We spent our first week of 2017 in the warm and wonderful Tenerife, the largest island of the Canaries situated on the Atlantic Ocean, about 100 km from west coast of Morocco. The island formed by an eruption of a volcano three million years ago. The landscape of the island is, in my opinion, most intriguing. The south side of the island features almost desert like landscape dotted with gigantic cactuses, aloe vera, weeds and palm trees where the climate is relatively dryer and warmer compared to the northern side. The more one travels north, where altitude is significantly and gradually higher with a more humid climate, the more green trees and shrubs one sees. Pine forests usually cover the mountain area. I was enthralled by the radical change of the ecosystem on this island which is unique to the world, and I was once again amazed by our wondrous nature. We landed in the Tenerife South Airport and had to drive along the coast to the north where our hotel was, therefore we had seen the change of landscape, the diversity of vegetations and the humble yet attractive local architecture. I fell in love instantly by the ever-changing sights of this island.
Our hotel is in the northern part of the island, in a city called Puerto de la Cruz. It is historically a coastal port for trading, but now the main industry is tourism. The oldest botanical garden in Spain is also situated there. Another famous site is Playa Jardín, a popular black sandy beach with sand and rocky coast that were formed by lava contacted with the ocean years ago. My almost 8 years old had spent hours fishing patiently with a bucket and net among those lava formed rocks. The landscape of Puerto de la Cruz is consisted of high mountains and rocky coasts, a rather interesting combination. From our 9th floor hotel balcony, we could see the snowy top of the famous volcano – Mount Teide (El Teide) surrounded by ghosty mist on one side and the royal blue ocean with fiery waves on the other. I was astounded by this fascinating contrast of sight every time I set eyes on the view. So every morning, I found myself admiring this amazing landscape on the balcony, listening to crickets chirped and the sounds of the awakening city.
The old city of Puerto de la Cruz houses one of Tenerife oldest harbours, near a couple of cozy and well maintained squares and few churches, one of them is the well known Church of San Francisco. The church building itself is considered the oldest building in the city. We spent every night walking through streets with market stalls in the old city and enjoying various local Canarian tapas such as the famous baked canaries wrinkly potato, calamari fritters, grilled pepper, baked goat cheese with mojo verde (green sauce), paella etc. My favourite restaurant is called Restaurante Tropical on Calle Lomo, the food is exceptional and inexpensive. We were there with another family whom we met in our hotel, we feasted on some delicious tapas enough for 7 people with good quality local wine, altogether was merely 70 Euro including tips! It was just marvellous! We wanted to go back there on our last night, but it was closed because of the Spanish Epiphany (also known as Three Kings Day, 6th January), a Spanish Christian feast day equivalent to the commonly known Christmas. Presents for the children are brought by the three kings instead of Father Christmas. We were lucky enough to experience the most important festive celebration with the local people and we witnessed the famous ‘Three Kings Parade’. Everyone was excited to see the ‘Three Kings’, especially the children, who were showered with the sweets threw from the floats. The atmosphere was uplifting and heartwarming, everyone had a big smile on their faces.
Another city which I absolutely adore is Garachico, in the north coast of Tenerife, an hour drive from Puerto de la Cruz toward the west. A small city by the beautiful rocky coasts where fishing and sailing are popular among the locals. Although it is also one of the mass tourism town, but it is surprisingly tranquil. Strolling through the narrow streets and hidden alleys gave me a sense of adventure. The architecture is the typical Andalusia and Portuguese inspired. Being there reminds me so much of my home town Macau, stone paved streets and beautiful squares where people can gather and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. Calle Esteban de Ponte, perhaps the most famous street in Garachico, consists of shops, restaurants, hotels and many simple courtyard style stone houses with beautiful handcrafted wooden windows and balconies. Shops are selling mainly local handmade crafts and souvenir. We spent a blissful afternoon exploring the city and had a simple tapas lunch that was wonderfully satisfy. We ended our visit in Garachico by walking along the magnificent rocky coast with ice cream in our hands. Garachico is definitely my favourite city in Tenerife.
The highlight of our visit had to be the trip to Mount Teide, the volcano situates near the centre of Tenerife island. It stands at over 3.5 thousands meter above sea level and is the highest point in the islands of Atlantic. It is surrounded by the Teide National Park (world heritage site) which stretches over 18,000 hectare. I remember it took quite some times for us to drive through the seemingly endless forest to reach Mount Teide. When we arrived at the crater which surrounds the volcano, we were blown away by its size and amazing structure. We could hardly get our heads around the idea of we were inside a volcano crater. It was just sensational. Walking on the lava sands and against the strong cold wind, looking afar to the snow-topped edges of the crater was not doubt a surreal experience. I read about its geographic condition is comparable with Mars, therefore it is also a testing ground for space robotic vehicles. I almost felt like I was in a science fiction movie. We didn’t go all the way up to the summit unfortunately because of my ear-ache, so we drove to the only restaurant in the area and warmed our bellies with some very traditional Canarian dishes: Rancho Canario (Chickpea and potato soup with meat and noodles) and Caldo de Pescado (fish soup). A delicious end to an enchanted journey.
We spent our last morning in Tenerife by the hotel swimming pool as we didn’t have enough time to drive anywhere else. So while my family was having fun in the pool, I took some ‘me-time’ wandering around the hotel ‘secret garden’, it isn’t really a ‘secret’ but the way it was built is somehow mysterious. The garden is laid out on different levels because of its hilly location, each level then divided loosely into smaller spaces by stones, with different types of trees, flowers and shrubs planted within it. One minute you see stocky palm trees and enormous Lilys plants on one level and then, the next minute, just around the corner, you can see banana trees and their blossoms standing happily in the warm warm sun. There is always a surprise everywhere you turn. It was peaceful and quiet, all I could hear was the sound of my own footsteps and the occasional rattling sounds of tiny lizard hurrying by. I came across a beautiful willow-like tree with bunches of little red berries hanging on it. I was curious to know what they were, so I crashed one berry from the ground with my fingers and it released a wonderful peppery aroma, it was pink peppercorns. I was thrilled to see so many have fallen on the ground, so I decided to collect them and bring them home (and I used them in this recipe). I didn’t expect just a brief walk alone through a tranquil garden would give me so much joy. We need a little pleasure from time to time, so after this holiday, I am determine to make ‘pleasure hunting’ my daily habit.
The trip to Tenerife was inspiring and we were happy that we made this last minute decision to go there. I have heard there are many more places worth a visit, so we will definitely go back there to explore the rest of the island, hopefully soon.
Photos by Alexander