Herald Express (Torbay, Brixham & South Hams Edition)

Alternativ­e rock



MORE than two million of us Brits take the four-hour flight to Tenerife each year to bask in its subtropica­l climate.

But if you don’t venture beyond the bright lights of the tourist zones, you’re missing out on a stunning side of the biggest Canary Island.

Sleepy Spanish towns, spectacula­r mountain scenery, restaurant­s loved by locals, not to mention sublime stargazing and adventures on the high seas are there to be discovered, if you can tear yourself away from your sunlounger.

So I set out on a trip to sample real island life with local guide Jaime Munoz from Feel Tenerife tour company, whose mission it is to spread the word about wonders to be found in less visited areas. My first destinatio­n was San Cristobal de La Laguna in the north, the first colonial settlement in Tenerife that became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999.

It was founded in the 1400s and was the original capital city. Its grid street layout provided a model for many colonial towns in the area. It’s a lovely town to just sit sipping coffee in the sunshine and watch the world go by, or wander around taking in the architectu­re, historic buildings, courtyards and pastel coloured houses.

The daily food market is a real treat for the senses too.

I stayed at the four-star Hotel Laguna Nivaria, an impressive 16th-century mansion in the heart of the old town, overlookin­g the leafy main square.

The breakfast buffet leaves you spoilt for choice while dinner in the restaurant serves up fresh local dishes – the pork fillet in a moreish dark Pedro Ximenez sherry wine reduction was amazing.

A 20-minute drive out of La Laguna takes you into the mountains of Anaga Rural Park with its lush laurel forests and spectacula­r views of the island and sea beyond.

Covering 14,500 hectares, there is a vast network of trails and paths and a route down to Taganana village where you can finish with a dip in the sea. Later we headed west along the northern coastline to one of the oldest and prettiest villages, Garachico. It was founded in the 15th century and was once a prosperous port, but was destroyed by a massive eruption of the Montana Negra volcano.

Today some of the biggest attraction­s are the natural swimming pools in the sea created in the wake of the lava flow.

Garachico’s picturesqu­e streets and shops are lovely for a stroll around, followed by a lazy lunch on a shady veranda. We ate at Restaurant­e Silogía on the edge of the main square. The smoked goat’s cheese with a red pepper sauce starter, succulent cod fillet with sweet potato mash, and a decadent chocolate mousse were so good they elicited a chorus of “mmmmmms” around the table.

Fighting the urge for a siesta, we headed to a more bustling old town – Puerto de la Cruz where La Ranilla district is home to an amazing array of street art. Renowned artists have created huge murals on the sides of buildings ranging from lifelike portraits to abstract patterns, cartoon styles and even one Banksy-esque painting – taking them all in was a brilliant way to spend an afternoon.

The next day we headed to the far west coast where there were adventures to be had on the sea.

We joined a group of tourists at Los Gigantes preparing to give kayaking a go with Teno Activo, which runs daily trips out to view the magnificen­t 2,000ft cliffs, caves and coves from the water. The guide team put our minds at rest and soon everyone was excitedly hopping into the kayaks and paddling out.

We were dwarfed by the spectacula­r coastline and there was even time to hop off the kayaks to cool off in the sea before heading back.

My second hotel stay was the new and modern GF Victoria in Costa Adeje and I was completely wowed. With its giant, stylish lobby and rooftop infinity pool it oozes luxury and works equally well for couples.

The buffet breakfast was vast – the fresh bread section alone took up a whole room – a hot section, meats,

There were gasps of excitement when a fin was seen breaching waves not far off the bow

cheeses, a raw juice station as well as omelettes cooked to order, you could graze for hours.

A trip to Tenerife calls for an excursion to the mighty Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak at 12,190ft and also a volcano. It last erupted in 1909.

The best time to go is late afternoon once most of the tourists have left, then stick around for a prime spot to watch the sunset. We were above the clouds for a clear view as the sun began its descent in all its glory of reds, yellows and oranges – mesmerisin­g.

As darkness started to settle, there were more stunning views in store as we arrived at Mount Teide’s own stargazing experience.

The astronomer guide had an amazing knowledge of the night sky – recounting the stories made up by the Ancient Greeks for the constellat­ions and pointing out the Andromeda galaxy 2.5 million light years from Earth but still visible to the naked eye.

His telescope gave us views of moon craters, Jupiter and an amazing look at Saturn and its rings. For anyone who looks up at the stars with wonder, this is a mind-blowing experience.

The evening was topped off with the gastronomi­c delights of La Vendimia restaurant in Vilaflor, which at 4,539 ft is the highest town on the island.

The restaurant prides itself on using produce from its own garden and paired dishes perfectly with local wines.

Another memorable excursion on Tenerife is whale watching, and we headed down to Puerto Colon for a trip out to sea with Big Smile luxury charters. There were high hopes of spotting resident pilot whales or bottlenose dolphins from the luxury sailing boat.

And before long there were gasps of excitement when a fin was seen breaching waves not far off the bow. Then there was total silence on board as we witnessed a pod of whales playfully circling the boat.

Back on shore Besame Mucho fish restaurant by Troya beach, Playa de las Americas, is gorgeous if you like fresh seafood. To start we sampled squid rings, organic ripe tomatoes with a Canarian vinaigrett­e and black potato, followed by grilled sea bream and cheesecake to finish.

So step away from the crowds and try taking a path less travelled to discover the true wonders of Tenerife. You won’t regret it.

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 ?? ?? Bottlenose dolphins
put on a show
Bottlenose dolphins put on a show
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Mount Teide
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 ?? ?? Puerto de La Cruz Street Art
Puerto de La Cruz Street Art
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 ?? ?? GF Victoria in Costa Adeje
GF Victoria in Costa Adeje
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Garachico village

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