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Tenerife, Canary Islands: A Visitor's Quick Guide

Updated on November 28, 2011

Tenerife, Canary Islands, Visitor's Guide

When on vacation, to be a great guest in a host country, it pays to take the time to be informed. If your travel plans are taking you to the Canary Islands, the largest island of Tenerife has much to see and enjoy.

Following is a visitor's guide to Tenerife as well as links to more world travel destinations.


Tenerife, is also known as the "Island of Eternal Spring" and is located 180 miles from the coast of Africa. It is also the largest of the Canary Islands - also known as the Canaries. The Spanish archipelago is west of Morocco. Tenerife covers about 800 square miles and is the most diverse of the islands when it comes to climate, landscape, and places of interest.

General Information:

The highest mountain in all of Spain - Mt. Teide, is in Tenerife and attracts visitors from all over the world. At a height of 12,198 feet, the mountain has a wide range of micro-climates and landscapes. When you climb through the mountain mist you'll find a snow-covered mountaintop.

Orotava Valley is to the North and is lush and green with a mild climate producing 300 endemic types of fauna and flora.

The hot, dry arid South has golden sand beaches, and resorts.

The Anaga mountain range is the spine of the islands and has laurelwood - a vegetable relic from prehistoric times, and is only found on Tenerife

Capital City - The capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is where 225,000 people live. This port city has few tourist attractions and visitors are encouraged to explore the beautiful landscapes of the coastline and interior.

Economic Foundation - The capital city is the administration and commercial center of the islands. Its port facilities receive over 8,000 vessels each year - all types and nationalities.


The Canary Islands are filled with legends that can be traced back to Greek authors such as Plato, Plutarch and Homer. In antiquity, the islands were known as the Fortunate Islands, remaining mythical until after the middle ages.

The first inhabitants are believed to be the cave-dwelling people known as the Guanches, from North Africa, who arrived in the 1st or 2nd century BC.

European conquest began around 1402. By the end of the 15th century, the Spanish conquered all seven islands despite Portuguese resistance during the mid-1400s.

During the next few centuries the Islands were known as the bridge between the "Old World" and the "New World" as it was called.

The 17th to the 19th centuries saw economic ups and downs due to the dependence of certain crops. Profits from sugar greatly declined due to cheaper sugar from the West Indies. Grapes became a main crop and a world-renown sweet wine was produced - Malmsey - which still enjoys world recognition.

The mid-19th century brought about lowered duties and reduced trade barriers. Tenerife along with Las Palmas became two of the busiest ports in the world. The local government improved the economy by welcoming tourism and improving the infrastructure which included the airport. The Canaries now have a stable economic base.

Places of Interest:

Santa Cruz de Tenerife - is the capital city built on a gentle slope. The city is bright and modern and filled with beautiful gardens such as the Garcia Sanabria and the Municipal Park. The streets are busy and it's easy to feel at home here. The port city is a large bay surrounded by the Anaga chain of mountains and is an important communications center between Africa, Europe and America.

Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes - Here you will find several Spanish and Flemish works of art.

Plaza de Espana - The Museo Arqueologico has exhibits about the Guanche society. The tourist office is located here as well as the local government headquarters (Cabildo Insular).

Iglesia Matriz de la Concepcion - This is the Church of the Immaculate Conception and dates from the early 16th century. It is the town's most important historical building.

Beyond the City:

Las Canadas National Park (Mt. Teide) - is the most visited park in all of Spain. The ride to the park will take you through Las Canadas which is a barren volcanic rock and mineral area created by more than a million years of volcanic activity. There is a cable car that will take you almost to the top, and another 534 foot walk and you will arrive at the 12,195 foot summit. With clear weather you will be able to see all the other Canary Islands, as well the coast of North Africa.

Los Cristianos - is one of two famous resort areas. It has many beaches and a variety of restaurants.

Playa de Las Americas - is another famous resort area known for its beaches. The many restaurants are mostly British and German.

La Orotava - is a preserved old town filled with stately mansions and cobble stoned streets. There are also many historic churches here and great views of the Orotava Valley.

La Laguana - is the second largest town and noted as the ecclesiastical and cultural capital of Tenerife. Located here is Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Concepcion, the Cathedral of La Laguna, and the Plaza Del Adalentado.

Local Customs and Information:

Cuisine - Paella (a combo of seafood, chicken, vegetables and saffron flavored rice) is the national dish and is popular and readily available. Also available are tapas (appetizers) to be enjoyed with drinks. Fresh vegetables are served. Desserts are varied.

Drinks - The famous wine in the Canaries is known as "Malmsey" - a sweet wine made from the volcanic soil. Sangria is also a popular island wine.

Tipping - Menu prices include a tax and service charge, but it is still customary to leave a tip of 5% to 10% if you are happy with the service.

Shopping Hours - are between 9am to 1pm and 4pm to 8pm - in observance of fiesta. In 1852, the islands were all declared duty-free zones to stimulate economic growth; they remain duty free. However, the same items (such as cameras, perfume, liquor) can be found at the airport.

The most celebrated local handicraft is the exquisite embroidery done on items such as napkins, towels and tablecloths.

The main shopping area is the Plaza de la Candelaria, C. San Jose and C. Castillo.

US dollars are sometimes accepted in a few stores and major stores accept credit cards.

Currency - The unit of local currency is the euro.

Post Office - The main one is located in Plaza de los Patos.

Telephones - are available throughout the town. The use of coins or calling cards are needed for local phones.

Transportation - Taxis are limited and you are advised to negotiate a fare before traveling. The local bus systems is not convenient for tourists.

Tourist Information Office - is in Santa Cruz in the Plaza de Espana.


For more world travel destinations and suggestions, see links below:


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    • CountryCityWoman profile image

      CountryCityWoman 7 years ago from From New York City to North Carolina

      Love that photo with the apt. building. I like when there is a cityscape and Tenerife seems to have it all. Thanks for such a great guide. Rated up and yay!

    • GreenThumbLady profile image

      GreenThumbLady 7 years ago from The Beautiful Earth

      Oh looks just gorgeous! What a thorough guide you have here! This is so helpful for anyone traveling there (hopefully me one day!)

    • BkCreative profile image

      BkCreative 7 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

      My cousins just got back from Tenerife - it was part of their cruise. However, they regularly visit the Canaries and love them.

      Great guide - you have covered it well. Rated up!