Millions of visitors may descend on Tenerife each year, yet there are still many places across the island which remain off the beaten track in tourism terms; some are hidden in full sight. Los Realejos is one of those.
Although rich in history, this was the place where the Guanche Menceys (kings) were baptised following the conquest in 1496, and occupying a prime scenic spot below the Tigaiga ridge which climbs all the way to El Teide, Los Realejos sits quietly (or not) in the shadow of the other two decent-sized towns in the Orotava Valley. Where Puerto de la Cruz is the main tourist resort in the north, and the historic streets and architecture of La Orotava act as magnets for tour groups, Los Realejos tends to be ignored.
Part of the problem is Los Realejos isn’t an easy place for people to get to know. There’s no one convenient centre where you can park up and explore old streets. There’s no one specific atmospheric plaza to sit sipping at a barraquito watching the hustle and bustle of local life. And it’s certainly not an easy town to drive around. It took many visits before we got to grips with a confusing road network. The casual visitor could easily pass through believing there was nothing to see here.
Los Realejos straggles its way up the Orotava Valley, the two mini centres of Realejo Alto and Realejo Bajo connected by steep streets which deter all but those with a curiosity to find out ‘what might lie along this road’. Sometimes those wanderings lead to little surprises.
Six sights to see in and around Los Realejos
I can’t think of another spire on Tenerife which is quite like the sparkly, tiled affair of the Church of Santiago Apóstol in Realejo Alto. This was the setting for the first parish church on Tenerife.
Views and art
A short drive out of town is El Lance, a striking viewpoint where the ‘proportions’ of a sculpture of Guanche Mencey Bentor railing at the sky often distracts the eyes away from the vista across the Orotava Valley. Anyone who’s been to the mirador will know what I’m talking about.
Icod de los Vinos is known for its Drago Milenario, yet Los Realejos has a number of impressive drago trees dotted around the place, including ‘the twins’ outside the church in Realejo Bajo.
Food and flora
As we say in our review of the restaurant complex, “Mesón El Monasterio isn’t a former monastery. However, it does occupy the site of a finca and chapel set up by a Dominican monk called Fray Antonio, therefore the ecclesiastical connection is accurate enough.” We’d visit this restaurant complex not so much for the food (although a cava breakfast in that location was always a winner with visitors) but for the pleasure of just wandering around the immaculate buildings and gardens.
Playa Socorro is a classic north Tenerife black sand beach which attracts surfers and mainly local sunseekers. In summer months it’s the location of a number of outdoor events from surfing competitions to outdoor cinema. The downside to it is the beach has a fickle personality. Sometimes we’ve seen it strewn with boulders (after change-of-season big waves) and at others it’s a lovely expanse of black sand.
The most popular part of Los Realejos with visitors is its coast, specifically the haciendas, banana plantations, and quirky attractions of the Rambla de Castro – by far our favour coastal walk on Tenerife.
To these I could add colonial mansions, walking routes through the mountains, agricultural hamlets where Canarian black pigs snuffle in the undergrowth, ecological fincas, and some of the most spectacular fiestas you’ll find on Tenerife – such as the Fuegos de Mayo firework battle between two historic streets.
But don’t roll up expecting a charming, picturesque village. Like many authentic towns on Tenerife, the best parts are cloaked within a working town wrapping which needs to be carefully unravelled.
Los Realejos is included in our Here Be Dragos driving route.