13 Top Things To Do in North Tenerife
A guide to the best attractions and sights in Northern Tenerife
When traveling to Tenerife, many visitors skip the north for whatever reason: it’s too far away, there’s nothing to do there and it’s raining all the time, right?
Well, they couldn’t be more wrong and I guarantee that your trip to Tenerife can’t be complete without a visit to the green, unexploited north of the island.
Indeed the regions such as Natural Park Anaga offer a wide range of activities.
Here my top 10 things to do in North Tenerife.
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Why visit North Tenerife?
The south of Tenerife is known for its spectacular Tenerife beaches, party mood, and countless activities. For those who can’t spend the entire day on the beach or those who are seeking to escape the heat of the south, North Tenerife is the perfect escape from the crowds.
However, you can easily spend more than just a day trip to the north of the island as it offers plenty of activities to do.
Mount Teide is also the main reason for the cool and humid climate of the north which created a unique flora & fauna.
Find all locations in a map at the end of the post!
Where to stay in North Tenerife
1. Hiking In North Tenerife
The best way to discover the lush green, pristine north of the island is definitely by hiking or trekking. Countless hiking trails have been rehabilitated in the last year and the north of Tenerife is becoming increasingly popular among hikers.
Indeed the unique microclimate created by the interaction of Mount Teide, its volcanic activity and the sea resulted in a very specific landscape and fauna.
There are trails for every level and most include picturesque, remote villages, coastline paths and interesting insights to volcanic activity. The deep ravines will definitely take your breath away.
As the area is quite secluded, traditional life can still be found in many hamlets of Anaga, the northeastern part of the island. Some of them just know 2 ways of access: by foot and by boat.
2. Visit Beaches of North Tenerife
Some of my favorite beaches of Tenerife can be found in the north of the island. Whereas the beaches of the south can be easily massified and invaded by concrete buildings, the beaches of North Tenerife remained in most cases pristine and untouched.
Having a swim at Tenerife`s north beach is definitely one of the top things to do.
It will be just so easy to fall in love with their rough, savage character.
Some can only be accessed by narrow, winding roads. The most scenic beaches in North Tenerife are the following:
- Benijo Beach – (Taganana) Probably one of my favorite beaches of Tenerife. The rocks inside the sea and the view on Anaga mountains create a unique atmosphere. Enjoying sunset at Benijo Beach will be an experience to remember forever. There are only a few restaurants serving typical food from Tenerife. Benijo Beach is probably the most photographed beach of Tenerife.
- Almaciga Beach – (Taganana) Almaciga Beach could be the strongest competitor of Benijo Beach when it comes to the title of the most beautiful beach in Tenerife. On top Almaciga Beach is just next to Benijo. It’s heaven for water sports lovers and it’s nestled at the foot of the Anaga mountains.
- Roque de las Bodegas Beach – (Tanganana) Further west, Roque Las Bodegas is the third beach of Taganana. It’s the largest and busiest of the 3, but the waves are softer which makes it particularly suited for families. I really enjoyed having lunch at its several restaurants. The most legendary one is Casa Africa, where the serve the freshest fish and seafood at the best price.
- Playa El Socorro Beach– (Puerto de la Cruz). El Socorro Beach has been awarded for its water quality and is especially popular among surfers. It has a gorgeous view on the roughed coastline of north Tenerife.
- Playa Bollullo Beach – (La Orotava) Quite remote, but an absolutely pristine beach. A narrow pathway through banana plantations followed by steep steps leads to Bollullo beach. The beach has a certain bohemian vibe as the scenery is absolutely sublime and secluded.
Even though it has not much in common with the rest of the pristine beaches of the north, it is particularly popular due to its festive mood, large size, snack bars and golden sand (most beaches on Tenerife have back, volcanic sand).
Did you know that the sand from Las Teresitas beach was shipped in 1975 from Spanish Western Sahara?
3. Live the different vegetation and climate of North Tenerife
Laurel Forest (Photo by Tenerife Tourism)
The north part of Tenerife has a totally different natural landscape, climate and atmosphere than the lively south. Mount Teide is the natural barrier between the north and the south, it created an arid and sunny climate in the south and a humid, cooler climate in the north.
This resulted in different kinds of vegetation and economic sectors. Whereas the south is all about the beach & sun, the north produces a wide range of fruits and vegetables. With its lush green vegetation, the north of Tenerife becomes an increasingly popular hiking destination.
You shouldn’t miss the following viewpoints:
- Mirador de Jardina
- Mirador de la Cruz del Carmen
- Mirador de Abicor
- Mirador de Pico del Inglés
- Mirador El Bailadero
4. Go Hiking in Anaga Rural Park
The most famous natural park in the north of Tenerife is Anaga Rural Park belonging to the municipality of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
It spans across the towns of La Laguna, Taganana and Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The sharp peaks, the deep ravines in the background of the blue ocean created a fascinating landscape that has been declared Biosphere Reserve.
The forests of Anaga Natural Park have been recognized as original tertiary parks due to its numerous native plant species. Indeed it survived more than 400 million years! It also boasts a large laurel forest (similar to La Gomera).
Hiking through the laurel forests of Anaga will make you feel like a journey back in time… The twisted tree trunks give the forest a prehistoric flair.
You can also find several animals that can only be spotted in Anaga park such as owls, kestrels or laurel pigeons. No wonder that Anaga Natural Park is a coveted destination for birders for a long time. – Check guided tours here
The best way to explore Anaga Natural Park is by hiking, horse riding or mountain biking. Probably you’ll come across one of the small settlements whose inhabitants mostly live off small farming and cultivating local plantations with sweet potatoes, vines, passion fruit, yams, …
5. Enjoy traditional Canarian food
Did you know that the gastronomy and eating culture in North Tenerife varies from the South?
Even though the Papa Arrugadas con Mojo is popular all over the island, North Tenerife has several traditional dishes that can hardly be found in the south. All of them reflect the climatic difference and the farming background of the north area.
A foodie tour is definitely one of the top things to do when visiting North Tenerife.
Some of the must-try dishes in the north are:
- Gofio – Originally invented by the aboriginal of Tenerife, Los Guanches, gofio is one of Tenerife’s oldest recipes. It can be compared to flour made of different grains. You can add it to your broth, your soup, sauce, eat it with honey and almonds or with milk for breakfast. Gofio is omnipresent on Tenerife’s tables! On top, it is very healthy and provides a lot of energy.
- Ropa Vieja – This dish requires a lot of preparation time but is extremely popular. It consists of chicken, chickpeas, potatoes, some wine, and many different spices.
- Potaje – This soup is usually served as an appetizer and consists of chickpeas, several vegetables, and potatoes. It is a very healthy meal option.
- Conejo al Salmorejo – Rabbit in Sauce is a very popular meal in north Tenerife. Rabbit meat is marinated for 5 hours in a special sauce with several spices and herbs. It’s usually served with papas arrugadas, wrinkled potatoes
- Carne de Cabra – Goat Meat can be found in several restaurants and is a typical dish from north Tenerife. Meat is cooked for several hours until the meat is soft as butter.
- Puchero Canario – Slowly cooked vegetables and meat. It includes the best of what Tenerife’s gardens and stalls have to offer: sweet potato, Canarian zucchini, pork meat, chicken, chorizo, cabbage, green beans, chickpeas, potatoes, carrots, corn, and gofio, of course.
A great place to enjoy authentic food from Tenerife at an unbeatable price are Guachinches.
6. Eat in a Guachinche
Often located in somebody’s garage, the guachinches serve wine with home-made traditional food. The guachinches came to life when wine producers organized wine parties to sell their wine directly to British buyers and consumers.
Nowadays you can hardly get a more authentic experience than eating in a guachinche: unique local wine, rich stews, loads of meat and delicious desserts.
Guachinches are located in the wine regions of Tenerife such as Tacoronte, El Sauzal, Tegueste, La Matanza de Acentejo, Santa Úrsula, La Orotava and Los Realejos.
These are some popular guachinches in the north of Tenerife:
- Guachinche Casa Yayi
- Guachinche Julián
- Guachinche El Ramal
- Martes Trancao Guachinche
- Los Gomez
- Bodegon El Primero
If want to try several guachinches and don’t want to get lost on the way, download the guachinche app “Guachapp”
7. Discover Tenerife’s Wine Culture
Did you know that Tenerife has an exciting wine culture?
The island boasts 5 Dominaciones de origen (protected origin appellations) from Yconde-Daute-Isora, Tacoronte-Acentejo, Abona, Valle de Güimar and Valle de la Orotava.
Most of the wine cellars can be found in the north and some of them are considered to be the highest vineyards in Europe and can be visited with a Tenerife Wine Tour.
The multiple microclimates of Tenerife and its volcanic soil had a large impact on creating a unique taste of wines.
However, the wine regions strongly differ from each other, depending on their localization. Guimar and Abona have a dry climate whereas the other wine regions have a humid climate as Mount Teide stops the clouds coming from the Azores.
The most famous grape of the island is the aromatic Malvasia which was already exported in the 16th century by the British to America and Europe. The wine trade in Tenerife is thus a history that goes back to more than 300 years.
As Tenerife was not hit by the phylloxera vine aphid which destroyed most of the vine roots in Europe, some of the most ancient varieties of vines in the world can be found on the island.
If you’re eager to learn more and taste the refreshing wines of Tenerife, I recommend taking a Tenerife Wine Tour.
8. Visit La Laguna
La Laguna, the most picturesque town in the north of Tenerife at the foot of the Anaga mountains, is particularly known for being the blueprint for Latin American colonialism.
No wonder that you’ll feel like in a miniature Santo Domingo or Havana when you walk through La Laguna’s cobbled streets with pastel-colored house fronts and its quiet courtyards.
Some of La Laguna’s mansions date back to Spain’s Golden Age in the 16th and 18th centuries. Due to its unique cultural and historic heritage, La Laguna has been declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
La Laguna used to be Tenerife’s capital before it was transferred to Santa Cruz de Tenerife in 1821. As it’s home to Tenerife’s only university, the town is particularly lively with a young, creative spirit.
What to visit in La Laguna:
- The historic center with its old mansions displaying an eclectic range of architectural styles including Portuguese, Genoese, Flemish, French, and Castilian
- The cathedral of La Laguna
- The University of La Laguna dating back to 1701
- Plaza del Adelantado with the town hall, a convent, and several terraces
- Plaza del Cristo for its market
- Shopping in La Laguna at its quirky, cute little shops. Main shopping streets are Obispo Rey Redondo and Carrera Streets
Traditional Architecture (Photo by Tenerife Tourism)
9. Visit Santa Cruz de Tenerife
When visiting the north part of the island, a visit to Tenerife’s capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife is a must. The largest town of the island and probably the only one with real city vibes boasts a wide range of cultural activities, excellent restaurants, and beautiful architecture.
The harbor of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is considered one of the busiest on the Canarian archipelago as it’s the gateway into mainland Spain and a stop-off point for many cruise liners traveling to the Caribbean.
When visiting Santa Cruz de Tenerife, you can’t skip the following buildings and places:
- Auditorio de Tenerife – the spectacular auditorium built by star architect Santiago Calatrava
- Barrio de la Concepción – the historic, picturesque quarter of Santa Cruz
- García Sanabria Park – for cool shades and relax near its fountains
- Plaza de España
- Plaza de la Candelaria for shopping
- Parliament buildings of the Canary islands
Santa Cruz is famous for its huge carnival celebrations in February. The capital turns into a party town and the plazas hosts huge stages with daily parades going through its streets. The costumes are really elaborated and some say that the Tenerife carnival is the largest after Rio.
10. Visit La Orotava
Colorful La Orotava
To me personally, La Orotava is one of the prettiest towns in Tenerife. It’s located just above Puerto de la Cruz, in the lush green Orotava valley. From the town, you’ll enjoy spectacular views on the ocean and on Mount Teide.
La Orotava gets its charm from its narrow, cobbled streets and pastel-colored house fronts. Each house seems to be the result of delicate and well-though work. The windows are traditionally framed with wood, which gives La Orotava a very characteristic architecture style.
Part of this very typical architecture style is the famous wooden balconies. In case you want to learn more about La Orotava and life in the fertile valley, I recommend a visit to the renowned La Casa De Los Balcones.
On top, you have excellent restaurants in La Orotava serving traditional Canarian food.
Due to its very pleasant climate, La Orotava boasts several beautiful parks that invite to relax. Along with Liceo de Taoro, the Jardines de Victoria was my favorite to stroll around. They are built an Asian-inspired mausoleum and were exemplary for La Orotava’s beauty.
La Orotava is also famous for its large flower and volcanic sand carpets that are laid down on the streets for the festivity of Corpus Christi. The festivity attracts thousands of visitors every year. During that time of the year, the beauty of La Orotava is hard to put into words.
11. Visit Icod de los Vinos and the Dragon Tree
Dancing in Icod de Los Vinos
Even though the towns of Garachico and Icod de Los Vinos might not be on many lists as top things to do in North Tenerife, they are well worth a visit. Indeed due to their limited size and secludedness, they preserved the authentic Canarian atmosphere in the architecture, gastronomy, and traditions.
The Dragon Tree makes the most of the Icod de Los Vinos fame. It is one of the most popular attractions in North Tenerife. It is about 22m high and the diameter of its trunk is estimated 10m.
They say that is more than 1000 years, (probably even more) old hence its name in Spanish: Drago Milenario. It became not only the symbol of Icod but of the entire island.
The sap of the Dragon Tree is red as blood and used for medical and healing purposes. Some of the restaurants near the Dragon Tree even do a lemonade with the sap.
The town of Icod de Los Vinos has several immensely beautiful plazas that invite you to relax and enjoy the Canarian vibe. To me personally, the Plaza de la Constitución was one of the most beautiful squares I saw on the island.
Garachico is located further north from Icod de Los Vinos. In the 18th century, it was Tenerife’s richest town, they say that Garachico’s street was made of marble.
It hosted the most important harbor to which arrived all the merchandise from the American colonies. But unfortunately the volcano Montana Negra exploded and destroyed large parts of the town.
But the volcanic explosion created Garachico’s most famous attraction: the natural rock swimming pools. They are located only 5 minutes from the city center and very popular among locals.
Only a few improvements have been added, such as paved walkways or stairs. The best: entrance is for free!
When in Garachico, you can’t miss to eat out at one of its traditional restaurants like Las Cucharitas (they have banana croquettes on their menu!!)
Like Icod de Los Vinos, Garachico preserved its traditional architecture and its cobbled, narrow streets are some of the prettiest that you’ll find on the island. Entering the Plaza de la Libertad will give you an idea of Garachico’s ancient grandeur.
13. Visit Cueva del Viento
Cueva del Viento near Icod de Los Vinos (Photo by Tenerife Tourism)
If you want to add a truly unique and adventurous touch to your trip to Tenerife, I recommend visiting the Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Winds) near Puerto de la Cruz.
The Cave of the Winds is a natural, volcanic attraction that has been shaped for several thousands of years. It’s a gallery of lava-shaped tunnels expanding across the entire island of Tenerife. So far only a limited stretch can be visited.
Its total length is estimated to be 75 km and it could be the biggest lava-tunnel system in the world.
The Cave of the Winds is a direct result of the intense volcanic activity on Tenerife.
When the 1200ºC hot lava gets in contact with the air, it gets cold in just 5 minutes and solidifies, creating the “roof” of the Tunnel. The lava keeps running below “the roof” until it reaches the sea, leaving an empty hollow behind: the tunnels of Cueva del Viento, a perfect day trip from Puerto de la Cruz.
The lava expulsed from Pico Viejo volcano reached the coast where now lies the town of San Marcos. The holes we can see at the cliffs of San Marcos were created by the lava from Pico Viejo, as they are the end of some tunnels.
More on how & when to visit the Cave of the Winds here.
Inside the Cave of the Winds
I hope some of these, admittedly very personal, highlights of my visit to North Tenerife could convince you to include the beautiful north in your travel plans.
Have you been in North Tenerife? Did you enjoy it? I would love to hear about the things you loved (or loved less) in the comment form.
Map: Highlights of North Tenerife
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport. – see on REI.com
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected against all odds with World Nomads.
To make the most of your trip, I recommend Lonely Planet Tenerife (get -10% off with code “PAULINA10”)