Beyond the sunny resorts and beaches; Tenerife’s natural world claims some fabulous attractions on land and sea, right across the island.
Step out of the luxury hotels and Tenerife is full of surprises. Whale watching offers a memorable experience, as does the Teide National Park, which can be explored on a jeep safari or on foot. Walking trails abound, especially around Teide and in the remote far eastern corner of the island, where the Anaga mountains come down to the ocean.
Boat trips are widely available in the southern resorts and there are guided treks, the safe option in more demanding mountain areas.
Natural World in Tenerife: Whale Watching
Twenty-nine species of cetaceans have been recorded in Tenerife’s waters; that’s almost a third of the world’s known species. Boat trips are carefully controlled to ensure their protection and that of green turtles.
By catamaran, sailing yacht, glass bottom boat, or schooner; whale watching trips are successful 90% of the time. Pilot whales are spotted off the south coast, in small groups which may include mother and calf. They measure four to five metres and can weigh over 3000 kg.
There’s also a 50% chance to see dolphins, mostly common or bottlenose. They favour the warm coastal waters near Los Gigantes and often feed close to the fish farms. They are playful, quick to pop in and out of the water, difficult to photograph but delightful to watch.
Top Attraction in Tenerife: Teide and Jeep Safari
The vast Teide National Park is centred around a 48 km caldera where Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain, rises to 3718 metres. It’s an awesome world of old lava flows, dramatic rocks, cones and caves, declared World Heritage site in 2007. Birds include the blue chaffinch, kestrel and canary, and there are 168 species of plants, such as edelweiss and rockrose, 50% endemic to the Canaries.
Two visitor centres offer guided treks, while jeep safaris are available from the resorts, usually including the cable car ride below the summit. Access to the summit requires a special permit, but the paths to the look-out points are open to all. On a clear day, the views stretch to Gran Canaria, La Gomera and El Hierro.
Walking in Tenerife: Anaga Mountains
On the long peninsula north east of Santa Cruz, the Anaga mountain range rises to just over 1000 metres: scenic and unspoilt, the perfect place for walking in Tenerife off the beaten track. Some trails are truly arduous and best tackled with a guide, but there are easier options, such as the wooded walk down to Taganana, where a rustic inn rewards trekkers with simple Canaries food.
The Anaga Rural Park encompasses a diverse area, from the protected laurisilva forest; home to the endemic laurel pigeon, to steep slopes, ravines and cliffs plunging down to the ocean. Trade Winds encourage a lush vegetation; wild olive and juniper, cacti, vines and avocado on the lower reaches, laurel and heather on the crest. There are archaeological remains, superb viewpoints, and a sprinkling of villages where the odd cave dwelling can still be spotted.