Tenerife – Not What It Used To Be – Part 2

Emerging from a tunnel, we had a stupendous view down to the ocean, near which, clumps of white cottages lay like scattered sugar cubes on a green baize. We pulled over at Almaciga, nothing more than a cliffside cluster of whitewashed houses laced with narrow alleyways. On the coastal road were a trio of ocean-front bars and restaurants offering fresh seafood and frosty refreshments. Armed with a plate of squid, boiled potatoes, crusty bread and a jug of local wine we sat watching a couple of locals surf the waves breaking over the craggy coastline.

It was at the furthest point possible from Playa de Las Americas, separated from civilisation by 1,000-metre-high mountains and a turbulent sea. This perfect escape was the defining moment when I realised that by no stretch of the imagination could Tenerife be labelled simply as ‘a resort’ . But still this island of surprises had more to reveal.

canary islands, tenerife, playa de las americas sunsetBack in the south, we decided that renting a villa in Tenerife had been the right choice. Not only did it give us the freedom to do what we wanted when we wanted, it also provided a comfortable launch pad for island exploration and a relaxing home-from-home when we returned. Plus the year-round sunshine made villa rental in Tenerife a very appealing prospect for any time of the year.

The kids loved the massive wildlife theme park of Loro Parque in Puerto de la Cruz, particularly the astounding killer whale show. In the south, we’d all had a ball at the Siam Park, a wet and wild extravaganza of epic rides and watery kicks. But some of the biggest thrills came not from man-made attractions but from the natural wonders of Tenerife.

The cable car ride up Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain and the third biggest volcano in the world, provided spectacular views over the surreal lunar landscape of Teide National Park. It was easy to see why film companies used it as a backdrop for films such as One Million Years B.C. Rivers of frozen lava twisted around ash-black boulders and eerie statues of basalt. It was like nothing on earth.

A boat excursion from Los Cristianos took us a mile out into the Atlantic. Within minutes we were surrounded by pilot whales seemingly as curious about our camera-clicking group of catamaran passengers as we were of them. They came close enough to the boat to make eye contact, before blowing a spout of water and gently descending into the blue.

On the gentle cruise back to port, as the sun slipped behind La Gomera turning the sky a glory of red, my wife was the first to spot a school of dolphins leaping out of the water straight ahead of us. That single experience alone was worth flying four hours to Tenerife and back again, but combined with every other attraction and surprise I have no doubts whatsoever, even before this holiday is over, that we will be back to rent a villa in Tenerife very soon.

Back in El Puertito, I think about how to fit all of that onto the postcard, but the cool ocean beckons. I take a sip of beer and put the postcard down. Plenty of time to tell him all about it when I get home. I’m sure Phil wouldn’t want me to miss any of it, and there’s still a lot to see and do… the hidden village of Masca, Tenerife’s very own Shangri-La; the vineyards of La Orotava; a submarine excursion; the plummeting cliffs of Los Gigantes; a local fiesta… One thing’s for sure. Phil was right. This isn’t the Tenerife that we thought we knew. It’s just not like that.