The secret north: 8 lesser-known, more authentic experiences in Tenerife

Despite what holiday brochures suggest, Tenerife is not all sun, sand, and sea. Here are eight experiences that prove the island is more than first meets the eye…

Team Wanderlust
23 March 2023
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1. Go caving

Cueva del Viento (Rayco Gonzalez)

Ditch the swimwear and flip flops for long trousers and sensible footwear to explore Icod de los Vinos’ Cueva del Viento (Wind Cave). With its 18km long tunnel, it’s the European Union’s largest volcanic tube. Unless you fly into Tenerife North, the smaller of the two international airports on the island, your introduction to Tenerife will be at the less foggy Tenerife South. In northerly Icod de los Vinos, you will see the bruma, a mist that turns the island’s woodland into enchanted forests.

Book your slot in advance and you can enjoy a 45-minute tour inside the cave, during which time you will be able to explore around 250 metres of the tube.

2. Look up at glittering night skies

The Milky Way above Teide (Visit Tenerife)

The Canary Islands’ low levels of light pollution make the stargazing experiences available in the north of Tenerife a night to remember. Observe the Milky Way with your naked eye or get up close and personal via the medium of a telescope.

By day, the car park at the Parador de las Cañadas del Teide offers spectacular views of the lunar landscape. By night, you can see the moon and more in a magical show. A professional astronomer will be able to help you join the dots of the Great Bear and Orion, the Hunter constellations.

3. Go birdwatching

Spot birds in Parque de Rural Anaga (Visit Tenerife)

Tenerife’s tropical climes is popular with migratory birds and Waders from North America such as the Lesser Yellowlegs and Pectoral Sandpiper head south in search of more hospitable weather. As do American Ring-Necked Ducks and Green-Winged Teals.

The Parque de Rural Anaga’s rainforest-impersonating laurisilva is a fantastic birdwatching spot. This laurel forest is home to the Atlantic Canary which takes its name from the islands rather than the other way around.

The Great Spotted Woodpeckers regenerate their population in May here, with the females of the species laying up to seven eggs at a time. Look out for the Canary Islands kestrel too, one of the most striking birds of prey. Another beautiful bird to spot is the Hoopoe which wears its head feathers like a crown.

4. Explore the volcanoes

Teide (Visit Tenerife)

You will have plenty of stories to tell about the adventures you have biking and hiking around Tenerife’s volcanic terrain. The Canarian archipelago was formed by eruptions that took place millions of years ago. Lava and magma made them what they are today.

Teide is more than 3,700m high. It’s Spain’s tallest mountain. You can take a cable car to near the top but to reach the peak where the air becomes thinner and the sulfurous fumes of the dormant volcano get stronger, you will require a permit you will need to reserve in advance.

The Siete Fuentes volcano was formed in the early 18th century. The Berber-descending Guanches who occupied Tenerife before the Spanish thought Teide housed a demon. This was a viewpoint shared by the Bishop of Tenerife who performed exorcisms on the affected mountains and these days the descent into the Pedro Gil crater is devilishly difficult.

5. Join in with local festivals

San Isidro Labrador pilgrimage, La Orotava (Visit Tenerife)

The biggest event in Tenerife is the pre-Lent carnival held in the capital. The Carnaval de Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the second largest carnival in the world after Rio de Janeiro’s. Move your feet to the frenzied beat of the partygoers that take over Santa Cruz for two whole weeks.

Where carnival dates vary from year to year (normally, Carnival takes place between January and February every year), the Fiestas de San Andrés are always held on the same day: November 29. This is a party timed to coincide with the release of the new wine. In Icod de los Vinos, locals whizz down the steep Calle del Plano at night on wooden boards they use like sledges.

If visiting in May or June, try and catch the San Isidro Labrador Pilgrimage in La Orotava. The pilgrimage first began in the 17th century with people parading through the town centre in traditional dress. The event is just as lively today with lots of Canarian food, singing, dancing and bright colours on display.

6. Sample the wine

Tour the vineyards in Tenerife (Visit Tenerife)

Tenerife is the largest producer of wine across the Canary Islands. Its volcanic terrain and salty Atlantic spray give its vintages a particularly distinctive flavour and there are more grape varieties on Tenerife than on any other Iberian island.

There are five wine regions in Tenerife. The majority of wineries are in the north of the island. You can visit and try and buy vintages from around 70 that are open to the public. A guachinche, an informal restaurant, is a good place to try wine paired with classic Canarian cuisine. Again, they are mainly in the north of the island.

7. Stroll the villages

Icod de los Vinos village (Visit Tenerife)

The traditional hamlets and villages of the north offer an escape route from the tourist bubbles of the south. They allow you to time travel to Tenerife’s rural past which still many of the islanders make their livelihoods from.

Buried deep in the northwest Teno mountains is Masca. Electricity here is a recent addition to the straggle of houses balancing precariously on ridges. Previously, you could only reach it by trail rather than by road. The whitewashed buildings of Taganana, meanwhile, form a contrast to the green Anaga mountains. El Bailadero is the place to hit for panoramic views.

8. Have an outdoor adventure

Hike at Teide National Park (Visit Tenerife)

Some 900km of hiking trails wrap the volcanic island, so it is easy to explore by foot. Head inland to wind up the iconic Teide – the tallest volcano in Spain – or head to Parque Rural de Anaga to stand at the most northerly point of the island. Tenerife is just as easy to explore on two wheels, whether you challenge yourself to an uphill climb or have a gentle cycle along the waterfront. The Atlantic Ocean is home to many adventures, too including kitesurfing. Venture to El Medano in the south for kitesurfing lessons. Further around the coast is Los Gigantes Marina where you can hire a kayak and paddle beneath the cliffs.

Feeling inspired?

Start planning your dream visit to Tenerife now by heading over to the official website.

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