Thursday, May 7, 2009

Tenerife, the Canary Islands

Tenerife is one of the best holiday destinations for a bit of winter sun. The Canary Islands, off the North West coast of Africa, have year long sunshine and high temperatures, because they are near the equator there are no distinct seasons. In December/January, temperatures average 20˚C and around 28˚C in August. Cheap package deals have made holidays here hugely popular all year round, combined with just a 4 hour flight and you are onto a winner. Being a Spanish island the locals speak Spanish but most know some English so you should be able to get by, if not the obligatory comedy tourist hand signals should do the trick.

There are several main resorts in Tenerife. The first is near the airport in the South of the island, and is split into 3 areas, Los Cristianos, Las Americas and the Costa Adeje. This large resort attracts most of Tenerifes tourists, as the South gets the best weather and has nicer beaches than the North. Tenerife is a volcano and as a result it tends to be rainier and cooler in the North due to the winds, however it is windier (but sunnier) in the South. There is plenty to do in this area - a newly opened waterpark, Siam Park, is one of the main attractions and is much more impressive than anything found back in the UK. There are also a lot of tour operators that specialise in dolphin and whale watching.

The main disadvantage of Los Cristianos etc. is that 18-30's flock there on lads holidays, and as a result the area has become slightly tacky. Drinks offers can be found in force, with a large array of bars and clubs perfect for youngsters. Gary Lineker's brother even owns a bar here and is one of the top draws come sunset - the creatively named Lineker's Bar.

The North of the island is slightly less developed, including Puerto de la Cruz. The town has a couple of OK black sand beaches - the main attraction here is Loro Parque, an impressive zoo which also has live dolphin, sealion and killer whale shows, well worth a visit no matter what your age.

I would recommend getting a hire car if you wanted to explore the island, the best beaches are out of the tourist hotspots - for example Playa las Teresitas, just east of the capital, Santa Cruz (see photo below). Although the beach is artificial, it has white sand (imported from the Sahara) unlike the natural Tenerife beaches and is probably the best beach on the island, and rarely gets crowded.

Overall Tenerife has alot to offer - a trip up to the top of Mount Teide is a must as well - and is definitely one of the best holiday destinations for some winter (or summer) sun.

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