When my mum asked me if I wanted to go with her on holiday to Tenerife, I thought I knew what to expect. Thousands of tourists basking in the winter sun, on an island whose entire economy was centred on tourism. However, while the Southern coastline of the island was full of English tourists, the rest of the island was interesting and worth exploring. The beaches and tourist hot spots of the south were certainly not all bad either.
We were staying on the Playa de las Americas stretch of coastline, and were surrounded by Brits. This was apparent in the very anglicised variety of bars and restaurants, from Irish Pubs to American Diners, and the sheer amount of English spoken by locals and tourists alike. When I asked a waiter at our hotel for a cheese sandwich in my extremely poor Spanish, he was delighted and surprised that I’d made an effort (even if he did have to correct me). His astonishment certainly spoke volumes about the lack of tourists attempting or needing to speak Spanish; a sad example of the globalisation of Anglophone culture.
Nevertheless, there was much more to Tenerife than the beaches. We went on several excursions to see different parts of the island, which, despite being a rather limited way of exploring, enabled us to see a lot in a short amount of time and learn about the areas from our experienced and multilingual tour guide.
The East side of the island was beautiful, and a completely different environment to the south in both appearance and culture. We stopped briefly at Santa Cruz, which was a modern capital with a bustling population, and a port which welcomed cruise ships from all over the world. The coach then travelled to La Laguna, which is known as the ‘cultural capital’ of Tenerife. This town was beautiful and friendly, with long pedestrianised streets lined with pastel coloured houses and inviting little shops. We visited the cathedral and wandered around the streets in the sunshine, listening to the classical Spanish music being played by street performers.
The coach then swept us into the mountains, which was an entirely different environment again. The moisture of the clouds clinging to the mountains created a rain-forest, which was overflowing with overwhelmingly green varieties of plants. Breathtaking views came at the price of fearful hairpin bends and narrow roads. When we reached the seaside village of Taganana for an authentic Canarian lunch we all breathed a sigh of relief.
A few days later we went on a different excursion, to visit the Central and North West parts of Tenerife. Firstly, we visited the National Park of Mount Teide (featured image), which was a stunningly beautiful, arid landscape, characterised by obscure rock formations and dominated by the volcano itself. We then headed to Icod de Los Vinos, where we saw the bizarre and spectacular ‘El Drago’ tree, which Spanish legend says is the fossilised remains of a dead dragon. Whether or not this is true, the tree is certainly impressive; it is 20 meters in diameter, 17 meters high, and resembles a giant twisted broccoli.
Overall, Tenerife is far more than just a tourist trap. It is a diverse island of beaches, rainforests, beautiful towns, bizarre trees and an enormous volcano. If I could return, I’d want to visit these places at my own pace, exploring the beautiful scenery on foot and with a car. I’d make sure someone else was driving on those terrifying mountain roads though!
This article was originally published on the UOB Linguist website, 2nd April 2016.