Despite the fact millions of Brits have visited Tenerife I’m not surprised there are still millions of others who think of the island as just one big purpose built tourist resort. It was portrayed as such in both the UK press and on TV for long enough to ensure it’s entrenched in the British psyche. It was a reason we avoided visiting for a long time, except to pass through on the way to La Gomera. The journey from Tenerife Sur Airport to Los Cristianos doesn’t really show the island at its best, so didn’t do anything to change our perception.
Even though times have changed and now we all have a wealth of information about potential travel destinations at our fingertips, the ‘built for mass tourism’ image still persists.
Travel writers who don’t know the island are perpetually ‘surprised’ when they visit. Here’s an example from a Guardian article to illustrate what I mean.
“This place feels exotic and strange. I had always thought of Tenerife as a beach destination: bland chain hotels squatting on black sand. Two for one cocktails. Pizza and chips.”
Variations of this sentiment are common in travel articles.
Although it’s understandable that people who have never visited Tenerife may hold a skewed image of what the island is really like, it’s less so when the ‘one big tourist resort’ tag is applied by people who have stayed on the island.
A couple of weeks back someone left a comment on our Facebook page saying they were interested in visiting Tenerife but concerned they wouldn’t find the real Spain.
Whilst it’s true they wouldn’t find the real Spain (the Canaries have a culture which is quite different from the Spanish mainland), they shouldn’t have had any problem finding the real Tenerife.
It turned out the person had visited previously. Tenerife had disappointed them and they felt the resorts they visited were brash and lacking any Canarian or Spanish personality.
It’s a view I’ve heard plenty of times over the years, mostly from people who hadn’t ventured outside of the place they were staying. It seems crazy anyone would think they know a whole island without leaving a resort built purely to ensure holidaymakers have an enjoyable holiday. But plenty do. It’s the yin and yang of social media – good information at the press of a button, misinformation at the press of a button.
Researching a piece about La Orotava recently, I saw some remarks online from visitors who had explored the island to some extent which made me ponder about other incorrect perceptions of Tenerife.
Bar Los Castillos is the number one rated restaurant in Tenerife according to Tripadvisor. It isn’t the best restaurant in La Orotava in my view; it wouldn’t even feature in my top three. Although it does serve good Canarian cuisine, there are countless others just like it all over traditional areas of the island.
The comments which caught my eye were these: “Best authentic Canarian food we had in Tenerife” and “we stopped here for a lunch wanting an authentic Canarian experience”.
As you don’t have to travel far on Tenerife to fall over authentic traditional restaurant after traditional restaurant, these views suggest the authors were visiting La Orotava from a place where Canarian restaurants were thin on the ground; i.e. a purpose built resort.
The implication of the second comment seemed to be you had to go out of your way on Tenerife to find authentic Canarian cuisine.
Looking at some other locations which are popular on the day-tripper circuit showed further evidence to suggest this might not be an uncommon perception.
“The best local seafood spot on the island I know” and “go there if you want to experience real seafood / canarian food and atmosphere” were a couple of similar comments about Casa Africa at Roque de las Bodegas in Taganana.
Casa Africa is where coach trips touring Anaga stop for lunch. For a significant amount of these visitors, and those on excursions to other popular attractions, it might be their only experience of eating in a Canarian restaurant in a traditional hamlet/village/town. In those cases, perceptions are likely to be different from those of anyone staying in traditional areas where not only are there a lot of Canarian restaurants, there are better ones.
Reinforcing a growing view there might still be a significant amount of visitors to Tenerife who don’t realise just how many good traditional restaurants there are all over the island, to the extent they’re commonplace, were comments about Casa Pana in Vilaflor.
“The REAL local cuisine,” suggested the person who wrote it hadn’t encountered much of the ‘REAL local cuisine’ at all up to that point. Even more illuminating was this – “We spent a week in Tenerife and this was the best (perhaps only) restaurant we found that had authentic Canarian food.”
The last is a jaw-dropper of a statement.
It reminded me of a couple who’d toured Fuerteventura and complained they hadn’t seen one goat the whole time. There are more goats than people on Fuerteventura, how anybody could miss seeing one is beyond me.
How anybody struggles to find authentic Canarian restaurants on Tenerife, an island with a strong culture of locals eating out, is equally perplexing. But it’s more evidence to show there can be incorrect perceptions of what Tenerife is really like even from some people who have ‘explored’ the island.
In the end, as it so often does, it all comes down to research… or lack of it.