Palm trees. They took me over immediately when the plane landed in Tenerife Sur airport. There must be something magic about them and me as I always get this ‚huuhh‘ feeling and smile on my face when I have them around. Maybe in my previous life I lived somewhere in the southern part of the world and owned a huge palm trees‘ garden. Here in Tenerife island I saw them everyday wherever I looked and just because of them life already appeared to be hundred times better. London could be so much greater place to live if there would be some palm trees! I have seen one or two in Peckham, but it is way too little for the big London. 🙂
However, the first thing which attracted my attention was a mountain-looking rock just by the ocean near the airport. When I saw it from the plane just minutes before landing I did not know that in the next day instead of having my usual cup of breakfast coffee somewhere in the little old fishermen town El Medano I would spontaneously decide to climb up that hill (just 1.5 hours up and down actually) which is actually an inactive volcano. It was not very high. Just around 200 metres above the sea level. Therefore, hardship was not in height but in wind and steepness. Oh my days! That was a serious battle. However, it offered spectacular views and taste of that amazing freedom and infinity.
I chose to spend my first 1.5 days in Tenerife by visiting El Medano, which is a little fishermen town very near to the airport. Being myself tourist I cant say that I don’t like tourists, but I wanted to avoid them as much as possible and have a rest and peace in the most direct meaning. And El Medano was the right place to be. A small, friendly, hospitable and peaceful town. However, I did not manage to avoid tourists in El Medano completely, but these tourists were a bit special: they are those men and women with high dopamine and testosterone levels keen to gain some adrenaline by hitting the waves either with kite-boarding or windsurfing. This was one of my favorite therapies of relaxation in that town – just chilling on the beach and watching how they play with the waves. Absolutely amazing. I would never do it myself, but I was fascinated just by watching. Another ‚guilty pleasure‘ was observing one guy who all day long from the morning till evening very meticulously was making a sand sculpture of a woman in the beach. By the end of the day he still was not finished.. But he must have been heartbroken.., though I couldnt do that while having broken heart. 🙂 But, who knows what was on his mind…
Regarding wind, I think it is not just an attraction of windsurfers, but also a significant energy resource as the dozens of wind generators were spread along the east coast up to Santa Cruz. So, I guess, electricity must be quite cheap there.
After El Medano I went up to the north to the Puerto de la Cruz, which is the oldest tourist city in Tenerife and with more architecture, culture than the popular tourist destinations like Las Playas de las Americas or Playa de los Christianos. Here my first impression was that it is so unexpectedly white. Being located in between Africa and Caribbean/ South America, I was expecting at least a bit of mix of cultures, races etc, but I hardly could notice anything of that. Most of the locals seemed to be of Spanish origin. Moreover, tourists primarily middle/senior age Western Europeans (especially Germans! I even think German was the second most spoken language there after Spanish) make this all even whiter which seemed to me strange. I have to find out what is the history of this island, why despite being so close to Africa there is very little of Africa there… From the other side, Canarians just like Caribbeans and Brazilians are having now the carnival season when a week or more almost every night they would have some smaller or larger parades and shows. One night I also could see a percussion show and a street parade with Spanish/ Latino music. In the next morning when I was about to have a breakfast some where still partying. Very Spanish 🙂
Though in general Puerto de la Cruz is quite a big, lovely, lively, beautiful city, this very strong presence of tourism industry, in my mind, has stolen a bit of its authenticity and uniqueness, culture and importance of its roots. Seems like everything there is meant for tourists. Sometimes I would be wondering – where are the locals? Where they are eating, where they are shopping, where they are resting.. In the city it was all about hotels, shops, restaurants, excursions FOR tourists. Moreover, so little what these places were trying to sell to the tourists starting from souvenirs and finishing with meals were actually Canarian. Even most of the souvenirs, for example, being made of the volcano lava stone, were actually made in China. This globalization is crazy! Here tourists have introduced their own rules in terms of what they eat and drink, how they spend their time, how they entertain, thus imitating their own lifestyle back home. This is really sad as it kind of marginalizes the local people.
But, on a more positive note – In Puerto de la Cruz my favorite coffee place was City Caffe! Excellent cappuccino and a chocolate cake for just 2.30EUR! Ammmmazing! 🙂 Moreover, the coffee place is located in a former monastery which makes that place unique and with very special atmosphere.
If there was one place targeted at tourists which I thought I should definitely visit it was volcano-mountain Teide. I spent all day at Teide and it was the most amazing thing I have recently done! Teide as such is 3718m high, but normally the highest point you can get is at about 3300m if you go with the cable-car. If not, then it is possible to get at around 2300m high, climb around and enjoy the endless views, space, colors, shades, shapes and forms, sounds… There are several routes depending on difficulty, length which you can take. I managed to do just two routes by the end of which I felt I am high. Absolute euphoria. Incredible sense of freedom because of this infinity of space and time. And there, where you are face to face, eye to eye with nature alone, you are like you are, you feel what you feel and you cant hide anything. Very special emotions. And somehow it becomes even clearer what matters and what not…
Another day I also went to the capital of Tenerife – Santa Cruz. I would say that it was much less touristic than Puerto de la Cruz, however it was more appropriate place for shopping. Great variety or international and Spanish brands makes this place very attractive place to spend your money. This is island’s business centre with lots of industry and no beach in the city as it is in other tourist cities. Unfortunately, apart from a very small old town and shopping there was not very much to do, except being suddenly entertained by the most masculine flamenco dancers I have ever seen who were doing some kind of casting in the old town.
Last two days of my visit I spent in south of the island by traveling along the West coast to the Puerto de Santiago. If at the beginning of my around 2 hour bus ride I had a mild headache then at the end of this journey my head was also dizzy and I hardly could eat anything that day. For 2 hours going by the serpentine roads may at times be a bit of a challenge.
Though island is around 110-110 km long, you can clearly see the difference in weather. For this reason the most popular tourist beach resorts are located on the south of the island. Puerto de Santiago is relatively small city and has just few small beaches in the city, however most of the hotels would provide their own pools and sunbathing facilities. There is a very nice view at another island Goma from Puerto de Santiago and you can get a chance to see one of the nicest sunsets. Colorful.
My conclusions, lessons and advices:
- It’s better to go to the small places first to appreciate their smallness, uniqueness, beauty, which you may not notice when going there after having seen all the big, great, spectacular things.
- Never compromise comfort at the expense of beauty! 😉 as I was traveling only with hand luggage I managed to take only (!) two pairs of shoes. So, I chose the red ones, but one – flat, another one – high heels. And I am telling you, you can feel the difference which ones you have on 🙂
- If you are not vegetarian for ethical reasons, you should make an exception now and then and taste the real Spanish chorizo. I mean, I could not resist. Spicy and good!
- My favorite but apparently the hardest to find Spanish sweet is so called ‚polvoron‘. It’s a special kind of biscuit/ cake made of almonds.
- Tenerife is a good place for shopping if you are interested in jewelry, watches, electronics, leather goods;
- Don’t exchange money in airports; exchange rates are much worse than the ones when withdrawing money from cash machine in your travel destination, though depends which bank;
- Public transport is very well organized and functioning and relatively cheap especially if you buy a Bono bus card;
- Latvians are just about 2 million, but they are everywhere. In my hotel I heard a guy speaking in Spanish and thought – hey, he has Latvian accent. After a while telling about himself he said he is from Latvia. As he was busy with a local girl, I decided not to interrupt him and bother about our common origin. 🙂
- When I will be old, rich and famous, I will rent a villa there and will write my memoirs.:)