Why there is more to Tenerife than great beaches

If you’re after sun, sand and sea, Tenerife’s a great place to choose for a holiday. Beach breaks here are really popular, but there’s actually a lot more to do than just lie on the shore. Water sports, national parks and vibrant carnivals are just some of the things you can look forward to.

So, I think it’s a bit of a shame that Tenerife holidays seem to be largely dedicated to lazing on the sand and working on your tan. Here are some of the key reasons I think there’s more to Tenerife than this:

Carnaval

Anywhere that hosts such an amazing carnival as the Carnaval in Santa Cruz immediately has far more to offer travellers than beaches alone. In fact, there are plenty of people who think the festivities here – which are generally held for around three weeks in February – rival the famous Rio de Janeiro Carnival. Praise indeed!

During the festivities, Santa Cruz pretty much becomes a city of 24-hour partying. There’s everything from costume competitions to gala performances to see, so expect a riot of colour and noise. One word of warning though: if you want to stay in the city around the time of the carnival, you really do need to book as far in advance as possible.

The attractions of Santa Cruz

During the rest of the year, Santa Cruz is hardly devoid of attractions – particularly if you want to experience something of the local culture or get to grips with the island’s history. Should the latter take your fancy, get yourself over to the Ingelsia de Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion – a bit of a mouthful, I know.

This is the city’s oldest church, and what’s really interesting about it is that if you take a look at the silver altar you’ll see the Santa Cruz de la Conquista (which roughly translates as the Holy Cross of the Conquest). Sound familiar? It should, since it’s what gave the city its name.

It’s also worth checking out the city’s markets, like the Mercado de Nuestra Senora de Africa. This relatively small market is a great place to buy local produce – particularly things like fruit, breads and cheeses – and has an interesting Central American vibe.

Its volcanic landscape

Forget the dreamy sight of Tenerife’s beaches for a moment. The island’s volcanic landscape, which is best seen in Teide National Park, is equally deserving of your attention – especially since Mount Teide is the largest peak in Spain (3,718 m).

It’s well worth ascending this dormant volcano, and you can opt to do so either via cable car or, if you’re a bit more energetic, on foot. Cable car services run daily between 9:00 and 16:00 local time (except in really bad weather, when you probably wouldn’t want to go up anyway!) to a viewing point called La Rambleta.

Alternatively, you can hike up in the company of a guide (there are tours available in English, which is handy if your Spanish isn’t so hot) from either the visitors’ centre at Canada Blanca or El Portillo. Usually, the walk will take around two hours and there are plenty of short rest stops, so as long as you’re reasonably fit the ascent shouldn’t prove too much of a challenge. Plus, you get some great views from the top! You can even see out to neighbouring islands like La Gomera.

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