This is a photo journal of the island, which I began years ago, so many of the early photos were taken with my little Kodak, or Nikon Coolpix as I progressed. One day I will get better shots to replace the slightly blurry ones, but I’ll leave them for now.
For those who don’t know, the Canary Islands lie off the coast of North West Africa, but are an autonomous region of Spain – a bit like Hawaii being a US state, though geographically apart. This is where I am living right now. In the South of Tenerife island.
There are seven main islands, Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura being the best known, and the three smaller islands La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro, which are still reasonably unspoiled as yet. The Province of Gran Canaria comprises that island plus Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, and the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is made up of the other four. The climate is good all-year-round, especially in the coastal areas, where you never need a coat. Mount Teide, which is on Tenerife, is the highest mountain in Spain, so, yes, the higher you go the cooler it is in Wintertime! The islands, plus some smaller ones, all erupted from the ocean floor at different intervals. There is debate about how, why and when, so we won’t go there for the purposes of this wee introduction!
I live currently on the island of Tenerife, a paradise on one hand, a tourist ghetto on the other hand. Whichever way you choose to look at it, tourism is essential. The islands couldn’t survive in the modern world without it, and blessed as these islands are in their climate, they attract a lot of people who want to fry all day and party all night. Ok, nothing, even, wrong with that, each to their own, so long as they don’t spoil life for others. But there is all that and more, as this page will show – if you want to see more click on my Flickr page on the sidebar.
Forget it’s reputation as a place to get drunk, party and get sunburned, the great climate makes it perfect for sports….you hardly ever will get rained off you see!! Just off the top of my head: surfing, kite surfing, windsurfing, swimming, diving, bodyboarding, sailing, kayaking…….and that’s just on the water. On land you can hike, climb, run, cycle, paraglide, beach volley, basketball, tennis…..all outdoors of course.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
The capital of the island of Tenerife, and the province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which includes the smaller islands of La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, is a mini city. Exciting, modern architecture vies with old, wooden, carved, Canarian balconies and a Spanish colonial style remininscent of South American cities. I love the variety and the city feel which still keeps its friendliness.
The original captial of the island was La Laguna, and eventually to Santa Cruz. The capital boasts a fascinating variety of archicture both old and modern.
Circulo de Amistad
La Plaza de España
Me Plaza de España 2008 a few days after the remodelled Square was unveilled. I included this, even though it highlights all my lump bits, because it shows how attractively Santa Cruz nestles in its mountain backdrop. I imagine this must be a beautiful sight when you arrive by ship…….must try it sometime!
Restored street off Calle Noria
Café life, a city side street
La Iglesia de la Concepción
The steeple of the church rises above the stage set for the Santa Blues festival June 2010
And a modern office block (oops forget the name – to be checked out!)
Austin competing Santa Cruz Half Marathon 2008
My home at the time of writing, Médano is what you might term an “alternative” resort, haunt of windsurfers and kite surfers, hippies and travellers, it resists mass tourism and has a happly blend of local and foreign, a youthful feel and an energy on account of the surfers, no chain restaurants and only one British bar that I know of (unfortunately right next to the main square, but I think lack of demand might prevent another opening.
First rays of the sun warm the waterfront
Crystal clear skies on this January day for a walk for Trix and me and a short trail run for Austin, starting at Ilfonche. In the past we’ve followed the trail to Adeje, but this was more of a gentle post New Year exercise.
Sleepy Town Hall and Square at siesta hour
Sleepy village, one of the gems of the South. The focus of life trickleddown to what used to be a fishing village of the municipality, but which is now a resort town, leaving this village almost unspoiled!
The Romeria in January
Playa de las Americas
Purpose built holiday resort. Well, not so much purpose-built as that there was nothing there before Northern Europeans realized that they could toast in Winter, and cheap air travel meant they could get here. So that, for me, it has no heart, no soul, it’s just there. However, over the last couple of years or so it has been spruced up considerably. It had grown up all kind of ramshackle, like a naughty teenager running wild. It sprawls across two municipalities, maybe that’s the reason. The thing most people know about it is the infamous “Veronicas” area, which is slap-bang in the middle. It’s an area worthy of the reputation it has – a tatty conglomeration of seedy bars and discos where drinks are spiked, drugs exchanged and people generally give in to their worst sides. It is said that the area isn’t closed down because the police feel they can contain all of that better if it’s all happening in one area, which can be closed off quite easily if necessary. I have no idea. All I know is that I avoided Playa de las Americas like the plague for years, but had to go there recently (April 2010) and found it nicely smartened up if you don’t venture into the smelly Veronicas area.
Art on the Oceanside walkway
More art and the foothills
Sunset from friends’ balcony
Guy surfing La Fitenia, Playa de las Americas
Parque Nacional del Teide
The Parque Nacional del Teide was elected a World Heritage Site in 2007. The landscape is,simply, stunning. Adjective most frequently used is lunar. I’ll never get to the moon, so I’ve never know if that’s true, but is most certainly is spectacular. Volcanic activity over the years has created a landscape like nothing else on earth. Where rock has solidified at different rates there are quite distinct phenomena nestling side-by-side. These days you have to stick to the paths, unless you have a permit, which, of course, is necessary, but not too long ago one could wander at will. The clear skies which the Canary Islands have enjoyed over past decades have made them a perfect place for astronomers. There is one observatory here in Tenerife and another in La Palma, where the heavens are studied, tracked and recorded, so far, with minimum interference from pollution.
The red, flowering plant is a tajinaste. They are indigenous only to the Canary Islands.
Chapel by the Parador watched over by El Teide
For a couple of years I lived in a coastal village called Los Abrigos. The name Los Abrigos means “The Shelters”, and it is amazing just how snug we could be in this harbor away from the winds which blow along this coast. I lived overlooking the harbor, which is also tranquil in the early mornings, until the tourists and other diners arrive at lunchtime. Although the boats go out still day and night, Los Abrigos is best known for its restaurants. Ever since I have lived on Tenerife the waterfront has consisted almost solely of restaurants. At one time they were all fish restaurants, and people were known to get off the plane, dump their bags and head straight there for some fresh island fish. In fact I can remember going directly there from the airport on one occasion, and I also had the enormous pleasure of dining there in company of the wonderful Sir Matt Busby in my first year here, and later with the lovely and amiable Kevin Keegan, but the best meal I ever had there was at a small table in the company of newscaster Peter Woods, not very long before he died. He was fascinating, talk about hanging on every word! Lovely memories, but I digress. I fear those days are gone. Los Abrigos has been “cleaned up” and prettified to an extent that it has lost its character. There are now Italian restaurants and at least one, rowdy, English bar on the small waterfront, which have brought into line with the resorts along the coast. Shame.
Busy morning on the harbor as catches are unloaded. This was a really busy morning.
This is a normal, tranquil morning, before the lunch hoards arrive.
See how calm it looks out to sea? Never take it for granted. Even this old, local guy had to run for his life when the waves crashed against the rocks where he was fishing. Every year there are reports from different islands about fishermen getting knocked into the sea by unexpected waves.
Los Abrigos, even though so tiny does have one of the best fiestas around. This is the Sunday procession, lead by the Queen of the Fiesta, who is followed by San Blas (Saint Blaise – patron saint of caves amongst other things), The Virgin of Candelaria and Hermano Pedro, the only Canarian saint.
The fiesta is in September, the feast day of San Blas, or at least the Sunday following. The rest of the year the statue of San Blas, patron saint of caves, amongst other things, resides in a tiny cave near the coast, but on this day he is paraded along the short promenade, along with the statues of Our Lady and Hermano Pedro (the only Canarian saint) from the church. When they reach the harbor a short mass is said, before the statues are loaded onto boats to be taken out to bless the waters for the coming year……can’t help wondering if they also have a word with the fishermen about overfishing in this day and age!
Decorated boat awaiting its important cargo
It’s a wonder that everyone was up and about and so cheerful for the Sunday procession, because the previous night had seen the most spectacular fireworks, and dancing until dawn in the church square. In fact dancing until dawn is done the whole week, goodness knows when any work gets done!
Every year the municipality of Granadilla de Abona, in which Los Abrigos lies, has an inter-cultural celebration, which takes place in different villages within the municipality during the Summer months. This few pix from the night in Los Abrigos 2009. Above my friend, Maria, get her feet henna’d by a lady from Western Sahara.
Group from Senegal
Dancer from Peru
A click along the coast is the concrete mess of no less than two, side-by-side golf resorts. The only time it was worthing snapping in that direction was at sunset, when the ugly buildings are in the dark!
Amarilla Golf/ Golf del Sur
Okaay I was reluctant to include photos of these, two resorts, because a) they no way are representative of true Canarian life and b) I loathe both places. These two golf resorts lie side by side, just along the coast from Los Abrigos. I lived on Golf del Sur 23 years ago, when we first came, and it was a fledgling development. We lasted 9 months because we could see how it was going to end up, as it has, an ex-pat ghetto. I lived on Amarilla Golf & Country Club for around a year and a half a few years back, at that time some dispute or other had halted building for some years, so renting was cheap (even cheaper than I was paying at the time I later found out, but, hey) and when the vacation rentals were not being used much because the dispute had affected the entire project. I was there when they just started up building again, and I’ve only returned twice since. Now, it’s pretty much the same concrete abomination as its Siamese twin next door. The big difference being that it has a marina. It was a pretty stretch of coastline, and still has a lot to recommend it, especially, as you can see, at sunrise.
And this was my early morning view when they were renovating whatever hole it was my apartment overlooked! Not only did I wake to this, but they would work until past midnight on occasion. I can only say I was too busy and most of the time tired to move!
Strictly speaking, the next photos were taken in a place called Playa Achile. When I was living on Amarilla Golf this is where I used to walk Trixy every morning, but there were signs up indicating it was marked for future development. Last time I was there, in 2007 there were building materials strewn around, and obvious heavy tire tracks. Now? I don’t know, and I doubt that I want to. Nice memories here though.
Barranco del Infierno
If you continue to sift through these photos and read my ramblings, you’ll find some moans and groans about development and “redevelopment”, but Barranco del Infierno for me is a huge success story, though not for everyone. It used to be that you could just take your dogs, let them roam and enjoy this half day walk, there and back to a waterfall at the end of the valley (remember waterfalls are a rare thing in this arid part of the island). All this took its toll, as hundreds of uncaring walkers plodded their way through each year, so about five years ago the entrance was barred so that you now have to pay to enter. This in itself discourages unthinking people out to picnic for the day and leave their rubbish behind. The valley was then cleaned up and restored. Non-native flora were removed, and it is now an absolute delight to walk. No rubbish, indigenous plants making a healthy recovery, and numbers limited, so it isn’t like walking Blackpool Promenade on a Bank Holiday weekend any more. A real success story.
My favorite beach, and still fairly unspoiled. Best in the early morning when only dog walkers and beachcombers are around. It’s pretty unkempt, although in Summer the tractor does come every morning to plough the sand up. And then again, that’s the way we like it. When they begin to tart it up will be when mass tourism arrives, and the plans and infrastructure are already laid. They await only the lifting of the current economic recession to go ahead with the building of a 5-Star hotel, right next to the beach :=( The sunbeds seem to be hand-me-downs from the big resorts, and there is a distinct lack of trash cans (as any responsible dog walker will tell you). It’s sometimes described as a nudist beach, but that doesn’t mean that it is private only for nudists. It means it’s tolerated. They tried to ban it last year, but failed in the face of popular support. So if you tend to the prudish, stick to the tourist beaches, and leave us to enjoy it whilst we still can!
Sadly, tourism isn’t the only threat to this beach. Not too far along the coast they are proposing to build a mega industrial port. Local residents from all over the islands, supported by environmental groups like Greenpeace are fighting tooth and nail to stop the development. Right now it is stalled in Europe, but since infrastucture has been laid, and retailers have built massive warehouses on site, very few people at this stage think that it won’t go ahead now. Of course, the Crisis doesn’t help. The port and the building of it will provide jobs for a long time to come in an area where they are sorely needed.
World Heritage Site, Former Capital and University Town La Laguna blends modern with history less well than Santa Cruz in my opinion, although the old heart of the city, which is the World Heritage Site is beautiful, and the setting nestled under mountains, couldn’t be prettier. The university seems to me, cold, and heartless, but then, I’ve only been there to functionss and not when it is bustling with student life.
Los Cristianos, the quiet fishing village which turned into a tourist resort. Well within living memory the town was dependent on the fishing boats which go out every day from the harbor, and I’ve seen huge development in the 20+ years I’ve lived here. Because it was a real place before it was a resort there is still a core of reality, of soul, unlike its Siamese twin, Playa de las Americas. I suppose I’m some sort of Luddite. If it was left to me, all these villages would be as unspoiled as they were 40 years ago, but then they would be broke, there would be insufficient facilities etc etc etc, so I guess, as these things go, they haven’t made a bad job of it all.
From the Harbor, looking back, as the setting sun is reflected in the clouds over the mountains.
Santiago del Teide
Late January and la Ruta de los Almendros
Chirche is no place to go if you have no head for heights or have problems in walking, or, probably if you have a heart condition. When I went for the “Día de las Tradiciones” in July a couple of years ago my car almost overheated, and I had to park at the botton of the hill to which this village clings. As I puffed and panted my up way to where I’d arrange to meet my friends I could only marvel at the fitness of the old folks I saw skipping about the streets! This fiesta is not the local saint’s day, as are most fiestas, but a celebration of the past and arts which are all to quickly dying. What appears to be a wedding is a mock affair in early 20th century garb.
Mock wedding breakfast, and everyone was invited. Food was free, including a glass of wine! I didn’t go last year, but heard that it had to be toned down a bit “on account of the economy” (to quote Springsteen :=)
La Caleta was a tiny fishing village not so long ago, where you dodged between tethered goats, and assorted chicken and dogs to get down to the little, pebble beach or the dramatic rocks to sunbathe or dive into the ocean. Now it is cheek-by-jowl with swish, up-market vacation rentals and hotels. Excellent restaurants, abound as a result, but the original ones still serve fresh catch of the day – at a much dearer price now, of course.
Puerto de la Cruz
Tourist resort from way back, stop off for the rich on their “World Tours”, still retains an old-fashioned, more genteel feel. Home to historic and impressive Botanical Gardens and modern theme park Loro Parque.
Five minutes up from Vilaflor you come to the recreational zone named Las Lajas, where you can walk in forests or up hills, barbeque or just enjoy the fresh mountain air.
Experimental windfarm and research facility into alternative energy. Well worth taking a look around. If there are enough of you, they will do a guided tour.
Home to the basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria, the black virgin, statues of the Guanche rulers of the island, and fishing port.
Where even the graffitti is religious!!! Work in progress when I snapped this.
Small chapel which shields the cave in which the statue was supposedly originally housed.
Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria
Tiny fishing village on the West coast was a favorite place to swim and snorkel when my kids were little. It’s still a world away from the tourist resorts. We used to buy bocadillos and wine from the hole-in-the-wall local bar. A tumble-down shanty town of “weekend homes” clung to the cliff side, looking for all the world like a tiny, Brazilian farvela. All built totally illegally, and soon to meet their end. Apparently it is ok to litter the coast with cookie-cutter hotels, but not charming and harmless little hovels like that!
if you want to read what Greenpeace has to say on the subject of coastal development in the Canaries and other parts of Spain.
Abandoned Banana Plantation at Sunset
Beautiful, tranquil forests of pine and laurel, a world away from the world of coastal tourism
Playa San Juan
Here’s something you haven’t heard before! “Pretty little fishing village spoiled by tourism”….excuse the sarcasm and lack of originality.
Seriously, if you didn’t know it before, you’ll like it. They made this nice walkway along the harbor and dredged up some yellow sand from somewhere for a beach, and the sunsets are as the universe intended.
You will be happy to hear that I have no complaints about Las Galletas, yes it has been modernized to accommodate increased leisure boat traffic, dive boats, yachts etc, but it’s original (if a little bright for some tastes) and the village center, with criss-crossing streets has been pedestrianized or made into one-way streets very successfully. Yes, the tourists come, but there really is a local atmosphere, and if they don’t like it, well, I guess they move on, because that’s what you still have here, a local vibe.