Tenerife is one of the Canary Islands, an autonomous region of Spain located off the north-western coast of Africa. There are seven main islands, all with different characteristics but one thing in common: year round Spring-like weather.
That is one of the main reasons why every year tourists flock to these islands, especially during the long winter months when, while in Europe everyone is freezing, it is possible to swim and enjoy the sunshine in this part of the world.
Being just up to 4 hours flight time away from continental Europe, a holiday to Tenerife is a good alternative to the Caribbean and a lot cheaper with a good choice of hotels, self-catering apartments and villas.
Most people landing at Tenerife Sur Airport in the south of the island, make the short trip to the resorts of Playa de Las Americas and Los Cristianos while visitors arriving at Tenerife Norte Airport, will head to Puerto de la Cruz.
The small fishing village of Los Cristianos has gradually developed into a well established tourist resort, with many bars and restaurants catering for the large number of tourists visiting the area; many of them are regular visitors and, while some have decided to buy holiday homes, a few others made a permanent move here.
Life in Los Cristianos is quieter and more suited to families and the more mature visitors who, prefer to be close to the beach, but away from the hustle and bustle of the neighbouring resort of Playa de Las Americas where, a younger crowd make the most of the night-life options offered when the sun goes down.
In Los Cristianos there are two main beaches: Playa de Los Cristianos, fronting the village and Playa de Las Vistas a short walk away towards Playa de Las Americas; it is reached through a paved boardwalk that connects the two resorts, it is completely step free, providing easy access to families with prams and making life easier for disabled visitors.
And, Tenerife has been at the forefront of a campaign to make sure that everyone visiting the island can do so without worrying of obstacles and difficulties accessing all places, including the beach; an area of the vast Las Vistas beach provides disabled-friendly facilities with lifeguards at hand to help to get in and out of the water.
For tourists not staying in all-inclusive resorts, there are many restaurants offering good value for money with a choice of different options ranging from traditional Canarian cuisine, to Italian, Chinese, Indian and for the homesick British expats and visitors, good and cheap Fish and Chips.
And fish is found in abundance here, often coming straight off the boats that can be seen in Los Cristianos harbour, next to the tourist boats that take people out to watch whales and dolphins, often spotted swimming in these waters.
Another village famous for its fresh fish restaurants is Los Abrigos, a short bus ride away from Los Cristianos. Further along the coast, El Médano is a place favoured by kite-surfers and windsurfers due to the constant breeze present in this area. For panoramic views of the village on one side and La Tejita beach on the other, a short but steep hike on Montaña Roja will give the opportunity to take beautiful pictures.
For people looking for a sophisticated evening out, there are shows in Playa de Las Americas at the theater inside the Piramide de Arona (which also houses the Hard Rock Cafe) and also at Magma Arte & Congresos; showcasing traditional Spanish music and dance, including flamenco, with colourful costumes and elaborate sets, it is an enjoyable night out.
It is easy to be tempted to stay on a sun lounger all day but, it is worth to take a break from the beach to find out what else Tenerife has to offer.
The island can be easily explored by renting a car, using the excellent bus network or joining one of the island tours offering a commentary in a number of languages. A day trip will give the chance to see the main attractions of Tenerife, from the imposing rocks of Los Gigantes to the village of Garachico, famous for its rock pools, Icod de los Vinos home to the legendary Drago Milenario: a Dragon Tree said to be hundreds years old, set in the beautiful surroundings of Plaza de Lorenzo Cáceres; nearby the white church of San Marcos can also be visited.
The small village of Masca, a short drive away, is reached by a long and winding road up a mountain.
Back on the coast, Puerto de la Cruz is the main resort on the north of the island, famous for Lago Martianez, a complex of swimming pools designed by the architect Cesar Manrique and Loro Parque where, young and old, can see gorillas, dolphins, penguins, parrots and the famous killer whales.The small church of San Telmo can also be visited in Puerto de la Cruz
Driving through the nearby Valle de La Orotava (Orotava Valley), the landscape changes with green hills and abundant vegetation due to the rain often seen here between September and May.
La Orotava is the biggest town in the area: a popular stop on the island tour with its steep streets, churches, gardens and the much photographed Casa de Los Balcones.
Near Tenerife North airport is the university town of San Cristobal de La Laguna (commonly known as La Laguna), its historical center has been declare a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is well connected to the capital of the island, Santa Cruz de Tenerife by a frequent tram service.
The station at the end of the tram line in Santa Cruz, is very close to the Auditorium de Tenerife Adan Martin and the bus station. For people planning to spend just a short time in the capital, there is the option of a Hop on Hop off bus tour; it stops at all the main sights in the city, including the indoor market of Nuestra Señora de Africa and Plaza de España.
Leaving Santa Cruz, driving south it is worth to stop to visit Candelaria where, a Basilica with a statue of the Virgin Mary (Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of the Canary Islands), is said to attract up to 2 million pilgrims every year.
The vast square outside the Basilica is adorned with nine statues of the Guanches, kings of pre-Hispanic kingdoms of Tenerife.
A tour around the island shores is a good way to get to see the different sides of Tenerife but, no visit would be completed without climbing to the “roof” of the island: Mount Teide.
At 3718 meters (12200 feet), it is the highest mountain in Spain, a volcano with a 30 miles circumference crater; it can be seen from anywhere on the island and, in winter, it is quite common to be lying on a beach in Playa de Las Americas looking at its snow-covered peak.
A cable car takes visitors near the top but, to access the path to get to the summit, known as Telesforo Bravo Trail, a permit needs to be obtained in advance.
For visitors preferring a less active day, another favourite pastime in Tenerife is shopping! As the Canary Islands are a Duty Free area and outside the EC customs territory, there are bargains available for people thinking of stocking up on cigarettes, spirits, perfumes and electronics; caution should be taken when purchasing cameras or other expensive electronic items especially if a deal sounds too good to be true.
With the right mix of good weather, good facilities, sightseeing, water-sports options, shopping and cheap prices, Tenerife has something for everyone and six other islands waiting to be explored are not too far away including La Gomera, just a 40 minutes ferry ride from the port of Los Cristianos and Gran Canaria, just over an hour away by ferry from the port of Santa Cruz.