Everything You Need to Know about Tenerife and the Canary Islands

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Scattered in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of north Africa, the Canary Islands in general, and Tenerife in particular, are known as popular destinations for fun in the sun holidays. There’s a lot more to these sun-drenched islands that the obvious package holiday, however.

Action and adventure activities and a very distinctive Canary culture are everywhere, with lush pine forests, hidden coves, lunar landscapes and even the odd volcano providing a spectacular backdrop for those who venture beyond the seaside tourist throngs.

Sport

Thanks to its diverse landscape and year-round sunshine, the Canaries are tailor-made for outdoor activities. Exploring the many footpaths that criss-cross each of the islands is hugely popular and walks range from strolling along easy-going winding paths or, for the hardier among us, to arduous mountain hikes.

The coastline around the islands is perfect for snorkeling and scuba diving as a way to marvel at the more than 350 species of fish. Very lucky divers may well get a glimpse of the endangered Loggerhead Turtle that call the waters around the Canaries home! The surrounding sea is also ideal for high-octane water sports especially all manner of surfing, including windsurfing or kitesurfing. If you’re seeking a mellower activity, camel rides, golfing and boat rides are on offer throughout the islands.

If it’s more of a spectator sport that you’re after, check out a ‘Lucha Canaria’ match. This form of wrestling specific to the Canaries dates back to the 1400s. These matches usually take place during celebrations and local festivals.

Landscape

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Their literal volcanic foundations have created the dramatic, wide-ranging scenery of the island, including its distinctive beaches with black shingle sand with the longest beach, El Medano, stretching for two kilometers along Tenerife’s coastline. There’s subtropical vegetation in national parks, pine-forested mountain peaks in the interiors and crystal clear waterfalls, especially in La Palma, to discover as well.

For a lunar experience here on earth, leave all this lush green behind and visit Tenerife’s Mount Teide, the third largest volcano in the world, set amidst barren flatlands and casting the largest sea shadow in the world!

Art and architecture

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There is a lot to satisfy culture vultures in the Canaries. Surrealists will love visiting Oscar Dominguez’s home and having a look at his canvases in his hometown of Santa Cruz in Tenerife. Gran Canaria and Lanzarote both also boast massive abstract sculptures by Martin Chirino and Cesar Manrique that are impossible to miss and most of the islands have their own cultural centers offering a variety of programs and exhibitions.

Architecturally speaking, brightly painted facades, wooden characteristic balconies and blissfully leafy internal shaded patios typify Canarian architecture. For an unusual architectural experience, Siam Park in Tenerife offers the unique opportunity of cooling off in water park features while also gazing on the largest Thai building in the world outside of Asia.

There is so much to the Canary Islands that go far beyond its package holiday reputation: quaint villages, natural wonders, a specific history and special traditions…the list goes on! Whether it’s hiking through lava fields, exploring central mountains or swimming in search of endangered turtles, there are many special experiences to be had on these remarkable islands, especially when you go on Tenerife holidays.

Images by Jan Kraus and Mon Labiaga Ferrer, used under Creative Commons license

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