The Canary Islands are still amongst the most popular destinations for tourists in Europe thanks to their fabulous climate. With cheap flights to Tenerife you could discover the charm the islands held for visitors long before the package tours started.
Puerto de la Cruz is the centre of activity in the lush north of the island, where its spa was a hit with the genteel Victorian traveller. With its boardwalks, traditional restaurants and leafy plaza with terrace bars it still heralds a more relaxing pace of life than the heady club life of the south.
Start by taking in the lively atmosphere of the Plaza Charco in the heart of the town, built surrounding an ancient Indian laurel tree. This is where most local events start or finish. The bars and restaurants present great choice, and there is a shady children’s play area.
To the north of the Plaza lies the harbour with its picturesque fishing boats and food stalls serving traditional Canarian food. The cobbled streets of the old fishing quarter, La Ranilla is teeming with sophisticated and elegant restaurants for evening dining, including El Templo de Vino offering superb tapas with a Tunisian twist and Restuarante Regulo, a five star establishment with four different dining areas. For a beautiful evening, diners can eat on the balcony overlooking a lush courtyard and fountains.
To build up an appetite for these wonderful eateries you can head to the beach. Playa Jardin is the main beach running from Punta Bravo across the west of town. It is backed by garden areas, which give it its name. The sea, though high is generally safe and monitored by a red flag system.
Another great place to play is the Lago Martianez, a swimming complex of seven pools with a huge lake at its centre. For a reasonable fee of a few Euros you can secure a sun-bed and mattress and stay all day. There are snack bars, bars and restaurants to cater for your needs.
For excursions, the volcanic centre of the island is an absolute must. You can zip up to the peak of El Tiede in just 8 minutes by cable car and see the volcanic valley spread before you. In the national park you can also see Pico Viejo, the last of the volcanoes to erupt in 1798, when its western flank ripped open leaving a 700-metre gash. The strangest sight in the park though, is the twisted pinnacles of lava rock, the Roques de Garcia. It’s easy to imagine you are in another world with these odd shapes and the bald plains of Llano de Ucanca stretching away to the west.
To remind yourself you are on Earth, head back north and take in the calm, cobbled greenery of La Orotava, a beautiful town steeped in colonial history where you can restore your sense of reality in one of its wonderful cafes and look out on the lush valley which surrounds the town.
Northern Tenerife will rest, revitalise and surprise you just as it did those spa visitors from long ago, whose footsteps still echo on the cobbles.