Tenerife: Lava Loving in the Canary IslandsOn April 26, 2019 by admin
Okay, I admit it. I can, on occasion, be a bit of a travel snob. Whenever I’ve considered the Canary Islands as a destination in the past, I’ve always imagined them to be full of concrete resorts swamped by drunken Brits turning a nice shade of lobster-red as they pretend to keep an eye on their kids by the pool, before chowing down on a Sunday roast and retiring to an Irish bar for the evening. See, I told you. Snob.
The thing is, a large part of exploring the world is keeping an open mind. Which is why, a few weeks before Easter, I found myself saying to Global Gran, “Fancy a week in Tenerife?” That and the fact that it had felt like a really long, cold winter and we were all in need of some sunshine.
We booked a two-bedroom suite at the Flamingo Beach Mate hotel in Costa Adeje on the south coast (mainly because Global Gran liked the name) and flew the 4 hours from Birmingham to Tenerife South.
We hired a car so we could explore beyond the resort without having to rely on buses, and upon arrival dumped our stuff and headed straight for the beach.
Well, parts of Costa Adeje were made of concrete, but these were adjacent to beautiful sandy beaches and sparkling turquoise waters. And yes, it was full of Brits, but in a fun, laid-back kind of way. Most were just there to relax and enjoy the sunshine (which doesn’t always come out, as Tenerife gets a lot of cloud).
For the first couple of days we kept to the resort, playing in the sea, practising our mini-golf and eating lunch at McDonald’s. For some reason, the Kid Explorers always get excited when they see a Maccy D’s abroad and this one was right on the beach!
Puerto Colon and Playa de Torviscas are both lovely beaches with loungers and umbrellas available at a small cost, but we did become increasingly irritated by the number of hawkers pestering us to buy everything from sunglasses and scarves to slices of fruit. One woman was determined to braid my hair, so I gave her a lecture on personal space – in English because of course the only useful phrases I know in Spanish are buenos dias (good morning) and estoy enferma (I’m sick). I made a mental note to look up the Spanish equivalent of ‘bugger off!’ for next time.
Then, disaster struck.
Kid Explorer #1 was in the hotel swimming pool when he cut his foot on a loose tile. Although it bled pretty badly and the terrace was left looking like a scene from a horror movie, thankfully he didn’t need any stitches. He would, however, need to keep it dry and sand-free for a few days – just what you want on a beach holiday! The hotel staff, it has to be said, were pretty useless (except for the girl on lifeguard duty), and we found out later from another family that their son had injured his foot in exactly the same way the previous day.
They did at least tape off the pool the following morning and perform a cursory examination before declaring it safe, although how they fixed a broken tile without draining the water is beyond me. When we walked past that evening it was open again. A couple of young kids were sitting on the side playing with the loose mosaics.
Kid Explorer #1 was pretty upset about not being able to go back on the beach with his foot in a bandage. That is, until he found out there was a real live volcano to visit. So off we went to El Teide.
And we were completely blown away.
I had no idea that El Teide National Park would be so utterly spectacular. Driving the route from Arona up past Vilaflor, the highest village in Tenerife, the countryside became greener. As we neared the towering peak of El Teide itself, the trees gave way to a lunar-like landscape of lava fields and incredible rock formations known as the Roques de García.
We didn’t take the cable car up to the top of El Teide because the queue was at least a mile and a half long, and anyway we were already bowled over by the view we had of the caldera and pinnacles.
Back at the hotel, Kid Explorer #2 made friends with one of the many cats wandering around. He seemed to be a regular at the lifeguard hut, arriving there every morning for a little treat. We named him Moggycat and I just knew there were going to be tears when it was time to leave.
I’d read before our trip that Icod de los Vinos in the northwest part of the island is home to the oldest and largest living specimen of a Dracaena draco – or Dragon Tree. I got a fit in my head about seeing it, so the next day we trundled off to find it, stopping at Santiago del Teide along the way to view the impressive Los Gigantes cliffs. Global Gran enjoyed her 20th cup of tea that day at the lovely café at the Mirador Archipenque lookout while we cooled down with ice-creams.
Driving into Icod was more than I had bargained for. While the narrow cobbled streets were shady and charming, they were a nightmare of downhill, one-way confusion, and the few signs we saw for parking appeared to lead nowhere remotely resembling a car park.
We kept seeing pictures of the dragon tree plastered to the side of buildings and I would squeal every time I saw one and shout, excitedly, “It’s down there, it’s down there,” which the Kid Explorers seemed to find hilarious. They couldn’t understand my obsession with the stupid thing. Eventually, after an hour or so of driving up and down the same winding lanes, I had to admit defeat.
That was when Global Gran piped up, “They sell Dragon Trees in Homebase, you know.”
We stopped at Garachico on the way back, an incredibly pretty town at the bottom of a hill next to a rocky coastline. Among the volcanic rocks were lots of natural sea-water swimming pools, but these were fenced off when we visited and the sea was pretty rough that day anyway. There was also a small 16th-century fortress and a charming square with a gazebo. We learned that most of the town had been destroyed in a volcanic eruption in 1706 but luckily the fortress managed to survive.
We spent our last couple of days visiting the Jungle Park zoo and Aqualand waterpark, which were both great fun. Despite slathering myself in factor 50 suncream, my shoulders went a lovely shade of lobster-red, so I blended in with the other passengers on the flight home. While Kid Explorer #1 was looking forward to showing off his sliced-up foot at school, Kid Explorer #2 said a tearful goodbye to Moggycat and spent the whole of the return journey trying to put on a brave face.
All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. The temperature had hovered around a pleasant 21°C for the entire week and I was glad to have discovered that the island had more to offer than its reputation would suggest. The volcanic landscape was truly fascinating and the parts of the north coast we visited were very scenic.
Hopefully, we’ll return to Tenerife one day to explore a bit more or maybe we’ll check out the other islands in the archipelago. In the meantime, Global Gran and I are off to Homebase to buy a Dragon Tree.