The Canary Islands abound with an incredible diversity of nature. We're taking a look at the most famous of them all – Tenerife. Here you will find scenery of volcanic landscapes, sand dunes, laurel forests, terraced fields, flowering hillsides, palm groves. Take a submarine ride on the seabed and climb Pico del Teide, Spain's highest mountain. Dine in one of the fishing villages and take countless hikes in the beautiful rocky mountains.
The island of Tenerife is, in simplified terms, one large volcano, with its peak at the currently active Pico del Teide volcano. An old caldera called the Cañadas stretches around the centre of the island like a huge wall defining the volcanic landscape. Due to the humid climate, the northern slopes of the volcano are covered with dense green pine forests, while the southern slopes are covered with drier subtropical scrub.
The best-located hotels, such as the El Nogal Boutique, can be found in the quiet and pleasant town of Vilaflor on the sunny southern side of the island. It is close to Cañadas de Teide National Park, the south coast, and is a beautiful day walk to the Paisaje Lunar Pyramids.
There are many ways to experience Pico del Teide. I try an afternoon climb to the Altavista hut. The late sun paints long shadows on the huge balls of lava, called Huevos del Teide, and even the huge cone of the volcano itself.
Accommodation at the Altavista lodge is of course more basic but comfortable and offers excellent food. However, you'll need to book your overnight stay well in advance. Early in the morning, still in the dark, I head up. Around the road, rocks of strange shapes are blackened in the moonlight. It's cold, so I walk quickly. From the cable car terminus, which looms eerily into the dawning morning, a permit is required to climb to the top, but before 9am entry is allowed without one.
At the top, you can see the small crater of the volcano with some sulphurous fumes and the summit rock at 3,718 metres. The best reward for the climb are the almost aerial views of the whole island and the sea of clouds from which the sun peeks out.
With children, it's best to use the cable car and prepare your permit to reach the summit well in advance. It costs nothing and can be done over the internet. However, if you don't have one or don't dare to go to the top, then be sure to at least do the easy walk to Pico de Viejo, which takes about an hour. On the way back we stop for a short easy walk along the disparate rocks of Roques de García.
A unique experience is provided by a cruise on a yellow submarine from the Marina San Miguel de Guincho near Tenerife Sur International Airport. At the end of the pier lies a romantic tavern converted from a lighthouse. Below you, the sails of local yachts flutter, and every hour or so, the bright yellow submarine of Submarine Safaris emerges from between them. It's a good idea to book your cruise in advance, possibly including a pick-up by a special submarine bus. The one-hour dive takes place near the harbour to a depth of 20 metres and, with the assistance of two divers, you'll see lots of fish and giant rays as well as shipwrecks.
Canarian cuisine is characterised by 'mojos', or sauces. Mojo rojo, or red sauce, is made from chilli flakes, chilli, saffron, hot peppers, garlic, olive oil and vinegar and is served with meat. Mojo verde, green sauce, with parsley, olive oil, cumin and coriander is served with fish.
The island also grows over 50 types of potatoes! They vary in size, shape, skin colour and flesh. The most famous and the easiest to prepare are the "papas arrugadas", potatoes cooked in their skins in sea water. The salt is deposited on the skin and the potatoes are eaten with the skin, so there is no need to season them. For a sweet ending, I recommend, for example, banana liqueur (licor de plátano) or rum and honey (ron con miel).