How To Avoid Suntans And Beer Cans In Tenerife

Did you know that Tenerife is one of the Canary Islands?  I didn’t.

Mind you, I didn’t even know where the Canary Islands were before I spent two glorious weeks there last summer, and neither did I know that Tenerife is an island, not a city.

Inevitably, my learning curve was steep.

Tenerife is famous, or rather infamous, for classic binge holidays.

I use the phrase ‘binge holiday’, in the nicest possible way, to mean shameless hedonism, the pursuit of suntans and beer cans.

It experienced a tourism boom in the 1980s, which goes some way to explaining why I associate it in my mind with the place all the kids at school used to go on holiday.

The island claims to have left its sordid past behind, however, to have ditched the uncultured reputation and had a facelift.  Certainly, Tenerife’s fundamental qualities are rich, which is probably why it became so popular in the first place.

Tenerife weather is, frankly, unbearable, but that’s exactly how most people like it.  The landscape is diverse and fantastically picturesque, with the third largest volcano in the world, Spain’s highest peak, its striking focal point.

It took me four and a half hours to climb Mount Teide, and even then I only made it to 3,555 metres, 163 metres short of the crater.

I wish someone had let me know before I expended all that effort that I wouldn’t get to see any bubbling lava or steaming rocks hurtling through the air.

Then again, it is about as far from the stereotype of cramped beaches and bars sprawling with plastic tables and chairs as you can get.

The view from the top was [insert jaw dropping cliché here].  To the north, an expansive verdant plain, to the south, a spinal ridge beyond which arid, brown land stretches towards the shimmering crumples of the Atlantic Ocean.

Depending on which way you face, you may be staring at clear water all the way to Africa, Europe or the Americas.

Santa Cruz, the capital city of Tenerife, is not a bit like the supersized time share I was expecting.

Quintessentially Spanish, its shady streets dissect brightly coloured buildings, which are centred around peaceful parks and open spaces.  The city’s iconic futurist auditorium, completed in 2003, is a symbol of Tenerife’s regeneration as a cultural getaway, free from the stigma it developed during the tourism boom.

Of course, there are still echoes of the island’s past, but they have been refreshed and, as such, reborn.  Tenerife nightlife is still up there with the best, which is understandable seeing as it was one of the fundamental factors in the island’s rise to stardom, but it’s no longer the guts-out binge-fest that earned the name Tene-grief.

The clubbing in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is now classy, rather than tacky, and does not overshadow the daytime serenity of its streets.

Overall, I didn’t know a lot about Tenerife before last summer, and arrived with only mild preconceptions and expectations.

Thankfully, these were banished instantly, as I discovered an island pulsating with cultural treats rather than drum beats.

It is only a matter of time before Tenerife is rediscovered as a tourist destination and a second tourism boom arrives; I hope this will not destroy Tenerife’s newly established charm.

Kirk Shackleton – Kirk was reared in Australia’s Outback before travelling extensively across the globe, eventually settling in London. He is passionate about food, travel and any sport that isn’t cricket

(Photo credit: Caza_No_7 –  lhourahaneThomas Tolkienahisgett)