Nature Vacations in Tenerife
Tenerife's mountains and steep gorges harbor ancient laurel forests. Over a hundred endemic plant species thrive in its year-round spring climate. This Spanish island just off the northwest coast of Africa is as remarkable for its bio-diversity and varied geology.
Mount Teide: Located at the center of Tenerife, this volcano is the highest peak in Spain at 12,199 feet and officially became a national park 50 years ago. A cable car will take you close to the peak. The 18,990-hectare park also features 58 endemic plant species. Pay a visit to the island's impressive Botanical Gardens in Puerto de La Cruz.
Pine Forest: An essential part of the island's ecosystem, the Canarian Pine supplies up to half of the island's water supply. Its foot-long needles draw an astonishing six to eight liters of moisture from the clouds every day and put most of it back in the soil. The largest tree on the island can be spotted along the roadside heading toward Teide. Called Pino Gordo (Fat Pine), it's nearly 70 meters tall and 12 meters thick.
Dragon Tree: The largest dragon tree in the world is located in Icod de Los Vinos, in northern Tenerife. Estimates of its age vary between 500 and 3,000 years.
Regarded by the Guanches, the island's original inhabitants, as a symbol of fertility and wisdom, it was believed the tree could foretell the future. The aboriginal Guanche people applied its dark red sap, known as dragon's blood, to their bodies as a healing ointment and used the resin to embalm their dead.
Whales and Dolphins: Tenerife is one of the top places in the world to observe marine mammals. As many as 26 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises have been spotted in the calm waters between Tenerife and the nearest island of La Gomera. A number of companies on the island offer boat excursions.
Bird Watching: Because of the short distance to Africa, the Canary Islands are visited every year by many migratory bird species that fly south from mainland Europe for the winter months. Others, mainly marine birds, use the archipelago as a nesting point during breeding season.
Trekking: Tenerife is trekking heaven. One of the most popular hikes is the 2-hour trek to the Paisaje Lunar (Lunar Landscape), where bizarre rock formations create a breathtaking setting resembling the surface of the moon.
Rural Stays: For an authentic nature holiday, stay at one of the island's many rural hotels. Whether you prefer B&Bs or self-catered accommodations, there are 150 of these renovated farm houses to choose from.
For More Info
www.tenerifenatural.com: A site with extensive information on nature-based activities and accommodations on the island.
Teide Cable Car: 011-34-922-290-129; Oficina de Parque Nacional, Santa Cruz de Tenerife; www.telefericoteide.com; email@example.com.
Freebird Sailing: Puerto Colon marina, Costa Adeje; www.freebirdsailing.com; firstname.lastname@example.org. Catamarans depart 9 a.m.-11a.m. daily from the marina at Pontoons.
Botanical Gardens: 011-34-922-389-287; Urbanización La Paz, Puerto de la Cruz.
Patea Tus Montes: Guided walking tours. 011-34-922-335-903; www.pateatusmontes.com, email@example.com.
Artenerife: Six stores in the north and south of the island sell traditional handmade goods, including ceramics, woodwork, and embroidery. www.artenerife.com.
La Bodega Casa Rural: 011-34-922-700-590; Calle Bethencourt Alfonso, 4, San Miguel de Abona; www.tenerife-labodega.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Charming hotel was formerly a winery.