Wonderful Tenerife - Part 1 - Introduction to Tenerife

Initially, I wrote this travelogue on Tenerife in Marathi. A friend generously offered to translate the write up in English. Hoping to reach a wider audience through English, I agreed to the offer. So, here is the English version of the travelogue.

My travels and wanderings during the past four-and-a-half-year residency in Europe contribute to and perhaps constitute a large part of my material experience. Hence, I decided to write a blog on my sojourns. However, there exists a substantial volume of literature on the internet on the usual tourist spots and the anecdotal incidents associated with them and hence I decided to write about the places less known, the paths less travelled and the tracks least trod.

The Canary Islands is not a name that most Indians are familiar with. I don’t recollect reading about the islands in the ‘travel and tourism’ section of the Sunday-special supplement of the newspaper. During my time in Germany, one of my first colleagues I got acquainted with was from Spain. However, he always introduced himself as “… from Spain; but to be precise, from Canary Islands”. I was intrigued by his emphasis on “Canary Islands” and curiosity made me query ‘the all-knowing Google’ for information on the islands. The images displayed in the query results along with the information on the islands made me fall in love with them. So it was decided - it was imperative that I visit the islands at the earliest - and started looking for more information.

Geo-politically, the Canary Islands are a part of Spain. However, they are located far away from the Spanish mainland (– very much like our Andaman and Nicobar archipelagos). The Canary Islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean, about a 100 kilometres west off the coast of Morocco. The island group consists of seven large islands (viz. Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, La Palma, La Gomera, and El Hierro) and a number of smaller islands. Of these, Tenerife and Gran Canaria have a population in the range of 0.7-0.8 million. The island of Tenerife is famous for its nature tourism and adventure sports whereas Gran Canaria attracts crowds interested in shopping and partying. Naturally, my attention was drawn to Tenerife.

Location of Canary Islands
The islands enjoy a subtropical climate. The temperature does not vary much through the year and the winters are especially pleasant on the islands. By contrast, the weather in Western Europe in winter can be described as ‘bleak and depressing’ (to be generous) with 6-7 hours of daylight, single digit temperatures, dull overcast grey skies and incessant rain adding to the gloom and misery. Hence, during Christmas break, many a European feet turn to the Canary Islands. A huge chunk of this is made up of the British and German populace. The popularity of the islands as a tourist destination, coupled with the fact that it was the holiday season instilled a fear in me that flying to the islands might be beyond my budget. However, due to the competition amongst various low-cost airlines, I was able to procure tickets to fly on Christmas eve at a price much lower than expected. So, after making appropriate hostel reservations and planning the itinerary, I donned on my clothes for the prevailing European winter but packed for a subtropical climate and off I was on my journey.

Upon landing at the airport to the south of Tenerife, I was greeted by the warm air, clear skies, bright sunlight and the mesmerizing sapphire blue ocean stretching out in front of me. The island of Tenerife has a unique layout. At the center of this roughly triangular island sits a 3700-meter-high dormant volcano named Teide. As a result of its enormous peak, the climate of the archipelago gets split into two distinct types. While the north-western region enjoys a Mediterranean climate, the south-eastern region has a dry, desert-type climate. As a result of this bifurcation, one also sees diversity in the vegetation and plant type and diversity in the life and culture of the local population. The north-western region is green throughout the year. The daytime temperature in the winter hovers around 10-15 °C with an occasional shower. In the south however, the temperature reaches 25 °C with a very rare shower. Often at times, warm air currents blowing from the African continent bring dust clouds with them covering the skies with dust. As a result, the southern region is mostly barren. A few thorny shrubs and cacti are the only visible signs of plant life. A number of plants capable of surviving in arid regions have been introduced in the south through plantation programs. Occasionally, amongst these plants, one finds the Gulmohar tree (Delonix regia), a well-known plant in India. Although barren, the southern region does have its share of natural beauty. Scenic shorelines, the volcanic range visible in the north and the peak of Teide towering over the rest present an endearing vista that is visible only from the south.

The terrain of Southern Tenerife
I had planned to spend 6 days on Tenerife – 3 days in the south and 3 days in the north. Since I had arrived on Christmas Day, it was a public holiday. Most of the shops were closed and the frequency of the buses plying the city too was low. Hence, I decided to spend my first day wandering around the village where I had taken up accommodation – El Medano, a small village located on the southern coast of Tenerife. The coast of El Medano is known for surfing. Located close to the village is Montana Roja, a mountain with a blood-red hue. A volcanic eruption millions of years ago created his mountain. A small dirt path leads to the top of the mountain. After half an hour of uphill trek I reached the summit. The rocks in the area reminded me the rocky plateaus of the Konkan region. From the summit I could see El Medano and the breathtakingly beautiful coast. After a bit of photography, I started on my way down on the other side of the mountain. The beach on the other side was beautiful. The mountain appeared to have a different shape from this side. The inward-curving shore with a misshapen, irregular blood-red mountain arising from behind at a distance presented an alien but endearing landscape. After resting for a while on the beach, I returned to the hostel to retire for the day.

El Medano village and the neighboring village from Montana Roja
A beach near El Medano
For more pictures, please click here