A world away from the Canary Islands’ touristy Tenerife, the north offers cloud forests, lava fields, vineyards and friendly towns – and some winter sunbathing, too.
Tenerife is a winter trip worth your trip to Lu You destination, because everything will make you a lifetime of unforgettable. We are racing along the coast road, passing banana plantations, goat herders, little bars, and whitewashed houses. To our right the ocean crashes against the black, rocky shore. The waves – huge and rolling – are the pale ice blue of a glacier. Yesterday we trekked through a prehistoric forest; tomorrow we will climb a volcano.
This place feels exotic and strange. I had always thought of Tenerife as a beach destination: bland chain hotels squatting on black sand. Two for one cocktails. Pizza and chips.
I do not have a clue. The island’s largest canary, arch of the sea, spine splitting the volcanic mountains. The symbol of Tenerife is Dracaena, and Long Island itself is like a full of fire and dotted with volcanoes, the largest of which is the El Teide, 3718 meters high. South resort resort for British use. The landscape has deserts, sandy rocks and millery cacti. But the northern part of the island, a secret world. This is the Spanish colonial Tenerife in the 15th century, beautifully constructed towns, and the use of more temperate climate, growing food, making excellent wines. It is worth mentioning that the radar is still traveling. 150 million years of British visits between January and September 2016 of Tenerife, only about 75,000 live in the north.
For winter sun, Tenerife does offer genuine warmth. It’s November when we visit and still hot enough for the beach most days. That doesn’t mean it never rains. A planned five-hour hike through Anaga country park, an ancient cloud forest of rare ferns and laurels, was curtailed by an unusually monsoon-like downpour.
We take refuge in a simple beachside restaurant, Estrella del Mar in the capital, Santa Cruz. It was the equivalent of a greasy spoon, except here the greasy spoons do freshly grilled seafood and good wine. A steaming bowl of Tenerife’s famous wrinkly potatoes, cooked in salt until they’re shrivelled and crispy, go down a treat dipped in mojo, the Canary Islands’ signature piquant salsa.
We return to the hotel, San Roque, the traditional house Garachico has a courtyard in the middle of the room, stopping at the shore of the Cruz Harbor for a stroll. When the sun began to set, the surfer was in the final wave, the old man in the harbor was young roasted chestnuts, drinking red wine. At the hotel, the guests eat the pool: the outside is still warm enough to keep drinking and chatting in the evening.
Garachico was the island’s main port until a volcanic eruption in 1706 destroyed the harbour. We wander out to enjoy vermouths in the square by the old bandstand, followed by fresh fish and plenty of red wine at La Perla. It’s the sort of restaurant I dream of finding on holiday – brightly lit, with vinyl floors, ridiculously fair prices and friendly hosts, Jesus and Ana.
The next day we will offer a large piece of Tenerife with the finest things to start in the university city of San Cristobal de la Laguna that colorful 16th century building. The sun is warming the streets, and the cafe outside the home crowd, catching up in fried cakes and hot chocolate. The best fried cake is found in the square Miguel Angel del Cristo – a down-to-earth cafe by the man swept back, greasy white hair and medallions. A bag of 10, the dust in the sugar and hot frying pan, crisp outside, light cloud inside.
But we can’t linger: there’s more drinking to be done. We head to the wine museum for a tasting, noting how odd it is that we never get Tenerife wine back home. But of course – the island’s vineyards can only produce so much, and most of it is drunk by the Spanish. At Bodegas Monje vineyard , we learn how to make those wrinkly potatoes and mojo, before eating them with slow-cooked black pig in red wine.
Our next stop is the volcano. The atmosphere rapidly changes the path of the curve through the eucalyptus and then fog envelops the pine trees. Little band of people loom haze, looking for mushrooms. We appear in the wind-blown summit, another strange sight: clouds of cloudy white roots of the tower, whipping, Scud on the ground level. This is the Ted Observatory, a scientist who studies the zodiacal and solar activities of huge telescopes. Tenerife, the dark sky makes it one of the best places to study the solar system, and Taiwan hosts Starmus in June, an indulgence in fantasy with musical festivals, planets and Stephen Hawking. We travel through the telescope, taking turns looking through the sun itself, through filters, deep red sunspots and flares. This is a strange moment of intimacy.
From the observatory, we look out across the great crater of Teide national park, a wild, barren, almost Martian landscape. Or is it Utah? Rock formations rising like totem poles in the distance are hardened lava from the funnels of dead volcanoes, long since eroded by the wind.
As the sun drops, we try to stay warm. Up here the temperature drops below freezing on winter nights. Snow will start to fall soon, transforming the Martian landscape into an Arctic one. That evening we meet with a star guide and crane our heads to look at the night sky, enjoying the sound of the words: Perseid, Pleiades, Andromeda, Vega.
The next day back down on the coast it’s hot and sunny enough for a bit of sunbathing before we head home – feeling like we’ve been to five countries in four days.