Europe / Spain

Tenerife. How to own an island?

I still remember that day on a bus to my summer camp in Solina (Poland) when my friend said that she was going to Canary Islands with her parents. I do remember it very well. I was well-jell! I envied her so much! As a child, I never had a chance to travel abroad – we never had money for that. I wasn’t even sure where are those islands, but it didn’t really matter. It sounded so exotic and adventurous to me that for the next 15 years Canary Islands lived in my head as a synonym of the perfect vacation. More that a decade (and over 30 countries on my list) later I learnt that all that glitter is no gold and Canary Islands are everything but paradise lost. Oh dear, she is moaning again! – you’ll say. Yes I do! But don’t blame me for not falling in love with the islands. Don’t judge this post by it’s slightly misleading introduction. I enjoyed my short break on Tenerife a lot. At the end of the day a trip is what YOU make of it so make the most of it! Find out how to own an island. It’s not that hard, I promised. Money investments can sometimes leave you with nothing. I assure you, this time, it’s not the case.

One of many rocky beaches in the south part of the island.

My unconditional love of sunbathing is constantly growing since I moved to London. It’s been almost 4 years. Blue skies is something very rare in England in general, so I am asking myself – how can I survive with no light? Lack of vitamin D apparently can cause a severe depression. February is usually my most depressive month so well in advance I start desperately seeking for a remedy. What is the best remedy when you feel down? Travelling of course! I tend to cure my winter blues with 3 “s”. S for Sun, S for Sand, S for Sea. Simple as it is. Where would you go in February in Europe? 3 years ago we went to Sicily, but it was raining almost every day – it didn’t really matter only because we spent most of our time discovering the secrets of the divine Italian cuisine. 2 years ago we chose Tenerife and now, AFTER YEARS I want to take you on a short trip to Canary Islands. I take the blame – it took me ages to post it, but some things has to grow on you.

Let’s be honest. You won’t say that Tenerife and Canary Islands in general (I had a chance to visit Lanzarote and Fuerteventura as well but it’s a long story for another post) are especially beautiful. Show me your true colours and I will tell you who you really are. Tenerife is red and yellow (Lanzarote on the other hand is black and green) – it’s not lush, it’s… more like a desert. We went to the south of the island, it’s less rainy but the price they have to pay for that unlimited stream of UVA and UVB is the sandy, arid and not very exciting landscape. 

Little seaside towns are full of tourists and they don’t appeal to me at all. On the other hand in the north part of the island, even though it rains more often, you can find a way more interesting nature. The capital of the island – Santa Cruz de Tenerife is also worth visiting especially if you are coming during the Carnival. It’s probably the best time to visit Canary Islands and learn about the local customs by taking part in one of the parades or crazy parties. Apparently it can get really wild – men run in heels, fish fly… I say “apparently” because we never really got there – I am telling you what I heard from a Polish couple we met in our hostel. If only we had a car to go around the island!

The landscape in the south of the island is not very exciting.

One thing I find truly annoying about the islands is that you really need a car to fully enjoy your holiday. If you, or your fellow traveler, don’t have a driving license you are screwed. Well, not totally screwed because technically you can always hitch-hike, rent a bike or train yourself to be a race-walker, considering you have more than just 5 days to do so. 🙂 We didn’t know that the local buses, so called guaguas, aren’t the most punctual creatures and where the hell is the timetable?! So this is how we got grounded in our hostel miles away from the civilization – believe me or not the closest restaurant was like 3 km from it (obviously there was no such information on the website!). Fortunately the devil is never as black as it is painted – we found an amazing place to eat in Los Abrigos so we ended up having a real feast there every single night. I say “feast” and I mean it. I was so thankful for that 3 km walk after our dinner, even though we had to literally roll each other back to our hostel. Life can’t get any better than this! 😉

My faveourite thing to do when I am abroad is EATING OUT (I’m not the only one, am I?) so now we smoothly change the subject to talk a little about the food on Canary Islands. In brief – it is good, it is tasty. Could it be fancier? Probably, but I do believe that the simplest things are the best. I always laugh at myself because I really LOVE potatoes and the signature dish of Canarian cuisine is “papas arrugadas” – wrinkled potatoes. Give me more carbs! Now!!

Papas arrugadas is a traditional boiled potato dish usually served with two types of salsa a chili pepper garlic sauce, called mojo rojo, or a green sauce with corriander – mojo verde. The dish is made from small new potatoes which are cleaned (but not peeled), then boiled in salt water. During the process their skin shrinks, hence the name “arrugadas” in English means “wrinkled”. That dish will always remind me of Canary Islands. Apart from papas you can also eat a lot of fresh sea food which is always nice, but not worth writing a lot about it as it’s a thing to do in each Mediterranean country.

Beautiful Canarian sunset while we were on a trek to the closest restaurant. 🙂 
Pico de Teide graffiti – the volcano is undoubtedly the highlight of the island.

Lack of a car didn’t ruin our time in Tenerife – in fact we didn’t even want to do all that tourist stuff (and honestly there is not much to see there either). We went to Tenerife, because of one BIG thing – Teide, a dormant volcano, the highest peak in Spain. Plus the fact that it’s a good spot for surfing. Climbing a volcano was something that I always wanted to do especially after our trip to Sicily 3 years ago. We planned to climb Etna but due to extremely bad weather we couldn’t even leave our hotel, not to mention trekking an active volcano! I was a bit concerned when we landed in Tenerife as it was super windy, but we were lucky! You can easily organize your trek by yourself, we decided to go with a guide. Today I think it was a bit posh of us as it worked out quite expensive. Climbing Teide is fairly easy. Sweaty, for sure, but even someone who is not a crazy fitness freak could do it – we had a retired couple in our group and they also managed to do it. Just take your time climbing and no problemo. One very irritating thing during the trek was the cold wind not letting us enjoy the views. It’s a real shame as they were simply SPECTACULAR!

It’s like being on a different planet. A desert planet. You walk a mile and you barely see another human beings. Most of people prefer to take a cable car to the top of the mountain, but when the weather sucks we are in the winning team. You can climb almost always, hardly ever the weather gets too bad to do it, but when it’s too windy they always cancel the cable car and you are screwed losing the only chance to enjoy the best thing about Tenerife. We spend a night in a thousand-stars refuge (the sky was so beautiful at night) on the upper slopes of a bare volcano and in the early morning, still in the darkness, we are led by the pale illumination of our head torches towards the top, a more than two-hour stumbling slog away, one foot after the other. We get to the summit before the sunrise and soon we can enjoy a beautiful spectacle of colours. It is one of the best views you can ever see and we could just stay there speechless, admiring the beauty of the surrounding nature if it hasn’t been for that overwhelming smell of rotten eggs! Sulfur dioxide – the breath from hell itself!

Forgive Tenerife for being a paradise for retired Germans wearing sandals with socks! Break the bad fame and give it a go and get a new and honestly quite stunning perspective on Spain from the summit of Teide! I do believe that Tenerife is the best place to go for a winter break. The weather, the food, the challenge – it has it all! I am also convinced that I would be far from liking it so much if it hasn’t been for Teide. That trek changed the way I see the island now. On the summit I felt like I owned it! Just imagine a fluffy bed of clouds and a streak of orange light slowly expanded into a margin and then a page and finally the full glorious story of daybreak and you will immediately get what I am talking about. One of the best things in life. Spice your time up with kite or surf classes and you will find out that Tenerife, although not quite exotic as it seems, it’s totally worth visiting!

Ready, steady, go! Wrap us as in February it’s still quiet cold during the trek. 
Hating people? Afraid of crowds? This is definitely the place of your dreams! 🙂
Our small group on the way to the summit. 
On the slopes of Pico del Teide there is a wondrous sight to behold; big round rocks nicknamed Teide Eggs. These can be seen from the high slopes of the neighbouring mountains.
Hard at times due to very strong wind, I think it’s quite an easy trek – especially comparing to other treks we’ve done (Colca Canyon in Peru was a killer!).
Our trail snakes through a brightly coloured landscape dotted with volcanic boulders and stark lava fields. It’s beautiful!
Kill me! I did say before that the landscape on the island is not exciting at all and I meant it… until I got to that point and I was like WOW – don’t judge the book by its cover.
You can spot the famed Teide shadow dominates the horizon. It is however early in the morning when it gets really beautiful.
Looking at our pics from Tenerife I am just amazed how beautiful it was and although I still think it’s not the most exciting place on Earth I am sure that after climbing Teide many of you will fall in love with the island.
Spending an evening on the shoulders of Teide ensures we catch the magnificent sunset.
Altavista refuge.
An early start the following morning allows us to stand on the highest point on the island, 3718m as the sun rises  – a truly memorable experience!
The trek was worth every muscle ache. Having said that, I’m quite happy to file it in the ‘once only’ experiences box!
Enjoying the views and the smell of the Sulphur on the summit. Lovely rotten eggs!
The adventure is over. 🙁
This is the cable car – but it does look like a little house in the clouds.
Me and Pico de Teide – one big reason to visit Tenerife. Challenge yourself!