Exploring the capital city of Tenerife - Santa Cruz and the beautiful Anaga Mountains
by Joy S on December 6, 2012
Santa Cruz is the capital of Tenerife, and since 1982, has been the joint capital of the Canary Islands. We spent a very pleasant morning in this lovely city.It took us about 1.5 hours to drive to Santa Cruz from our base in Alcala on the south-west of the island. It is quite a long journey, but mostly motorway - the motorway is well-maintained and driving on it is pleasant and easy.The first thing we saw as we drove into the city was the unmistakeable Auditorio de Tenerife. This huge and impressive building looks a bit like the Sydney Opera House. It opened in 2003 and is known as the Tsunami Wave or the Trojan Helmet, depending on which angle you view it from. I couldn't understand this - when I saw the building I got it! It was designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava and is home to the Tenerife Symphony Orchestra. They have different performances of all types here - ballet, rock, opera etc..We found a little car-park with an attendant near the auditorium and left our car there. The attendant told us it wasn't far to the centre, it took us about 10 minutes of easy walking. The cost was very reasonable - 2 Euros per hour. He pointed out the black and white church tower in the city centre, which we used as our landmark. The church is the Iglesia de la Concepcion - the original "holy cross" of the name Santa Cruz is apparently held here.We found the Plaza Espana very easily - this is the main square in Santa Cruz. It is lined with restaurants and cafes, in the centre is a stone watch tower and a huge sculpture. The sculpture has very impressive 9 feet high bronze swordsmen around it. It is dedicated to the victims of the Spanish Civil War. There is a little lake behind, framed by the mountains and is a beautiful scene. You should have a view across to the port as well - unfortunately when we were there, major construction work was going on and there was scaffolding everywhere. We couldn't walk along the harbour or see anything that side.Santa Cruz has plenty of historical significance. Francisco Franco, Captain General of the Canary Islands rose up from his position in Santa Cruz in the 20th century to overcome the Spanish government and start the Spanish Civil War.When we had explored the Plaza Espana, near the sculpture, we saw a sign pointing underground to the old city walls. We went down the steps, expecting to see old walls but found the most interesting little museum. It was free to go inside, they had bits of the old walls on display but so much more too. The display information was in a number of different languages, they had information about Santa Cruz and its formation, a display about the castle that originally stood here and El Tigre - the cannon which supposedly fired the shot that injured Nelson and cost him his arm. In 1497, the British fleet, led by Admiral Lord Nelson attacked Santa Cruz. It was a stop-over on sea routes for trade with the New World so was of great strategic importance. The British were defeated, Nelson took shrapnel in his left arm from El Tigre, his arm was later amputated.On leaving Santa Cruz, we drove along the harbour and saw some more interesting statues and sculptures. El Muro is a sculpture of 6 male figures which look as if they are holding up a section of wall. Look out too for the winged angel statue - this is a monument to General Franco.Santa Cruz is a major stop for international cruise ships. They are moored off the outer wall - we only saw 2 medium sized ships during our visit. Apparently 4 million cruise passengers come here every year and the Queen Mary II berthed here on her maiden voyage in 2004.We spent a lovely morning in Santa Cruz. You don't need a map, it is easy to find your way around and is the type of place where I think it is best to just stroll, enjoy the lovely architecture and stop in one of the many plazas for a drink and a rest. The views everywhere of the Anaga Mountain range are stunning - geologically this is the oldest land in Tenerife, they frame this lovely city perfectly and are a gorgeous backdrop.
by Joy S on December 7, 2012
We drove out of Santa Cruz and headed for San Andres, all the time keeping in the direction of the mountains. Not far from the centre of the city, there is a sign for Las Teresitas beach. We took this, planning to spend half an hour at the beach.There is lots of parking at the back of the beach - it is free to park here. It was quite busy the day we visited, but we had no trouble finding a parking space.Las Teresitas beach is a bit of a novelty in Tenerife, thanks to the long expanse of golden sand. There are no natural golden sandy beaches on the island, the norm is black, volcanic sand. The beach here is long, arching and was created with millions of tons of sand shipped in from the Sahara in 1973. It is 1.5km long. The golden sand slopes very gently into the water. There is a purpose built breakwater, so it is calm and lagoon like and very safe.The setting here is beautiful. The dramatic grey mountains in the background, the golden sand and the canarian and coconut palm trees complement each other perfectly. It should be paradise, but on closer inspection, for me, there were a few things that spoiled it. Firstly, the sand was full of pigeons, pecking around and walking all over your belongings. Secondly, there were 2 huge oil tankers on the horizon which did spoil the view somewhat. It was also quite busy, there were lots of heavily tanned people sunbathing on the beach, we explored other black sandy beaches on the island and I did tend to prefer these.At the back of the beach there are lots of restaurants, bars, beach huts and some changing rooms. There were also a couple of toilets, these seemed to be locked when we tried them.We went to one of the beach huts for lunch. It looked a bit basic, but the food we got was delicious - sandwiches and drinks, very reasonably priced with Spanish music playing in the background, it was great.We spent about half an hour on the beach, then left, taking the climbing, windy road towards Igueste. The road takes you on a steep, winding journey - the views over the beach and the Santa Cruz coastline are simply stunning.At the top of the hill, by some derelict bunkers covered with grafitti is a stopping place and a viewpoint. This is a must-see place. You get the most amazing views of the golden beach, the Santa Cruz coastline and even the auditorium in the distance. From up here you also get a wonderful view of the lovely, colourful buildings of the little fishing village of San Andres. It seems to cling to the hillside beside the beach. For us, this was one of the most beautiful views on the island of Tenerife.
The Anaga Mountains are right on the very north-eastern part of Tenerife. This area is completely unspoilt, not many tourists seem to venture here and when you are driving, you meet hardly any cars. This is as far from the beaches and tourist resorts as you can get, it really feels like you have entered another world.We left Las Teresitas beach and drove towards the village of Igueste. This is in the mountains, as soon as you start climbing, the scenery changes and becomes rocky and dramatic. Igueste is only 7 km away from Las Teresitas, but it takes a little while to drive there. It is worth paying a visit to this small and quiet village. You need to drive until you can go no further - the road ends here. It is untouched by tourism. We drove right to the end of the road, parked our car near the bus stop and got out to explore. The setting is beautiful - right in the mountains. Walk up the slope behind the bus-stop until you come to the little church - Iglesia San Pedro. It is beautiful with a statue of Christ on the roof with arms outstretched. It is a bit like a miniature version of the famous Rio de Janeiro statue. The backdrop with the mountains and the statue in front makes a perfect scene.The Anaga Mountains, though a dramatic, remote wilderness are a good place to drive. The road can be steep and winding at times, but it is well maintained and very safe. Our 9 year old, at times, did feel a little travel sick, but we loved the journey.The Anaga Mountains are actually, geologically speaking, the oldest part of Tenerife. They were formed 8 million years ago as a result of volcanic activity. Everywhere you look there are rocky pinnacles, ravines and nature at its best. It is very green. This part of the island gets more rain than the south and when we visited, there was a lot of cloud around, but the green landscape makes up for this. There are lots of misty forests and tiny settlements perched on the edge of the mountains.If you drive along the TF12, be sure to head for Pico del Ingles. There are the most wonderful views to be had from here. You can see La Laguna, the North Airport, Santa Cruz and even Mount Teide. There are miradors (view points) everywhere, you are spoilt for choice where to stop and take a picture. Be sure though, no matter how deserted the place seems, that you lock your car and take all your belongings with you. I left an empty bag on the back seat of our car and it was stolen in the time it took us to take a picture. Despite the remote and beautiful location, there is some petty crime here.At Cruz del Carmen there is a very good visitors centre. It has displays and information about the mountains, wildlife, plants etc.. They also have really good (free) walking guides. There is a little church here too and what looked like a nice restaurant. If you go behind the restaurant there is a lovely viewpoint. You look down over the little village of Chinamada - apparently lots of its inhabitants still live in caves! Look out for lizards here too - we saw some really huge ones.We loved exploring these wonderful mountains. Everywhere you look there is a picture postcard view. It felt like we were the only people around, it is so removed from the tourist trail. The landscape is breath-takingly beautiful, the twists and turns in the road bring you to yet another wonderful and unforgettable vista.
by Joy S on December 11, 2012
From Igueste, we carried on driving through the Anaga Mountains until we reached Taganana. It is only 13 km distance from Santa Cruz, but the drive takes a while because of the twisty, turning mountain roads. It is beautiful. It is easy to find your way - we drove on the TF12 following signs for Taganana, then turned right on the TF134, again following signs to the little town.Taganana is one of the oldest settlements in Tenerife. It is also one of the most peaceful and serene places you could visit. It is fascinating to think, that only since 1968 has it been possible to drive here. Up until that time, the only way in or out of the village was either by boat or on foot. They built a tunnel through the mountains which changed that, now you can take this road and drive to Taganana.The road twists, turns and climbs and dips a lot. It is a beautiful drive, but maybe not the best idea if you have children who get car sick. As a rule, our 9 year old does not suffer from this affliction, but he did get queasy during this journey and had to take the front seat.When you drive through the tunnel, the huge Rock of Souls looms right in front of you - it is stunning. There is a mirador or view point close by. If you carry on driving past the viewpoint for about a mile, there is a layby and a notice board. We parked our car here, crossed the road and walked into Taganana.The earliest settlers on Tenerife were the Guanche people. They established Taganana. The name means "rock" - pretty obvious when you see the Roque las Animas (Rock of Souls) which really does loom over the village. The whole area was (and still is) very fertile. There are fertile soils, it is lush and green with plenty of water from the forests and mountains above. The Guanche recognised it would be a perfect spot for farming. They have found various Guanche remains here, including some which showed it was the meeting place for the tribal leaders.The town, as it is now, was established by Hispanic settlers in 1501. They relied on sugar cane and vineyards - both of these are still evident today in this area, and are the major source of the economy for Taganana.It is a very peaceful place and very quiet. We just strolled through the old cobbled streets, admiring the old Canarian houses. In the centre, is one of the oldest churches on the island - the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de las Nieves. It was built in 1505. It is a beautiful building, there are benches outside the church, it is nice to sit there, enjoy the quietness and drink in the views of the village surrounded by the steep mountain slopes.If you look out for signs for a path called the "Camino Real de las Vueltas", this was once a trail for people living in Taganana. They used it to walk to Santa Cruz and La Laguna and bring their wares here to sell. The trail still exists, they say there are so many twists and turns on it, that there is one for each day of the year.
by Joy S on December 12, 2012
Roque de las Bodegas is literally just down the hill from Taganana, along the TF134 and is right on the coast. We drove the short distance from Taganana and spent about an hour and a half in this lovely little place. It is stunning, the views are amazing and I would definitely recommend a visit.It is a quiet, small place which consists of just one street. We found parking on the roadside, and had a look at some of the little fish restaurants along the street. There are a few of these and not much else. Apparently this is a popular spot where coach tours come and unload their passengers for lunch. We arrived late in the afternoon, so did not encounter this. Instead we found the whole place blissfully deserted.The fish restaurants are no-frills, basic places but with a lot of charm and very unspoilt. We chose one of them, sat at one of their outside tables and enjoyed the views. We did not eat here, just had drinks, but were amazed at how cheap it was.Just a little way out in the sea is the rock which gives the town its name. It is huge, there is a walkway right next to it, and you can walk right to the end. It is very scenic - a huge, lump of rock with the most spectacular waves crashing and breaking against it. We sat next to some little fishing boats and watched other people walking out to the rock. We were glad we had done this, we saw several groups get (unexpectedly) soaked when a wave crashed over them. We walked out to the rock, but not to the end - preferring to stay dry.The beach is wonderful too. It is black, volcanic sand and was virtually deserted when we were there. We spent a while just walking along the beach, framed with the beautiful Anaga mountains. The huge Atlantic waves were mesmerising too - some of the biggest breakers I have ever seen, we stood for ages watching them too.This is a very unspoilt, quiet place. The scenery and the views though, are amongst some of the best I have seen, making it an absolute must-visit destination on Tenerife.
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