A Spanish volcanic archipelago of seven major islands, the Canary Islands is one of the world’s most beloved cruise stops. While the Canary Islands may belong to Spain, they sit just off the coast of north-western Africa, geographically part of the African continent.
The largest and most populous of the islands, Tenerife offers up a year-round destination with ideal weather and abundant natural beauty; from the north to south, the island is blessed with diverse landscapes and range of unique micro-climates.
There are readily available direct flights from Europe to the Canary Islands, but the most popular way to travel is by cruise. Luxurious Canary Island Cruises not only take in the islands but also often include incredible destinations such as Portugal’s Madeira archipelago and the stunning Cape Verde islands.
While there are a number of beautiful islands to explore in the Canary Islands including Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, and La Palma, Tenerife is often considered the most exciting and beautiful.
Traveling to Tenerife by cruise? Whether you’re into nature, outdoor adrenaline sports, archaeology, or simply relaxing, check out these amazing things to do!
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Things to do in Tenerife on a Canary Island Cruise
Teide National Park
Tenerife is blessed with two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Teide National Park is one of them. The park is home to the towering active volcano Mount Teide, Spain’s tallest peak.
Adventurous souls looking to climb to the summit can choose to tackle the strenuous six hour hike or you can simply gain access to the incredible views over the archipelago at the top by taking the scenic cable car ride.
Teide National Park is one of the world’s most visited national parks, offering clear night skies for incredible stargazing and exciting paragliding adventures over the varied landscape.
Fun fact: The Teide Observatory is among the world’s first major international observatories and guided tours through the facility are available.
Pyramids of Güímar
Egypt isn’t the only place with pyramids; Tenerife has its own set, though unlike the Egyptian pyramids there is still mystery surrounding when they were built and who they were built by.
Tenerife’s Pyramids of Güímar are constructed of lava stone and feature flat tops unlike the pointed pyramids of Egypt. Some believe they were built by the Guanches, the aboriginal inhabitants of the Canary Islands, while others say the pyramids were built during the 19th century by rural farmers.
One possible theory is that there was an ancient transatlantic link between Egypt and Central America in which Tenerife was used as a stopover point. This may explain the construction of pyramids in all three locations and prove that the Pyramids of Güímar are much older than some scientists believe.
Whatever the truth is, the site is fascinating and you can gain more knowledge about the many different potential theories at the onsite Casa Chacona Museum which also houses artefacts uncovered in local Guanche caves.
Arona is Tenerife’s southernmost municipality and it’s packed with things to do. It is most notably home to a number of popular tourist resorts and fishing villages including Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas, and Las Galletas.
Many of the island’s finest beaches can be found here, some natural and others manmade using golden sand from the Sahara. And there are many experiences to be had with marine life.
Head to Las Galletas to experience whale, dolphin, and sea turtle watching tours or arrange a more adventurous submarine safari that will take you down 30 metres to explore an underwater world filled with giant rays and colourful fish.
In addition to many great diving sites, the region also offers a number of great hiking trails. Sports enthusiasts can check out several stunning golf courses like Golf del Sur or the Amarilla Golf Club, and Arona is also home to beautiful parks, gardens, and zoos.
Visit the Monkey Park to get up close and personal with a number of different primates as you actually get to enter their enclosure as opposed to viewing them in cages. You can also feed many of the park’s animals such as the lemurs and squirrel monkeys.
You’ll find Los Gigantes on the island’s west coast. This quiet resort town is named for the towering vertical cliffs that rise nearly 800 metres out of the water in some spots.
Commonly referred to as the “Cliffs of the Giants”, these seaside basaltic rock formations are known locally as Acantilados de Los Gigantes and there are a number of great viewpoints in Los Gigantes to really appreciate them.
The town is also home to unique black sand beaches and natural swimming pools like Isla Cangrejo which protect swimmers from strong waves. There is a lovely collection of shops and cafes in town and you can arrange boat trips from the marina to see the cliffs in greater detail.
Image credit: Nico Kaiser (CC BY 2.0) via Flickr
San Cristóbal de La Laguna
Tenerife’s second UNESCO World Heritage site can be found in the island’s north. San Cristóbal de La Laguna or simply La Laguna is regarded as the island’s cultural capital.
Founded in the 15th century, it’s the city’s Old Town with its many historic buildings, churches, and palaces which is recognised by UNESCO. You’ll also find a number of exciting festivals throughout the year including the Holiday of the Cristo de La Laguna, Romería de San Benito Abad, and the largest Holy Week celebrations found in the Canary Islands.
Unlike arid conditions found in other cities around the Canary Islands, La Laguna offers a comfortable Mediterranean climate. The city is also very lively with a decent night life, thanks in part to the university which is located here that attracts around 30,000 students.
Jardín Botánico of Puerto de la Cruz
Also along the northern coast is the Jardín Botánico of Puerto de la Cruz. Founded in 1788 by direct order of King Charles III of Spain, the garden displays flora from all over the world including South America, Africa, and Australia.
Officially called the La Orotava Acclimatisation Gardens, plants were brought here from all over the world to acclimatize before being brought to mainland Spain and the King’s palace. There are thousands of plants depicting a wide array of species including giant fig trees and variety of palms.
The oldest botanical gardens in the Canary Islands and second oldest in Spain, the gardens also act as an important plant research centre. The public is more than welcome to roam the fragrant grounds of this 20,000-square-meter paradise.
One of the highest villages in Tenerife is Masca. Some say the village somewhat resembles Peru’s Machu Picchu, especially with the mountain peak rising up directly behind it much like Huayna Picchu.
Once an ancient Guanche settlement, the mountain village continues to remain quiet with less than a hundred inhabitants who live in stone houses perched on the mountain slopes.
Many visitors come to the village to hike the Masca Trail which leads from the village through the gorge to the Playa de Masca beach below. The strenuous hike winds through a volcanic-like landscape filled with unique wildlife, giving way to cypress and palm forests.
The round-trip journey will take you around 6 hours, but many opt to not climb back up to the village and instead charter a boat from Playa de Masca to the resort town of Los Gigantes. You can then catch a taxi back to Masca Village to pick up your rental car if you had parked there.
The trail is currently closed for trail repairs but is due to reopen in 2020. They plan to place daily limits on the number of hikers allowed on the trail and may also place restrictions on private cars wanting to drive to Masca village until they improve parking there.
They are searching for ways to reduce the overall environmental impact that hiking has on the area.
Have an amazing time in Tenerife! We wish you a fabulous cruise!