Visited by millions annually, Tenerife is often pigeon-holed as a cheery sun, sand and sea destination for northern Europeans escaping dreary winters. Whilst Tenerife’s resorts provide all the facilities designed to ensure holidaymakers enjoy a good time, its cities, historic towns and rural villages have a thriving culture that is as closely linked to South America as it is Spain. Subsequently Tenerife has much to offer culture seekers as it does those simply looking to top up the tans.

Take time out from the beach to explore Teide National Park’s extraterrestrial landscape and the lush ancient forests that carpet northern slopes. Tread the cobbles of colonial towns steeped in history and scale vertiginous paths in remote rural beauty spots where life continues much as it has done for centuries. Get an adrenalin rush on Siam Park’s extreme water rides then compare it with nature’s version in Garachico’s rock pools. For the ultimate chill-out experience, end the day watching the sun set from atop Spain‘s highest mountain.

Tenerife is an island of contrasts and a land of two sides, an arid south and a lush north. Take in cities with a mix of modern and historic quarters or agricultural hamlets where crops are still tended by hand. Within an hour’s drive experience sweeping ancient forests and purpose-built vacation resorts featuring modern theme parks. Lie back on golden man-made beaches or volcanic black sand. And discover warm seas teeming with marine life including a resident population of whales and dolphins.

The hamlet of Masca is Tenerife’s most famous beauty spot and sits nestled between looming cliffs and narrow ravines. Getting to Masca is an adventure in itself. The narrow, winding access road has proved too hairy a prospect for some visitors. Despite the roller-coaster approach, Masca is packed with tourists throughout the day, many deposited from small coaches and jeep safaris. But its steep, cobbled paths deter most from straying too far from the picture-postcard centre. Walk a couple of hundred yards to Lomo de Masca to escape the crowds and soak up the solitary atmosphere of this magical spot.

Across most of Tenerife, traditional menus offer simply prepared, grilled meat and fish dishes with rabbit stew and parrot fish being particular favorites. In the hills, hearty broths called pucheros are ideal for keeping the chills away. The bigger southern resorts cater more for multi-national visitors with restaurants mainly offering international fare rather than Spanish or Canarian, and dining options range from cheap burger joints to sophisticated eateries. Tenerife’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife  is the best location for sampling imaginative local cuisine in ultra stylish restaurants.

Many Canarians have only relatively recently started spending on non-essential items. Consequently lots of shiny, modern shopping centers, filled with fashion outlets, have sprung up over the last few years. Canarians dress to the seasons, wearing winter fashions when visitors are still sporting shorts and T-shirts. With fashion shops aplenty, clothes are a good purchase. Tenerife’s numerous farmer’s markets are wonderful for a nosey around and are the best places to pick up local wines, cheeses, honey and sauces at cheaper prices than those in supermarkets.

With hundreds of live music venues, clubs, theatres and jazz, blues, rock and Latino concerts as well as numerous fiestas throughout the year, Tenerife has a vibrant and varied nocturnal scene. Entertainment in southern resorts is generally aimed at British visitors, and cabaret bands and clubs play music familiar to British ears. Outside of the resorts, live music has a Spanish/Latino influence with La Laguna, Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife all waking up after midnight. For more refined entertainment, Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the cultural capital of Tenerife.

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