Sunday, 27 December 2015 13:42

Culture, History and Fun in Tenerife, Spain

Written by  Michael Shoenberger
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JAX FAX recently had the opportunity to visit and spend some time on the island of Tenerife, Spain. For agents unfamiliar with Tenerife, it is the largest of the seven Canary Islands, and it boasts that is the most populous island of Spain, with a population of just under one million people. The island has a surface area of 785 square miles.

Tenerife is one of the key tourist areas in Spain, and is visited by about 5 million tourists every year. Travelers are drawn here by its nearly perfect climate, making it known internationally as the "Island of Eternal Spring." The island enjoys a warm climate year-round with average temperatures of 64-75F in the winter and 75-82F in the summer. Tenerife benefits greatly from trade-winds, and precipitation falls mainly over the north and northeast of the island. The cold sea currents of the Canary Islands also have a cooling effect on the coasts and its beaches.

Tenerife isn't just a coastal paradise. This volcanic island has many mountains and valley areas, ideal for active hikers and climbers. Tenerife has the highest elevation in Spain at El Teide, a World Heritage Site, that also happens to be the third largest volcano in the world. The origin of the island's name comes from the Benahoaritas people of La Palma, who combined their words tene ("mountain") and ife ("white") to create the name White Mountain. After the island was colonized by Spain, the name evolved with the Spanish adding the "r" to create the modern - Tenerife.
In 1954, El Teide and the surrounding areas were declared a Spanish National Park. In June 2007 it was recognized as a World Heritage site by UNESCO
As you would expect, tourism is the most important industry in the Canary Islands. In 2014, 11.5 million international tourists visited the Canary Islands, with Tenerife accounting for over 4 million of that number. Tourism is more highly developed in the south of the island, which enjoys a hotter and drier climate than in the north, the most notable resort areas being Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos. This region is known as Costa Adeje, and is where you will find many world-class facilities and tourist services, such as quality shopping centers, golf courses, restaurants, waterparks, animal parks, and facilities suitable for MICE events.
It is in the Costa Adeje area where you will find the Siam Park waterpark ( This isn't your local waterpark. Siam Park opened in September 2008 after an initial investment of 52 million Euros. All of the park's rides, park buildings, and restaurants are Thai themed. These 25 buildings comprise the largest collection of Thai-themed buildings outside of Thailand. Park designer, Christoph Kiessling, received permission from the Thai royal family to use the park's name and theme; but, with respect for the royal family, he did not copy royal palaces, temples, or statues of Buddha. The restaurants serve Thai food as well as family favorites. In addition, the park also has a Thai floating market. Signature rides at Siam Park include amazing waterslides featuring light shows, and a wave pool with 9-foot waves.
So far, we have looked at the South side of Tenerife, but that doesn't mean that the North is lacking in attractions to entice travelers.

Heading North
The North of Tenerife is more lush and green, and the main development for tourism can be found in the town of Puerto de la Cruz. The town itself has kept some of its old-harbor town charm, mixed with northern European influences. Still, the tourist boom in the 1960s changed the outlook of the town, making it cozy and cosmopolitan at the same time, and a favorite for the more mature traveler.
A not-to-be-missed attraction is a 33-acre zoo called Loro Parque ( Spanish for "parrot park," it was conceived as a paradise for parrots in 1972 when the park opened with 150 birds. Loro Parque has grown from its original 3.2 acres to its current size of 33 acres. The original 150 parrots have increased to 4,000, representing 350 species and sub-species. In addition to the parrots, Loro Parque has Europe's largest dolphin show pool, the world's largest indoor penguin exhibition (including falling snow), and the longest shark tunnel in Europe. Other animals include orcas, chimpanzees, gorillas, marmosets, sea lions, otters, jaguars, tigers, iguanas, alligators, giant tortoises, flamingos, pelicans and piranhas. Loro Parque and Siam Park are owned by the same company and park passes are available all over Tenerife.

In addition to all the nature activities and tourist attractions, the island also has something for those seeking cultural heritage and history. The modern history of Tenerife begins in December 1493, when the Catholic Monarchs (Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon) granted Alonso Fernandez de Lugo the right to conquer the island of Tenerife. In April 1494, the conqueror landed on the coast of present-day Santa Cruz de Tenerife and disembarked with about 2,000 men. After taking the fort, the army prepared to move inland, later capturing the native kings of Tenerife and presenting them to Isabella and Ferdinand.
The colonization of America had a major impact on Tenerife, as many expeditions stopped at the island on their way to the Americas. As a key part of the trade between Spain and the New World, Tenerife absorbed cultural influences, including architectural styles from both Spain and the New World. From typical Spanish courtyards to New World Mission architecture, these influences are still seen in today's Tenerife.
A great point of pride in Tenerife occurred during the British invasion of Tenerife in 1797. On July 25, 1797, Admiral Horatio Nelson launched an attack at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, now the capital of the island. A defense of the city was organized by General Antonio Gutierrez de Loero y Santayana to repel the invaders. Nelson lost his right arm from cannon fire - legend claims that the cannon named Tiger fired the famous shot. Tiger is on display in a museum that chronicles the fight for Tenerife and is considered a must see
for tourists.
As JAX FAX's airline news editor, I would be remiss in not noting that Tenerife has the dubious historical distinction of being the location of the "Tenerife Airport Disaster." On March 27, 1977, at Los Rodeos Airport (now Tenerife North Airport) in a heavy fog, a KLM Boeing 747 collided on a runway with a Pan American Boeing 747. The collision destroyed both aircrafts and resulted in the deaths of 583 people. Only 61 people on the Pan American plane survived. On March 27, 2007, marking the 30 anniversary of this tragedy, a memorial was erected in the Mesa Mota Park on the outskirts of the city of San Cristobal de La Laguna. From here, people can see spectacular views of Tenerife North Airport and, on a clear day, Mount Teide. Standing 60 feet high, the monument is shaped like a spiral staircase with steps that connect the earth and sky, and was designed by the Dutch artist Rudi van de Wint.

Food is another cultural area were Tenerife shines. As an island in the Atlantic,Tenerife enjoys an abundance of fish of various kinds. Typical local seafood includes sea bream, red porgy, fold lined bream, grouper, mackerel, sardines and Moray eels. Most seafood is cooked simply; boiled, or prepared "a la espalda" (cut into two equally shaped pieces along the spine) or "a la sal" (baked in salt). These dishes are usually accompanied by mojo (a local sauce) and wrinkly potatoes. Typical meat dishes include marinated pork tacos, rabbit in salmoejo, goat and of course beef, pork, and poultry are also very popular.
A fitting question might be is why should North American tourists go all the way to Tenerife, when the Caribbean is so much closer? Well, the answer is really quite simple; Tenerife has the sun, surf and beach that you might find in most Caribbean islands, yet it can offer so much more that is different. From the snow atop El Teide, to world class attractions such as Siam Park and Loro Parque, to unique micro-climates and the look and feel of continental Europe, Tenerife is definitely not just another tropical island - it is delightful mix of Europe and the tropics.

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