I was recently invited by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) (www.iagto.com) to their annual International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) held this past October in Tenerife, Spain. Not knowing two bits of knowlege about this fascinating island, the largest of the seven islands that make up the archipelago of the Islas Canarias, my first thought was, “Where in the world are the Canary Islands and who in the world vacations there?”
Iwas recently invited by the International Association of Golf Tour Operators (IAGTO) (www.iagto.com) to their annual International Golf Travel Market (IGTM) held this past October in Tenerife, Spain. Not knowing two bits of knowledge about this fascinating island, the largest of the seven islands that make up the archipelago of the Islas Canarias, my first thought was, “Where in the world are the Canary Islands and who in the world vacations there?”
I quickly found out why over 13 million tourists visit the Canary Islands each year (over 5 million to Tenerife itself). One word might sum up this volcanic paradise and that is the “Hawaii’ of the Atlantic. It contains all the natural beauty and splendor of the Hawaiian Islands, but adds in its own charming, yet very cosmopolitan, cultural mix of Spain. Sprinkle in influences from the rest of Europe (Brits and Germans especially love the warm embrace of the island’s year-round climate) and a dash of Africa, and you have a tourist mecca that will keep you coming back year after year.
The largest of the island chain is Tenerife, situated less than 200 miles from the African coast, and about 800 miles from the Spanish Mainland. It has a unique triangular shape, with the gigantic Mount Teide volcano rising up in the center of the island, to over 12,000 feet, making it the highest point in all of Spain.
Even before the Canary Islands were part of history as such, they were legendary as the mythical lands beyond the Pillars of Hercules, the Gibraltar Straits, toward the Dark Sea. Paradise, the Elysian Fields or the Garden of the Hesperides are often placed here by Classical authors. One of the first reliable reports of the islands comes from Pliny who, in the 1st century, spoke of an expedition sent by Juba, King of Mauritania, which brought back giant dogs as a souvenir of the adventure. This is the origin of the name of the islands: Canary Islands, from can or canes. Magnificent examples of these fierce-looking native hunting dogs can still be found in the islands, where they are called “verdinos” on some islands and “bardinos” on others. It is hardly surprising that the first legendary and historic accounts of the Canary Islands almost always mention Tenerife, also known as Nivaria, as the sight of an enormous snowcapped mountain, sticking up above the clouds at those latitudes and visible for miles around, must have made quite an impression on those ancient seafarers.
THE TRADE WINDS AND MICRO-CLIMATES
Tenerife is known throughout the world as the Island of Eternal Spring. Its geographic position, in an imaginary strip around the world in which you find some of the best holiday
It's oh so easy to fall in love with this Amazing Spanish Isle
spots in the world, means that this slogan is not far from truth.
The reasons for the gentle climate are the prevailing winds - the trade winds - the orography of the terrain itself and the cold Canary current, which ensures that the coasts and beaches of Tenerife always enjoy magnificent temperatures, sometimes above the temperature of the air.
In general, the Island’s climate is mild, temperate and moderate throughout the year. Average temperatures fluctuate between 62º and 65º F in winter, and up to 75º or 77º F in summer. What us Americans might call “San Diego weather”, which is about as good as it gets! These temperatures are especially applicable in coastal areas where most of the tourist resorts are situated.
Tenerife has a surprisingly rich biological diversity due to its special climate. The rugged terrain of the island modifies the general weather conditions, generating a wide range of micro-climates.
The abundance of micro-climates, and, therefore, natural habitats, is reflected in the rich and varied vegetation to be found on the island (1400 species of higher plants, including many species endemic to the Canary Islands (200) and to Tenerife (140).
TENERIFE TOURISM CORPORATION and LANDMARK MEDIA
On opening day of the IGTM, held at the spectacular Magma Convention facility in the South of Tenerife, I had the good fortune of meeting two of the Tenerife Tourism Corporation’s top officers, Pia Louw and Karen Blanchard. Accommodating as two tourism officials could ever be, they quickly sprung into action, and before I knew it, Karen had arranged for me to go on a whale-watching adventure the very next morning to experience the beauty of the area’s Pilot whales, up close and personal with Captain Felix on his sailboat “Lina”.
After an afternoon of roaming the streets of the Las Americas beach area of Tenerife South on my own, I was treated to a fabulous dinner and extraordinary Spanish wine, along with a presentation of golfing in Spain’s Costa Brava region (just north of Barcelona). It was there that I was able to spend some quality time with Gary Firkins, Manuela Whittaker and Tim Franklin, all representatives of Landmark Media, (www.landmark-media. com) who arranged my trip courtesy of my gracious hosts at IAGTO.
SPEAKING OF WINE - TENERIFE’S WINE CULTURE
Vines first appeared in the Canary Islands following their conquest in the 15th century. The new settles brought with them grape varieties from their homelands in Spain, Portugal, Italy and France as well as other areas.
Vine-growing really took off between the 16th and 18th centuries when it became the prime source of revenue for the islands. The celebrated sweet Malvasia wines made there were exported to European courts and the colonies in America and Africa under the name of Canary or Sack. These wines were often traded by merchants who made the Canary Islands a port of call on their voyages.
I had the fortune to meet Felipe Monje of Bodegas Monje during my travels around the island and was given a wonderful tour of his fifth-generation family winery. Bodegas Monje sits atop stony-but-rich volcanic soil 1,640-feet above sea level, with its vineyard spreading out below, seemingly to the sea. A wine tasting followed that convinced me that the local wines grown in Tenerife are some of the best that I’ve enjoyed . . . and I’ve enjoyed my share! www.bodegasmonje.com
For a walk on the wild side, Bodegas Monje orchestrates erotic wine tastings during the year. I’ll let your imagination run free. For more visit http://wineandsex.net
MY GUIDE EXTRAORDINAIRE CARLOS
I awoke the next morning to find my guide, Carlos Miles, waiting for me with a fresh cup of coffee, anxious to get started on an all-day auto trip around the island of Tenerife. Again Pia and Karen had come through like true pros to give this clueless American a taste of Tenerife that I would never forget. Carlos, versed in five languages, proceeded to whisk me off on a one day adventure like he was one of my lifelong traveling buddies.
Best estimate is that we packed in three days of normal sightseeing into one crazy roadtrip. I can barely remember all the towns and sights that we saw, including driving up to Mt. Teide - which should be scheduled for a whole day in itself!
At the risk of embarrassing myself with a hazy recounting of all the many fascinating nooks and crannies of this amazing island of Tenerife that we visited that day, I’ve taken to plagiarizing once again from the expertly designed and content rich website of Tourism Tenerife (www.webtenerife. co.uk) to help me describe the many unique regions of Tenerife.
The tourist resorts in the south of Tenerife have the greatest concentration of hotels and apartments on the island. This area is best known for its many hours of sunshine and its attractive and accessible beaches boasting ma host of facilities. However, it also has picturesque towns and villages, which preserve their traditional character. There are nature areas and great scenery where sports and outdoor activities are plentiful.
In Tenerife South the leisure options are outstanding, both during the day and at night. There are also a number of quality shopping centers selling designer goods. Playa de los Cristianos, Playa de las Américas, Costa Adeje, Los Gigantes, Puerto Santiago, Las Galletas and El Médano are some of the key places to visit. From many of these places boat excursions depart in search of another of this area’s great attractions: whale-watching among the colonies that inhabit the waters off the south coast.
In the north-east of Tenerife is the region known as “Isla Baja,” which is made up of the districts of Buenavista del Norte, Garachico, Los Silos and El Tanque. It is a haven of tranquillity in the heart of the countryside, and an ideal destination for outdoor activities. Its towns still preserve all their traditional flavor, and the richness of the local scenery and architecture is remarkable. This is especially true in the streets of Garachico, the old commercial capital of the island, which has been awarded the Fine Arts Gold Medal for the high level of preservation.
In Isla Baja the small coves and seawater pools invite you to take a swim and the stunning Teno Rural Park, an ecological treasure, offers many options for outdoor activities or simply the quiet enjoyment of the countryside. The most typical accommodation is in small, charming hotels or “casas rurales” (rural houses).
Puerto de la Cruz-Valle de La Orotava
Located in the north of Tenerife, in a valley of extraordinary natural beauty, this popular tourist area is made up of the districts of Puerto de la Cruz, La Orotava and Los Realejos. Puerto de la Cruz, one of the pioneers of tourism in Spain, has a great range of hotels and is a lively, cosmopolitan town, ideal for strolling around and shopping. In La Orotava and Los Realejos the accommodation is mainly in “casas rurales” (rural houses).
The area also offers outdoor activities and historic buildings (the historic center of La Orotava has been designated a Monument of National Historical and Artistic Interest). On the coast of these three districts there are picturesque beaches, as well as the original “Complejo Costa Martiánez,” a magnificent complex of swimming pools and natural pools. Traditional gastronomy and handicrafts are other attractions of Puerto de la Cruz –The Orotava Valley.
Santa Cruz-La Laguna
The cities of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and San Cristóbal de La Laguna, with geographic and urban links, make up the most important center of population on Tenerife. Santa Cruz is the capital of the island. La Laguna, which is a university city, has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Both are equally recommended for strolling around or shopping and they offer the chance to appreciate the island’s gastronomy or enjoy some of the best cultural events, the best example being the Auditorium of Tenerife, next to the port of Santa Cruz.
This is the venue for all kinds of musical events, dance and other shows throughout the year. The beaches and swimming areas of both districts and the Anaga Rural Park, another of the great natural treasures of Tenerife, complete this area which is also an excellent departure point from which to visit the rest of the island.
Must See! Mt. Teide National Park
This network of national parks in the Canary Islands attempts to conserve their most characteristic ecosystems. Hence, the Mt. Teide National Park, in the center of the island of Tenerife, shelters the best examples of the supra-Mediterranean vegetation level. On the other hand, with an average altitude of over 2,000 metres, the Mt. Teide National Park offers one of the most spectacular examples of vulcanism in the world and represents the best example of alpine volcanic ecosystem in the Canary Islands.
From a geo-morphological point of view, the structure of the caldera and the Teide-Pico Viejo strato-volcano are among the most spectacular geological monuments in the world, apart from the wide variety of volcanic cones and domes, lava flows, tors and caves that form a range of colors and forms that increase the scientific and scenic interest of the area. With regard to the enormous biological wealth of the area, the outstanding flora includes a large percentage of endemic species and the invertebrate fauna a large number of exclusive species. This National Park, created in 1954 in recognition of its volcanic and biological singularity, is the largest and the oldest of the National Parks of the Canary Islands, and the fifth largest of the thirteen National Parks in the network. Apart from its Peripheral Protection Zone, this natural area is surrounded by the Corona Forestal Nature Park, the largest protected natural area of the Canary Islands. The Teide National Park Board and the Joint Canary Island National Parks Commission held several meeting in 2002 to have the Mt. Teide National Park declared a World Heritage Site. As a result of this initiative the Teide National Park was included in the list of World Heritage in summer 2007.
HOTEL JARDÍN TROPICAL
I had the fortune during my stay in Tenerife to stay at the Hotel Jardín Tropical, near Playa Bobo and Playa de Las Américas. The openair lobby greeted me to Tenerife in the most local of ways, feeling the warm nightime ocean air, as I was welcomed by the friendly staff to their little slice of Heaven in the Atlantic.
While the elegant and well appointed rooms offer spectacular views of the ocean and the Tropical Wellness program offers all you could want in first-class pampering, the real stars of this property are the swimming pools. Enjoy the relaxing pleasure of the seawater swimming pool, offering an area exclusively for adults to insure complete relaxation. The same sensations are doubled in the tropical heated pool, surrounded by the great gardens.
The Jardín Tropical helps golfers in booking tee times at all golf courses in Tenerife, as well as special packages at Abama Golf.
Enjoy superb views to La Gomera from the restaurant Las Rocas or try the buffet at Las Mimosas, offering one of the best breakfasts on the island. The Jardín Tropical also provides gastronomic activities such as kitchen workshops, barbecues, or the re-creation of a “first date”. If you take one tip from this article, make it Hotel Jardín Tropical! For more information visit www.jardin-tropical.com
Golf del Sur in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain