Tenerife – the Teide towers above it all
With a height of 3.718 metres, the Pico del Teide is the giant among the mountains of Spain. That he has chosen an island is not by chance, because under the giant, which towers over everything on Tenerife, slumbers a huge magma chamber. The last time the fire mountain sent its lava into the sky was in 1909 and it has long since lost its former terror. Nature and culture meet on Tenerife. There are not only first-class hotel complexes and the impressive Octopus aqua park with its diverse bathing world, but also numerous well-trodden and therefore easily accessible paths through evergreen forests.
“Islas encantadas” are the Canary Islands also called: Enchanted Islands. There is no question about it: some of these pearls in the Atlantic do indeed exude a kind of magic. For example, Tenerife, off whose shores scientists have been puzzling for generations over whether the mysterious fairy-tale kingdom of Atlantis could have disappeared here.
If you sail past the volcanic cascades in front of the rocks of Los Gigantes, you might be inclined to get lost in the realm of your imagination. The myth of Atlantis will probably never disappear, but a special charm will always emanate from Tenerife. This beautiful island sees itself as the “mother ship of the Canaries”. Probably also because this “ship” is equipped with a gigantic sail mast – the Teide.
One of the highest mountains on our planet
No other mountain of the Spanish territory rises as high into the sky as the Teide on Tenerife. And until well into spring, this volcanic peak presents itself with a white crown. Up there, the snow can only be scared away by summer temperatures.
The world traveler and explorer Alexander von Humboldt was once fascinated by this sight. “It is as if the volcano were almost crushing this island,” he wrote in one of his diaries in 1799. And indeed, the Teide is a giant, rising from the seabed over seven thousand metres, making it one of the highest mountains on our planet.
Tenerife’s wine at Europe’s princely courts
An excellent wine matures on Tenerife. Its vines are pampered by the sun, obviously enjoy the light breeze from the sea and feel extremely well on the volcanic soil. And when the knowledge of a good vintner is directing the wine, the result can only be an excellent drop. The vines are up to one and a half centuries old, and the island was mostly spared from the dreaded phylloxera.
The wine on Tenerife can look back on an eventful but also successful time, because between the 16th and 18th century the famous “Canary Sack” was in great demand even at the princely courts of the European continent. It was mainly the Malvasia grapes that were appreciated on the other side of Tenerife because they produced a full-bodied wine.
The elemental force of volcanoes
This island is something of a classic among the Canaries. It blossoms in all seasons in tender to bright colours and recommends itself as a holiday domicile not only to sun worshippers, water sportsmen and hikers but actually to all who are looking forward to relaxing days on an island that is as exciting as it is graceful. Like all the others, these Canarian shores rise above a volcanic magma chamber.
The massif of the mighty Teide also owes its formation to the elemental forces under the earth’s crust. Almost four hundred years ago, the islands were formed on Africa’s doorstep. Tenerife was not the first, for before that Fuerteventura, Lanzarote and Gran Canaria emerged from the sea. It’s a world of fire mountains, though fortunately for everyone they are inactive.
“Paisaje Lunar” – towers of pumice layers
If you drive up from the coast or from the Orotava valley into the national park below the Teide, you will end up in a volcanic wonderland with huge lava flows after leaving the tree region. The landscape at the southern slope of the big mountain looks different, as there, the visitors encounter cones that are up to ten metres high. Rain and wind have formed these towers of pumice layers, which geologists call “Paisaje Lunar”.
Here, nature has produced the sublime and the diverse. Tenerife, the island of the “Eternal Spring”, is one of the most popular holiday destinations in the archipelago. Guanches were the first inhabitants to settle here. It is still puzzled about where they came from. It is known, however, that a certain Tinerfe ruled Tenerife as a chieftain in the 15th century and that the last indigenous people surrendered to the Spanish at La Victoria in 1483.
The failed attack of Admiral Nelson
A historic event took place in Tenerife on the 25th of July 1797, when the English Rear Admiral Horatio Nelson tried to take the island. Nine hundred of his soldiers entered Santa Cruz de Tenerife, but were beaten back in the streets of the city by Spanish and French troops.
History records that Nelson was wounded in the arm and through negotiation managed to get his soldiers back on their ships with their weapons. However, they had to promise not to attack any other of the Canary Islands from then on. If Nelson had been victorious, perhaps the British and not the Spanish flag would fly over Tenerife today.
Since the year 1909 the fire mountains are silent
Before the European tourists discovered Tenerife as a dream island, the island was very important as a base for the shipping traffic between Europe and America. But then the holidaymakers conquered the beautiful beaches in Adeje, Arona, Los Cristianos and Playa de Las Americas. In the meantime, Tenerife has around five million visitors every year. The last volcanic eruption on the island occurred in 1909 and since then the fire mountains of Tenerife have been silent.
In the late 19th century, it was mainly those Europeans who came to the Canary Islands by ship, suffering from health problems and hoping for relief from the healing climate of this region off the African coast. Most of them complained of rheumatism, skin and respiratory diseases.
A four hundred year old dragon tree
An ancient tree achieved great fame in Tenerife. “Drago Milenario” is what the locals respectfully call the most aged of all the dragon trees in the Canary Islands. It is located below the parish church of Icod de los Vinos, and botanists estimate its age at a stately four hundred years. The people of Tenerife, on the other hand, speak of a thousand-year-old specimen.
It may look a little frail and in need of support here and there, but it is a much visited destination as the ancestor of Canary Islands flora. And this on an island where evolution is said to be progressing at a fast pace, and of which Alexander von Humboldt already enthused: “Nature here is so rich, so magnificent and so wonderful…”
La Laguna was the capital until 1822
The history of this island comes alive in the university town of La Laguna. It has been included in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites because of its many historic buildings, secluded squares and museums. Until 1822, La Laguna was not only the spiritual and economic centre of Tenerife, but also the capital.
La Laguna is not only a worthwhile destination for historians and people interested in culture during a trip to the Canary Islands but actually for every visitor. The buildings from the 18th century – among others the Franco de Castilla – testify the former wealth of this area and impress with their wooden and mostly flower decorated balconies.
The old town of La Orotava
La Orotava, located above Santa Cruz de Tenerife, has always been proud of its baroque-classicist church Iglesia de la Concepción. Its dome is visible from afar and was modelled on the Florentine cathedral. In the sanctuary there is a temple-like tabernacle created by an Italian artist.
Four hundred metres above sea level, life in Orotava is bearable even on hot summer days. During a stroll through the historic old town, which is completely under monument protection, palaces and mansions line the way. A historical jewel of special quality is the inner courtyard of the Casa de los Balcones, an outstanding example of the Canarian art of wood carving.
Overnight stay in the mountain hut on the Teide
The Orotava Valley serves, among other things, as a transit station on the way to the Teide. The national park there is undoubtedly the biggest attraction on Tenerife and offers one of the most spectacular volcanic landscapes in the world. The park is located at an altitude of about two thousand meters and is overlooked by the 1,700 meter higher peak of the highest Spanish mountain.
In exactly eight minutes, a cable car travels from the base station to a point just below the highest point. From there, a narrow footpath leads up to the crater itself. The view from up there is overwhelming, and those who want to experience the sunrise should try to find a place to spend the night in the mountain hut Refugio de Altavista. However, a trip to the Teide is only recommended for people with an intact circulation, as the altitude is not a problem for some people.
For botanists the “Galapagos of the plant world”.
Tenerife – this is the backdrop of a magnificent natural spectacle and with its lush nature something like an impressive catwalk of creation. Holidaymakers who get up on a spring morning to hike in the island’s misty forests will be richly rewarded for their efforts. There are vast regions of strawberry and laurel trees, as well as garlands of lianas under the canopy. One walks over carpets of moss and is surprised by the multitude of lichens at the foot of the Wildpret de la Torres.
This must have been the place where Alexander von Humboldt analysed nature and thus laid the foundation for Darwin’s theories. The Canary archipelago alone is home to such a diversity of species. Botanists even speak of the “Galapagos of the plant world”.
Loro Park – it all started with lots of colourful parrots
In 1972, a man named Wolfgang Kiessling, the son of a merchant family from Cologne, had the idea to present his colourful parrot breeding to the visitors of the island. This was the starting signal for a success story, because from rather modest beginnings the world-famous Loro Parkdeveloped. With a total area of 125,000 square meters, this park is now a gigantic zoo.
It is embedded in a magnificent exotic landscape and is not only home to the largest collection of parrots on the globe, but also to many animals threatened with extinction. In a large so-called “Pinguinarium” numerous arctic inhabitants live at a pleasant 22 degrees, and in the “Dolphinarium” sea lions put on a spirited show. Sharks can be observed through a 22-metre-long glass tunnel.
Puerto de la Cruz – bathing world between the Atlantic and the promenade
If you want to take a break from the tourist crowds in the lively capital Puerto de la Cruz, we recommend the short walk to the botanical garden. It was already conceived two hundred years ago and originally served the purpose of “acclimatizing” tropical plants from Central and South America. Afterwards they should be able to overwinter on the Spanish mainland. An attempt that failed. But the exotic variety remained in the mild climate on Tenerife and today delights guests from all over the world.
If you have never seen a liverwurst tree, you will find one here. Puerto de la Cruz also has a gigantic bathing world. The Lago Martiánez between the Atlantic Ocean and the promenade was designed by César Manrique, the gifted artist from Lanzarote. Inside the swimming pool, a casino opens its doors in the evening.