Backpacking in the Canary Islands: an introduction to Tenerife
Europe is a diverse continent in terms of language and culture, and also terrain. While the Mediterranean is the default choice for sunny summer holidays for many northern Europeans, the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, such as Tenerife and Gran Canaria, offer both year-long sunshine, and natural conditions which provide opportunities for a wide range of adventure activities. While many still visit Tenerife on a cheap package holiday - indeed Thomas Cook's deals to Tenerife and neighbouring islands such as Gran Canaria start from as little as £220 - the scope for activity beyond the beach on islands like Tenerife and Gran Canaria essentially offers the adventurous woman two holidays in one. Since it is easy enough to find a beach, here we will take a brief look at some of the more adrenalin raising options to be found on the island of Tenerife.
Despite being surrounded by the Atlantic, the waters around Tenerife maintain an average temperature of between 19 and 23 degrees Celsius, all year round. Add to this the noted clarity of the water and you have the perfect conditions for both snorkelling and scuba diving. While the fauna and flora are not going to be as plentiful as at locations like the Great Barrier Reef, the notable absence of Great White Sharks has to be a plus point. For those of you with understandable shark fear, Tenerife may just be the perfect place to try Scuba diving for the first time. There are several well established, PADI certified diving schools across the island that can provide both equipment hire and tuition.
Canoeing is also popular, as is dingy sailing and wind surfing. In fact, the Trade Winds which first propelled Columbus to the Americas draw a lot of windsurfers to Tenerife every year, and so predictably, there are again plenty of outfits that can supply both rental gear and training for beginners.
It is not all water sports on Tenerife, however. The volcanic origin of the island is most magnificently displayed in the form of Mount Teide (read this great article in the Independent to learn about reaching its summit on foot). Alternatively, you can reach what is practically the summit in a matter of minutes in a cable car. Much of the centre of Tenerife is mountainous, with the potential for adventure sports that this brings.
Mount Teide and the surrounding area is a protected National Park, but elsewhere on the island guided tours can take you on mountain walks featuring aerial slides and rope bridge crossing. There are also several well developed climbing walls, which have been constructed on entirely natural rock formations. These man-made alterations offer a great way for novices to get a taste of rock climbing in a manageable way.
If you are a more independent sort, you are spoiled for choice when it comes to walking routes through the hills and mountains. As you might expect, there are also numerous well developed mountain biking trails. Again, bike rental is possible throughout both north and south Tenerife, and thanks to the popularity of the sport, prices are competitive and therefore affordable.