I don’t know about you, but this dark and dull weather is really starting to get me down now. Christmas lights and merriment only offer a brief respite to what is essentially a pretty dreary time in January. Now the festive season is out of the way I can’t help but wish the year away so that I can see daylight and feel sunshine again! My body needs vitamin D dammit! My longing for warmer days is getting so strong that it’s inevitable I’ve been starting to think about booking another holiday, and of course nothing makes you yearn for a holiday more than thinking about your last one! So because I like to torture myself, I thought I’d take a trip down memory lane and tell you all about my favourite day from our last trip, 10 days in sunny Tenerife last Autumn.
As I’ve mentioned before, Dan and I are a great match when it comes to holidays, because we both like to have the perfect balance of plenty of R&R while still having a few fun things to do and plenty of time to explore, and our favourite way of doing this is to hire a car and go and explore the country on our own. Of course, any holiday resort usually has guided tours and package trips on offer, but we really like to go off the beaten track a little and experience some of the ‘real’ country rather than fight other tourists for the best pictures or views! Luckily for us, we struck gold with the very first tour operator we spoke to – we’d actually stopped by to book a boat trip for another day, but we noticed he also hired cars, and before we knew it he’d planned us the perfect travel route complete with recommended timings and restaurant recommendations! His advice was invaluable to us, and he really helped us get the most out of our day on the road, so I cannot recommend highly enough taking the time to chat to some locals about your plans rather than just going with the standard trips.
Our first stop was Los Gigantes! This wasn’t actually one of the stops he’d suggested, but we’d read there were amazing views to be seen and it only took us off route by about 20 minutes, so we decided to take a quick pit stop to grab a few photos on our way. The town’s name literally means ‘The Giants’ and refers to the huge 800 metre cliffs that loom over the bay. We only stopped for a few moments, but as you can see, the views were well worth the detour!
Next up we hit the road to head north of the island via El Teide National Park. El Teide is Spain’s highest summit and one of the world’s tallest volcanoes, which sits surrounded by utterly stunning and surreal scenery in it’s own National Park. The incline is so gradual that to be honest I couldn’t tell you when we officially entered the grounds. One moment we were driving through a beautiful pine forest, admiring the sunlight shining through the trees and the occasional sea view, then suddenly we realised that we had slowly inched above cloud level! And the surprises just kept coming – we transitioned seamlessly from pine forest to desert, and were completely in awe of all the fascinating rock formations, which reminded me almost of a scene from a Wild West movie. We took a few stops to grab some photos of the peak itself and the surrounding landscape, and for a few moments I felt like a bit of a wally in my sundress and sandals – firstly, despite the blazing sunshine it’s blinking freezing on top of a mountain, in case you didn’t know! I also stood out a little in amongst what clearly were hoards of serious walkers in their very sensible gear, but hey, I’ve over dressed for occasions all my life – why stop now? We moved on and found ourselves in the most surreal combination of white sand and black volcanic rocks. The only way I can really describe it is that it felt like how I imagine the moon to be – just completely alien and like nothing I’d ever seen before! All too soon were were driving back down through the clouds and pine forests, ready for the next stage of our trip, but it was certainly memorable, and being completely free, something I’d recommend you do if you’re ever on the island. For more serious hikers there are walks that can be done, and even cable cars to the summit of El Teide, but we weren’t quite brave enough for that this time (also – the sundress and sandals again..!!)
By this stage we were starting to get a bit peckish, so we stopped off in the northern town of Puerto de la Cruz, a charming port with numerous beaches and attractions. As it was just for a refuel we didn’t stay too long and simply had a wander around the streets, admiring the views and marvelling at the paragliders float down from the cliffs above us. We stopped for a delicious lunch – complete with local canarian potatoes and mojo sauce which we’d started to become a little obsessed with by this point – and then popped by to visit one of their more famous beaches, Playa Jardin. Like many beaches on the Canaries, this one is home to black volcanic sand, but this one also features a beautiful botanical garden full of tropical plants and the contrast of bright colours with the black sand is just stunning – well worth a visit for a bit of a change to your usual day on the beach!
The next stop was one of my favorites – we drove West along the coast to the tiny town of Garachico. Here we’d been promised ‘natural pools’ and I wasn’t sure whether that meant rock pools or swimming pools – turns out it was both! Here, due to the volcanic formation of the island, the coast is littered with rock pools in which intricate walkways have been created so you can meander round inspecting the pools for critters (warning: there are crabs a-plenty which was a bit of a downer for me because crabs are essentially giant spiders with body armour on as far as I’m concerned…so ick). It was late afternoon when we arrived and it was truly beautiful in the low sunshine, though the tide was coming in fast and we only narrowly avoided a drenching a few times due to the crashing waves! I’d actually have loved to have stayed a bit longer and had a swim in the huge natural swimming pools we came across at the end of the promenade, but the water was getting a little too rough by then, and we were under strict instructions that we should be leaving by 5pm so that we could catch the sunset on the final leg of our trip so off we went, though I could have happily stayed for hours. There was something really nostalgic about it that reminded me of exploring caves and rock pools with my Grandad as a child and it was a really special part of the day.
Finally we began the journey back to Playa de las Americas, via the tiny village of Masca. I knew absolutely zero of Masca, other than that we’d been told we absolutely must see it at sunset, so I had no idea what to expect, particularly when I read that it was so small it only had 90 inhabitants, but we quickly came to realise that people don’t really come here to visit the village. It sits 650m up amidst the Macizo de Teno mountains and is surrounded by the most breathtaking scenes of deep ravines, lush green palm forests and tiny houses perched on top of sheer rock faces that look almost unbelievable. As we drove the long and winding road, full of steep inclines and hairpin bends, stopping here and there to capture some photos, I honestly couldn’t quite catch my breath. The advice to be here at sunset was invaluable as seeing the sun slowly dip behind the last peak as we reached the end of the trip was honestly one of the most incredible sights I’ve been lucky enough to see. I think you can see by the looks on our faces that we almost couldn’t quite believe where we were! It’s a tricky drive that isn’t for the fainthearted (and our little Fiat hire car found it a bit of a challenge!) but I cannot stress enough how much I recommend you take this trip if you ever visit – again, it is completely free and something you will remember for a very long time!
All in all I was completely in awe of the beautiful things we got to see that day – the changing terrain was incredible and we felt as though we’d crossed a couple of continents in one short day. I have to say I was a little surprised, because until this point, while we were having a wonderful holiday, all we’d really seen of Tenerife was the classic Anglicised tourist resorts, so it just goes to show what treats are out there if you’re willing to explore a little!