Tenerife (Spanish pronunciation: [teneˈɾife] 4 syllables) is the largest of the seven Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean 70 miles off the coast of Morocco. Tenerife has an area of 785 square miles and is the most populated island with 900k inhabitants. About five million tourists visit Tenerife yearly. While driving on this island one may notice the “Canaries libre” graffiti supporting the separation of the islands from the mother country of Spain. Between 1833 and 1927 Santa Cruz de Tenerife was the sole capital of the Canary Islands, until in 1927 a decree ordered shared capital status with Las Palmas, as it remains today.
We rent our car from CiCar, offices second floor in the ferry terminal. They probably are still laughing about the lady who asked about a GPS for this tiny island (I left TomTom at home). We are told “no problem” only a north and south auto way. After driving in circles and asking numerous times, we did find the road. Yeah sure, no problem, no gas.
A word about auto rentals. No typical signing of contracts or deposits has been required. I show up, show a license and find the azur car. Both here and Crete, the tank was empty, all insurance included, and the cars were good. When done we just dropped off the cars, in Crete with the keys under the mat. This car we left with more gas than when we started. But believe it or nor, without checking the condition of the car or gas in the tank, CiCar took the keys and gave me money for the extra gas. How trusting is that?
San Cristóbal de La Laguna was the capital of the Canary Islands until Santa Cruz replaced it in 1833. After driving around in the usual tourist circles, we take a local’s advice, park the car in a little underground space and walk about the city.
The old city is nice. The Convent of St. Catherine, Cathedral (under renovation), and church of San Francisco are worth a visit. The latter has a large and stunning solid silver alter. In a side room there are beautiful murals depicting the life and death of a black St. Francis of Assisi. (the black Madonna is the patron saint of the island). Another fantastic church was Santa Domingo De Guzman. Even though its murals are 20th century, the church was built in the early 1500s and has an unusually angled bell tower and wonderful architecture.
We drove on to Puerto de la Cruz on the NW side of the island. Here we drove in more Spanish circles before parking to walk along a black sand beach and gardens to an old Spanish fort. The gardens are interesting for its native plants, especially the huge Dragon Tree with its extensive above ground root system.
Driving thru the beautiful La Ortava Valley, we begin our steep and curvy climb to the peak of Mount Teide. Tenerife has the highest elevation of Spain. El Teide at 12198′ is the third largest volcano in the world from its base. Its northern slopes are in Canarian Pine while barren lava fields are in the south.
This is a spectacular drive through pine forests, barren moonscapes and strangely shaped lava fields. We look down on white fluffy clouds some 2000-3000′ below with the occasional expanse of blue ocean in the distance. The tops of mountains on neighboring islands peak above the clouds. At highest altitudes, it is a barren moonscape; at lower altitudes it is a forest of pines. Sun shines atop the mountain but I drive thru dense fog below. The white buildings and telescopes of the Astrophysical Institute are a glaring contrast to its stark surroundings.
Jim and I unfurl our flag of the Canary Islands for photos before driving down the south slopes back to port. Sunset is at 6pm here and days are shorter than we would like.
We received our refund, unasked, for our unused gas and, in shock, returned to our ship all the richer for our experiences.