“With huge beaches, year-round sunshine and city-sized resorts, it’s easy to see why Tenerife is one of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations.”
Tenerife’s unerring reputation has been built on the back of decades of good reviews. One of the earliest came from Queen Victoria, who used to take her vacations here in the 19th century. If you want a more up-to-date character reference, though, you only need to look to the 450,000 holidaymakers who flock here every year.
The secret of Tenerife’s success starts with its beaches. On the island’s south coast, resorts like Playa De Las Americas, Los Cristianos and Costa Adeje have something going on around the clock. There are white sands and watersports to see you through the day and a world’s worth of restaurants, bars and nightclubs to move you through the night.
Of course, there’s more to Tenerife than its coastline. Its interior is dotted with banana plantations, traditional villages and national parks. Take a trip to the centre of the island, and you’ll even discover Mount Teide, the third largest volcano in the world. It’s surrounded by an unearthly landscape of solid lava.
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Tenerife’s coastline tends to be mostly rocky, but the resourceful islanders have managed to increase the range of beaches by importing sand. And not just any old sand, but soft golden sand shipped in from the Sahara Desert. As such, the beaches in the south coast resorts are really rather special – not to mention well served with watersports. They’re popular though, so can get busy during the high season. However, if you’re prepared to travel out of town a bit, you’ll find some quieter, more secluded stretches of sand where you can get stuck into that bestseller while the kids splash about in calm, balmy waters. Of the island’s natural beaches, El Medano stands out as being one of the best, with two miles of pale golden sand. It’s a good spot for windsurfing, too. Then there are the two beaches at Los Cristianos to think about. Playa de las Vistas, to the west, is the better of the two, but both have good sands and safe swimming, not to mention easy access to cafés and restaurants. Alternatively, you can head for the northern tip of the island, where you’ll find Playa Las Teresitas. With its Saharan-enhanced sands and swaying palms, it’s a surprisingly quiet hideaway, especially on weekdays when the locals are at work. Or if you don’t mind black, volcanic sand, Playa Jardin beach at Puerto de la Cruz is rarely crowded and there are plenty of cafés and bars lining the seafront. There’s also a seafront lido here - a weird and wonderful complex of swimming pools that’s a real hit with families. Sunbathing and sandcastles aside though, Tenerife’s really popular with watersports junkies. The great weather, calm seas and offshore winds make it ideal for windsurfing and sailing. And the clear waters around are great for snorkelling and scuba diving, as well.
For a relatively small island, Tenerife’s big on shopping. In fact you can put a serious dent in your holiday kitty here. In all the major resorts you’ll find a wide range of stores selling everything from rubber rings and sombreros to clothes and perfumes. There are lots of Asian-run bazaars, too, where you can often haggle to get the price down. Out on the streets, African traders from Senegal are a common sight. They lay out their goods – leather, wood carvings, beads and the like - on the ground for passers-by to see. If, however, you’re into the American-style shopping experience, head to the malls in the Anzana district of Santa Cruz. Cue big Spanish names like Mango and Zara. In the city itself, Avenida de 3 Mayo’s is the place to head for a shopping spree. And if you really want to flash the cash, Calle de Pilar and nearby Parque Bulevar offer up plenty in the way of chichi boutiques. For an altogether different shopping experience, though, head for the Mercado de Nuestra Senora de Africa. Set close to the heart of the city’s old quarter, this Moorish-style covered market has around 300 stalls selling all kinds of goodies, from colourful flowers to cheap CDs. On Sunday mornings it makes way for a flea market, a great place to pick up a bargain. Talking of bargains, there’s one big advantage of shopping in Tenerife - the island’s got its own special sales tax rate of 5% instead of the usual hefty VAT rates that you pay on the mainland. So prices are lower, whether you’re buying some eau de toilette or an iPod. One last thing, if you want some traditional handicrafts, keep your eyes peeled for hand-stitched embroidery and lace, leather goods, pottery, wickerwork and neatly-turned wooden bowls.