The largest and oldest National Park in the Canary Islands and home to Spain’s highest peak, Mount Teide, the UNESCO World Heritage listed Teide National Park is one of the top attractions on the island of Tenerife. At 3,718m, the landmark peak of Teide - the world’s third highest volcano from its base - is omnipresent and taking the cable car to the top is one of the most popular pastimes for visitors, with views spanning the surrounding islands.
Even from ground level, the park’s rugged landscape is magnificent, a geological wonder featuring an expanse of rugged lava fields, ancient calderas and volcanic peaks. Spread over 18,900 hectares, additional highlights of the park include the 3,135m Pico Viejo volcano, the distinctive Roques de García rock formations, and a unique array of native flora and fauna, including rare insects like the Tenerife lizard and an impressive collection of birds, including Egyptian vultures, sparrowhawks and red kite.
With its steep rocky cliffs, forested trails and trickling waterfalls, the wild landscape of the Masca Valley is among Tenerife’s most beautiful, and the remote gorge offers a thrilling backdrop for a hiking expedition.
At the top of the valley, the aptly nicknamed ‘lost village’ of Masca is perched precariously on the 600-meter-high edge of the gorge, reachable by a hair-raisingly steep serpentine road and offering spectacular views over the valley. From the village, it’s possible to hike all the way to the coast, a dramatic 4.5km trail that scrambles over the valley floor, past hidden caves, lagoons and black sand beaches.
Towering 3,718 m over the island of Tenerife, scaling the high-altitude peak of Spain’s highest mountain can be, quite literally, breathtaking. Thankfully, you don’t have to climb the summit to take in the views from Mount Teide – the Teide Cable Car whisks visitors to an observation deck at 3,550m, where you can enjoy dramatic views that span as far as the neighboring Canary Islands on clear days. It’s also possible to hike to the lookout point, a taxing climb that takes around 5 hours, but to scale the final 200m to the highest point, climbers need to secure a free permit from the National Park office.
Set in an ancient caldera at the center of the UNESCO World Heritage listed Teide National Park, the Mount Teide volcano dates back around 1 million years and ranks as the 3rd highest volcano in the world, rising 7,500 m above the ocean floor. Although the volcano hasn’t erupted since 1909, it remains active and seismic activity was recorded as recently as 2003.
Pine trees, volcanic geography, and views upon views are what you’ll find when exploring Tenerife’s La Caldera and the region that surrounds it. A volcanic crater, La Caldera is situated in La Orotava Valley, which spans the northern part of the island’s central coast. La Orotava is packed with more than just pretty scenery but also trails, including those around La Caldera and its recreation area.
Easily accessible, the La Caldera crater is where you’ll find picnic tables and a playground, along with other facilities, including a restaurant. But it’s the woodland wonderland that surrounds all of this that you may be more keen to explore, particularly the loop that circles the crater and ventures off into the mountainous landscape beyond. The roughly 3-hour excursion, which begins from the recreation area, passes through the region’s mossy, fern-filled terrain, and offers impressive views of Tenerife, including El Teide.
A cluster of uniquely shaped rocks lying in the shadows of the notoriously volatile Teide volcano, Los Roques de García are among the top attractions of Tenerife’s UNESCO-listed Teide National Park. Formed by years of ancient volcanic activity, the pyroclastic rocks are best known for their impressive stature and peculiar shapes, some appearing to defy gravity and others taking on an otherworldly presence.
The most famous rocks include the ‘Roque Cinchado’, known as ‘God’s Finger’, now one of Tenerife’s most iconic landmarks, and the imposing La Catedral, the tallest at 200-meters high and a popular challenge for climbers. Each rock has its own unique moniker, including ‘El Queso’, ‘Roques Blancos’ and ‘Torrotito’, and the best way to enjoy the views is hiking the circular trail around the valley, which takes around 2 hours.
An idyllic retreat perched on the southern tip of Tenerife, the lively beach town of El Médano is one of Tenerife’s most laid-back resorts, famous for its high winds and traditional Spanish vibe, and void of the tourist trappings of the larger resorts. In a prime location close to the Reina Sofia airport, El Médano is the gateway to some of the island’s largest natural beaches, with hotpots like the Playa Grande, the nudist beach of Playa Tejita and the surf beach of Playa Machado, set against the striking backdrop of La Montaña Roja (the Red Mountain).
The resort’s principal draw card is its world-class windsurfing and kite surfing, and the town hosts a number competitions and championships throughout the year. For adrenaline seekers, the top spots are the Bay, the Harbour Wall and Cabezo Beach, where the wild waves and rocky coastline make for some challenging surf.
Stretching out from the shadows of the Teide Volcano and framed by the rolling peaks of the eponymous mountains, La Orotava Valley is home to some of Tenerife’s most scenic landscapes. With its lush banana plantations and vineyards, steep cliffs and pine-clad mountains, this is prime hiking terrain and a number of well-known trails run through the valley.
Highlights include the Mirador del Humboldt viewpoint, which offers an expansive panoramic view over the valley below; the historic town of La Orotava, famed for its unique architecture and botanical gardens; and the volcanic sand beaches of El Bollullo, Martín Alonso and El Rincón.
With its sweeping white façade looming over the waterfront of Santa Cruz harbor, the Auditorio de Tenerife (Tenerife Auditorium) is an instantly recognizable landmark of the Tenerife capital. The futuristic design by architect Santiago Calatrava has drawn comparisons to the Sydney Opera House and its signature white concrete arc looks particularly spectacular at night when the rooftop is lit up from beneath.
Although guided tours are a popular way to admire the interiors of the Auditorio de Tenerife, the best way to experience the famous venue is to book tickets for a show. There’s a varied schedule of music and dance performances throughout the year, with highlights including the Tenerife Opera, the Symphony Orchestra of Tenerife and special Christmastime musicals.
Though El Teide may be Tenerife’s most popular sky-high sight — and rightly so — it’s not the only one you’ll want to check out while on the island. If you head to the western coastline, you won’t want to miss gaping at the massive cliff-lined coastline home to Los Gigantes. “The Giants” span a long stretch of the western shore, and reach up to more than 600 meters into the sky above the sea.
These geographical wonders are best viewed from their namesake village, a popular resort town that still manages to maintain an exclusive vibe, likely due to its lack of hotels (it only has one) and high-rise buildings. More precisely, though, you can best view the cliffs from various spots: the popular Archipenque Mirador, a roadside lookout on the way into town; from the marina-and-cliff-sandwiched, black-sanded beach; from the sea while partaking in one of the popular whale- and dolphin-watching excursions; or even from above during a helicopter tour.
With everything from high-speed water slides to hair-raising amusement rides, there’s every opportunity to get your adrenaline pumping at Siam Park, and as long as you’re happy to get wet, Europe’s biggest water park is sure to be a hit. Opening its doors in 2007, the Thai-themed park was designed by Christoph Kiessling and features a Thai floating market and Thai restaurants. Even just strolling through the park is an experience, with exotic architecture, streams filled with tropical fish and a huge white-sand beach, dotted with plenty of family-safe swimming areas and relaxing Jacuzzi baths.
Thrillseekers will likely make a beeline for the legendary Tower of Power – a vertical transparent slide that plummets riders through a pool of sharks and stingrays, or The Dragon, a gravity-defying Proslide Tornado, but less-confident swimmers might prefer to tackle the Jungle Snake slides or take a rafting trip along the Mekong Rapids.
Tenerife’s Loro Park is one of the island’s biggest attractions and makes an easy day trip from Gran Canaria. Home to over 200 penguins and 350 species of parrot (the largest collections of both animals in the world), the park has an enormous variety of animals including sharks, alligators, jaguars and silverback gorillas.
There’s a lot to see at Loro Park and you’ll easily fill a day. Visit Planet Penguin (the biggest replica of the Antarctic continent ever constructed) or watch the antics of the killer whales in the Orca Ocean. Plants lovers will enjoy the Orchidarium - home to more than 1,000 orchids year round. Kids are also well catered for at Kinderlandia – an African-style village and jungle dedicated solely to their enjoyment.
The largest of the Canary Islands, Tenerife and its year-round sun, unique volcanic topography and endless sandy beaches draw more than 1 million cruise passengers to the island each year, making it Spain’s second-busiest cruise port after that of Barcelona.
Tenerife’s cruise port is located in Santa Cruz on the island’s northeast coast. It’s possible to walk to the town center from the waterfront, but most ships offer free shuttle buses to the central Plaza de Espana, from where buses and taxis connect to all of the island’s principal attractions. The closest beach to the port is Playa de la Teresitas, about 20 minutes away by bus.
Tenerife’s many attractions simply can’t be covered in one day, so pick out the highlights that best suit your tastes and pre-book a shore excursion to ensure you maximize your time.
La Laguna (or San Cristóbal de La Laguna) might have passed its role as capital over to Santa Cruz in 1723, but the lively student town remains one of Tenerife’s most important cities, linked by tram to Santa Cruz. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999, the Old Town of La Laguna is most famous for its colonial architecture and strolling the cobblestone streets unveils a number of historic gems, including the elegant townhouses of Las Casas Consistoriales and a number of noteworthy churches.
Don’t miss a visit to the landmark Church of the Conception, where you can take in the views from the bell tower; the early 20th-century Teatro Leal, with its exquisite interior paintings and murals; and the bustling marketplace of Plaza del Cristo. The city is also home to some of the island’s most important museums, so you can brush up on local history at the Museo de Historia, then indulge in some interactive fun at the innovative Museo de Ciencia y El Cosmos.