With a week to spare before I started a new job, Mr Fletche and I scoured the internet for good last-minute deals. And that’s how we found ourselves on our way to Tenerife. But were we content to lie on the beach/by the pool every day, soaking up the Canarian sun and drinking garishly-coloured cocktails? Were we heck. Instead we hired a car and traversed the island. Here are our top tips for 8 great places to visit in Tenerife – with or without a car.
The Anaga Mountains are in the North-Eastern part of Tenerife. We took the TF-1 along the south and east of the island, driving through the capital Santa Cruz before heading north on the TF-12 into the mountains. This was our first experience in Tenerife of winding roads, sharp peaks, plunging ravines and mist-filled forests above the clouds. It’s a very lush, green area; not what you expect when you seen what appears to be a barren landscape from the aeroplane on landing.
There are roads that lead you miles out of your way, ending in nothing but a pretty little village. Like the TF-123 to Chamorga. We speak from experience. If you want to get to the refreshing waters and volcanic beach paradise, you’ll need sturdy hiking shoes, good lungs and a bagful of stamina. None of which we’d packed that day. Facilities wise, there’s not much for visitors, but we did stop off at the café at Albergue Montes de Anaga for a quick drink and toilet stop. It has a terrace with particularly spectacular views of the mountains, forests and sea. There’s also a visitor centre at Cruz del Carmen if you are approaching from La Laguna on the TF-12.
Anaga without a car? Many parts of the region are accessible by public transport. There are a number of buses from the island’s capital Santa Cruz to Anaga. The #947 goes to Chamorga in the North-East, which is a popular hiking spot.
This historic little city is full of narrow cobbled streets and alleyways flanked by buildings of many colours. The old town is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was the capital of the island until 1821. It’s home to the Canary Islands’ only University, which gives this old town a youthful and lively vibe. It nestles at the foot of the Anaga mountains, yet is only 20 minutes by car from Santa Cruz. It’s also handy for the island’s Northern airport, just 3km away on the TF-5.
La Laguna without a car? There are frequent buses from Santa Cruz to La Laguna as it’s something of a commuter hub for those that work in the capital. From the southern resorts, it’s about 70-90 minutes to Santa Cruz by bus. The #110 and #111 leave frequently throughout the day.
The bustling capital of Tenerife is located at the foot of the Anaga mountains. From the southern resorts it’s an easy drive up the TF-1 straight into the heart of the city. We didn’t explore much of Santa Cruz, only visiting briefly after our trip to Anaga and La Laguna. It would definitely be worth dedicating a whole day to properly discovering the beach, parks, architecture, shopping, culture and dining options. The lido of César Manrique Maritime Park also looked like a great place to cool down after pounding the city streets.
Santa Cruz without a car?; Buses from the southern resorts (110, 111) run every 30 minutes and take 70 – 90 minutes; from Puerto de la Cruz (102,103) they run every 30 minutes and take 40 – 55 minutes. There are trams which run throughout the city, single journey tickets are currently €1.35.
Los Gigantes means quite literally “The Giants”. And the dramatic cliffs which plunge into the Atlantic can certainly be described as such, protecting this small resort from any nasty trade winds whilst providing a highly photogenic backdrop. There’s a viewpoint as you approach the town on the TF-454 – the Mirador Archipenque – which gives a fantastic view of the cliffs.
We found the best place to enjoy sunset was Playa de los Guios, a small black sand beach nestled underneath the cliffs. In fact, Los Gigantes has some of the best beaches in Tenerife. The marina is lovely, but views of the cliffs are somewhat obstructed by the harbour wall. There are some nice little bars and restaurants around the quayside, and we enjoyed a huge paella here, staying in the town until well after dark. Making for an interesting drive back along the winding and dark roads before reaching the better-lit TF-1.
Los Gigantes without a car? It’s about an hour by bus from the southern resorts to Los Gigantes. The 473 takes the scenic TF-47 through some of the towns closest to Los Gigantes, including Alcala, La Arena (with its black sand beach) and Puerto de Santiago. From Puerto de la Cruz, it’s either a trip over the mountains in the North-West on the 325 which runs every couple of hours, or a more circuitous route around the north and east of the island.
We intended to get to Mount Teide early, to catch the first cable car of the day to reach Spain’s highest peak. Except we found the ever-changing scenery of Parque Nacional de las Cañadas del Teide so fascinating that we didn’t find ourselves nearing Teide until almost noon. At which point it was teeming with visitors, with tour buses and rental cars overspilling from the car parks. So we contented ourselves with continuing to explore the national park.
As you drive through the 47,000 acre national park you pass through alpine-like forests, before emerging through clouds to a lunar landscape. We drove up via the TF-21 from the south, taking this road all the way through the park to Puerto de la Cruz in the north. The formidable 3,718ft volcano dominates the skyline from all directions, reminding you exactly how this amazing landscape was created.
Mount Teide without a car? There are two bus routes covering El Teide. The 342 goes from Costa Adeje and the neighbouring resorts to Mount Teide, and the 348 from Puerto de la Cruz. The bus fare includes the cable car tickets; the cable car charge will be refunded if it doesn’t operate for some reason.
The spectacular landscape with Mount Teide in the background
Puerto de la Cruz is the main resort in the North of the island – and it’s a tad less “Brits Abroad”. It has a beautiful promenade which reminded me a lot of the Riva in Split. Like Santa Cruz, there is a lido complex overlooking the seafront, and a kilometre-long black sand beach. It’s also in close proximity to the popular Loro Parque, famed for its huge collection of parrots and the biggest dolphinarium in Europe.
We visited for a late lunch after spending much of the day at Mount Teide National Park but you could easily spend more time here. It’s accessible by car from the Autopista North (TF-5), or from the south you can take the longer, windy cross-country route on the TF-21 via Teide and through La Orotava valley – but be prepared to be distracted by the beautiful scenery!
Puerto de La Cruz without a car? From the southern resorts you can get Bus 343 from Los Cristianos or from Tenerife South Airport, which goes directly across the island to Puerto de la Cruz. The journey takes around 1 hr 45 minutes. Alternatively, you can travel from Santa Cruz – several buses take the 45 minute journey to the northern resort.
Garachicho has suffered a bit of bad luck in its history. Once a wealthy little fishing town on Tenerife’s north-west tip, it fell foul of storms, fires, floods and Bubonic plague. The final straw was when Montaña Negra erupted in 1706 and engulfed the town. However, this lava flow created a number of enticing natural swimming pools which mean this off the beaten track town is now well on the tourist trail. Beyond El Caletón though there are gorgeous cobbled streets to explore and a picturesque town square. We can highly recommend the understated Casa Juan on Calle Martinez de Fuentes for an authentic Canarian tapas experience.
Garachico without a car? Bus 460 goes from the southern resorts to Garachico – at 2.5 hours it’s a long but very scenic drive. It only runs three or four times a day so be sure to check the schedules before you set out. More frequent are buses to Santa Cruz; there are a number of buses to Garachico via Puerto de la Cruz. All buses change at Icod de los Vinos bus station for the final leg.
The drive to this spectacular hamlet nestled in a valley is not for the faint-hearted. More often than not, we were perched precariously on a steep hillside, or climbing over a blind summit at a 45 degree angle, or slaloming around the ever-changing switchbacks. And sometimes all three. At the same time. But it’s worth the effort.
The village of Masca is tiny. You feel like you’ve left modern civilisation behind, yet it is still prepared to greet all the tourists that descend on it each day. For those who fancy a hike, it’s a 4.5km long trek from the village down to the ocean. Seemed a bit of a palaver to do that, get a boat to Los Gigantes and then get a bus or taxi back to Masca to pick up the car, but with a bit of planning its certainly doable. And this will take you to one of the most spectacular beaches in Tenerife. We drove from Garachico to Masca via the TF-436 from Buenavista, stopping at the lovely Mirador de la Cruz de Hilda for a drink.
Masca without a car? Half of the fun of Masca is driving the roads into and out of the valley; however there are (infrequent) bus services from the south. Bus 460 will take you as far as Santiago del Teide, when you can change to the 355 toward Buenavista del Norde. Many tourists opt for a tour, leaving an experienced minivan, bus or coach driver to handle the steep, sinuous roads. Viator has a number of options, including this one (affiliate link). There are also numerous boat trips and water taxis from Los Gigantes which will take you as far as Masca beach. The hike to the town is then down to you!
Driving in Tenerife: After finding European driving a doddle in Croatia, Mr Fletche was more than happy to pick up the driving reins in Tenerife. We used Autoreisen, who were recommended on many of the car rental forums, and they were certainly easy to deal with and most importantly provided us with a great all-inclusive price for the week. The Autopista Sur (TF-1) provides a speedy route along the south and east of the island, with a similar route in the North (TF-5), from Santa Cruz across to Puerto de la Cruz.
Driving inland is definitely a little more of a challenge, with narrow, winding, mountainous roads to contend with. Particularly the roads in and out of Masca Valley, where cars cling precariously to a cliff face whilst tour buses and coaches come within a hairs breadth of a sheer drop. It’s all good fun. Particularly if you’re not the one driving. Parking in towns was generally quite simple, with free unrestricted street parking in many towns; we only paid for parking in Puerto de la Cruz and in Candelaria.
We were pleasantly surprised by the delights that Tenerife had to offer. Away from the hedonistic Playa de las Americas, and the “Brits Abroad” vibe of the Costa Adeje resorts, it is a truly stunning island that we look forward to returning to soon.