Why Tenerife?


"Why Tenerife?". 

Usually when people know where we're going next, the responses are split between open-eyed curiosity about an unfamiliar place, heartfelt recommendations on somewhere they've already ventured, or a genuine desire to understand our reasons.

But this question was loaded.

Because everyone knows Tenerife. And everyone knows the stereotype. 

That "why" was a judgement. A dismissal. A note of surprise. Maybe even a cause for concern.

Why Tenerife? Why Tenerife?

It is, unfortunately, easier to gain a reputation than to lose one; and this island certainly has one.

We thought it too; it's what made us dismissive of it for years. 

Brits on tour. School holidays. Your rep will meet you in the lobby at 10.30 a.m. Fish and chips and dos cervezas Pedro. Concrete resort packed in next to soon to be constructed concrete resort. Bars more Irish than tapas. Stoke City vs. Leicester on plasma screen TVs. Sunburnt shoulders and lobster red torsoes. Dinner at 6 p.m., not 10.30 p.m.

Not quite Benidorm, but not that far away either. 

The Spanish islands are uniquely positioned as a destination which means that, if you're a Brit, your view of them as a potential holiday will say a lot about your background, your place in our perennial class system.




We were both fortunate enough to visit as children.

Chances are that if you're a British middle-class person now in your early 30s, you also spent a hot July, August or October in Tenerife. Holidays spent swimming the pools of Los Cristianos, making friends in the hotels and restaurants of Playa Las Americas, parents acquiescing to the wants of desires of their offspring, whether that be for just one more ice cream or a visit to the local waterpark. 

However, that fond childhood experience may actually be the reason preventing many of our generation from returning once they cross the divide to modern day explorer and adventurer. What feels good and interesting to the 10-year old on a family holiday, becomes something unattractive or ‘not for me'. That shared experience means we continue to believe the myth and stereotype that that's all this Spanish island is suited for - a family holiday, an affordable couple's romantic break by the beach, lads on tour girls on tours oi oi oi. It wasn't a judgement on anyone who goes to Tenerife for packaged fun, sun and folly - all the power to them - it's just that it puts it off our radar. 

The chances are though, that if you're reading this, then you may have a similar snobbish perception which doesn't exactly push you towards the island.

The perception which was the first response of most people to our upcoming adventure in Tenerife.




Over the last 18 months however, chinks appeared in the steadfastness with which we dismissed Tenerife.

It started with pictures of landscapes which looked unreal, of videos where the clouds became a rolling ocean, posts of hiking trips along deserted nature trails and the opportunity to surf late into the day; the sun providing a backdrop to your adventure rather than solely the means to gain a tan.

Whispers that it actually was a place that we had gotten, if not all wrong, then pretty much the wrong way round.




A four-day visit in late spring gave us the opportunity to have a second holiday in Tenerife, and to give the largest island in the Canaries a second chance.

What we found was a steep-sided curio. Volcanic contours, craggy cracked terrain, colourful colonial period architecture, a much greater sense of community on an island where so many come and go, and vast chunks of undisturbed nature offering unlimited potential for outdoors adventures. 

Staying in the more remote and sedate western side of the island and driving around in our rental car, it was a real surprise how undeveloped Tenerife was - and we don't mean that negatively in term of economy or society. We had sincerely expected most stretches to be bloated and hubs of bright lights and eyesore towers to be in the majority. Over the course of those four days however, save for a drive through the main and very modern city of Santa Cruz, charming little towns and nooks of untouched beauty far outnumbered tourist resorts. Perhaps we weren't finding them because we weren't looking in the right places (along the Costa Adeje for example), but the lesson is that you can - if you so wish - criss-cross Tenerife's multiple times and avoid mass tourism, although it gets very busy at popular stops such as Masca.

You can easily visit and choose to have an utterly different experience of the island to your fellow plane passengers. We split our time between a quaint remodelled farmhouse in the countryside and a stunning hotel outside a sleepy village, partly set in a renovated church. Our Tenerife was shaped by the sea of clouds and the outline of volcanoes penetrating blue skies, by the winding mountain roads and the black sand under our toes, by rugged red rock landscapes and dusty trails, by sunset cycle rides and early morning dips, by the pines and the peaks. 



One morning, we were taken around the island by a Portuguese guide with a sharp-wit and curly mop of hair. The reason he had set up a life here? As usual, falling head over heels for a local girl.

And, though it was love that brought him to the island, it was Tenerife's ability to match his love for the outdoors which has made the island feel like a perfect home. Another relatively recent settler, a German woman, shared the sentiment, calling Tenerife her "European Hawaii"; she decided to move here within days of her arrival for a study programme.

She simply couldn't understand why more people weren't aware of the Tenerife for which she had fallen. The one which offered national parks, year-round pockets of good weather, good surf and unrivalled cycling conditions. 

We all know one layer of Tenerife; but there are several to which we were completely oblivious until we visited that second time with the eyes of a more mature traveller, a traveller who knows what they want from somewhere, and will go out to seek it.




Returning to London on our plane - slightly browner, slightly fitter, much happier - the rows were inevitably filled with families young and old. Everyone had that end of holiday glow; at its brightest before the inevitably of home, work and normality returns.

We may have experienced a very different Tenerife to many others on that plane, one where our brows sweated and limbs ached rather than relaxed, but each experience had value. Each experience could co-exist on the island locals tell us sometimes acts like a mini-continent, with the absence of one from the other making each more suited to its participants' preferences and desires. 

A week at the beach can certainly be had and enjoyed here. But so can a few days of forest walks, volcano summits, cycle rides, star-gazing and mountain hikes.




As we grow up, these are the reasons for which we travel, and Tenerife offers so many of them; it's just that most of us only know about its stereotype.

So, why Tenerife? 

Because, it's different to what you may think



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Tenerife, one of Spain's Canary Islands is so much more than just resorts - discover a different side.

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