Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the largest city in the Canary Islands, combines tradition with modernity in an increasingly cosmopolitan setting full of central-European charm and overlooking the sea.
Whether you explore it on foot, by "guagua" (bus) or by tram, there are a number of compulsory stops. The waves break just outside the Auditorium, for instance, which was designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava. This unique building is an ideal final stop on your day tour and can also offer you a choice of top quality live shows: a symphonic concert, a ballet, an opera or a rock concert. Just a stone's throw away is the Calle de la Noria street, which starts at the La Concepción church. In early May, this street is the setting for the local festivities that commemorate the birth of the city, and its colonial architecture blends beautifully with Santa Cruz's more intellectual side. In recent years, it has become a hot spot for the locals (known as "Chicharreros") on their nights out, and is also home to a number of carnival groups. What's more, it has many bars and restaurants where you can sample some typical Canarian dishes.
The Museum of Nature and Mankind introduces you to the Island's ancestors up-close. There are a number of mummies preserving the bodies of Tenerife's ancestral Guanche people.
The TEA, which stands for Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (Tenerife Arts' Space), designed by Herzog & de Meuron, is one of the capital's most recent additions to its modern attractions. Come and peruse the works of the most acclaimed artists before enjoying a cup of tea or coffee from the café. The TEA's library has become a meeting point for the city's university students.
The streets of El Castillo, Pilar and San José are a shopper's paradise, as are the Plaza de la Candelaria and Plaza de España squares. This vast pedestrianised area is home to all of the best brands and fashion labels. You may well find it hard to resist temptation, and this is a great place to give in. Name your electronic device or gadget – Santa Cruz's shopping area has it at a great price, as well as a string of cafés with terraces overlooking the lake by Plaza de España.
Another must-see is the García Sanabria park, the city's green lung. The park is home to almost 200 different plant species, making it a great place to sit back and indulge in nature. And don't worry about losing track of time – just check the flower clock. Take a stroll down the refreshing Ramblas and check out the International Street Sculptures Exhibition, part of the city's heritage which has been on display since 1973, exhibiting works by artists such as Martín Chirino, Henry Moore, Joan Miró and Óscar Domínguez.
If you really want to make the most of your trip to Santa Cruz, don't miss the fishing village of San Andrés. Its quaint little houses have managed to withstand the pounding of the ocean and their inhabitants still keep the fishing tradition alive. This is another of the Island's great places to stop and savour some delicious fish, limpets, shrimps and squid. San Andrés also played a key role in defending the Island from the invaders. To prove it, the ruins of the castle still stand at the end of the avenue.
The Las Teresitas beach is just a stone's throw away from the town and boasts miles of golden sandy beaches. This is where the Chicharreros (the capital's inhabitants) come in search of peace and quiet and to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is an absolutely unique beach. Its waters are calm and clear, and a walk along the sand at sunset here is an experience we highly recommend.
From El Rosario to Güímar
The neighbouring municipalities of El Rosario, Candelaria, Arafo and Güímar form a continuous line alongside the TF-1 motorway, which runs along the south side of the Island. Heading inland from the coast, El Rosario spreads as far as the La Esperanza region, which you can reach from La Laguna on the TF-24, the same road that takes you Teide National Park. Its mountains are an attraction for locals and tourists alike looking to get out on horseback, on their mountain bikes or in their hiking gear.
Candelaria is particularly famous for its Basilica, where churchgoers worship the Virgin of Candelaria, the patron saint of the Canary Islands. The adjacent Dominican monastery houses an interesting museum dedicated to the Virgin. Beside the vast square outside the entrance to the Basilica stands a magnificent collection of sculptures representing what are said to be the last Menceys, the leaders of the Guanche people.
As you walk along the streets towards the Basilica, you will come face to face with the Guanches, the Island's ancient inhabitants who are said to have discovered it. These figures are the Virgin's guardsmen. Standing with their backs to the sea, they keep a watchful eye on the thousands of visitors who come to the Basilica every year. It is such a popular attraction that many visitors take back a figurine or picture of the Virgin as a keepsake. If you would like to buy a bunch of flowers to offer the Virgin, you will find a number of flower shops in the area. And if you haven't yet thought of a wish to make, here's an idea: ask to be able to come back! We would love to see you again next year!
The Santa Ana quarter is home to one of the Island's most popular pottery centres: Casa las Miquelas. Here, you can watch as they make their products right before your eyes and purchase a traditional pot or whatever else appeals to you.
Among its many treasures, Candelaria boasts miles of beaches laden with fine, bright black sand. What better way to massage your feet than a walk on the beach? Go for it! You won't experience anything like this anywhere else.
What's more, there are dozens of restaurants for you to choose from, with mouthwatering menus. Like a true fishing village, it can offer you freshly caught fish straight from the ocean to your plate for you to enjoy as you overlook the beach, listen to the lull of the waves and feel the gentle sea breeze. The perfect picture postcard.
Following the southern motorway, which is also known as the "old road" and officially as the TF-28, you will soon come to Arafo and Güímar. These traditional farming towns are nestled in a huge, fertile valley. Malpaís de Güímar is a genuine volcanic setting right by the sea, which we encourage you to explore. The contrast between the black lava and the bright green cardon and tabaiba plants is quite striking.
Another of Güímar's most popular sights is the Pyramids of Güímar Ethnographic Park, founded by the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl. Its mysterious constructions are reminiscent of the ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian pyramids, but there are a whole host of other attractions to see in this fascinating place.
Arafo is a natural beauty in its own right where rural life goes on unhurried. But it is also renowned for the musical passion of its inhabitants, which explains why the Juan Carlos I auditorium is one of its landmarks.
Arico and Fasnia
The town of Arico is nestled in the mountains and plays host to three wonders in one: Arico el Viejo, Arico el Nuevo and Villa de Arico. These three different locations all preserve their traditional and genuine essence, making them perfect for taking in the Island's authenticity and overall outdoor beauty. This is also a great opportunity to purchase some of the area's delicacies, such as cheese, honey, tomatoes or the local "gofio" flour made from roasted grains. The neighbouring town of Fasnia is also a great place to explore the country lifestyle and traditions of Tenerife's most rural side.