In the south of Tenerife, while there are plenty of picturesque avenidas lined with palm trees, some truly incredible natural landscapes such as the giant cliffs of Los Gigantes, and a coastline packed with beautiful beaches, there doesn’t appear to be an abundance in plant life.
In terms of the island as a whole island though, this is definitely not the case with somewhat of a north-south divide. In the verdant north of the island you will find a huge diversity of plants! This divide is not only in terms of climate and vegetation though, as the north feels in many ways more connected to authentic culture and traditions.
The original resorts that tourists often headed to in the past were Punta del Hidalgo and Puerto de la Cruz, but more recently tourism has largely shifted to the sunnier south with the growth of resort towns such as Playa de las Américas. This area of Tenerife certainly has plenty to see and do, plus the weather is generally warmer, but even if you choose to stay there, you should definitely not miss out on a trip to the upper half!
One option is a fantastic wine tasting tour in the beautiful north of Tenerife from the excellent Viajes Nere Izerdie. I was recently kindly invited on this excursion with John Beckley and Gemma Ellingsen (head receptionist at Pearly Grey Resort in Callao Salvaje) by the company, for a brilliant day full of knowledge and fun!
We were welcomed by our professional tour guide Francisco and friendly bus driver Ivan at Los Cristianos in the morning, ready to be transported in the company bus to La Laguna, the historic former capital city of Tenerife, for the start of our tour of the north.
Following the journey, we continued to learn a whole host of interesting historical information about San Cristóbal de La Laguna (the full name of the city) during the excellent guided walk. The city was built in the valley of Aguere, where there once existed a large lake. La Laguna was founded in 1497, following the end of the conquest of the Canary Islands by Alonso Fernández de Lugo, becoming Tenerife’s capital, and later of the entire Canary Islands archipelago.
In 1999, it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, thus becoming the only city in the Canary Islands to hold this accolade. When you see La Laguna, it will become clear why it was given this title as it is absolutely full of incredibly well preserved historical architecture. For those who have only ever stayed in the resorts of the south of Tenerife, this offers a huge contrast, giving the feeling of being in a completely different place; no wonder La Laguna has even earned the nickname of the “Florence of the Canary Islands”!
With the attractive old buildings, many of which date back a number of centuries and the large cobbled pedestrianised streets, you’ll find that the city feels very traditional. Our tour also included brief glimpses inside some of the historical buildings, parts of which are constructed from hardy Canarian pine wood, and the peaceful courtyard gardens.
In comparison to the hotels and apartments around Tenerife’s coastline this is a world away. You should definitely visit this captivating gem of a city, the third largest of the Canary Islands, that many miss out on.
After the excellent guided city tour, we went to see an array of locally grown produce such as fresh fruit and vegetables in the La Laguna food market. Once again this offered a look at more tradition that is great to still see thriving in parts of Tenerife.
Following a quick coffee break, we set off for our next stop, the Bodega Presas Ocampo, located further north than La Laguna in the picturesque municipality of Tacoronte. Here we drove past attractive villages such as Tacoronte and El Sauzal, and through a beautifully verdant landscape which is the largest wine growing region in Tenerife.
When compared to the more arid south of Tenerife and other parts of the Canary Islands such as Lanzarote or Fuerteventura, you will be amazed to find a different climate, caused by the northerly aspect which captures moisture from prevailing north-easterly winds.
The scenes we saw along the way were captivating, with old manorial buildings, farms and a number of different vineyards, most of which had gorgeous views of the amazing Atlantic Ocean. For the Bodega Presas Ocampo winery where we stopped for a tour and some tasting this was certainly the case. From the vineyard with its rows of vines growing in the warm Canary Islands weather, there was a fantastic vista of the beautiful blue ocean in the distance.
The inside was quite the contrast from the traditional exterior with modern machinery and an efficient operation in action. This family owned business has clearly had a lot of investment over the years, especially as demand for wine from the Canary Islands continues to grow both locally and internationally.
A knowledgeable team member from the bodega and Francisco led us around explaining to us the various processes and functions of the impressive machinery. Following this it was time to actually sample some of the wine, so we were led to another more traditional kitchen-dining room style area.
Here we each received a glass of red and then white wines to try, both of which were very tasty. We learned that the time between harvest and drinking is generally around two years, due to the type of grapes used and climate in the Canary Islands.
It was definitely time for lunch by this point following two glasses of wine on an empty stomach, so we all headed back onto the bus feeling merrier, and ready for a meal. Not to worry though, as we were off to get a tapas and wine lunch (local Canarian wine of course).
It’s worth mentioning how fascinating this tapas restaurant was where we ate! As we first walked in there was a large food and gift store with a variety of souvenirs and traditional products for sale. This in itself was interesting, but upstairs was amazing as the walls were covered by thousands of vintage bottles of wines stacked in an incredible wine themed decoration. It was truly an amazing place to enjoy a traditional tapas lunch and wines!
Admittedly the food was not fancy but was very reasonable for the price as there were several plates of bread, cheese, Canarian potatoes and mojo sauce, croquettes with different fillings and calamari for each table to share, plus several different varieties of wine. As a vegan, the staff even kindly prepared some garlic mushrooms and rice and vegetables for me.
After our appetites were satisfied, we were ready for the final part of our journey. Next we were heading off to the modern capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Due to a declining economy and population during the 18th century, La Laguna lost its capital city status which was transferred to Santa Cruz in 1723 instead. Later on, from 1833 to 1927, Santa Cruz also became capital of the Canary Islands, until it was decided this status should be shared with Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
Santa Cruz is a noticeably more modern city than La Laguna with many examples of contemporary architecture such as the amazing Auditorio de Tenerife. In addition to these modern designs you can still see many examples of historical buildings throughout the city.
Overall, Santa Cruz remains a very attractive city with its combination of modern and historical architecture, making it a perfect place to wander around and explore, with many wonderful tree lined streets, perfect for a coffee or meal with friends.
After a bit more of a stroll around, we wandered back to where the tour bus was waiting, next to the largest square in the Canary Islands, the impressive Plaza de España, with its very own artificial lake at its centre and large Santa Cruz sign.
What this tour perfectly confirms is what those of us that are lucky to have either lived in the Canary Islands, or have visited more than just the beaches and hotels are quick to point out; these incredible islands are so much more than sun, sand and sea. In fact the north of Tenerife has beauty, history, culture and tradition to rival the rest of Europe!