"I am leaving almost with tears in my eyes. I would like to settle here." These were the words that the German naturalist Alexander Von Humboldt wrote to his brother in the late 18th century after exploring Tenerife. He was especially struck by the Orotava Valley, where the famous Humboldt lookout point was named after him. The north side of the Island is green, lush and humid. Its towns are wonderfully varied and are all worth visiting.
An open-air museum. That is the best way to describe La Orotava. Experts say that it ranks among Spain's most picturesque towns, with its historic quarter having been declared a monument of national historic-artistic interest. A true pleasure for you to discover.
Its steep streets are a combination of narrow cobbled alleyways and wide modern avenues. The best thing to do is take a peaceful stroll all around them and discover each of its picture-perfect corners. Don't miss the San Agustín and Concepción churches, the latter of which was declared a national historic monument. You should also visit the Town Hall and the Casa de los Balcones, a fabulous 17th century mansion. The entire northern side of the Island is full of restaurants and taverns serving the most exquisite Canarian cuisine. You'll be spoilt for choice at meal times.
One of La Orotava's main festive celebrations takes place in June for the Corpus Christi. The streets in the town centre are lined with carpets made by hand using sand from Mount Teide. The largest of these works of art covers the entire square outside the Town Hall and takes almost a month to make. There are craft and gift shops on every street selling the Island's most popular souvenirs. Their table linen and lace are the most sought-after. While in La Orotava, you simply must visit Pueblo Chico. This theme park contains amazing miniature models of the Canary Islands' most iconic buildings.
Puerto de la Cruz
If La Orotava represents tradition, Puerto de la Cruz is all about leisure. This small fishing village was the first to welcome travellers in the late 19th century who were drawn to the Island by its mild climate. With time, it has become the most popular tourist destination in northern Tenerife. Its streets are always bustling, no matter what time of the day it is. This part of the Island keeps tourists hooked and locals besotted.
Puerto de la Cruz is full of all kinds of hotels, shops, terraces, nightlife and places to unwind. Take a seat on one of the benches at Plaza del Charco and see for yourself. The hours will fly by before you know it. But the real treat is to take a walk. Experience the pleasure of strolling along its main avenue, which runs along the seafront from Playa Jardín to Punta Brava.
Its beaches are made of black sand. The Guanche people discovered these volcanic sand beaches many years ago, and so they have remained, practically untouched, to this day. Their exotic charm captivates everyone who walks them. There is something simply magical about them, so be warned – you might get hooked!
A swim at the beach of Playa Jardín is an experience you won't want to miss. The locals are particularly proud of this coastal jewel.
And if you think that's not enough, there's more! Have you ever seen a penguin just a few feet away from you? At Puerto de la Cruz, you can! Loro Parque is one of the world's most spectacular theme parks and houses species from all over the world living in perfect harmony. The orca and dolphin shows are amazingly entertaining, and their collection of parrots is the biggest in the world.
For several years now, Puerto de la Cruz has hosted a film festival in honour of the British author Agatha Christie. The festival was initially held to commemorate the 80th anniversary of her stay on the Island. In 1927, she decided to escape to Tenerife with her daughter to overcome a severe emotional crisis. Thankfully, she managed to recover here and carry on writing.
Rambla de Castro
The wind appears to have befriended this town. It is the Mount Olympus of paragliding and the hotspot for surfing in the north of the Island. The real treat is that you can do both all year round.
As you enter deeper into this municipality, the green hues grow brighter, and a fine example is the natural area of Rambla de Castro, which houses one of the Island's largest palm groves. More than half of the municipality is a protected area; an idyllic setting that emanates well-being from every pore. The Sendero del Agua trail explores the whole of Rambla de Castro, and the landscapes revealed along the way are truly unique.
This magical setting lies in the municipality of Los Realejos, which encompasses five protected natural areas, each more spectacular than the last thanks to their stunning landscapes and vegetation. On the coast, the Playa del Socorro beach is great for seaside relaxation and is a Mecca for surfers. Scuba diving along its ocean beds is another delight. Paragliders will also find the municipality to contain one of the best spots for their favourite sport. And don't miss its history and traditions, which are bound to win you over.
The Realejo Alto area is home to the church of Santiago Apóstol, the first Christian temple erected in Tenerife. In Realejo Bajo, the Hacienda de los Príncipes (the Princes' Estate) dates from the 15th century and housed Tenerife's first sugar mill. A Flemish style triptych from the early 16th century has contributed to its heritage since shortly after it was built.
The thousand-year-old Dragon Tree
The north of Tenerife has a wealth of different landscapes and contrasts. Once the modern motorway that crosses the north exits the Orotava Valley, the municipalities of San Juan de la Rambla, La Guancha and Icod de los Vinos reveal spectacular landscapes shaped by their farming and fishing tradition and by the talented Mother Nature.
They are also home to small towns and villages of great historic value. To get there, take the TF-351 to the town of San Juan de la Rambla, and carry on to La Guancha, where the Santa Catalina quarter still preserves elements of the Islands' traditional architecture.
Not wishing to undermine any of the other towns, we could say that Icod de los Vinos is the ultimate showcase for the Canary Islands' architecture, with its low houses adorned with wooden roofs and balconies, and cobbled streets.
And in the heart of the town stands the thousand-year-old Dragon Tree, one of the world's oldest known specimens of this striking tree. You would need several pairs of arms to embrace the 16 m (52.5 ft) tall tree, with its 20 m (65 ft) perimeter base. Those who set eyes on it say it is a moving experience.
La Cueva del Viento
The Cueva del Viento (Wind Cave) in Icod de los Vinos is Europe's biggest lava tube. It covers a total of 17 km (10.6 miles) on several different levels and a visit into its depths will help you to understand how nature can create such amazing structures. The trip is quite an experience, especially because of the silence and darkness that fill its tunnels and passageways.