Tenerife’s Fantastic North

Tenerife has two sides: the south, with its large and popular holiday resorts, and the north, with its age-old colonial towns, vast banana plantations, and intimate, hidden-away beaches. Alberto del Hoyo, son of an ancient Canarian family, introduced us to the beauties of the north.

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Wild, dramatic and lush, peppered with mountains, gorges and forests, palms, picturesque colonial towns and beautiful haciendas… Despite its diversity, the northern part of the Canary Island remains largely undiscovered. So who better to tell us about this subtropical paradise than someone who has spent half his life on the island?

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WHAT A VIEW!

Looking out of the window of the Hacienda de las cuatro Ventanas, our eyes are met by seemingly endless banana plantations, whitewashed houses squeezed in between them and, at the foot of the hill, the dark blue sea and black sandy beach. In the distance, high, white waves are breaking, the surfers riding these atop their boards. The mix of colours is surreal: from heavy green tones through every shade of blue imaginable, impenetrable black to gleaming white. For a moment, we forget where we are, and are reminded of Mauritius. But we’re actually on the northern coast of Tenerife. This place is a dream!

Alberto explains how his predecessors were amongst the first to leave mainland Spain to settle on the island at the end of the fifteenth century. As a young man, life took him in the opposite direction, as he left Tenerife to work in Madrid. The draw of the island never quite left Alberto, however, and he eventually returned. Over the years, he has renovated an old family property; now, having invested a vast amount of work – and no little passion – in the project, he is proud to be able to offer guests a traditional hacienda with a modern touch for their stay on Tenerife.

ALBERTO’S TIPS FOR TENERIFE’S NORTH

The Canarian is enthusiastic when we ask him for some tips on how to do the northern part of the island. He knows the whole island like the back of his hand, he says, but only the north really feels like home. He is always happy to show visitors the area.

And so we accompany him on a brief journey through the north, for him to show us some of his favourite places. We take his off-road car up into the Anaga Mountains in the far north-east of the island. The road we are travelling along is lined by old towns, houses built into the mountainside and lonely beaches. Again and again, we pass by traditional taverns like Casa Paca, in the small town of Benijo. Stopping off there, we enjoy delicious fresh fish washed and a breathtaking view out to sea from the small terrace.

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SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE

Our journey continues, taking us to the island’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The town could hardly be described as beautiful; it overflows with the hideous urban architecture of the post-war era, in fact. In recent years, however, a series of renowned architects have been commissioned in an effort to make the cityscape more attractive. This new push has produced the Tenerife Espacio de las Artes Museum of Art (often referred to as ‘TEA’ for short), the Auditorio, and the Centro Internacional de Ferias y Congresos. The Auditorio, whose striking concrete covering seems to be floating above the concert hall, has rapidly been adopted as an unofficial new landmark of the city. The central square – the Plaza de España – has also been reworked by the town planners, and now links the old town and the harbour.

SLEEPY TOWNS AND VILLAGES – AND A POWERFUL VOLCANO

The small towns and villages up in the northern hills are far more aesthetically pleasing, with more of their historic structure still intact. We are fascinated the moment we arrive in the town of Garachico: back in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, this was the most important port in the Canaries, and a strategic starting-point for the flourishing new trade between Europe and America. Garachico was also known as Puerto Rico – ‘Rich Port’ – at the time.

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Our journey continues. First we drop by the wildly romantic mountain village of Masca, in the west of the Teno mountain range, before arriving in La Orotava, where we admire the well-maintained town and gaze in wonder at Mount Teide – Spain’s highest peak – in the distance. At 3,718 metres high, it is of volcanic origin, like all the Canary Islands. The cratered landscape which has formed from the lava is imposing, and seemingly endless. Jedis and Wookies, fighting for their freedom in Star Wars, suddenly appear in our mind’s eye. Over the years, the volcano’s eruptions have created a landscape more like that on the Moon or Mars than our own. It is so impressive and unique that UNESCO has designated it a World Heritage Site. We are overwhelmed, and don’t actually want to leave the island again.

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