The Canary Islands are renowned for their white sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife, but our eye-opening tour takes you beyond the glittering resorts to where you’ll discover wildly beautiful islands of incredible diversity, charming colonial towns, historic ports and remote mountain villages. We’ll see truly incredible green spaces, with towns taking great pride in their impeccably landscaped parks, which showcase a diverse range of tropical and subtropical plants. Then there are the magnificent highlights shaped by nature: emerald forests, volcanic wonders, unique flora and fauna, and perhaps the most dramatic of them all, Mount Teide, Spain’s highest mountain.
Long before the Spanish arrived, the Canary Islands were inhabited by the Guanches, cave-dwellers who migrated from North Africa around 1000 BC. Traces of their ancient culture have survived, such as Silbo, the captivating whistling language of La Gomera. In 1402, the Castilian conquest began, and under the Spanish Empire Tenerife became a vital trading centre. By the 16th century these ‘Fortunate Isles’ attracted pioneers and pirates alike, waiting to pounce on galleons returning from the New World with gold and jewels. The most well-known battle occurred in 1797, when the British launched an attack on Santa Cruz and Vice-Admiral Nelson famously lost his arm.
These days, visitors are drawn to Tenerife’s more accessible treasures, such as some of the archipelago’s finest architecture. Many of the churches here date back to the Gothic period, while others include Renaissance and Baroque elements. Traditional Canarian buildings feature lavishly ornate woodwork, seen on candy-coloured façades, elaborate balconies and Moorish-inspired ceilings.
The traditional fare of the Canaries is also worth seeking out. Not to be confused with the cuisine of the Spanish mainland, Canarian dishes are flavoured with Latin American and Arabic influences. Staples include hearty stews with meats simmered to perfection and flavoured with mojo, the ever-present Canarian sauce that adds a zest to all dishes; and gofio, a toasted flour used to make bread and thought to have been an essential part of the Guanche diet.
Our wonderful tour is based in La Laguna, the former capital and a slice of medieval Spain that’s quite different from the lively current capital, Santa Cruz – which we’ll also have time to discover. Along the northern coast we visit La Orotava, nestled between mountains and the Atlantic, and come face to face with the ancient dragon tree of Icod de los Vinos. We visit the neighbouring island of La Gomera and immerse ourselves in its ancient laurel forests and fascinating Gomeran culture. A trip to Tenerife wouldn’t be complete without understanding its volcanic origins, so we spend a day at Teide National Park, where we explore the moonlike landscape of the Las Cañadas caldera and ascend the beast that is Mount Teide – by cable car, of course. With expert guides to help you uncover the local secrets, you’ll experience so much more.