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5 great things to do in Tenerife

Andy Stevens / 15 November 2016 ( 18 December 2016 )

Your guide to five of the very best things to do when you explore Tenerife on your next visit to the ever-popular Canary Islands destination.

The Botanical Gardens in Tenerife
Puerto de la Cruz's treasured Botanical Gardens are a not-so-little piece of paradise in the north of Tenerife.

Discover the Canary Islands for beautiful beaches and year-round sunshine. Find out more here

1. Casa de los Balcones, La Orotava

For those of you who enjoy getting to know more about the history and traditions of the places you visit, Casa de los Balcones is a fine old house you'll remember forever on your next trip to Tenerife.

Casa de los Balcones in the town of La Orotova in the island's north is a well-loved and much-visited historic abode and museum, guaranteed to captivate you with its architectural style and interesting collection of wares from a Tenerife way of life which long predates the arrival of tourism.

Built in 1632, the house includes distinctive wooden balconies from which its name derives. These are themselves testament to traditional craftsmanship of bygone times, carved from tough Canary Islands pine and, as their continuing presence suggests, clearly build to last.

Furnishings, artefacts, traditional embroidery and crafts fill this fascinating three-storied casa, offering insights into traditional life in the Tenerife of earlier centuries, both at the grand and humble ends of the social scale.

Casa de los Balcones isn't, you'll be pleased to hear, just another museum frozen in historical aspic, set up for a quick walk around and a souvenir shop for you to pop in to on the way out.

Saying that, Casa de Los Balcones does have a fine selection of beautiful Canarian embroidered tablecloths and other traditional handicrafts you'll be tempted to buy on your visit.

The house pleasingly retains great significance to the arts and crafts heritage of the Canary Islands thanks to its artwork complex and training centre, which provides an outlet for budding artists while keeping traditional skills alive.

2. Teide National Park

Sitting in stark, brooding glory as Spain's highest mountain - that's islands and mainland included - the 12,198ft Mount Teide at the heart of Tenerife and its famous national park is always big, big news. 

And while we're on the superlatives, Teide is also the world's third tallest island volcano - so there you have it.

A nailed-on must for the island's visitors, you shouldn't in anyway be put off by Teide's huge popularity as Europe's most-visited national park.

Like the Rockies, Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and others among nature's temples to vastness, Teide National Park is a proper supersized, league-of-its-own natural wonder, a table-topper in international tourism's top flight.

Teide is visited by millions - around three million to be exact - people every year, eager to come away with their own memories of this vast, inspirational volcanic landscape, which is home to flora and fauna of regional and global importance.

This national park's out-of-this-world setting provides sanctuary for many precious species of birds, small reptiles and mammals plus plants and flowers, including at high altitude the park's unique and hen's-teeth rare Teide violet.

Indigenous geckos and lizards abound, while bird-watchers should keep a keen eye out for kestrels, great grey shrikes, the Atlantic canary and blue chaffinches.

If you want to get at-one with a bit of wilderness, there are guided nature trails you can book, which will give you the best up-close access to the park's pine forests, flower-filled fields and spectacular volcanic landscapes.

And if it's the jaw-dropping views you're after from as near as permissible to the mountain top, then the eight-minute cable car ride will take you to that higher plane and back, from its starting point at 7,729ft all the way to a dizzying 11,663ft.

Designated a Unesco world heritage site in 2007, Teide's famed lunar-like landscape is also home to a huge astronomical observatory, using its unrivalled location as the perfect place to point big telescopes at the stars.

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3. Our Lady of Africa Market, Santa Cruz

If you're anything like us, then nothing beats a mooch around a bustling local market for lapping up the authentic flavour - plus sounds, smells, vibrant market-day patter and beating heart - of a place.

Should this be your thing in Tenerife, then get yourself down to what's locally known as the Mercado de Nuestra Señora de Africa in Santa Cruz.  

You'll spot the market by its ornate arched stone entrance, and beyond that arch you can savour a tantalising amalgam of Spanish and African food cultures in a delightful market setting which has been serving and feeding townsfolk and travellers since 1943.

When it comes to fruit and vegetables at Our Lady of Africa Market we're talking full-scale exotica: piles of colourful and at-times spectacularly unfamiliar fare provides a dazzling feast for the eyes.

All manner of esoteric herb and spice stalls play their part in the sensory cornucopia; as your tastebuds are sharpened, you may also want to pick up some local cheeses, honey and speciality sauces on your visit.

There's also a place in the heart of the market where you can relax with a coffee and indulge in an obligatory spot of people watching.

If you find yourself in Santa Cruz on a Sunday, the streets near the market turn into an outdoor market in their own right, brimming with everything from leather goods to antiques, silverware, books and kitchen goods.

4. Guimar Pyramids

You can always guarantee that anything to do with pyramids instantly, miraculously transforms itself into a topic layered in mystery, theories and intrigue.

True to form as befits all received pyramid convention, Tenerife's very own pyramids at Guimar do just that.

Guimar's six surviving pyramids (there were originally nine) are not the stuff of antiquity. One thing everyone agrees on is that they were probably built by the rural community in the 19th century. 

But they are an intriguing focal point of an area of archaeological significance with finds in the area dating back to 600AD.

The reason why Tenerife's Guimar pyramids are there in the first place is a source of conjecture.

Theories swing wildly between a freemasonry connection, their possible use as a site of significance during summer and winter solstices, or an ancient geographical staging post between the pyramids of Egypt and those of the Mayan civilisation.

The enduring fascination of mysteries aside, Guimar pyramids are an excellent place for a day trip while you're in Tenerife.

The tourist site includes a museum, exhibition space and particularly beautiful gardens for you to explore, the latter home to many botanical gems you'll see nowhere else in the world but in the Canary Islands.

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5. Botanical Gardens, Puerto de la Cruz

Puerto de la Cruz's treasured Botanical Gardens are a not-so-little piece of paradise in the north of Tenerife.

The gardens have been magnet for botanists since the late 18th century, an age of wonder - and plunder - when all manner of exotic plant species and flowers were collected from the new world and collated for their beauty and the furtherance of scientific study.

Centuries on from the roots of those pioneering endeavours, 'El Botanico' as it's known locally has blossomed into a highly significant and much-loved home for hundreds of species of exotic plant life from the tropics and sub-tropics.

The stunning variety of unusual flowers and plants for your visual enjoyment, as you stroll through these carefully-tended gardens with its ponds and leafy lanes, is the living legacy of those vanguard naturalists who helped create Tenerife's very own answer to Kew - except with a far better climate than south west London!

El Botanico is thoughtfully arranged with themed walking areas for best enjoying its plant life, flowers and trees, so visitors can get the most out of the experience while learning something along the way.

And we guarantee the gardens' trees will have you talking; El Botanico is home to not just a spectacular range of palm trees but eye-popping, gnarled ancient trees which look for all their long life like they've just landed off the set of a sci-fi film. Find out more about the Canary Islands and the island of Tenerife

Discover Tenerife, an island where the sun shines all year, an otherworldly landscape meets crystal blue seas, and a distinct culture is waiting to welcome you… Find out more here

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.