From top of mountain Teide to Fiesta and fire-balling the town of Garachico
TENERIFE: Go north and walk further up on this winter holiday island. Few things can compare to the rush of adrenalin when reaching 3,718 metres above the sea level after walking to the top of mountain Teide. Well, looking down the hillside from Teide National Park while in a car winding down on tiny roads measures up the same feeling of excitements. But arriving the beautiful little town of Garachico on the northern coast of Tenerife makes you wonder why this place is almost forgotten or rather not discovered by the hordes.
South Tenerife is regarded the place for sun-seekers, while north provides all kind of excitements – from amazing mountains, hiking tracks, rocks around every corner and formations made of lava and volcano.
Let`s start in Garachico to find out if it´s possible to be both pretty and unlucky – or be the prettiest and unluckiest town at the island of Tenerife on the same time. Strolling the sleepy streets today you never would guess about its difficult past.
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Destroyed by lava. More than 300 years ago, Garachico had it all. As the main port on the island, wealth, streets made of marble, noble houses and home to wealthy people. It was a colourful and exciting place – until 1706 when Montana Negra erupted and lava swept through the town and destroyed more or less everything, included the important harbour. Remember, this was a town with history that could have come straight from pages of the Old Testament.
The people of Garachico survived and the natural disasters made them stronger, even if they lost status as a premier port. Lava that filled the harbour was transformed into attractive rock pools that still attracts visitors. Today Garachico stands out like bloom on an almond tree in the middle of a sea of cactus.
Walk the cobbled streets and explore heart of the town with churches and old buildings such as Castle of San Miguel, a coastal fortress dating back to 1575. Most visitors tend to leave in the afternoon making Garachico a sleepy town on its own. But stay for longer and you will meet some of the 5,000 inhabitants, learn tales of joy and conflicts and realise that it´s possible to be reborn from the ashes.
Moon on Earth. Start or end your journey of the north in Puerto de la Cruz, the main tourist resort in a traditional Spanish way, a city with gardens, elegant plazas and winter-sunshine. However, the icon of Tenerife is Teide National Park in the middle of the island boasting vegetation and the most stunning volcanic landscape.
“The closest I’ve come over a moon landscape on Earth,” astronaut Neil Armstrong said after a visit to Tenerife. He knew what he was talking about as he was the first to walk on the moon. Follow Armstrong and visit top of Teide, Spain´s highest peak at 3,718 m. From the base station you can ride on the cable car to 2,356m and from here make a 40 minutes difficult walk to the top. Just think about the pride of telling friends you reached the top of Spain on your own two feet and a blessed view in all directions. A selfie from top of Teide could be of the highest treasure.
On such a journey you visit the rural town of Masca, the best example of natural architecture and deepest ravine of the island, rock formations and winding roads down to the sea is awesome. The walls, the church, narrow earth and stone streets tell more stories than any book.
Anaga County Park. Laura Alvarez at Anaga Experience is the local guide to hire when visiting Anaga County Park, located northwest and just 15-minute drive from the capital, Santa Cruz. The area has deep valleys and ravine, beaches and is home to a wealth of fauna and native spices. On a Sunday, don´t forget to book for a lunch at Bar Casa Santiago with traditional food and live music in the bar, a fun part of Wild Tenerife.
Three visits. La Orotava is another old and attractive town with picturesque houses and cobbled street. Visit the old historic centre looking for the beautiful Parish Church and the Casa los Balcones, house of the balconies with unique architecture.
The city centre of La Laguna is always busting with life, entertainment, taverns, restaurants and bars. This university city has great shops full of vintage items and a weekend market.
After visiting the wild nature, the lava-sculpted landscapes, the parks and top of Teide, it´s time to return to Puerto de la Cruz. The first tourists to reach Tenerife 100 years ago came here to the fishing village. Small fishing boats remains and Plaza del Charco is still the heart of the town, probably the most beautiful plaza on Tenerife.
Big Fiestas. My visit came with an essential experience; Don´t forget Garachico. Take a dip in the lava pools and get the feeling how it´s to meet locals still living as they are reborn from ashes. I suggest a harvest festival when the wine flows freely. Even more spectacular, Fiesta Lustrales taking place every five year. Witness the most bizarre and spectacular event in Tenerife´s Fiesta calendar when they set fire to the beach and launch flaming balls from the mountain top in direction of the town.
Next Fiesta happens in 2019 – to celebrate the eruption that destroyed the harbour with lava just over three hundred years ago. Fire-balling Garachico is a hard Fiesta to beat.
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: All budget airlines fly into Tenerife South airport, near Los Cristianos and Las Americas. Transfers to Puerto de la Cruz takes an hour. Transfers from Tenerife North airport to Puerto de la Cruz take 25 minutes and to Santa Cruz (102 bus every 30 minutes) take 10 minutes.
Stay: La Laguna Grand Hotel has colonial architecture and rooms meet boutique style and fine dining in the central part of La Laguna. Just a ten-minute taxi ride from Tenerife North airport. Tigaiga Suits in Puerto de la Cruz provides apartments, pool area, restaurants and bars. Located in Taoro Park with subtropic garden and panoramic views of the Orotava Valley.
Eat: Papas arrugadas and mojo is the speciality served with meat and fish as its own tapas. The potatoes is boiled in very salted water, drained and tossed in sea salt just in case they weren´t salty enough. Gofio is a dish maid of toasted grain flour and a love it or hate it, but is as Canarian as you can get. Cubes of pork marinated in garlic, thyme, oregano, salt, spicy peppers, oregano, wine vinegar prepared in a frying pan is seriously good, enjoyd with country wine from Tenerife´s hills.
Play: The ultimate party is the carnival. Carnival 2019 in Santa Cruz take off 27 February. This is the next biggest carnival outside Rio de Janeiro. Or visit Los Realejos with 37,000 inhabitants, the most festive town in Spain holding over 80 fiestas each year.
Mini Guide: Tropical gardens, architecture and historic towns are all to be found in the north of the island along many of the island's best walking routes, while the majority of theme parks and sea-based activities are in the south. Other draws include golf courses, rural hamlets and a world of volcanoes. Tenerife is a year around destination. Puerto de la Cruz is a traditional resort in the north with plazas, botanical gardens and easy access to historic centres while Santa Cruz combines beach with shopping and art galleries. In La Laguna, visit the Cabrera Pinto Museum for natural science, scientific instruments and anthropology.