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The best places to visit in Tenerife

Come with us on one of our small-ship cruises to the Canary Islands and visit the fascinating volcanic island of Tenerife.

It’s one of several unique destinations you’ll explore, in an island-hopping holiday that’s a world away from the cold, wet winter. And all from the comfort of your own ‘home base’ – a luxuriously-appointed cabin with its own private balcony, on one of our modern sister ships.

On a Saga Tenerife all-inclusive luxury Cruise, you’ll enjoy first-class service, with an exceptional 1:2 ratio of staff to passengers. You’ll be sharing your holiday with like-minded people, too. Our cruises are exclusively for those who are 50 years and over.

Cruise and stay in Tenerife

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands, dominated by the dramatic peak of Mount Teide. You may even spot its peak from your balcony when you’re far out to sea. After all, it’s the third-tallest volcano on the planet; a majestic 3,715 metres high.

World-beating climate…

Happily located on the same latitude as Florida, Tenerife will always give you a warm welcome. It’s been described as having ‘one of the best climates in the world’ - a balmy year-round Spring/Summer that averages around 22 degrees.

…and a world of difference

Though it’s the largest of the seven Canary Islands, Tenerife is still less than 100 km long. But it packs a myriad of different landscapes, climates and experiences into a space that’s not much bigger than London!

In the arid South, landscapes hewn from ancient volcanic lava are the closest you’ll get to a hike on the surface of Mars.

Whilst in the mild, lush Northeast, you can explore places like the Anaga Mountains, densely covered with ancient laurisilva forest. Walking through the moist air, brushing aside trailing lianas and marvelling at clouds of butterflies, it feels like you’ve been transported to a completely different part of the planet, rather than just a few dozen miles up the road.

Mount Teide – home of the God of Fire

Mount Teide, Tenerife

This is the symbol of Tenerife – Mount Teide, its iconic volcano. The highest peak in Spain, it rises from the beautiful Teide National Park, a Europe Natural World Heritage Site with its own unique flora and fauna.

A few minutes in a cable car takes you to Teide’s 3,715-metre peak. The scenery is breathtaking: hundreds of gaunt, sculptural lava cones, dykes and flows, and the yawning mouth of the caldera itself. You really are up in the clouds, with views stretching as far as some of the nearby islands. At night, on a Stargazing Tour, those views extend to the cosmos itself: the peak is one of the Canary’s three Starlight Reserves, with exceptional vistas of the night sky.

Beaches, boats and bottlenose dolphins

Las Teresitas Beach in Tenerife

There’s a wide choice of beaches from quiet little coves with natural dark volcanic sand to larger, more lively destinations. One of the favourites, easily accessible from the port, is Las Teresitas, whose fine golden sands were imported from the Sahara. It’s a Blue Flag beach, with shower facilities, sun beds and sunshades.

You can also enjoy boat trips to see the dolphins and (at the right time of the year) the pilot whales, blue whales and orcas that come to breed and feed. The southwest coast of Tenerife is one of the few places in the world where these magnificent cetaceans come so close to the coast; an unforgettable encounter.

A capital day out in Santa Cruz

Soak up the sun in Santa Cruz

Your Tenerife cruise includes a leisure day to do your own thing, exploring the island’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Founded in 1494, the place began as a tiny fishing village. Now it’s a buzzy, vibrant capital, with a great choice of things to see and do.

Perhaps start your day in the historic centre - a rough triangle drawn between Calle de Noria, Plaza de Weyler, and the neighbouring squares of Plaza de España and Plaza de Candelaria. In a typical fusion of old-meets-new, historic buildings are surrounded by taverns, restaurants and coffee bars, plus shops selling the very latest modern must-haves.

Ancient splendour

Explore Santa Cruz de Tenerife

Plaza de la Candeleria is located on the site of the former fortress of San Cristóbal, overlooked by the elegant eighteenth-century baroque façade of the la Carta Palace. Close by, you’ll find the Casino, where you can admire a collection of works by Canarian painters, and the Guimerá Theatre. The exterior of this delightful building is a glorious mixture of classicist and Romantic styles whilst the interior is richly decorated with frescoes and gold leaf.

There are, of course, several beautiful churches in the area. The church of San Francisco, dating from the 17th century, is one of the most striking examples of the local baroque style. Construction of the Church of la Concepción began in 1500, and was restored after a fire in 1653, with the tower added in 1786. It’s an excellent example of Canarian colonial-style construction, particularly its wooden balcony – an embellishment you’ll see repeated in buildings all over the island. Don’t miss the interior: it houses an important collection of religious art, processional thrones, the dramatic gothic image of the Virgen de Consolación and the Cross of the Conquest, brought to the island by the conquistador Fernández de Lugo.

Modern style

But Tenerife hasn’t rested on its ancient architectural laurels. There are a number of cutting-edge modern buildings whose wow-factor will take your breath away. For example, don’t miss the amazing Tenerife Espacio de las Arttes – known as TEA for short – with its concrete-and-glass angular beauty, designed by Herzog and de Meuron. Its modern art galleries are open Tues-Sun, from 10.00 to 20.00. (Avenida de San Sebastian 10).

Another must-see is the Auditorio de Tenerife Adan Martin, a swooping other-worldly edifice designed by Santiago Calatrava. You can take a 45-minute tour: you’ll access all areas, and the architect’s concept is fully explored. (Avenida de la Constitución 1).

History and Pre-History

If you want to take a deep dive into the history of Tenerife, these two museums will get you up to speed in just a few hours:

Museo de Naturaleza y Arqueologia takes you right through from the very beginning, covering Tenerife’s geological formation and the natural history of the island. (Calle de las Fuentes Morales, 3800. Note: it’s useful to bring your own headphones as a free audio guide is included in the entrance fee).

Museo Historico Militar de Canarias, an easy walk from the port, this museum is built on the site of the old Almeyda fort. It’s an impressive collection: Around three thousand exhibits that take you on a chronological tour of the military history of Tenerife. Don’t miss El Tigre, the cannon that allegedly took off Admiral Nelson’s arm. There’s also a nice restaurant with great views of the harbour. (Calle San Isidoro 2, 38001).

Pause for a snack

Let’s take a quick look at some of the unique local dishes that might be fun to try.

Vieja sancochada is a tasty local fish stew, whilst meat lovers might go for hearty rancho, based around pork. Papas arrugadas are the famous local potatoes, traditionally served boiled in their jackets. And mojo – red or green – is the spicy sauce that comes with practically everything.

Tenerife’s unique combination of climate and volcanic soil make any one of its Designation of Origin Wines well worth a try.

And to finish, there’s the specialty coffee known as Barraquito (or barraco): Espresso plus a shot of Licor 43 on a base of condensed milk, topped with cinnamon and lime zest.

Nuestra de Senora de Africa Market

Visit the source of that wonderful Canarian cuisine: the Central Market, open from Monday to Sunday. It’s a cornucopia of wonderful foods, as well as stalls selling gifts, souvenirs and tempting bar snacks, fresh salads, tapas, cakes and pastries. Some of the most picturesque stalls date back to the 1940s, when the market was first opened on the site of an older one. You’ll find the Market at Avenida San Sebastian 51, 38003.

Retail therapy

Canarians in the know head for the Avenida Tres de Mayo and Avenida Manual Hermoso Rojas, and also check out Calle Álvaro Rodriguez López, Calle Aurea Diaz Flores and Avenida La Salle.

Cafes and restaurants abound here too, or if you suddenly yearn for the wide, open spaces, grab a takeaway and head for the Rambla de Santa Cruz.

Rambling along the Rambla

Established in 1661, La Rambla de Santa Cruz is nearly two kilometres long and is the main artery of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, running from Plaza de la Paz to Avenida de Anaga.

It’s a peaceful, safe green space with plenty of seating from which to enjoy lovely floral displays and sculpture and views of some of the city’s most historic buildings.

Look out for the flower clock that marks the entrance to García Sanabria Park, another delightful green space with an enormous central fountain commemorating the previous mayor who led the construction of the park. Here amongst the tropical plants you’ll find an important Museum of Open Air Sculptures, with works by artists such as Joan Miró, Josó Guinovart and Henry Moore. Entrance to the park is free and it’s open at all hours.

Expert advice at your service

If you’ve any questions, do pop along to your Explorer Shore Desk. The knowledgeable advisors are not just there to organise excursions; they’ll be delighted to help you with any information you need to help make the most of your leisure day out.

Tenerife Cruise Excursion: Take tea at the Orchid Gardens and meet a 400 year old Dragon

Let us take you on a scenic drive through North Tenerife’s unique landscape, culminating in tea and a tour of the Orchid Gardens with one of the owners as your personal guide. Passing through the Oratava Valley, you’ll pause at the Humbolt Viewpoint to enjoy the spectacular view, stretching from Mount Teide to the coast of Puerto de la Cruz.

Then, on to the Orchid Gardens. Originally established in 1774, these beautiful gardens are the oldest on the island. The world-famous collection of 350 different orchids is set out along an elegant curving walkway. Every step is a photo-opportunity, or a water-colourist’s dream.

Then, stand in the presence of the famous Dragon Tree, believed to be over 400 years old. Legend says that when dragons die, they become dragon trees, and this living fossil is a symbol of the Canary Islands. Finally, after your tour, take time out to relax in the Orchid Gardens’ café and enjoy complimentary refreshments before heading back to your ship.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.