still providing all the amenities and facilities of a 21st century tourist resort.

On its little promontory at the foot of the La Orotava Valley, Puerto gets the best of the north’s sunshine and just enough rainfall to keep it as green as the bananas that surround it.

The Right Climate
Puerto doesn’t enjoy as much sunshine as the southern and western resorts and it’s prone to more rain and cloud.
However, it’s this area historians were talking about when they coined the phrase, the ‘island of perpetual spring’ and temperatures range from 70° F in January to 84°F in August.

A Good Night’s Sleep
Pamper Yourself – Hotel Botanico (5*). Everything about this hotel says ’quality, luxury and attention to detail’. Step into the Oriental Spa Garden and you’re in Thailand; from the authentic massage pagoda beneath the palm trees to the aromatherapy room, the aim is unbridled indulgence of the mind, body and senses.
(0034) 922 381 400; www.hotelbotanico.com; double room with breakfast from €200 per night; range of offers on combined stay with spa treatments

Room with a View – Bahia Principe San Felipe (4*) enjoys an exclusive position opposite Playa Martiánez where the modern, spacious rooms have stunning views over the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Mount Teide on the other.
(0034) 922 383 311; www.bahia-principe.com; double room all inclusive €248 per night for 2 persons

In the Thick of it – Hotel Monopol (3*). One of Tenerife’s oldest hotels situated in the heart of the town whose lobby is a balconied Canarian courtyard which is simply stunning. Try for one of the 15 rooms overlooking Plaza de la Iglesia.
(0034) 922 384 611; www.monopoltf.com; half board in double room with balcony from €96 per night
Catalonia Las Vegas (4*). Lively, friendly hotel right on the promenade in front of Lago Martiánez. Rooms have lots of space and great balconies overlooking the prom.
(0034) 922 383 900; www.hoteles-catalonia.com; Double room with breakfast from €70 per night

The Quiet Life – Hotel Tigaiga (4*) A green oasis of tranquility and style where your breathing becomes deeper the minute you step foot over the threshold. Set in beautifully landscaped, sub-tropical gardens above the town.
(0034) 922 383 500; www.tigaiga.com; double room with breakfast from €132 per night

Sun Loungers
The town’s main beach of Playa Jardín is a beautiful, black sand beach backed by extensive landscaped gardens, designed by César Manrique. Beyond it the valley slopes upwards to Mount Teide creating a breathtaking backdrop for sunbathers. The beach shelves steeply into the Atlantic rollers which for much of the year make swimming an extreme sport and addictive entertainment for those confident enough to enjoy the rough handling but a no-no for the timid or frail.

At the far end of town is the much smaller black sand beach of Playa Martiánez with equally stunning views across the La Orotava Valley; a good spot for surfers.
Slightly out of town and a favourite with locals is the reclusive beauty of Playa Bollullo which rewards the effort required to access it with three lovely black sand coves (one a naturist beach) beneath the cliffs and a beach bar/cafe that wouldn’t look out of place in the Greek Islands.

On the town’s main promenade is the swimming and sunbathing paradise of Lago Martiánez where you can effortlessly while away entire days amidst tropical gardens, oodles of sunbathing terraces, restaurants, kiosks, seven swimming pools and a 15,000 square metre lake with an island at its centre below which the town’s Casino is located…it’s all very James Bond.
Open every day from 10.00-17.00; entrance €3.50 including your sun bed and mattress

Wine & Dine
Special Occasion – El Regulo (C/Perez Zamora, 16; (+34) 922 38 45 06; closed Sunday): First class presentation, professional service and perfectly cooked Canarian cuisine in an exquisite old townhouse; perfect for birthdays and anniversaries.
Mil Sabores (thousand flavours) (C/Cruz Verde, 5; (+34) 922 36 81 72, closed Wednesday): A foodie’s nirvana where the menu is so mouth-watering it could provoke a Meg Ryan, ‘When Harry met Sally’ reaction.
A perfect choice for hopeless romantics is stylish Rosa de Bari (C/ del Lomo, 23; (+34) 922 36 85 23; closed Monday) whose cool sophistication and chic décor compliment fresh pastas and Italian cuisine.

Going Local – Always packed with locals, Tasquita de Min (Mesquinez; (+34) 922 37 18 34; closed Monday) beside the harbour, serves fish and seafood dishes as fresh as an Italian waiter. Their vieja (parrot fish) has to be one of the tastiest fish you’ll ever sink your teeth into.
Cha Paula (C/Blanco, 19; (+34) 922 38 07 30; closed Monday) in the streets above Plaza del Charco, is a fishermen’s favourite; great tapas and seafood in an atmospheric old mansion.

Family Friendly – El Pomodoro (Punta del Viento; (+34) 922 38 13 28) overlooking Atlantic rollers which crash below the restaurant’s open arches has a menu which will appeal to all the family – traditional cuisine, steaks and pizzas.
With a ‘menu del dia’ costing only €8.95 for three courses plus refreshments, Aguamarina (Ctra. Del Botánico ; (+34) 922 37 68 18) in La Paz is a wallet friendly hostelry with big portions of good quality food.

Meat Free – Barcelona and Madrid comes to Puerto in the guise of El Maná (C/Mesquinez, 23 (+34) 922 36 85 23; closed Monday) a modern, organic restaurant. Opt for the degustación and discover that mana doesn’t really come from heaven but from the restaurant’s kitchen.
El Limon’s (C/Esquivel) veggie burgers, hot dogs and natural fruit juices are popular with the student population.

After Dark
Wander Puerto’s streets at 23.00 and you could be forgiven for thinking that this is a town which goes to bed early…wrong. The local population are night owls and don’t hit the bars until midnight.

The Ebano Café on Plaza Iglesia is a sophisticated spot for a chill and a chat before midnight and the bars around Plaza Charco are a people watcher’s paradise. Limbo above Cha Paula, Elements in the Ranilla District, La Suite near La Paz and Colour Café overlooking Plaza Charco are all atmospheric bars with imaginative décor and an individual style. For something livelier, soak up some Cuban vibes at sultry Azucar in a former gentlemen’s club near Plaza del Charco. Salsa, thumping Buenavista Social Club meets Jayzee sounds and more-ish mojitos make this a venue to remember.

Live entertainment fans should head to Molly Malone’s beside the harbour for some Irish ‘craic’ and a sing-along until midnight strikes. Mario’s Bodega, at San Telmo, is an intimate venue to enjoy some excellent traditional musicians (early birds be warned – they don’t begin to tune up until 23.30). Anyone with a contemporary appetite should check out El Teatro on c/ Puerto Viejo for live music, DJs, art exhibitions and theatre performances.

If the sandman hasn’t called you by 2 am, most of the town’s clubs, including Vampis (considered by some as one of the best clubs on Tenerife) and Xit (good for R&B, soul and hip-hop), are on Avenida Generalisimo.

Bonus Points
Loro Parque – Justifiably advertised all over the island as “a must for the Canaries”, this vast zoo is set in 135,000 sq metres of sub-tropical gardens and bestows breathtaking moments, like a flock of flamingos taking off from a lawn just feet away from you, or penguins diving beneath the icy surface of their frozen world and transforming themselves from awkward waddlers to sleek acrobats, or a whale leaping from the water and landing just inches from your now wet toes.
The best bits are the dolphin, orca, sea lion and parrot shows.
Not cheap, but a brilliant family day out.
Open every day from 08.30-18.45; www.loroparque.com; entrance €31 adults, €20 children aged 6-11, 5 years and under free; free train every 20 minutes from outside McDonalds.

Botanical Gardens – More Ant ‘n’ Dec than Alan Titchmarsh, these gardens contain exotic specimens from all over the Americas, Australia and New Zealand, all of which are thriving in Puerto’s perfect botanical climate and producing the plant equivalent of The Lost World.
Wander through giant leathery leaves, agave plants that ought to be classified as lethal weapons and palm trees that would dwarf Jack’s beanstalk. When the hysteria of the undergrowth gets too much, find solace and tranquility at the Monet-styled water-lily pond before skirting your way around the giant Banyan tree lest it tries to swallow you.
Open every day from 09.00-18.00; entrance €3

In the Shopping Basket
Plenty of good supermarkets with great selections of fresh fish and vegetables; the choice of electronic shops, tourist and craft outlets and shopping centres with familiar high street names like Mango and Zara as well as some excellent Spanish outlets like Stradivarius means you’ll need to keep some euros for those excess luggage charges.

R We There Yet?
Only fifteen minutes from the north airport, unfortunately all UK arrivals currently fly into the south airport, an hour’s drive away.

Suits You Sir
This is the resort for anyone wanting a healthy dose of Canarian culture, cuisine and hospitality in a stunningly beautiful setting. For centuries, the choice of scientists and explorers, but any modern British visitor whose only priority is a sun tan should consider south. Popular with more mature British and German visitors during the winter months, buzzing with Spanish mainlanders during the summer; there’s a lively youthful scene throughout the year, however, it’s very much Spanish/South American influenced with music and a culture that some UK visitors may find too unfamiliar.

Star Ratings

Accommodation: 4 stars – Wide range of hotels, ranging from the truly 5 star Botanico to hotels in historic old buildings and small pensions. Drops a star due to the fact that some hotels feel like the music at many a 40 year old’s birthday bash…dated.

Restaurants: 5 stars – Something for everyone. Although Canarian restaurants predominate, visitors can pretty much take a culinary trip around the world in Puerto and, because many restaurants cater for the town’s working population and not just tourists, eating out is incredibly good value. With the aroma of fried fish and barbequed meats assaulting your nostrils constantly, Puerto isn’t a destination for anyone hoping to shed some pounds.

Beaches: 5 stars – As long as people can get over the fact that the beaches are black sand, they’ll find themselves spoiled for choice.

Nightlife: 4 stars – Anyone hoping for tribute acts is in for a disappointment; anyone interesting in discovering the after dark habits of another culture will find much to enjoy. If you’re the sort of person who’s tucked up in bed by midnight, you’ll miss the best.

Lasting Impressions: 5 stars – A resort which attracts return visitors year after year. If you visit during one of the many fiestas, it’ll be an unforgettable experience; however, Puerto’s constant jewel in the crown has to be Loro Parque.

And the Downside…There’s a price to pay for the lush scenery all around. Tales of Tenerife’s ‘grim north’ are generally exaggerated, but there can be rain in winter and cloud in summer; if anyone’s visiting for a week and they want guaranteed sunshine, they run the risk of being disappointed.

Buenavista del Norte – To the end of the earth

Part of the fertile, emerald carpeted, northwest corner of Tenerife known as Isla Baja (the Lowlands), the capital of the Buenavista municipality hides its best profile from passing visitors behind ranks of non-descript housing. Skirting the old centre en route to the golf course or to the lighthouse at Punta de Teno, you’d be forgiven for thinking Buenavista is still being built, and between the hours of 2pm and 5pm, that it’s not yet inhabited; its streets bereft of citizens and its shops shuttered down.

But the Conquistadores didn’t name it Buenavista (beautiful view) for no reason and, far from being new, it’s actually one of the earliest settlements on the island. Those who take the time to explore behind the concrete are rewarded with the old quarter with its pretty plaza and narrow streets, and a rugged coastline framed by the towering, seven million year old Teno Cliffs, peppered with quiet coves and rock pools.

With a new five star hotel planned on the site of the golf course, Buenavista seems to be gearing itself up for a tourism influx, but it’ll need to attract some good restaurateurs to its current sparse offering as, despite the presence of the very excellent El Aderno dulcería, visitors cannot live by cake alone.

History

Buenavista’s development began in parallel with the conquest of Tenerife, the first Conquistadors, drawn to its fertile soil and abundant rainfall, settling in the area from 1497. Lands were first distributed by Alonso Fernández de Lugo to Diego de Cala in 1498 in settlement for financing the conquest and then sold on to Juan Méndez ‘El Viejo’ in 1502. El Viejo’s residence of Hacienda de La Fuente today forms part of the Buenavista Golf Course and can just about be seen on tiptoe above the metal hording that surrounds it.

Many of the first settlers who came to the area between 1502 and 1513 were from Andalucía and Portugal, influences which can still be seen in the architecture of the old quarter.

Thanks to sugar cane and vines, Buenavista grew prosperous during the seventeenth century; but the price of fortune included much of the forest that covered the Teno Massif and earned the town its name, as fuel for the hungry sugar refineries.

As elsewhere in Tenerife, the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries saw a decline in fortunes due to world conflicts, economic recession and, in the case of Buenavista, plagues of locusts. By the beginning of the twentieth century, its citizens were returning to Buenavista and re-introducing agriculture, livestock and all the old crafts of wicker, cane and wood working that have survived to the present day.

What to See
The heart of the old town is the Plaza de Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios and the church of the same name. Traditional housing surrounds the picturesque square with its bandstand and jade laurel trees above whose canopy, wisps of cloud snake their way through the crags of the slate grey Teno while the stone clock tower of the church stands sentry against the sapphire sky.

The white walls and grey tower of the church are sole survivors of a fire in 1996 which destroyed numerous priceless treasures from the original structure dating from 1558. The statue of Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, seen in the church today, was sculpted in Seville and brought to the town in 1997. Stained glass windows, elaborate reredos and an original Nazarene sculpture by Martín de Andujar dating from the seventeenth century bring pride back to the restored interior.

Perfectly aligned rectangular windows mark the front of the building on the opposite corner; a mid eighteenth century granary now converted into the public library.

Calle el Puerto takes you to the Casa de la Cultura with its unusual closed balcony running down one side of the inner courtyard. Retracing your steps, turn right onto Calle El Chorro and down into the blooming wilderness of the Barranco de Triana with its shady picnic site opposite the old washing area. A stepped path lined with hibiscus and pepper trees takes you across the barranco to Calle La Asomada and you can cross the bridge back into town.

Head for Playa de Las Arenas, signposted from the Golf Club road, to discover the delights of Buenavista’s coast. Ample parking lines the pebble and sand bay which curves from the westerly boundary of the golf course to a small headland. A recently renovated coastal path weaves in and out above rock pools and small coves all the way to the foot of the Mirador de la Monja and, even on the busiest and hottest of summer days, you can still find a secluded spot from which to admire the ‘buena vista’.

What to do
To the end of the earth
Travelling the Punta de Teno road is no leisurely Sunday outing; the fear factor is pumped up at the Mirador de la Monja (nun’s lookout; the rock pinnacle resembles a nun, apparently), where primeval cliffs tower threateningly above and drop precipitously to the sea below and the road ahead seems to disappear into a black abyss. On some days you enter the tunnel, the link between two micro climates, under a gloomy ceiling of cloud, emerging a few hundred yards further on under clear blue skies; an incredible phenomenon. The road descends to the lighthouse at Tenerife’s most westerly edge, coves lapped by crystalline cyan waters and exhilarating views of the Los Gigantes cliffs. It’s also said to be one of the best places for fabulous, iridescent sunsets; maybe, but it’s a brave driver who’d make the return journey in the dark.

The great outdoors
Feel the need to burn off some excess energy? How about scaling vertiginous mountain paths, careening down forest trails on mountain bikes, scrambling through volcanic tunnels, or doing the Robin Hood thing with a bit of archery? El Cardón can arrange these, and more, for groups of six and above. With expert guides to ensure that your own personal adventure doesn’t go pear shaped, it’s a great opportunity to discover nooks and crannies that most residents, let alone visitors, never set eyes upon.
(+34) 922 127 938; Plaza de Los Remedios, 2; open 10.00-18.00, closed Saturday & Sunday; www.elcardon.com

A Massif golf scene
Whilst some of Isla Baja’s corners still remain a secret to many visitors, any self respecting golfer will be aware of Buenavista Golf; with emerald fairways framed spectacularly by the mountains on one side and by the crashing Atlantic on the other, it’s easy to see why golfing great, Seve Ballesteros, described it as the best course on the island…even if he did design it.
(+34) 922 129 034; Calle Buenavista del Norte; www.beunavistagolf.es; green fees €84 high season (October-April), €50 low season (May-September)

Shopping
La Venta
La Venta offers a selection of locally produced food, wine and goods from across the municipality including the famous Teno Alto goats cheese, musical instruments from El Palmar, miniature straw shoes on key rings made by the disabled of Buenavista and jewellery made from cane and the seeds of the drago tree. While you consider which pieces of Buenavista’s heritage to take home with you, you can learn about the history of its shopkeepers on the display boards in the foyer, from the first shop in the 1920s to the present day.
(+34) 922 127 938; Plaza de Los Remedios; open Monday to Friday 10.00-15.00 and 16.00-18.00, Saturday and Sunday 12.00-15.00 and 16.00-20.00

Where to Stay
El Tejado
Like Buenavista’s old quarter, the only hotel in town is shy of the public gaze; finding it’s a bit like cracking the Da Vinci code and involves seven palm trees and a large rock. Once it finally reveals itself, the treasure is a beautiful little hotel with each of its double bedrooms individually decorated for style and comfort. The private garden and fountains surround a swimming pool with views of Montaña Taco and Teide.
(+34) 922 129 006; 609 773 017; Bajada al campo de fútbol, 6; www.el-tejado.es; double rooms from €80 per night

Where to Eat
El Burgado
El Burgado, one of the most original looking fish restaurants on the island, compensates somewhat for the shortage of restaurants in town. If Robinson Crusoe had decided to diversify into catering, the result would have looked something like this; a canopy of billowing fish nets create a shady terrace which blends in perfectly with its rocky seaboard position; Poseidon himself would feel right at home, tucking into some of his aquatic subjects here.
(+34) 922 127 831; Playa de Las Arenas; average cost of a main course €10; open midday-21.00, daily

Brisas de Teno
The last chance for good wholesome nourishment before the nerve-jangling drive to Punta de Teno. Although a new residential complex has broken up the once uninterrupted views of the Teno Massif, the vistas from its pleasant airy patio, across banana plantations, are still impressive enough to compliment the fish and traditional Canarian cuisine on offer.
(+34) 922 128 036; Carretera General de Buenavista-Teno; average cost of a main course €8; open 10.00-23.00, closed Wednesday

Nightlife
Plaza de Los Remedios, the social heart of the town, is the popular venue for evening soirees. Surrounded on four sides by traditional architecture, it’s a charming setting for concerts, fiestas, open air cinema screenings and general impromptu shindigs where the sound of Shakira belting out that her ‘hips don’t lie’ competes with the rumbustious chatter from patrons partaking of a ‘copa de vino’ in the high narrow doorways of the distinctly Andalucían styled Bar Pilón and Bar Plaza La Cruz.

Transport
Buses
From Las Américas any route is going to take some time, but the 460 service to Icod de los Vinos, departing approximately every two hours from 05.25-20.00, is at least scenic; in Icod transfer to the 363 to Buenavista.
From Puerto de la Cruz catch the 363 service, departing at least hourly from 06.00 until 22.15.

Taxis
The taxi rank is on Plaza de Los Remedios; telephone 922 127 130

Tourist Information
Temporarily located in the same traditional old building as La Venta, the tourist office has some attractive leaflets covering the municipality and La Isla Baja.
(+34) 922 127 129; Plaza de Los Remedios, 2; open 10.00-15.00 & 16.00-18.00, closed Saturday & Sunday

Parking
There are parking spaces around, and on the streets leading from, Plaza de Los Remedios.

Fiestas
Processions of goats and ox drawn carts adorned with harvest produce and driven by farmers decked out in traditional costumes, livestock fairs and the lively ‘dance of the pilgrims’ make the Fiesta of San Antonio Abad, held on the third or fourth Sunday in January, an enjoyable and colourful pageant. The town also holds a big bash on 25th October in honour of its saviour, Nuestra Señora de Los Remedios, who saved the town from a plague of locusts in 1659. Amongst other fiestas held throughout the year there are more irreverent celebrations like the fun sounding ‘Fiesta de Espuma’ (foam party) in late July when the plaza is transformed into a giant bubble bath.

Heavenly Hot Spots – Tenerife

During hot, sultry, Tenerife summer days, when temperatures soar into the thirties and beyond and shady terraces fail to provide any respite from energy sapping heat, there’s only one thing for it; follow the Tinerfeños example and head for the beach.

With a coastline as diverse as the landscape of its interior, Tenerife is blessed with some fantastic beaches; whether it’s small secluded coves or sweeping golden bays, it’s possible to find the perfect playa to suit all tastes and still enjoy that ’far from the madding crowd’ sensation. Here are a few suggestions for some heavenly hot spots where you can enjoy sun, sand and sea in beautiful surroundings.

Hidden Charms
Nestling discreetly between Playa Paraíso and Costa Adeje, the tranquil fishing hamlet of El Puertito feels almost Greek like in its simplistic beauty. A cluster of white fishermen’s houses overlook a pale golden sand beach, lined with a row of trees providing welcome shade, which shelves into a charming bay where brightly coloured fishing boats bob gently in clear turquoise waters. It seems a million miles from some of the island’s main tourist resorts just around the corner. Shallow waters and lack of currents makes it suitable for families with young children and for people who want to soak up the sun in an unspoilt and charming setting. A small fish restaurant provides refreshments.

From junction 18 on the TF1, a road heads toward the coast and a small, newly built, urbanisation. Park up at Los Abades and stroll across rocks beside the tiny fishermen’s jetty to Playa de los Abrigos, a wonderful serene, golden beach set in a crystal clear aquamarine bay. The real beauty of this one is that it feels miles from anywhere even though, conveniently, there are a couple of bars and restaurants at Las Abades, literally yards away, when you feel the urge to rejoin civilisation.

A coastal path leads from Los Abades to Playa Grande at Punto de Abona; however, an easier option is to take junction 17 from the TF1 (the one with the boat) and leave the car in the small car park overlooking the beach. The beach slopes down from the town, levelling off in a broad expanse of golden sand where it meets the sea. Nearby wind farms provide a clue as to how breezy it can get here, but it’s another stunning location for those who enjoy that feeling of seclusion. A bizarre man-sized sculpture of a fish in a box and the nearby Abona lighthouse provide alternatives to sunbathing. If you haven’t brought your own refreshments, the nearest cafes and restaurants are in Porís de Abona.

Black Beauties
Near Puerto de la Cruz, Playa Bollullo can be reached from junction 32 of the TF5. The drive down the one track road can be a bit of an adventure and parking is basic, although it’s possible to park at the Bollullo restaurant for a small charge, but it’s well worth the effort. Soak up spectacular views from horseshoe shaped cliffs overlooking the beach before trekking down the well defined path to this beautiful wide bay where enormous waves crash onto the shore, leaving swathes of snow white surf which contrast sharply against the jet black sand. Strong currents and tsunami sized waves mean that it’s not suitable for young children, but if you like your beaches rugged and enjoy swimming in challenging waters, this is the ideal place. Arrive before eleven in the morning and you’ll probably have the beach to yourself. There’s a great beach bar to retreat to for a thirst quenching cerveza and, for the more adventurous, a path leads to other bays where nudism and surfing are de rigueur; although probably not at the same time.

Sections of the northern coastline are so precipitous that it would seem unlikely that it could boast any decent beaches or, even if there were, only a mountaineer of Sir Edmund Hilary’s ability could access them. It comes as a pleasant surprise to find Playa Socorro, a broad, black sandy beach with plentiful parking, a beach side fish restaurant and year round surfing at the end of a well made road signposted from the C-820 between Puerto de la Cruz and Icod de los Vinos. The surrounding banana plantations, palm groves and lush greenery of the Tigaiga mountain range towering above make it a stunningly beautiful spot to indulge in a bit of sun worshipping.

Big and Beautiful
The longest beach on the island, Playa del Médano, curves in a wide arc for two kilometres from the bohemian town of El Médano. The constant breeze on this part of the coast means that it might not be the best beach for sunbathing; however, the upside is that it never becomes uncomfortably crowded. A boardwalk, flanked by bars and restaurants, runs the length of the beach to Montaña Roja. El Médano is famous for being an extreme water-sports enthusiast’s paradise; plonk yourself down on the cream coloured sand, amidst weird formations in the pumice rock, and watch in awe as windsurfers and kite-surfers ride the waves performing impossibly acrobatic feats.

Located seven kilometres beyond Santa Cruz, Playa de las Teresitas has something for everyone. The sheer size of Las Teresitas means that it rarely feels too busy; one and a half kilometres of silky soft, golden Saharan sand, Canarian and coconut palm trees and a dramatic backdrop of the Anaga Mountains combine to make it one of the most picturesque beaches on Tenerife. A man made breakwater creates a current-free seawater lagoon where tropical fish dart around the waters edge, a haven for families. There are beach bars, changing rooms, toilets, a massive car park and canoes and rowing boats for the more actively inclined. Once you’ve worked up an appetite doing nothing all morning, there are some wonderful fish restaurants in the nearby town of San Andrés.

Of course, these are only a snapshot of the multitude of wonderful beaches that can be found around Tenerife’s shoreline; explore a few hundred yards beyond any and you’ll discover quieter bays, or secret coves where you can enjoy Tenerife living by basking under a hot sun all summer… and autumn…and winter…and spring…

Güímar – The gateway to the south of the Island from Santa Cruz

Before construction of the TF1, Güímar was the gateway to the south of the Island from Santa Cruz, located as it is on the old road that linked north with south, skirting the Corona Forestal, high above Tenerife’s east coast. The compact old quarter of the town lies close to the old road making it easy to explore on foot.

Blessed with year round plentiful water supplied by the Barranco de Herques and the Badajoz and El Río Ravines, Güímar became wealthy from its rich agricultural output, attracting workers from neighbouring Islands to tend its fields and doubling its population in just four decades of the early twentieth century.

Set against the dramatic Izaña Mountains and with a population of 15,000, the town of Güímar has a beautiful, well preserved old quarter with historic churches, traditional houses, and pretty plazas as well as a picturesque seaside and marina at El Puertito.

Once the destination of Guanche pilgrims from across the Island, today the famous Pirámides de Güímar attract a new kind of pilgrim to the area; visitors from all over the world.

History
The proliferation of Guanche archaeological sites around the caves and ravines of Güímar are testament to the importance of the area before the Spanish conquest of the Island. Two Kingdoms were the most important on the Island; Taoro, in the La Orotava Valley, which represented the Menceys of the North, and Güímar which represented those of the South.

Güímar is one of Tenerife’s oldest towns as a result of a pact made between Mencey Añaterve of Güímar on behalf of the southern Menceys and Alonso Fernández de Lugo, the Spanish leader of the conquistadores. As a result, with friendly relations already established, Güímar was one of the first areas to be settled by the Spanish.

Güímar’s rich supply of water was ingeniously tapped by farm workers through aqueducts, galleries and wells, ensuring a constant flow to the plantations of sugar, tomatoes, potatoes and avocados and making Güímar the principle supplier of produce to the south of the Island.

When the sugar cane economy collapsed, it was a local boy, Isidro Quintero Acosta who introduced cochineal production to the Island and ensured its economic survival for the next seventy years.

What to See
Located on the main road in the centre of the town, opposite Plaza de Las Flores, Antigua Fonda Medina is a good place to start an exploration of the old quarter; firstly, it’s right next to the car park and, secondly, it houses the office of the CIT (Centro de Iniciativas y Turísmo) where you can pick up a street map and heritage trail information. The former coach inn’s leafy patio was allegedly a meeting place for travellers en route to the South, circus performers and actors touring the Island and lovers, who could only meet in a public place. According to town records, people gathered to rest and eat, to play dominoes and to listen to a large radio. There may well still be the occasional clown or lover passing through, but the dominoes and radio no longer feature. Instead, the house has a beautiful, tranquil courtyard with enclosed traditional carved balconies and galleries.

Leaving Fonda Medina and turning right, up Calle San Pedro Abajo, is the town’s oldest quarter beginning at Plaza de San Pedro Abajo. The Church of San Pedro Apóstol was originally a small hermitage constructed in 1602. The present day neo-classicist church is a result of refurbishment and expansion of the hermitage carried out in1794. Inside, there’s a cedar wood pulpit, tabernacle and altar pieces and an unusual architectural feature of ‘drapes’ in aquamarine blue pigment behind the altar in the main chapel.

Turning right out of the church along Teobaldo Power to Calle de La Amistad and turning left, you come to La Casona Santo Domingo on the right; a sixteenth century house which is now a hotel and restaurant, and on the left, Calle Santo Domingo and the Church of Santo Domingo.

The church was originally part of a Dominican convent built in 1649 and has an unusual Latin Cross layout with ornate retables in white and silver behind the altar in the main chapel.

The cloisters of the former convent, which adjoin the church, have enclosed carved balconies and a tiled bordered walkway; window boxes trail shocking pink geraniums against the cream walls and, despite it now being home to the Town Hall and local Police, the serenity of the cloisters still pervades.

What to do

Ancient Wonders
If it hadn’t been for the intervention of Thor Heyerdahl and shipping entrepreneur, Fred Olson, the mysterious Pirámides de Güímar would now be just another housing development. Thankfully, the area where these step pyramids proudly stand has been turned into a fascinating ethnological park complete with gardens, museum, exhibition areas, restaurant and shop. The park has been creatively designed to display the stars of the show, the pyramids, to optimum effect, framed by the splendour of the Izaña Mountains.
(+34) 922 514 510; Calle Chacona; entry €10 for adults, €5 for children (9-12); open 09.30-18.00 daily; www.piramidesdeguimar.net

Braving the Badlands
Admittedly the literal translation of the Malpaís (badlands) may be misleading; this stretch of land from the 276m high volcanic cone of Montaña Grande to El Puertito and Socorro on the coast is rich with history, wildlife and geological curiosities. Montaña Grande was used throughout history as a look out point; Spanish settlers would light torches to warn La Laguna and Santa Cruz of approaching pirates. The area has volcanic tubes and caves used for smoking fish, as winter residences for Guanche kings and, in Cueva Hondo’s case (known locally as the cave of the donkeys), as a place to get rid of animals that have outlived their usefulness. Tabaiba and cardonal plants carpet the landscape and wildlife is supplied by birds, rabbits, hedgehogs and, bizarrely, stray ferrets. The CIT office in Güímar has a leaflet recommending the best routes through the badlands.

Water of Life
The town’s relationship with water from its ravines is commemorated in a permanent exhibition at Fonda Medina. A small, but interesting selection of models, diagrams and photographs illustrate how the abundant water supply contributed to the town’s prosperity. Visit the exhibition then look out for the water courses and mills that still exist around the town.
(+34) 922 511 590; Avenida Obispo Pérez Cáceres, 18; entrance free; open 09.00-13.00, Monday to Friday, closed Saturday & Sunday

Valley Highs
Take a 2km detour south along the TF28 to the Don Martin viewpoint beside the sight of the Island’s original parador for wonderful views across the Güímar Valley.

Shopping
There’s an agricultural market in Plaza de la Ayuntamiento every Sunday morning where you can pick up the cream of Güímar’s produce including beautiful cut flowers.
Open every Sunday from 09.00-13.30

Where to Stay
Hotel Rural La Casona
A beautiful sixteenth century restored house in the heart of the old quarter. Furnished in keeping with its age, the floors are uneven and polished to a dazzling shine, the lounge has a carved balcony overlooking the narrow street, the doorways threaten the skull of all but the tiniest of people and the suite has a four poster bed. With just six bedrooms, personal attention from the friendly owners and a great restaurant ensure a memorable stay.
(+34) 922 510 229; Calle Santo Domingo, 32; www.casonasantodomingo.com; double rooms from €58 per night, suite from €83

Hotel Rural Finca Salamanca
Set in 50,000 square metres of estate, a kilometre and a half outside of the town, this restored manor offers 20 bedrooms, landscaped gardens, a heated swimming pool and elegant dining in a stunning setting.
(+34) 922 514 530; Carretera Güímar; www.hotel-fincasalamanca.com; double rooms from €96 per night, suites from €132

Where to Eat

Casona Santo Domingo
Olde Worlde charm in a delightful 16th Century Canarian house; sample mouthwatering offerings like rabbit pâté, fillet of sole in coconut sauce and gofio mousse with black chocolate in an atmospheric setting where the owners promise that “you’ll arrive as a client and leave as a friend”.
(+34) 922 510 229; Calle Santo Domingo, 32; open 13.30-16.00 & 18.00-22.00, closed Sunday; average cost of a main course, €10

La Zapatería
Intimately small, friendly tapas bar in a former shoemakers shop. Cobblers’ memorabilia, beamed ceiling and views of the beautiful Plaza del Ayuntamiento make this a great place to enjoy a relaxing lunch. The eight tapas dishes on offer are so good that there’s a regular stream of patrons popping in for a ‘tapas takeaway’.
(+34) 922 512 859; Calle Santo Domingo, 13; open 07.30-15.30, closed Sunday; average cost of tapas €3

Salamanca
Award winning restaurant in the old tobacco drying barn of the Hotel Rural Finca Salamanca; traditional cuisine is given a creative makeover producing combinations like Iberian fillet steaks in a palm honey sauce; great food and professional service in a classic, rustic location.
(+34) 922 514 530; Carretera Güímar; open 14.00-16.30 & 20.00-23.00 daily, closed Tuesday; average cost of a main course €15

La Charcada
Simply prepared, delicious fresh fish and seafood overlooking the strikingly aquamarine harbour of Puertito de Güímar; its pastry shop and ice cream parlor provide some sinful ‘afters’.
(+34) 922 528 954; Calle Almirante Gravina, 11; open 09.30-22.00, closed Monday; average cost of a main course €6

Nightlife
Nightlife in Güímar is decidedly laid back; younger residents travel to La Laguna or Santa Cruz for more lively nocturnal venues whilst for others, night time socialising centres around the town’s restaurants. There are occasional alternatives like the Canarian Film Festival held each June at the Pyramids of Güímar.

Transport
Buses
From Puerto de la Cruz, catch the hourly 103 service to Santa Cruz and then the 120 or 121 to Güímar. From Las Americas and Los Cristianos the 111 service runs every thirty minutes.

Taxis
Appropriately, the main taxi rank is opposite the old Inn at Fonda Medina beside Plaza de Las Flores. The local numbers are 922 510 811/ 922 510 463.

Useful Information

Tourist Information
Leaflets, street maps and tourist information are provided at the CIT and Cultural, Tourism & Environment offices in the beautiful Antigua Fonda Medina building.
(+34) 922 511 590; Avenida Obispo Pérez Cáceres, 18; open 09.00-13.00, Monday to Friday, closed Saturday & Sunday

Parking
There’s a free car park, through a shocking pink arch, opposite the taxi rank.

Fiestas
Local literature will quickly point out that although Candelaría is famous for its Virgen of Candelaría fiesta, she was actually spotted by Guanche shepherds at Playa de Chimisay in Güímar. The Bajada de El Socorro, around the 6th and 7th June, celebrates this with a procession from the

Church of San Pedro to the Church of El Socorro, where a re-enactment of the discovery of ‘our lady of hope’ is played out. When the shepherds first sighted the Virgin, their initial reaction was to throw stones and then try to cut off a finger to see whether she was alive; thankfully not a greeting used to welcome visitors these days.

The other big fiesta in town is dedicated to San Pedro and takes place between 20th and 29th of June when the bells of the church of San Pedro peal three times daily and townspeople burn fire wheels in the street.

San Juan de la Rambla an uncut diamond

The village of San Juan de la Rambla is like an uncut diamond; its old quarter is crammed with seventeenth and eighteenth century buildings, many in need of investment and renovation. In its uncut state, wandering its narrow lanes is like discovering an abandoned museum, a surprise repository of art galleries and antiquities, tucked away on the old road to the north, half way between Icod de los Vinos and Puerto de la Cruz.
Bordered to the east by the Mazapé and Tigaiga mountains which form the protected area of Barranco de Ruiz, the municipality is home to a prolific accumulation of plant and tree species set in areas of outstanding natural beauty where agriculture is still the mainstay of the economy.
Many visitors currently know San Juan de la Rambla for its Barranco de Ruiz picnic area and its pretty coastal town and excellent restaurants of Las Aguas; the village which sits on the old road has yet to make an impact on the tourism industry. But given the necessary investment in restoring its cultural heritage, the attraction of its traditional streets combined with its penchant for fine dining and fine art could polish up this diamond to an incandescent shine.

History
The ravine of Mazapé, which sits above the hamlet on the road to San José, is an archaeological testament to the importance of this area to the

Guanche (original inhabitants of Tenerife) who used the valley as a seasonal migratory route; moving to higher ground in the summer to maintain their water supply. The ravine is named after the clay found here and which the Guanche used to make vessels, beads and small idols, all of which have been excavated from the site.

Following the Spanish conquest, the municipality is credited with being founded by Martín Rodríguez, who in 1530, built the first church here, dedicated to San Juan.

In the sixteenth century the lowlands were used to cultivate vines, the highlands to cultivate wheat; both these crops were so important to the economy that wills written here often included a clause requiring an offering of one or both at the funeral.

The conquistadores named the dry, volcanic land around the San Juan Ermita in the north of the zone San Juan del Malpaís (badlands) and the undulating coastal land Rambla de los Caballos (avenue of the horses); when the areas gained independence from Los Realejos at the end of the sixteenth century to form a single municipality, they became known as San Juan de la Rambla.

What to See
As you enter the village, Plaza Rosario Aramas, with its distinctive church with the pieces missing from its clock face, denotes the beginning of the old quarter. Many of the buildings around the plaza and surrounding streets contain sixteenth and seventeenth century houses with carved balconies and engraved stonework. The church of San Juan de Bautista has some beautiful Baroque reredos panels and a sculpture of the Virgin Mary in alabaster and you can climb the narrow staircase to the clock and bell tower, a rare treat in Canarian churches.

Leaving the plaza along Calle Estrecha, you come to Los Roques, formerly known as Callejón de las Brujas (Witches Alley), allegedly so named because courting couples used sheets under which to hide their activities from the prying eyes of their families; ostriches and sand come to mind.

Turning left onto La Ladera, you reach the small Ermita de la Cruz and two seventeenth century houses with carved panel doors and flagstone courtyards. The small footbridge takes you to La Ladera with good views back over the orange tiles of the old quarter.

Along the main Avenida José Antonio, new housing pays homage to the town’s architectural heritage by emulating the traditional carved balconies and wooden shutters of the old quarter. The original cemetery at the end of the Avenida contains the family vaults of San Juan’s most wealthy families from the early nineteenth century.

The road down the hill at the start of the village takes you to Las Aguas where whitewashed cottages perch on a volcanic lava outcrop overlooking dramatic coastal views, and where the locals fish from the rocks and dine sumptuously in its fine restaurants. At the end of the pier, take the steps up to an old cottage with an overhanging balcony, a cobbled front yard and wooden barrels baking in the sun; someone’s own private Jamaica Inn.

What to do
A hidden gem
The absence of signposts means that many visitors miss out on this delightful old merchant’s coastal highway. From the swimming pool at Los Aguas, a well defined cliff top path meanders past sugar cane, banana plantations and some curious old houses before it reaches the unexpectedly enchanting hamlet of El Rosario. Its old chapel, quaint buildings and narrow streets, reminiscent of old Cornish fishing villages, feel as though they belong in a bygone era; all that’s missing is an Inn with a creaking wooden sign.

Bird’s eye view
From the road leading uphill from the town towards San José, follow the road past the municipal cemetery to reach the mirador of El Mazapé; a viewpoint so new that it’s almost shiny. Completed last year, the mirador has a restaurant, viewing platforms and a landscaped area linked by paths; all of which have spectacular panoramic views along the coast.

The only way is up
On the left side of the bridge which leads to the San José road is the barely discernible track of Risco de El Mazapé. The first stages of the path are quite uneven and steep, but persevere and you’ll soon be rewarded with great views over the town. If you’ve got the thigh muscles of a Russian shot-putter you might even make it to the small cross that lies beyond the rock roses, caves, water galleries and line of black charcoal circles left by little bonfires during the San Juan fiestas.

Take the plunge
The rock pool of Charco de la Laja is a wonderful example of how to turn an inhospitable rocky coastline into an imaginative bathing area without spoiling its rugged natural beauty. From two wooden thrones, a slate grey path, matching the surrounding rocks, leads to the sapphire pool at the base of the cliffs. With a design that has an attractive medieval quality, it would be easy to imagine it as the private pool of a princess; however, even if you’re not romantically inclined, it’s a wonderfully enchanting spot for a dip.

Shopping
The small selection of shops in the village is geared solely towards the provision of basic foodstuffs and household maintenance so you’re unlikely to find any treasures to buy. On the up side, you can save your money for that delicious calduset lunch.

Where to Stay
Finca San Juan Rural Hotel
Set in the hills above San Juan and Las Aguas, an idyllic location offering beauty, tranquillity, style and a sumptuous breakfast including smoked salmon and cava; the perfect start to another perfect day by the pool. Choose from an entire house to a studio, all meticulous in their presentation.
(+34) 922 694 078; Mazapé, 3; www.finca-san-juan.com; rooms from €68.00 per night for 2 persons

El Cantito
Taking pole position at the end of the promenade in Las Aguas, the ground floor of this 200 year old traditional Canarian house has its own entrance, an impossibly picturesque inner courtyard surrounded by an elegant dining room and stylishly romantic bedroom.
(+34) 922 360 639; Las Aguas; www.casacantito.com; €55 per day for 2 persons

Where to Eat
Las Palmeras Arte
Treat both your eyes and stomach at this sophisticated restaurant in the centre of the old town. Artistry abounds in the stylishly modern ground floor, whilst the first floor offers immaculate, traditional décor and a leafy terrace to enjoy Catalan cuisine or rice and fish dishes.
(+34) 922 350 332; Calle Estrecha, 15; average cost of a main course €10; open 13.00-16.30 & 20.00-23.30, 13.00-21.30 Sunday, closed Tuesday evening and all day Wednesday

Las Aguas
The owners of Las Aguas believe that a table without rice is like a mass without a sermon, or a woman without love. That should tell you how much care they put into their signature dish of calduset (rice with seafood). It’s earned them a reputation for great food which has brought customers flocking to them for twenty years.
(+34) 922 360 428; Calle La Destila, 20; www.sanjuandelarambla.com; average cost of a main course €17; open 13.00-15.30 & 20.00-22.30 Tuesday to Saturday, 13.00-15.30 Sunday, closed Monday

La Escuela
Elegant restaurant in impeccably restored old schoolhouse with richly polished wooden furnishings, intimate corners and a charming terrace complete with trickling fountain. The speciality is fish which is usually arranged for display in a large model fishing boat.
(+34) 922 360 438; Camino Real, 1; average cost of a main course €10; open 13.00-16.30 & 19.30-22.30, closed Tuesday

Mirador El Mazapé
The floor to ceiling glass panes of the new restaurant at the mirador makes eating here a ‘wow’ experience. Try some savoury arepas, Venezuelan pancakes or tapas with a side serving of some of the best views of the north coast.
(+34) 661 235 967/ 628 070 408; Calle El Mazapé, 5; average cost of tapas €2.50; open 10.30-23.00, closed Monday

Nightlife
Nighttime social activities are distinctly low key. Apart from the town’s handful of first-rate restaurants, there are a few local bars which liven up when Real Madrid are on television. If they don’t appeal, there’s always Witches Alley.

Transport
Buses
From Puerto de la Cruz, the 363 service departs at least hourly between 06.00 and 22.15.
From Las Americas and Los Cristianos catch the 110 service to Santa Cruz, departing half hourly between 06.15 and 20.45, then transfer to the 107 or 108 service which will provide the option of hourly departures between 06.15 and 20.15.

Taxis
There isn’t a rank in town, but you can call the local firm on 922 360 134.

Useful Information

Tourist Information
With the tourist sector still being developed, as yet there isn’t a tourist office in the municipality; however, there’s street map opposite the church and many of the historically important old houses have information plaques outside them.

Parking
There’s a small car park on the right as you enter town from the Puerto de la Cruz direction and plenty of spaces on the seafront at Las Aguas.

Fiestas
The town’s big celebrations are during the fiesta de San Juan Bautista towards the end of June. Houses are decorated in preparation for the week long festivities which include the usual processions accompanied by local bands. The end of the fiesta is marked by the ‘Papada’s day’, when all the townspeople get together in the main square for a grand community feast. The most magical feature of the fiesta is when little bonfires are lit all the way along the path leading up the hill behind the town.

Santiago del Teide – The gateway to Masca

The eponymous capital of the municipality of Santiago del Teide, which includes Puerto de Santiago and Los Gigantes, is a surprisingly small community located 1000 metres above sea level in the stunning Valle de Santiago below the Teide, Pico Viejo and Chinyero peaks. The town snuggles into the folds of the valley, hemmed to the north by acres of jade pine forest which climb the gorge alongside the TF82 and to the west by a mantle of vibrant yellow broom, purple thistles and wild red poppies which form a vivid backdrop to the rigid, twisted and blackened limbs of rows of vines.

The gateway to Masca, Santiago del Teide still retains a very traditional feel and it’s not unusual to see elderly women of the village clad in their habitual black skirts, black blouses and straw hats, and elderly men in their felt fedoras.

The town consists of little more than the main street and a cluster of residential housing on either side of the road; but for those born here, they inherit a strong Guanche bloodline which endows them with a level of beauty most of us can only gape at; it’s not uncommon for Santiago del Teide’s progeny, male and female, to win prizes for their looks, including the coveted Miss Spain title in the 1990s.

History
Part of the ancient Menceyate (Kingdom) of Adeje, Santiago del Teide has a strong Guanche heritage. After the Spanish conquest, when land was being distributed to financiers of the war, the land in Valle de Santiago, as it was known right up until the 1950s, was of little importance to the new colonies, being unsuitable for the production of sugar cane, and so it was given to Diego Mencey, the former Guanche King, Pelinor. He married a Guanche girl, María de Lugo and from there the bloodline continued.

In 1663 a feudal system began which was to last for nearly two centuries; Don Fernando del Hoyo y Solórzano was made ‘Lord of the Manor’ after he ‘donated’ 3200 silver ducats to the Crown. His jurisdiction included administration of criminal law and the right to: ‘incarcerate, hang, spike the heads of, garrotte, whip with a cat-o-nine-tails, cut off various extremities or set free’ any and all miscreants adjudged by him to be lawbreakers; clearly not a man to start an argument with.

On the morning of the 18th November 1909, Chinyero erupted; the last volcanic eruption on Tenerife. A river of molten lava crept towards El Tanque and Icod, breaking off into two subsidiaries that threatened to engulf Las Manchas and Valle de Arriba. The two communities were only saved by divine intervention after villagers carried statues of Santa Ana, Christ and the Virgin Mary to the lava flows and stopped them in their tracks.

In 1928 the first car arrived; there had been cars in neighbouring Icod since 1887 but it took another 40 years for one to arrive in Santiago del Teide, a statistic which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever driven behind a banana truck on that stretch of road.

What to See

The TF82 which descends from Erjos in a dizzying series of S bends presents viewpoints over the settlement of Valle de Arriba and the vast expanse of the Santiago Valley. A left turn on the outskirts of the town takes you a few hundred metres to Valle de Arriba and the Santiago Ermita which, in various forms, has stood on this site since 1545. It’s here that the importance of the cultivation of vines is most apparent, with row upon row stretched out across the plain and climbing derelict buildings; it’s difficult to know if the buildings support the vines, or vice versa.

At the start of Santiago del Teide, opposite the recreational zone, is the photogenic Casa del Patio; built in 1665 it was home to the Lord of the Manor, Hoyo y Solórzano, and the economic centre of the municipality. This is where smallholders brought their grapes to be pressed and their cereals to be ground. It was also used for spear throwing competitions, one man allegedly managing to send his spear clean over the roof of the church of San Fernando. The Casa is currently being renovated and so is not accessible, but the project was due for completion last year so it could be open any day now…then again.

The charming church of San Fernando Rey offers an unusual domed roof, an impressive triptych altar and some fine art work, while the Town Hall on the other side of the plaza is a traditional Canarian designed building with a tranquil courtyard which is sometimes used to house exhibitions. The imposing Guanche statue opposite the church is of Alonso Diaz, son of Diego Mencey, and the statue is a tribute to his tenacity in petitioning the Crown over many years for the return of 200 goats which he maintained were forcibly taken from him by Alonso de Lugo, the Governor of the islands. He finally received a favourable ruling and the goats were returned to him, as symbolised by the one he carries in his right hand.

What to do
Don’t harry the potter
A few minutes drive from Santiago del Teide, through lava fields of raven coloured rocks covered with emerald bejeques, brings you to the quaint little museum and pottery workshop of ‘Cha Domitila’ in Arguayo. The area was a centre for pottery, made without the use of a wheel, since the time of the Guanches; skills were passed down through generations until modern ceramic manufacturing techniques caused its demise in the 1940s. The determination of a trio of local men, known as ‘the Colectivo Arguayo’ led to the craft being resurrected in 1982 and, in 1986, the opening of the museum, with its exhibits, the opportunity to see craftswomen, and men, at work and tranquil leafy courtyard. Give it your patronage and help preserve an important aspect of the area’s heritage.
(+34) 922 863 465; Carretera General, 34, Arguayo; entrance free; 10.00-13.00 & 16.00-19.00, closed Monday

Upwardly mobile
Spring is an enchanting time to explore the network of old Guanche tracks and donkey trails that crisscross the valley. Wild flowers add a splash of colour to routes that descend to the coast, or cross lava fields linking villages.
The shortest route has a reward which far outweighs the effort put in; on the other side of the pale lemon bridge, follow the ‘Camino de la Virgin de Lourdes’. A short climb past the Stations of the Cross, flanked by scarlet tabaiba shrubs, leads to an open air ermita and fountain set amidst wild roses. It’s a beautifully serene spot to survey the valley’s gentle slopes and to trace the fingers of lava which threatened to engulf the village of Las Manchas, until nature’s vagaries, or divine intervention, halted their progress.

Pic ‘n’ mix
Shaded by eucalyptus trees and with views of pine clad hills and the stately Casa del Patio, Parque Vicente, on the edge of town, is a pleasant spot to meet friends, lay out the gingham table cloth and have a picnic. As barbeques and benches are provided, all you’ve got to do is bring the grub.
Shopping
Chinyero Bodega
Pick up local produce from the co-operative of smallholders; wines, honey, dried fruits and nuts, all available to try before you buy.
(+34) 922 864 040; Avenida General Franco, 2B; open 08.00-22.30 daily

Santiago del Teide Mercado de Arguayo
At the end of town is the newly refurbished farmers’ market with its immaculate courtyard lined with tables groaning under the weight of fresh produce.
Open every Saturday and Sunday from 08.00-14.00

Centro Alfarero de Arguayo
Take home a genuine piece of history from the museum and pottery centre; a wide range of pots, bowls, strainers and infusers in any colour you like as long as it’s terracotta.
(+34) 922 863 465; Carretera General, 34, Arguayo; entrance free; 10.00-13.00 & 16.00-19.00, closed Monday

Where to Stay
Villa Antonio
In Tamaimo, less than five kilometres away, this rural cottage is full of rustic charm, with low doorways, pitched ceilings and traditional Canarian stonework.
Available through the rural accommodation organisation, Acantur Tenerife.
(+34) 902 215 582; Villa Antonio; Santiago del Teide; from €76 per night, min stay 3 nights

Where to Eat
Chinyero
A life size model horse and antique carriage, outside the restaurant, is an effective method of capturing passing visitors’ attention. Savour the flavour of the countryside with charcoal grilled dishes and traditional fare, complemented by full bodied red wines from small local vineyards.
Generous portions are served either on the wide sunny terrace or inside, where the décor pays homage to the surrounding land and those who tend it.
(+34) 922 864 040; Avenida General Franco, 2B; average cost of a main course €8; open 08.00-22.30 daily

El Patio
Hearty home made stews and broths figure highly on the menu here. The small, pot plant lined patio provides a pleasant spot to enjoy the cornucopia of ingredients that make up Rancho Canario, or carne con papas (meat and potatoes) perked up with slivers of garlic and chillies. Good, wholesome cuisine originally designed to provide sustenance for an afternoon toiling in the terraces; don’t worry that part’s not compulsory now.
(+34) 922 863 204; Carretera General, 4A; average cost of a main course €7; open 05.30-21.00, closed Saturday

Nightlife
The gentle pace of life in town drops a gear in the evening; things liven up a couple of times each month with concerts and theatrical performances at the Centro Cultural Grama in the main square. Pick up a leaflet from the town hall for details of forthcoming events.

Transport
Buses
The 325 service leaves Puerto de la Cruz for Los Gigantes, via Santiago del Teide, approximately every two hours between 06.20 and 19.15.
From Playa de las Américas, the 460 line to Icod de los Vinos departs nearly every two hours between 05.25 and 20.00.

Taxis
The nearest taxi firm is based in Los Gigantes, telephone 922 861 627.

Tourist Information
The nearest tourist office is at the coast, in Playa de la Arena, where there are some good leaflets about the area, but it’s a relatively long way to travel just for some information.
The town hall usually has posters and the occasional leaflet, useful for finding out what’s going on in, and around, town.
(+34) 922 860 348; Puerto Santiago, Centro Commercial “Seguro el Sol”, Calle Manuel Ravelo, 20; open 09.00-14.30 Monday to Friday, 09.30-12.30 Saturday, closed Sunday

Parking
You won’t have any problems finding parking spaces here; anywhere along the main road is convenient for exploring the town.

Fiestas
Unsurprisingly, the ‘miracle’ that saved the valley’s villages from being buried under Chinyero’s fiery disgorge is the cause of much rejoicing. At the beginning of May, residents re-enact the pilgrimage from the old church in Valle de Arriba to Las Manchas on the edge of the lava fields. Of course, the fact that the village was spared means that it’s a much jollier affair than the original mission impossible.

Playa de San Juan – an ideal destination for tourism

The small picturesque fishing village of Playa de San Juan is in the municipality of Guía de Isora, on the west coast of Tenerife. Sheltered from the Trade Winds, the area has virtually all year sunshine and very little rainfall, making it an ideal destination for tourism.
Playa de San Juan is taking its development slowly and seriously; the construction of apartments and sea front amenities is high quality and meticulous; design is sympathetic with the natural environment and its users.

Along the walkways there are numerous bins and bags provided for dog owners and an abundance of slate and brick benches to accommodate strollers and gazers. Amongst its attractions are a clutch of excellent restaurants offering top notch dining in fish and seafood, Canarian and International cuisine.
The five star Abama hotel, on the cliffs above the village, opens its doors in November 2005 and will doubtless attract many well heeled and discerning visitors to this part of the island; when it does, Playa de San Juan will be ready for them.

History
Part of the Daute Menceyate (Kingdom) of the Guanches (first inhabitants of Tenerife), the municipality of Guía de Isora was sparsely populated due to the lack of rainfall and therefore any source of water; other than one or two cave dwellers who herded sheep and goats; the area was officially described in 1558 as ‘unpopulated ground’.
The coastal area of Playa de San Juan existed only as a fishing centre and, up until the 1950s, a tuna factory, a lime kiln and fishermen’s cottages were all that lined the natural harbour and coves of the village. As with most of the Canary Islands, hardship and poverty forced much of the population to immigrate to South America in search of work; it was wealth brought back by those same families, returning in the 1950s, that financed the construction of galleries and wells, bringing water to the area and so initiating its economic development. The water enabled cultivation of bananas and tomatoes which are still the mainstay of the municipality’s economy.
The importance of those immigrants to its current economic stability is recognised in many of Playa de San Juan’s street names, like Avenida del Emigrante and Avenida de Venezuela.
As cultivation grew in importance, so the fishing industry declined and the tuna canning factory closed but happily there’s still a sizeable fishing fleet working out of the pretty harbour, ensuring a plentiful supply of fresh fish for the restaurants.

What to See
The newly developed coastal walk is the best way to see the village as most of its attraction lies along the extensive sea front and harbour.
Beginning to the north west of the village, the walk runs alongside a rugged coastline formed by lava and fashioned by the sea over the centuries into fantastic columns and arches. The unsuspecting passer-by is spasmodically subjected to a loud roar followed by a violent plume of air and spray from cliff side blow holes, like lava whales sculptured from the rock.

The outline of La Gomera is ever present on the horizon and when visibility is good, the towns of San Sebastian and Playa Santiago can clearly be seen. The path hugs the coastline and joins Avenida del Emigrante which sweeps down the hill, past bars and restaurants, to the harbour. The harbour wall gives an excellent vantage point to La Gomera and back over the village to the plantations that climb the hillside to Las Cañadas outlined on the horizon. From here, the walk becomes the decked ‘Paseo Maritimo’ lined with pavement cafes alongside the marina with its brightly coloured fishing boats and leisure craft reflecting the sun across the water’s surface.
The path widens into a paved boulevard lined with Tulip Trees and Flame of the Forest, their branches giving shade to the benches constructed beneath them. From here, the path leads to the old lime oven before climbing the cliff to a sculpture of a serpent’s head and then ambling along the cliff top to a ruined canning factory below the banana plantations. There’s a bit of leg stretching required but the views back over the village from this vantage point are well worth the climb.

What to do
Hitting rock bottom
The clear seas around Playa de San Juan offer numerous fascinating dive sites. With bizarre rock formations teeming with sea creatures of all shapes, sizes and colours, new divers will discover a magical kingdom that no theme park could match. The team at Solobuceo can provide a range of courses and dives to suit all levels of experience, including a cool sounding night dive and barbeque overlooking the beach.
(+34) 922 865 900, 607 596 138; Calle Canarias, 10; courses from €240, dives from €24; www.solobuceotenerife.com

Get close to nature
For those who prefer to keep their heads above water, a spot of whale and dolphin watching should provide an exciting alternative. An excursion from San Juan harbour takes only a maximum of nine people, ensuring that you’ll get that little bit closer to the world of these beautiful creatures and won’t have to shoulder charge mobs of other excited passengers to take that perfect photo of Flipper.
(See contact details for SoloBuceo above)

The noble game
Although only opened in April 2005, Abama golf has already played host to some prestigious golf enthusiasts, including former US president Bill Clinton. Join the small, but exclusive league of extraordinary gentlemen and test your golfing skills on the Abama’s beautifully designed, tropical par 72 course. Alternatively, if swing’s not your thing, the Abama has a first class tennis club and, for the less strenuously inclined, a fabulous Wellness and Spa Centre, perfect for a bit of pampering.
(+34) 922 126 700; green fees €180, including buggy; golf@abamahotelresort.com

Shopping
On the roadside at the start of the village, a busy farmer’s market, car boot sale and flea market offer something for everyone, from fresh produce to bric-a-brac and clothing.
Open every Sunday and Wednesday from 09.00-13.00

Where to Stay
Abama
You can’t fail to miss the sandstone turrets of the brand new, five star deluxe hotel on the cliffs just beyond the village. The Abama offers superior accommodation including individual luxury villas, a choice of eight restaurants; amongst them Japanese, gourmet and Argentinian, a bewildering array of spa and health treatments, three bars and a jazz club. Oh, and not to forget the par 72 golf course, international tennis academy, seven tennis courts, four paddle courts and beach with golden sand. No expense has been spared to ensure an experience of unbridled indulgence.
To celebrate its opening, the Abama is offering a very special deal to Tenerife residents between the 1st November and the 22nd December 2005; just €266 for a double room with breakfast; people may be injured in the rush!
(+34) 922 865 444; Carretera General TF-47; www.abamahotelresort.com; double rooms from €418 per night

Carla
Carla’s apartments occupy pole position right at the start of Paseo Maritimo and have large balconies overlooking the harbour and La Gomera by day, and romantic sunsets by evening. Characterised by oodles of floor space, bright, airy rooms, fully equipped kitchens and, with Carla’s dulcería and pastelería downstairs, the promise of a very good breakfast indeed.
(+34) 922 865 967; Avenida Emigrante, 6; two bedroom apartments €48 per night, one bedroom €42 per night

Where to Eat

MarSalá
The contemporary nautical style of the MarSalá’s exterior compliments Paseo Marítimo’s chic boardwalk perfectly; inside, the spick and span dining area invokes images of a galley on a luxury yacht. The quality of the food meets the same exacting standards; traditional ingredients are given a twist to create delectable dishes like Salmon en papillote with spinach and almonds.
(+34) 902 077 079; Paseo Marítimo; average cost of a main course €14; open13.30-15.30 & 19.30-22.30, closed Monday

Bodega
An immaculate, bougainvillaea covered patio might provide a romantic setting, but the international menu demands some assertive decision making; from angler fish in Chablis sauce to venison with cèpes, everything sounds wonderful; delicious food in delightful surroundings.
(+34) 922 832 030; Avenida Emigrante, 29; average cost of a main course €12; open 18.00-23.00 Tuesday to Saturday, 12.00-17.00 Sunday, closed Monday

Casa Amadeo
This smart Italian restaurant is a good choice for lovers of fresh pasta and Italian dishes; if you like pizzas, the ones at Casa Amadeo are seriously big. Dark, polished wooden tables are situated on different levels around a circular bar; an effect which results in each area feeling intimate and cozy.
(+34) 922 832 025; Avenida Emigrante, 16; average cost of a main course €7; open11.00-01.00 daily

La Marina
If you subscribe to renowned seafood chef, Rick Stein’s mantra regarding preparing fish, “keep the cooking simple and the ingredients good,” you’ll enjoy the extensive choice of seafood on offer at La Marina, where locally caught fish have a short journey from sea to plate at this popular restaurant near the harbour.
(+34) 922 865 062; Avenida Juan Carlos 1, 2; average cost of a main course €7; open 09.30-23.30 daily

Nightlife
Nightlife in Playa de San Juan tends to revolve around the great choice of restaurants in town; however there are also a few friendly bars. Plaza Iglesia comes alive at night with the laughter and good natured banter of local men playing cards and dominoes with ‘mucho gusto’. Opposite the church, Tasca Canarias is a friendly modern tasca with a traditional feel; ideal for enjoying the atmosphere of a small Canarian plaza. For a more romantic beachside alternative, La Taberna del Puerto and Marlin, overlooking the harbour, are perfect places to relax and enjoy the sound of live music mingling with the gentle lapping of the water. Nightlife tends to wind down around midnight; however, the good news for night owls and Jazz and Blues aficionados is that from December, the Morocco Jazz Club at the nearby Abama will be producing laid back sounds from 21.00 until around 02.00.

Transport
Buses
From Puerto de la Cruz, the 325 service to Los Gigantes runs approximately every two hours between 06.20 and 19.15; in Los Gigantes change to the 473 for Playa de San Juan.
From Las Americas and Los Cristianos the 473 service travels to Los Gigantes via Playa de San Juan at approximately twenty minute intervals throughout the day.

Taxis
The taxi rank is beside Plaza Iglesia on Avenida Juan Carlos 1. The local number is 922 860 840

Tourist Information
The nearest office is at Playa de la Arena, located in a small passage opposite the beach and taxi rank.
(+34) 922 860 348; Puerto Santiago, Centro Commercial “Seguro el Sol”, Calle Manuel Ravelo, 20; open 09.00-14.30 Monday to Friday, 09.30-12.30 Saturday, closed Sunday

Parking
There is free parking the length of Playa de San Juan’s seafront as well as some spaces beside the harbour.

Fiestas
The main fiesta of the Virgen del Carmen falls on the first Sunday in August. An emotional procession, accompanied by dancers and musicians, carries the figure of the Virgin through the streets to the harbour. Once there, she’s carefully placed in a fishing boat and taken to sea accompanied by a cacophony of sirens from the convoy that follow her around the bay.