A wonderful day out and an amazing drive - starting high in the mountains at Masca, dipping down to the coast at Garachico, a ride on a camel and finishing off at the dragon tree at Icod de los Vinos - full of fantastic things to see and do
by Joy S on January 25, 2013
Just about 15 minutes drive from Garachico and about 3 kilometres outside El Tanque is the Camello Center. This is a fun place to visit - you get to have a short ride through the countryside on a camel! It is quite easy to find - at the end of the TF1 you follow the TF82 to Icod and it is on the left hand side. It is open every day between 10am and 5pm.The Camello Center is quite small and a family run place. It seemed to be a bit off the beaten track, and when we arrived late afternoon on a Thursday, there were no other visitors. Another English family arrived and 2 French people, but we saw no-one else.There is a very large car-park, a nice cafe/bar where you can sit outside and a big gift shop with just about every camel themed souvenir you could think of. We went to buy our tickets, an elderly man who spoke no English was in there trying to tell us something in Spanish. We eventually realised he was telling us to wait 10 minutes. We browsed around the gift-shop and then a lady arrived who could speak English. We bought the tickets for the camel ride from her. It cost 8 Euros for adults and 6 Euros for children.We were given blue robes to put on, then taken outside to the camels. Each camel had 2 seats in a frame a bit like a see-saw across its back. You get into the seat while the camel is lying down, a little rope goes across your middle and then when the camel stands up - everybody screamed with laughter.The camels were roped together in a caravan, the lead camel was led by a man at walking pace. There were 6 camels in our train and we ambled off around the park. The ride took about 25 minutes and was really good fun. It felt very safe, even for younger children.At the end, they took photos of us on the camel which you could buy in the gift shop for 6 Euros. We really enjoyed this visit. It was a chance to try something completely different and out of the ordinary. Unfortunately during our visit, the weather was very wet and very cold - I never expected weather like this on a camel ride, but it was fun nonetheless and I would definitely recommend it. Afterwards, we drove the short distance to Icod de los Vinos. We went to see the famous dragon tree. It is huge - 20 metres at the base, 17 metres high, weighing around 150 tonnes (not including the roots) and estimated to be about 1,000 years old. Unfortunately a bad tropical storm the previous day meant you couldn't get anywhere near the dragon tree, the best view of it was from a road up the hill. There are other dragon trees, but the whole park area was closed off and there were branches and debris everywhere, so I suppose it was just too dangerous. It is worth going, even just to catch a glimpse of the magnificient tree. The old town of Icod de los Vinos is also really pretty - beautiful, hilly and cobbled streets, lovely architecture and a wonderful place to spend half an hour strolling around.
by Joy S on January 23, 2013
Garachico is a lovely town on the north-west coast of Tenerife. If you approach it from Los Silos, look out for an unusual statue just before you enter the town. It is a man, carrying a suitcase and it looks as if he has dropped lots of papers. This is a memorial to Canarian emigrants, but is also a perfect place to get a wonderful view of Garachico. Some say, this is Tenerife's most picturesque town.After taking photos near the statue, we drove into the town. There is parking just as you enter, at the small harbour. We set off and explored on foot. Garachico is an interesting place. It was once the principle port of Tenerife and in the 16th century, it was an extremely wealthy place. It was here that the richest families made their homes, as well as writers, politicians and the religous orders. There is a legend which says, it was such a wealthy place that one street was made of marble. The poor were only allowed to walk down it on Fridays to beg for alms.In 1601 bubonic plague arrived on a merchant ship from Spain and ravaged the town for 5 years. In 1645, a flood destroyed 80 houses and sank 14 ship in the harbour. In 1692 and 1697, fires destroyed much of the centre of the town. They overcame each of these disasters. In the early hours of 05 May 1706, Mount Teide erupted and sent 2 lava rivers sliding towards the town. Over the next 40 days the town was destroyed by lava. The people had no choice but to abandon their houses.Garachico used the eruption to create a unique feature. The lava which destroyed the harbour is paved walkways and bridges around and along the natural rockpools of El Caleton. It is a lovely place. There seemed to be lots of locals here, as well as tourists, all sunbathing and swimming in these clear waters. If you looked carefully, you could also see lots of little fish.We strolled around the rock pools, then crossed the road and took one of the narrow streets that led away from the sea. Most tourists did not seem to do this, but if you don't you miss the real charm of this place. Narrow, winding streets, a lovely plaza, town hall building and church. It is wonderful to lose yourself and just wander around here for half an hour.
On the way from Buenavista to Garachico, we decided, on the spur of the moment, to take a short detour and explore the tiny, little town of Los Silos. This was an inspired decision - it is so beautiful, so peaceful and one of the most charming places on the island of Tenerife. Most people head for the well known Garachico - they just don't know what they are missing.Los Silos is right on the north-west coast of the island. We hadn't seen it mentioned in any of the tourist guides or books and there were no other tourists here! It felt like we had it to ourselves.We parked our car on the main street, got out and just wandered. The church - Nuestra Senora de la Luz is probably the most striking building in the town. It is umissable - white, with the sun reflecting off its pristine walls. Just opposite the church is the Cultural Centre. Unfortunately it was closed when we visited, but apparently inside there is information on Los Silos and the surrounding area. The walls are painted in a very vivid colour, you won't miss it. It was built in 1649 and was originally a convent.Neaby is the Town Hall, this is also a lovely building with a very impressive Canarian balcony.We headed back to the Plaza - it is picture postcard perfect. There is an Art Nouveau style bandstand in the middle of the plaza. It was designed by a Canarian architect called Mariano Estanga. He lived in Los Silos in the 1920's and apparently played a big role in the restoration and design of the town.We found a little bar just off the square and decided to go in and have lunch. It was lovely - thick, whitewashed walls, heavy wooden shutters and open windows (no glass), looking out over the plaza. It was very traditional with some local men gathered around the bar, chatting and passing the time of day. No-one spoke any English, but with pigeon Spanish and much nodding and pointing, we managed to order lunch. We ate delicious sandwiches, washed down with local beer and ice cream for our son. The cost - 6 Euros in total for everything. What a bargain! It also had the most wonderful relaxed and calm atmosphere.We wandered a bit more after lunch looking for the Aderno patisserie and chocolate shop. Although Los Silos is a very small place, we couldn't find this shop. Apparently its produce is so good, people travel here all the way from Santa Cruz to buy things. We didn't find it, but did find some lovely old buildings and beautiful streets to explore and had a very enjoyable hour in this quaint and special place.
by Joy S on January 22, 2013
The drive out of Masca towards the town of Buenavista is a lot less stressful than the drive into the village. The road is still steep and winding, but much less so than the road which takes you down into Masca. Also it seemed like most people were going back the way they came, so there was very little traffic.Be sure to stop at the Mirador Cruz de Hilda, it overlooks the Masca Valley and gives you a different perspective of Masca itself. It is a stunning view. On the information board beside the mirador there is a little story about the life of a crow. It is interesting and explains that the existence of crows here proves the ecosystem is good. Amazingly there was a crow perched on top when we arrived. Take time to read this - it is fun and educational.As you drive further, you see the El Palmar valley below you. There are terraces growing fruit, cereals and almonds. Something that you also can't fail to see is the huge green and red volcanic mound. It is a bit surreal - there are "slices" cut out of it. It looks just like a giant cake or pie that someone has cut pieces out of. It dominates the entire valley. It was a quarry and the soil was used to build local houses. Apparently though, it tended to collapse on those mining there and thus they ceased doing this.Eventually you come to the cliffs of the Teno Massif. This is the oldest part of Tenerife, formed 7 million years ago. You see the road carved into the rock, then a gap, a bit like an eye in the rock face that you drive through. The drive looked really interesting and takes you eventually to the Teno lighthouse - the most westerly point of Tenerife. Also you can stop at the "eye" where there is a viewpoint right down onto the cliffs below and the Atlantic Ocean. It is supposed to be scarey and amazing. We unfortunately did not experience any of this though. We saw the eye from the road, but as you approach, they had ominous signs warning against driving on this road if there has been wind or rain. We experienced torrential rain half an hour before, and the previous 2 days had seen a ferocious storm hit the island, so decided this would be too risky a drive.Instead, we retraced our steps back to Buenavista del Norte. We parked right by the beach there - a black, volcanic sandy beach with huge rocks and boulders and enormous waves. We walked along the beach, enjoying the views of the Teno Massif from here. Maybe not so dramatic as the eye viewpoint, but stunning nevertheless.
by Joy S on January 21, 2013
We had read a lot about Masca - Tenerife's Shangri La, nestled high up in the mountains. Despite everything you read, it still is a real thrill to visit this very special and beautiful place on the island.We headed for Santiago del Teide - watch out for the little trail of white crosses, just outside the town. They lead all the way up the slopes to an altar at the top. Watch out for the left-hand turn in Santiago del Teide signposted "Masca" and "Buena Vista del Norte." This is the famous, or infamous road to Masca.Masca is a tiny hamlet right in the Teno Mountains. It was virtually undiscovered until the road from Santiago del Teide to Buenavista was built in the 1970's. Before this road, a track down the cliff was the only access to the village. Masca was then, unsurprisingly, a stronghold of the Guanche - the original inhabitants of the island. They resisted from here, the invasion of the Spanish in 1496.Masca is now the second most visited spot on the island after Mount Teide. We had read so much about the "white knuckle ride" you would experience driving along the road to Masca. I did feel slightly anxious and fairly apprehensive, but my fears were unfounded. Yes, the road is extremely steep and has extremely sharp hairpin bends; yes it does loop back on itself and yes it is at times narrow. Everybody though, seems to take it very slowly and carefully. We did not meet any oncoming traffic and the drive was a lot of fun.Definitely stop at the Cherfe viewpoint. You can see Santiago del Teide from here, but better than that, you get the first glimpses of Masca. You also see the road and the hairpin bends laid out in front of you - a spectacular sight.The drive down the road, as I said was really fun and a fantastic experience. We came to Masca almost before we realised. There are parking spaces at the side of the road, take the first one you see - if you carry on down the hill, it is very hard to get back up again to park! There were ticket machines to pay for the parking, but all of these were broken.We sat on the wall, overlooking Masca and just drank in the stunning views. It is a tiny place and it seemed like the buildings were literally clinging to the edge of the mountain. The path down into Masca is so steep and also cobbled. Make sure you are wearing sensible shoes - even with these it is slippery and not easy to navigate.The few houses are beautiful. They are wonderful examples of rural architecture. They are made from volcanic rock, the tiled roofs are held up by bamboo canes which apparently helped to keep mice and lizards outside the houses.We spent about half an hour in Masca. We had a look in the few shops, sat on the terrace of a nice cafe and sipped freshly squeezed orange juice, while gazing over the mountains. When we got there, it was dull and overcast. The clouds shifted by the time we arrived at the cafe, but had formed again before we finished our drinks, and we just missed a huge rainshower - torrential rain. The weather seemed to change exceptionally quickly - take your photos while you can, in 5 minutes, quite unexpectedly, the whole mountains can be obscured.We visited Masca on a Thursday at about 11am. I had read that you should avoid 11am to 3pm because the jeep safaris descend on the area and that Fridays were the best day due to no tour buses then. However, although there were some people around, it was not at all crowded and very pleasant.
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