Why Tenerife Remains Europe’s Secret Destination

Whoa… hold the horses there. Someone’s been out in the sun for far too long. How can a holiday destination that welcomes millions upon millions of visitors a year be a secret destination?

The answer is simple. The vast majority of those millions, especially the British ones, converge on the same spots and a great percentage of them don’t really stray much further. Generally, all the information they read in English is also about those same spots and therefore, over the decades, those spots have created the populist perception of the island amongst English speaking visitors and even, in some cases, residents.

 

Tenerife - an island of traditions
Tenerife - An island of traditions

When we were commissioned to write a guidebook with a difference about Tenerife, our opening salvo was this:

“Tenerife is an island that attracts over 6 million visitors a year, many of whom believe they know it like the back of their hands and few of whom know it at all.”

The more time we spend here, the more I stand by that statement. Very, very few British people know very much about Tenerife at all. They might know a lot about… well, the bit they know. But they don’t know Tenerife.

 

Tenerife cuisine
Tenerife cuisine - Leave the resorts and you can't miss traditional restaurants.

If that seems an outrageous or even provocative statement, consider the evidence. There are two parallel universes at work in Tenerife and these rarely collide.

If you don’t believe me try this simple test.

First look at any online English language Tenerife forum be it on Tripadvisor or one of the Tenerife based forums and note exactly what areas on Tenerife nearly all of the discussions on any of them are about. Read a Tenerife travel article in any of the British papers and register where the main focus of the writing is about.

This is the comfortably familiar world of Tenerife that exists to the majority of English speakers.

 

Paisajes Lunar Vilaflor
Amazing Tenerife Scenery - It's all around you.

The second part of the test might be a bit more difficult if you don’t speak Spanish.

Simply read any online Spanish language Tenerife newspaper and note which areas of Tenerife the vast majority of their articles and reports are about.

Now compare results.

Two very different but parallel universes. Both are Tenerife and yet each one barely mentions the other.

The Spanish speaking world represents the world of Tenerife that has existed for five centuries but it’s a world which for the last thirty years has more or less been completely ignored by the English speaking one. This is the reason why Tenerife remains a secret destination. Much of it continues to remain invisible to a British audience. Anyone casually looking for general information about Tenerife online in English is more than likely going to find the world that every other English speaker finds… and so the perception continues. It’s not incorrect but it is only a very small part of the overall scene.

The centre of Tenerife’s world is not the places constantly discussed on forums, it is Santa Cruz and La Laguna where most of the population actually live.

 

El Monasterio, los realejos
Tenerife - Where old haciendas and quaint restaurants meet.

Alternatively in Spanish language newspapers, the Tenerife world that the majority of British people know hardly warrants a mention.

This quite major revelation motivated us to start the Real Tenerife series of websites and guides nearly six years ago. There was a fascinating world out there waiting to be discovered, a world with bizarre traditions that included bathing goats, throwing fireballs down mountains and making giant hearts out of pastries and fruit; a world with boisterous fiestas that attracted thousands of people yet hardly any non-Canarios; a world with chic restuarants in colonial mansions; a world where you can walk all day and not meet another soul; a world where people lived in caves or in hamlets that can only be reached on foot; a world where…. well, I think you get the picture.

We knew we weren’t writing for the majority of British visitors who know and love Tenerife for what they perceive it to be. Apart from Secret Tenerife, nearly everyone else was writing for them so there was no point in doing the same. But writing in English about the Tenerife outside of that small geographical sphere is still somewhat of a rarity. It is also a hell of a lot more interesting.

 

La Laguna Market
Tenerife - Farmer's markets galore, ignored by most visitors.

The Real Tenerife is for what we call the ‘ten percenters’. A small, but significant, percentage of visitors who crave more; who want to experience all of Tenerife’s worlds.

In short, the Real Tenerife is for the people who want to truly discover one of Europe’s secret destinations.

6 Comments

  1. Excellent article, I loved reading it and have to admit I fall into the category of residents who don’t really know the island.

  2. I really enjoyed your article, Jack. Although Playa de las Americas was our introduction to Tenerife, a good few years ago (as it probably was, and is, for many others), hubby and I knew that wasn’t the right area for us – we love the north of the island. But you’re absolutely right, it is difficult to find information about areas away for the main tourist spots, whilst in the UK. Likewise, it’s rare to get flights from Gatwick/Heathrow to the north airport (we change at Madrid to achieve this), or to pre-arrange transfers from the north airport to, say, Puerto de la Cruz or Icod de los Vinos. Until those things are more readily available, the northern areas of the island will probably stay less known by tourists. I would highly recommend, to any tourists, to take the bus – you can go almost anywhere, really see the island and definitely don’t be put off by the constant claim that the north has more rain!

    • Thanks Mary. You make a good point about the flights, or lack of, to the north airport. It’s a kind of chicken and egg situation. Whenever they’ve tried flights from the UK to the north they don’t seem to have been able to attract enough passengers and so they were discontinued after a short while. But these things might take a bit of time to become established.

      I agree, buses are a great way to explore the island. The bus system is very good on Tenerife… and cheap.

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