You bought vacations in Tenerife or you’re planning to do so, but you are not convinced that it was a good idea? You have never been to Canary Islands and wonder if they are worth going to? You found cheap tickets to Tenerife and don’t know what to do next?
This short guidebook is for you! Basic information about the island, climate, things to do there apart from sunbathing, what to see and what can be skipped, ready-to-go plans for one day trips – you can find all that in Tenerife 101 course below – enjoy!
Canary Islands – where the hell is that?
A little geography lesson for starters.
Canary Islands are spanish archipelago on Atlantic Ocean, more or less at the same latitude as Morocco. The archipelago consists of 7 islands: Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuertaventure, Lanzarote, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro. The biggest and considered as the main one is Tenerife.
Canary Islands are Spanish, so they are in European Union – as EU citizen you don’t need a passport to get there! This is one of the farthest EU destinations from Poland.
The tropical climate of the islands makes them worth visiting at any time of the year. Average temperature in winter is 18 deg. C (65 deg. F) and 24 deg. C (75 deg. F) in summer. The islands are very diverse in terms of climate and vegetation. What is more – each part of the island may be different! Northern parts of Tenerife and Gran Canaria look totally different than their southern ones. This is one of the reasons to visit each part of the islands – they may surprise you!
An interesting, but not so pleasant weather “anomaly” in Canary Islands is called calima. This is a wind coming from Sahara desert which brings lots of fine sand. Imagine the sky looking cloudy all the time, as if it was going to rain, but it never does. Sunbathing does not make much sense and unfortunatelly you may forget about enjoying any views. Calima usually lasts up to 3 days, so all you can do is to be patient. We had an opportunity to expierence a light version of calima at the beginning of our trip to Tenerife – you can see it below in the pictures from Playa de la Americas beach and Güímar piramids. Apparently during summer months calima is more incovienient, because apart from making sky look cloudy, the air becomes hot and stuffy.
We visited Tenerife in January and this guide is written from this “winter” perspective.
Who is Tenerife for?
Tenerife and Canary Islands in general are unfairly regarded as a destination for people who spend all day on sunbed by the pool and don’t go anywhere outside their all-inclusive hotel. This is a very unjust opinion. Of course it’s OK to spend holidays by the pool, but we encourage you to explore the island – no matter if you are on holidays from travel agency or you organised it all by tourself. Tenerife is an island that’s big enough to spend every day in different part of it and not get bored during whole week or even two.
Canary Islands are a great holiday spot basically for everyone. Young people and seniors, families with children, beach-lovers and hikers. Watersport fans and mountain freaks. Everyone will find something to enjoy here.
Which part of Tenerife should you stay on?
This decision is quite significant. There is a considerable climate variety between north and south. The landscape is greener in the north, but it comes together with more clouds and rain. On the other hand the south is dry, but you get incomparably more sunshine. You have to decide what is more important to you.
The main touristic cities most people travel to are Los Cristianos, Playa de la Americas and Costa Adeje in the south-west and Puerto de la Cruz in the north. If you want to avoid the crowds – stay away from those places. On the other hand – if you like when a lot is going on around you, you ejnoy taking evening walks or you can’t imagine a holiday without intense nightlife – these are the places for you.
We decided to stay in Playa de la Americas, in Dream Hotel Noelia Sur. I don’t know how the situation looks like during peak season, but in January the place wasn’t too crowdy. Playa de la Americas and Los Cristianos are right next to each other and are full of hotels, beaches and all kinds of touristic infrastructure. The towns share a 3km long footpath along the beach – a really nice place for an evening walk! I started paying attention to such things after our stay in Rhodes Island, where we had no place to go outside the hotel after dinner.
What is more – both Playa de la Americas and Los Christianos are good starting points for a day-trip around the island.
How to get to Tenerife?
The easiest and most popular way to get to Tenerife Island from Poland is to buy holidays via travel agency. Alternatively, the travel agency can be used to purchase only the flight tickets – you can get the best prices few days before the actual take-off. Third option: you can buy plane tickets directly from the airline, eg. Ryanair provides flights from Warsaw Modlin, Wroclaw and Cracow – if you buy tickets early enough the prices will be reasonable.
We thought of those three possibilities, but we ended up doing it yet another way. We flew to Barcelona (with Norwegian), where we spent one whole day. The day after we took Ryanair flight to Tenerife. We came back with Ryanair directly to Warsaw Modlin.
Bear in mind that there are two airports in Tenerife: Tenerife North, which is next to the capital of the island – Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Tenerife South, which is situated closer to southern resorts. Ryanair offers flights from Warsaw Modlin to Tenerife South. Starting in Barcelona we landed on Tenerife North, on the way back to Poland we were flying from Tenerife South.
How to travel around Tenerife?
For us the decision was quite simple – we rented a car for the whole stay, and we didn’t check any other options. Thw island is really convenient to travel around by car. There is a highway that goes almost around the whole island and its route leads near all major cities. All roads are free of charge and are in good condition, the gas prices are reasonable. Renting a car for a week costs around 100 EUR. We chose Orlando Rent a Car because it wasn’t expensive and it turned out to be the only company in Canary Islands that does not charge you extra for returning the car in different location that you rented it from (eg. another city or airport). Although renting a car in Orlando has one disadvantage – they don’t have offices directly in the airports. That means that upon arrival you have to wait for their representative who will drive you to the office (5-10 min away) where you collect your car. They have the same procedure with car return – you leave it in the parking lot near one of their offices, they drop you at the airport. Those extra transfers are free of charge but they take some extra time (reserve additional 40 minutes up to an hour for the car return and transfer to the airport). Nevertheless we think that it was worth the price.
What to do and see in Tenerife?
There are plenty of options and for sure you won’t get bored. Below you can see our suggestions for one-day trips. Each of them is described in details in separated posts:
- Cliffs of Los Gigantes, Masca village and Garachico town destroyed by the volcano (English version coming soon!) – this is one of the most popular trips in the island, thanks to picturesque and breathtaking views along the road to almost secluded Masca village
- Icod de los Vinos, La Orotava, La Laguna (English version coming soon!)- three charming Canarian towns – each of those made different impressions on us.
- Güímar piramides, basilica in Candelaria, capital of the island Santa Cruz de Tenerife (English version coming soon!)
- Pico del Teide (English version coming soon!) – our personal favourite, the best day in Tenerife – roadtrip to the highest peak of Spain, Pico del Teide volcano.
There are numerous other options for spending time in Tenerife:
- A trip to Anaga mountains + presumably one of the most beautiful beaches in the island: Las Teresitas. We tried, but the clouds were very dense and it was pouring, so we gave up. There are a few really interesting hikes in Anaga. The mountains are located in north-eastern part of the island, north from Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
- Surfing in El Medano beach. If you are into surfing or kite-surfing – this is a place for you to be. It’s really close to Tenerife South airport.
- Dolphin and whale watching – you can do that on many boat tours departing from southern port towns. We didn’t take one, so we don’t know it they are worth it or not, but if you travel with children this may be an interesting idea for an afternoon.
- Going to one of the amusement parks:
- Loro Parque (Puerto de Santa Cruz) – a theme park and a zoo, where you can enjoy shows with whales, dolphins and sea lions. The place is a little controversive, as you can see not only parrots, or rays, but also… penguins. We did not go there, so we can’t tell you much about it, apart from rumours.
- Siam Park (close to Playa de la Americas) – one of the biggest water parks in Europe.
What to eat and drink?
- Mojo verde and mojo rojo are two very popular sauces. The first one is green and mild, the second one is red and spicy. You can buy them in every grocery shop – it’s a common and popular souvenir.
- Pella de Gofio which is a dessert from gofio flour. Gofio is made from roasted wheat or corn grains. It originally comes from Canary Islands and it was a traditional ingredient in diet of Guanches – original inhabitants of the islands. You can find more about gofio in the post from La Orotava (English version coming soon!), where we write about a visit to a mill where gofio is produced.
- Ron Miel – honey rum. This is one of our favourite travel drinks, it’s very sweet and quite strong (30% abv). It is also possible to buy the rum that is produced in Gran Canaria – that one is a little lighter (20% abv), which makes it even tastier.
Visiting Canary Islands without drinking Ron Miel seems pointless. Honey rum produced in Gran Canaria is a masterpiece! Pobyt na Kanarach bez Ron Miel? Bezsęsu. Rum miodowy produkowany na Gran Canarii to mistrzostwo! #ronmiel #PiMteam #travel #blogtroterzy #blogtrotters #Tenerife #honeyrum #aperitif
What souvenirs should you bring back home from Tenerife?
Here are some ideas for people that love souvenirs:
- buy some local crafts in La Orotava, especially in Casa de los Balcones (English version coming soon!), or Casa del Turista (we bought 3 tiny charming ceramic tiles, you can see the variety of those in one of the pictures below)
- everything that we mentioned in What to eat and drink section above. You can buy the spirits in the airport shops on your way back. The prices are in most cases pretty reasonable, they also have the majority of drinks in plastic bottles that are safer to travel with (not mentioning the weight).