From spectacular cliffs to volcanic black sand beaches, to hikes in moon-like landscapes and millenary trees. Tenerife has something for everyone and particularly those who enjoy a bit of variety on their holidays. One of the best ways to explore this surprising island is by car, so here is the perfect itinerary for a road trip in Tenerife.
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The perfect itinerary for a road trip in Tenerife
With a mild climate all year round and lush green landscapes, Tenerife is known as the ‘island of eternal spring’. It is the largest of the seven Canary Islands, and it seems that the diversity is never ending. Its mountainous terrain reveals verdant valleys, dramatic cliffs and interesting rock formations, all crowned by the majestic Mount Teide. The third largest volcano in the world, Teide rises 3,718 metres above sea level, making it the highest point in the whole of Spain.
With scenery like this and pretty much guaranteed good weather, you have all the ingredients you need for the perfect Tenerife road trip, exploring this incredible island over a few days.
Puerto de Santiago and Los Gigantes
Puerto de Santiago on the West coast is a great starting point to take to the road, but before doing so, a visit to this town is a must for two reasons.
Playa de la Arena, in the south, is a jet-black sandy beach with some spectacular volcanic rock formations around it. To the north of it, the small seaside resort of Los Gigantes, translated as The Giants, is nestled into the breathtaking cliffs of the same name. Head to the Mirador de Archipenque, on the approach road to the town, to admire these imposing 600-metre high cliffs.
If you want to get up close and personal to the cliffs, there’s nothing better vantage point than from the water. You can take a whale watching boat trip, where aside from enjoying the view of ‘The Giants’ from the sea, it is a good chance to spot dolphins, pilot whales and turtles. Alternatively, you can also take a tour of the cliffs by kayak.
Los Gigantes is a great spot for scuba diving too, with incredible underwater scenery and hidden coves among the cliffs.
Parque Nacional del Teide
From Puerto de Santiago follow the steep winding road up to the Parque Nacional del Teide, where there is so much to do, you could easily spend a day or two here.
The National Park consists of two huge craters separated by the Roques de García, a group of rock formations in the Las Cañadas Caldera and the most visited attraction in the island. It’s so popular, that the Roques de García were once featured on a Spanish note, before the Euro was introduced as currency.
There is a walking trail that takes you through moon-like landscapes made up of pinnacles and ancient lava fields that have turned to rock.
If you enjoy a challenge, you can climb to the peak of the volcano in the summer, but it’s a tough 5-hour climb, so you’ll need to be prepared. You will need to apply for a permit in advance. It’s free and pretty much instant.
If you prefer an easier ascent, then you can still access the summit by taking the cable car. Why not trying a sunset cable car ride for some spectacular views!
One word of warning though – whichever way you decide to make it to the peak, be prepared for the cold. No matter how hot it is at sea level, the drop in temperature at the top tends to catch people by surprise.
Within the National Park, you can also visit the Teide Observatory, one of the major international astronomical observatories, on some days of the week. You will need to book in advance and confirm opening days. If the Observatory is closed, there is an option to do a stargazing tour instead.
Masca is a little hamlet perched on top of a rocky outcrop surrounded by rugged cliffs. Anyone who sees a photo of Masca could be forgiven for thinking it is located somewhere in Hawaii or maybe taken out of Jurassic Park.
The drive to the hamlet skirts around the cliffs and it’s both terrifying and exhilarating, and it’s definitely worth doing. Masca is really charming, with its beautifully maintained houses and its cobbled streets. Walk up to the Cherfe viewpoint at the top of a small hill, where you can get a spectacular view of the village and the jagged Teno mountains surrounding it.
It used to be possible to hike down the ravine from the village and back. It’s a gruelling trek, but truly spectacular, as the toughest treks tend to be. The trail is currently closed due to rehabilitation. Sadly there have been too many cases of hikers needing to be rescued, so the local government is currently making the hike safer. It is due to reopen in the summer 2020, so watch this space!
Garachico is not only a town that sounds cute, but it also looks cute. It was here that Tenerife’s first port was built in the 15th Century by a Genoese banker.
It is one of the most picturesque towns in Tenerife, but it is also said to be the unluckiest. Legend has it that a monk who was expelled from the town put a curse on it and the next day Garachico was destroyed by an eruption. The eruption part of the legend, however, is real and it occured in the 18th Century.
It is now a sleepy town with a traditional Spanish charm. It is set at sea level but due to the eruption, there is no longer a beach. There are, however, numerous natural pools formed by the volcanic rocks. A lovely place to sunbathe and relax, as long as the sea is not too rough.
Icod de los Vinos
Up the hill from Garachico is Icod de los Vinos, famous for being the home of a very old tree. But this is not just any tree, it’s a Millenary Dragon Tree that has become the symbol of the town and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Tenerife. A visit to this umbrella-shaped tree is a must, as is a walk through the shady cobbled streets and beautiful squares.
Icod de los Vinos is a historic town with traditional architecture, and the place to try Tenerife’s famous rabbit stew (conejo al salmorejo) with Canarian potatoes (papas arrugadas). And don’t forget to wash it down with a good, local red wine.
You can also visit a volcanic cave here, Cueva del Viento, more than 11 miles long and thought to be the largest in the world.
Planning your road trip to Tenerife
Do you have any questions about this road trip in Tenerife?
Let me know in the comments!
Check out my other articles about Spain
- 19 Exciting Things to Do in Valencia – An Insider’s Guide
- A Photographic Journey Through Alicante’s Old Town
- 10 Modernist Buildings in Barcelona You Shouldn’t Miss
- Things to do in A Coruña
- The Perfect Itinerary for One Day in Bilbao
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Disclosure: This post has been created as part of a paid campaign with Spain to promote the Canary Islands, as part of the #SpanishIslands Campaign. As always, all views are my own.
Teresa is an award-winning travel blogger based in London. She’s on a mission to explore the world through responsible cultural and adventure travel, and through deeper, more meaningful local experiences. She’s a lover of adventure, the outdoors and everything food related, and she’s always looking for ways to make a positive impact through sustainable travel.