Drive into the extreme north-east of the island and you’ll find yourself amidst ancient mountain ranges to which Tenerife owes its very existence. Formed from volcanic activity seven million years ago, the Anaga Mountain range was one of three eruptions which first emerged above sea level in the Atlantic Ocean, 300km off the coast of West Africa. Along with the Teno Mountains in the west and El Roque del Conde in the south, these three mountainous centres formed the triad of volcanic activity from which Tenerife grew.
Spanning two climate zones, the mountains spread across the hot, arid and windy eastern side of San Andrés and the island’s capital city of Santa Cruz, to the rain forest strewn north western face of the island where ancient laurel forests pre-date the ice age.
Once heavily populated by Tenerife’s original inhabitants known as Guanche, a pastoral race thought to be descended from Berber tribes of North Africa, the Anaga Mountains provided good grazing ground, deep caves for habitation and ample rainfall. With the Spanish conquest came commerce and the area’s steep barrancos were carved into flat terraces where initially sugar cane and later vines, were the route to agricultural success and wealth.
Today the mountains provide Tenerife’s best walking terrain, the paths used by Guanche to move their herds from coast to high ground and later by merchants to take goods to market forming a spectacular tapestry of trails. By far the best way to explore the Anaga Mountains is on foot, particularly as their remoteness makes them difficult to access by public transport and consequently, many trails are all but devoid of other hikers.
But good roads and ample opportunities to stop and admire lend themselves to easy exploration of the Anaga Mountains by car, making them accessible in a single day’s outing. Last week, the storm clouds having dispersed to leave behind glorious and unseasonably hot weather, we took the opportunity to update our Peaks Into The Past Island Drives route and set off towards Santa Cruz.
Beyond the endless road works of the city’s portside developments, the golden beauty of Las Teresitas beach shimmered in the mid-morning heat, not a breath of air to disturb its fine, soft sand. From the viewpoint of Los Órganos we were able to capture the full glory of this iconic beach backed by its elegant palm trees and the drama of the Anaga Mountains. It’s ironic that this image is so often used in travel blogs and features about Tenerife which focus entirely on the purpose built resorts of the south and south west coasts, at the geographic and aesthetic other end of Tenerife’s scale.
Winding our way higher and further west, the landscape began to morph from neatly cultivated terraces and tabaiba-dotted malpaís to lush, forested slopes into whose folds smallholdings were tucked, their white walls blinding in the sunlight. Leaving the car and heading into the picturesque hamlet of Taganana on foot, we ordered coffee at a tiny café and sat outside to savour the aromatic brew along with the surreal beauty of our surroundings.
By the time we reached the remote beauty spot of Roque Las Bodegas the seafront fish restaurants were already busy with day trippers and coach parties so we continued along the road to Benijos and the pretty restaurant of El Mirador whose location is exactly what it says on the sign – a viewpoint. On the pretty terrace, perched on top of the cliff with views out over Tenerife’s most northerly land masses of Roque del Fuerta and Roque del Dentro and beyond, the shimmering infinity of the Atlantic Ocean, we enjoyed a beautifully prepared lunch of fresh fish, crusty bread and home made mojo sauces and lingered with a chilled glass of vino blanco afrutado in blissful serenity.
A stop at Pico del Inglés allowed us to survey Tenerife from its most northerly and easterly tip on one side, to its western edge and as far as Mount Teide in its centre at the other with the whole of La Laguna and La Orotava laid out at our feet. Homeward bound, we succumbed to Casa Carlos where the smell of a barbecue and the promise of more fabulous views lured us from our car. While the condensation ran down our bottles of Dorada in tiny rivulets, we sat by the wall, basking in the sunshine and drinking in our last peeks of the Anagas before heading back to Puerto.
The Anaga Mountains never fail to impress. Whether they’re cloaked in swirling mists through which vast panoramas tantalise, or like this week, they’re pulsing in the heat haze beneath azure skies, their mountain hamlets have carved out a living from their sides for centuries. Take a day to explore them and discover a Tenerife you never knew existed.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+