Tenerife, the biggest of the Canary Islands, basks in sun all year round. It’s traditionally popular with holidaymakers who want a fly and flop thanks to its beaches and striking volcanic scenery.
However, Tenerife offers a host of distractions for the active and is an ideal island to try out a new thrill-seeking activity – whether in the air, in the water or on the ground.
Cycling on mountainous Tenerife is all about climbing and you need to be fit to cope with the altitude and gruelling slopes of the towering Mt Teide. The scenery on the island varies from the lush, subtropical north with mountains and steep gorges, to the more arid south with wide roads and fine sea views. The relentless ascent from sea level up Mt Teide, where you can ride from zero to 2100m (6889ft) in just 35km (just under 22 miles) is for the fittest cyclists – including professional national and international teams who train here in winter.
Floating over Tenerife’s dramatic scenery, strapped to a professional paragliding pilot, gives you a wonderful perspective on the surrounding scenery – as well as a real thrill. Flights normally last 20- 30 minutes and you can take off at about 40 different points around the island.
No experience is required and there is no age limit, though you do need to be able to run for a short distance for launch and landing, depending on the location. Flights rely on the right weather conditions and safety is always put first. www.enminubeparapente.com
Wrecks, reefs, deep waters and diversity of ocean life have made Tenerife a popular island for scuba diving. Green turtles, rays, parrot fish, moray eels, sea horses and angel sharks are among the marine species in Tenerife’s waters. Diving centres around the island cater for all abilities, including absolute beginners. Ocean Friends (oceanfriendsdiving.com) offer a diving baptism always in a small group with a maximum of two per instructor. After learning a few fundamental skills and hand signals, novices are taken by dinghy to inshore waters for an introductory dive – at a maximum depth of 12 metres (39ft). The instructor is in charge of handling all the equipment so all you need to is breathe steadily through the regulator and remember to swim with your flippers – and not your arms!
Tenerife is one of the world’s best spots for all-year whale-watching. The clear, warm waters between Tenerife and La Gomera are feeding grounds for both resident and migratory species.
Half-day catamaran trips, with snacks and drinks on board, depart all year round from Puerta Colón, Puerta de Los Cristianos or Puerto de los Gigantes. Pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins can be seen all year round and there is nothing to beat the excitement of encountering these sociable creatures, often right up close to your boat.
Teide National Park
Rising above the clouds is majestic Mount Teide, which at 3715m (12,188ft) is the world’s third-largest volcanic structure and the highest mountain in Spain. All around it are bizarre and fascinating volcanic landscapes with weird rock formations and hardened lava flows. Reaching the summit of El Teide by foot is not for the faint-hearted (see Hiking below) but a cable car can whisk you up in seven minutes to within 200m (656ft) of the peak. A trip to El Teide is justifiably the most popular attraction on the island and there are day and evening tours available from most resorts on Tenerife.
Alternatively, you can go independently by car. Take warm clothing whatever the time of year. In winter temperatures can drop below freezing and even in summer it can be very cold.
Hikers are spoilt for choice with trails through majestic mountains, deep valleys and spectacular volcanic landscapes. The steep ascent to the peak of the Mount Teide is a serious challenge, taking 6-7 hours and requiring plenty of stamina – as well as a permit (www.reservasparquesnacionales.es).
Less challenging are the lunar-landscape walks around the volcano. There are over 20 waymarked trails in the Teide National Park. The favourite mountain region for hiking is the beautiful Anaga Massif, with its steep-wooded slopes, ravines and fine sea views along the cliffs. Popular too is the Teno Massif with its dramatic green mountains and rocky landscapes.
Windsurfing & Kitesurfing
The coastal offshore shallows at El Médano in the southeast are the favourite haunt of serious windsurfers and kitesurfers. Swept by the alisios, the strong prevailing trade winds, the bay enjoys over 300 windy days a year and regularly hosts international windsurfing championships. It is a huge sweep of beach, with windsurfers and kitesurfers congregating at the western end with the biggest waves. You can hire gear, take lessons or chill out with the surfing crowd at one of the beach cafés.
Spas and Wellness Centres
There is nothing more gratifying after a day of adrenalin-fuelled pursuits than a soothing massage or a dip in a whirlpool tub. Many of Tenerife’s high-end hotels offer sleek spas and fitness facilities which are normally open to the public for a fee. One of the most inviting is the Oriental Spa Garden of the Hotel Botánico (see Hotel Review), set amid Asian-themed gardens and offering the latest techniques and treatments.
A great hit with families, this Thai-themed water kingdom (ww.siampark.net) spreads over 14 ha (34 acres) and boasts state-of-the-art aquatic attractions set within exotic gardens. Expect temples, dragons, and alligators along the way and for a real adrenalin rush head for the Tower of Power with a 28m (90ft) drop climaxing in an aquarium of sharks and rays.
Surfers can enjoy the wave palace with 3m (10ft)-high manmade waves, while sunbathers can relax on loungers on the manmade beach, with white sands from Portugal.
Tenerife is a great place to observe the stars thanks to low light pollution, clarity of night skies and high altitude points. Companies offer special guided night visits to view the glorious sunset from El Teide, taste Canarian cuisine and Tenerife wines, followed by stargazing with guides through long- range telescopes from high up on El Teide.
Where to Stay