Look beyond the beach resorts and let this one-week Tenerife itinerary help you experience the best of this beautiful Canary Island
Most of us arrive at our travel destination weighed down by the baggage of our expectations, good or bad. Don’t we?
I’m no different. Prior to setting off for a week in Tenerife, my perception of this Spanish island was as a sangria & sand flop for sun-starved Northern Europeans.
How wrong was I. What I found was an island with a rich and proud cultural heritage, colonial towns to match any in Central or South America and dramatic forested landscapes.
To help you make the most of your time there, here’s my 7-day Tenerife itinerary with tips for where to stay, where to eat, what to see and how to get around.
But before you dive into the article, let this one-minute video whet your appetite …
Where is Tenerife?
Tenerife is the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands and the most visited.
Sitting in the Atlantic Ocean, it is closer to the African coastline – just over 300 km to the east – than to Spain. This has resulted in a perfect blend of Spanish culture and balmy African climate.
What is the best month to visit Tenerife
Tenerife is a year-round destination.
Northern Europeans flock there in the winter months to escape the cold back home. Those from the Spanish mainland visit during the summer months to avoid the city heat
Tenerife’s climate is subtropical, meaning that it is usually pleasant whichever month you visit. You are looking at an average of 19 degrees in the winter and 26 degrees in the summer, the heat moderated by the cooling trade winds
However, on balance, spring, autumn (fall) or December / January are good times to visit Tenerife.
Thanks to those trade winds, the summer months (June – August) can be overcast.
The north of the island is cooler and wetter than the south, with November and February the rainiest months.
I visited Tenerife for a week in January and enjoyed long hours of clear skies and sunshine. Whilst it wasn’t bikini weather – although there were some people basking in the sun – the mid-20s temperatures were perfect for sightseeing and hiking.
How to get to Tenerife
Most people arrive in Tenerife through one of its two airports: the older Tenerife North Airport (or Los Rodeos) or Tenerife South Airport (also known as Tenerife South-Reina Sofia Airport).
The larger Tenerife South-Reina Sofia Airport (TFS) handles almost all of the island’s international air traffic
Tenerife North Airport (TFN) acts primarily as the inter-island hub, connecting Tenerife with the other six Canary Islands and the Spanish mainland.
There are sea connections to Cadiz on the mainland and to the other Canary Islands from the port of Los Cristianos in the south, and from Santa Cruz de Tenerife in the north.
Tenerife is also a popular port of call for cruise ships which dock at Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Getting around Tenerife
Hiring a car in Tenerife is relatively inexpensive. Whilst this gives you complete freedom, parking can be challenging at the more popular tourist sites and navigating the island’s mountain roads requires nerves of steel.
So why not take the bus instead?
Thanks to cheap fares and an extensive network that reaches all corners of the island, exploring Tenerife by bus is a breeze. What you lose in flexibility you gain in chill-out time, watching the landscape unfurl from the comfort of your window seat.
Pick up a Tenmas (ten+) card from the bus station or airport on arrival. This will cost you 2 Euro which you then load with credit from 5 – 100 Euro.
Acting as an electronic ticket, similar to London’s Oystercard, you simply tap the ten+ card on the reader as you board the bus and again as you disembark. The correct fare is deducted from your balance which is displayed on the reader. Super easy.
Where should you stay in Tenerife
Ultimately, your Tenerife base will depend on your itinerary whilst on the island.
Package tourists descend on the resorts in the south: for example, Playa de las Américas, Costa Adeje or Los Cristianos.
However, for a more authentic experience and a good base to explore Tenerife, pick Puerto de la Cruz, the largest tourist town in the north.
Resolutely Canarian in character, Puerto de la Cruz’s squares, churches and old houses betray its origins as a fishing village. From a practical viewpoint, it has a decent choice of accommodation and good bus connections to the rest of the island.
If you are looking to stay in a smaller town, consider La Laguna.
Alternatively, if it’s city life you crave, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital, is another option.
Where to stay in Puerto de la Cruz
The good news is that you won’t be stuck for somewhere to stay in Puerto de la Cruz. The bad news is that the majority of hotels and apartments are built on a cliffside, and are a steep uphill walk from the sea and bus station.
Therefore, if possible, choose a place in or near the old town, within easy walking distance of many great restaurants, the main sights of Puerto de la Cruz and its bus station.
Here are some options:
General tips for visiting Tenerife, Canary Islands
Before we dive into what to see and do in Tenerife, here are some general tips that you might find useful
- If you are staying in one of the resorts in southern Tenerife, don’t spend your week by the pool. There’s so much to see on the Island. Get out and explore.
- Packs layers for cooler weather. I visited in January and once the sun went down, the temperature plummeted. Also, if you are visiting a high altitude area such as Teide or the Anaga Forest it is noticeably cooler.
- Bring trainers (sneakers) with you or more robust hiking boots if there is room in your luggage. Tenerife has world-class hiking trails.
- Museums are often closed on Mondays. Therefore, structure your itinerary accordingly
What to see and do in Tenerife
By spending a week in Tenerife you will quickly realise that the island has much more to offer than theme parks, beach resorts and bars.
Tenerife has incredible hiking opportunities, from scaling Mount Teide to exploring the primaeval Anaga Forest to more languid coastal walks.
Or why not explore the cobblestone streets of charming colonial towns, such as La Laguna, La Orotava and Garachico?
Tenerife is not short of interesting museums and architecture, from Santa Cruz de Tenerife’s striking Auditorio de Tenerife to the Mueso de Artesania Iberoamericana (MAIT) in La Orotava.
Discover the best of Tenerife with this one-week itinerary
One Week Tenerife Itinerary + Map
- Day 1: Arrive in your base in Puerto de la Cruz
- Day 2: Explore Puerto de la Cruz
- Day 3: Santa Cruz de Tenerife and La Laguna
- Day 4: La Orotava
- Day 5: Day trip to Mount Teide
- Day 6: Icod de Los Vinos and Garachico
- Day 7: An easy hike in the Anaga Forest
Day 1: Arrive at your base in Puerto de la Cruz
On your arrival in Tenerife, get settled into your hotel or apartment.
If you have time, pick up your ten+ card from the bus station. This will be your golden ticket for exploring the island.
Day 2: Explore Puerto de la Cruz
But before jumping on one of the shiny green TITSA buses, spend your first full day in Tenerife getting to know your home for the week, Puerto de la Cruz.
Puerto de la Cruz is not only is an excellent base for exploring Tenerife but is also a great destination in its own right.
You should be able to cover its main sights in a day.
With the possible exception of the Botanical Garden, everything is walkable (although I did walk to the Botanical Garden). Therefore, you shouldn’t need to take public transport.
Things to see and do in Puerto de la Cruz
- The Botanical Garden (Jardín Botánico)
- The Orchid Garden (Jardín de Orquideas de Sitio Litre)
- Check out the street art
- View contemporary art in the Casa de la Real Aduana
- Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia
- Chapel of San Telmo
- Cool off at Lago Martiánez
- People watch in Plaza del Charco
- Castillo San Felipe
- Watch the waves crash over the sea wall (Explanada del muelle)
Where to eat in Puerto de la Cruz
You won’t be short of choices of places to eat in Puerto de la Cruz. Most restaurants are concentrated in the old town.
Here are a few that I loved:
Day 3: Santa Cruz de Tenerife and La Laguna.
Time to take to the road with a day trip to Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the neighbouring town of La Laguna.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital, is home to half of the island’s permanent residents. It’s an attractive and laid-back city with a cluster of good museums and some striking architecture, notably the Auditorio de Tenerife.
By contrast, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of La Laguna (or San Cristobal de la Laguna) is the first of the three colonial towns included in this 7-day Tenerife itinerary. It is known for its rich history – it was the island’s first capital from 1465 until 1723 – and for its fine Canarian buildings and monastery courtyards.
Getting to Santa Cruz de Tenerife and La Laguna
Start your day by taking the bus #102 or #103 from Puerto de La Cruz’s new bus station to Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a journey time of 45 – 55 minutes.
Once you have finished exploring Santa Cruz de Tenerife, take the tram to La Laguna. The journey takes you through the suburbs of the capital before climbing into La Laguna.
It will take around 40 minutes and you can use your TEN+ card on the tram.
Alight at the terminus (Trinidad), from where it is a five-minute walk to the town’s Tourist Information Office.
When it is time to return to Puerto de La Cruz, catch the #102 or #103 from La Laguna’s bus station, a 20-minute journey.
What to see and do in Santa Cruz de Tenerife
- Visit Igesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción
- Visit Plaza de España, also home to the city’s Tourist Information Office
- View the Auditorio de Tenerife from all angles
- Explore palm trees from around the world at the Palmetum
- Trace Tenerife’s history at the Museo de la Naturaleza y El Hombre
- View artwork by the great masters at the Museo de Bellas Artes (Iglesia de San Francisco)
- Visit Espacia de las Artes, Tenerife’s art & cultural centre
What to see and do in La Laguna
Sightseeing in La Laguna is concentrated over there blocks in the town’s historic core, bordered by Calle San Agustin to the north, Calle Herrandores to the south, Calle Viana to the east and Plaza de la Concepción to the west.
- Stroll through La Laguna’s historic streets
- Visit Igesia de Nuestra Señora de la Concepción (yes … another one)
- Admire the carved wooden gallery in the Museo de Historia de Tenerife
- Seek out the animal-shaped gargoyles at Salazar House
- Visit the cloisters of the Iglesia y Ex Covento de San Agustín
Where to eat in La Laguna
For something a little out of the ordinary, try the Swedish / Spanish restaurant, Por Favor Tasca (Calle Viana, 34).
Their menu del dia is a steal at under 10 Euro, both the service and setting are great and the home-made chocolate mousse is divine (the owner told me that her secret is to use egg whites).
Day 4: La Orotava
Day four of our Tenerife itinerary and another colonial town.
Sitting in the shadow of Mount Teide, grand old townhouses line the steep narrow streets and lanes of the old town of La Orotava. Flanking its elegant squares are mansions with traditional wooden Canarian balconies.
Day-trippers flock here to view the best collection of these balconies in Tenerife, the Casas de Los Balcones. But La Orotava is so much more than this stretch of townhouses, with first-rate churches, museums and a small botanical garden.
Getting to La Orotava
Take the bus #345 or #352 from Puerto de La Cruz’s bus station to La Orotava, a journey time of around 25 minutes.
When it is time to return to Puerto de La Cruz, take bus #345 or #353.
What to see and do in La Orotava
- Stroll through La Orotava’s historic streets
- Visit the Casas de Los Balcones
- Explore the art of Spain and Mesoamerica at Museo de Artesania Iberoamericana (MAIT) housed within the former Dominican monastery of San Domingo
- Take a stroll around La Orotava’s small botanical garden
- Admire the view from Jardins del Marquesadode al Quinta Roja
- Take a look at the unusual statue of Christ of Humility and Patience in the Iglesia de San Agustin
Day 5: Day trip to Mount Teide
Parque Nacional del Teide is the largest national park of the Canary Islands and Mount Teide (El Teide) at almost 4,000 meters, is Spain’s highest mountain.
Most visitors take the cable car up the mountain for a view over Tenerife, which costs 27 Euro for a return journey (2020 prices). However, if it’s too windy the cable car will be out of action.
The other option is to take one of the hiking trails in the national park. There are marked paths accommodating all fitness levels, that lead through Las Cañadas, the giant caldera at the heart of the national park, and up to Mount Teide.
Note that permits are needed for some hikes.
How to get to El Teide from Puerto de La Cruz
Without a car, your options for getting to El Teide are limited.
There is a daily bus service (#348) that leaves Puerto de La Cruz at 9.30 am, returning at 4 pm. As this is a popular bus service, arrive early to ensure a seat.
Another option is to take an organised day trip to Mount Teide. Expect to pay around 50 Euro for a half-day tour, including cable-car ticket. Book well in advance.
Day 6: Icod de Los Vinos and Garachico
Day six and it’s time to check out Tenerife’s biggest dragon tree and another of its charming colonial towns.
The legendary dragon tree in Icod de Los Vinos, Drago Milenario, is thought to be 500 – 600 years old and is the largest example of this species on the island.
Garachico is one of Tenerife’s prettiest towns, known for its historic town centre and its natural rock bathing pools.
Much of the original town was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1706, burying one of the island’s most important ports and wealthiest towns. A new town was built on the cooled lava and, miraculously, some of its buildings survived unscathed.
Getting to Icod de Los Vinos and Garachico
The dramatic one-hour bus journey from Puerto de La Cruz to Icod takes you along twisting roads, past lush banana plantations, precariously perched vineyards and dried-up river gorges.
Sit on the right-hand side of the bus for dramatic views over the Atlantic once you leave San Vicente.
This route is served by the frequent 363 service.
Hop back on the #363 in Icod bus station to continue your journey to Garachico, 15-minutes west.
What to see and do in Icod de Los Vinos
- See that dragon tree
- Visit the Iglesia San Marcos.
- Watch life go by in the Plaza de Pila
What to see and do in Garachico
- Wander along the paths of El Caletón, Garachico’s natural rock bathing pools
- Relax in Plaza della Libertad
- Visit Iglesia de Santa Ana
- Visit the Castillo de San Miguel
At the time of writing, Covento de San Francisco was closed for renovation
What a cheek!
Try to pick up a free map of the town from the Tourist Information Office and you’ll be out of luck. They charge a whopping 3 Euro for a very average map.
Where to eat in Garachico
Grab a table at the seafront Ardeola (Av. Tomé Cano 4) for their menu del dia. Great food reasonably priced.
Day 7: An easy hike in the Anaga Forest
Sadly, it’s the final day of your week in Tenerife but let’s finish on what was my highlight of the itinerary: The Anaga Forest.
This primaeval laurel forest, northeast of La Laguna and Santa Cruz, is prime hiking territory.
And on a clear day, the views from the forest’s miradores are sensational. From the highest one, Pico del Inglés, there are sweeping views that take in Punta del Hildalgo and the beach at Las Teresitas.
Many waymarked hiking trails are available. Even if you have left your hiking boots at home, you should be able to manage the easy Sendero de los Sentidos (Path of The Senses) in a pair of trainers (sneakers).
This is, in fact, three tracks of varying length and difficulty. Path 1 is the shortest, designed for those with mobility issues. Path 3 is the longest – it will take around 45 minutes to completes – and takes in two miradors.
As all paths are clearly marked, you won’t need a map to walk the Sendero de Los Sentidos. The information office at Cruz del Carmen will provide a free map but this isn’t worth picking up.
How to get to the Anaga Forest
As bus services are infrequent, this day trip from Puerto de La Cruz will take a little more planning.
From Puerto de La Cruz, take bus #102 or #103 to La Laguna. At La Laguna, change onto the #76, #77, #273 or #275 and alight at Cruz del Carmen.
This second bus journey is wonderful. The Anaga Forest begins at Les Mercedes, climbing to the viewpoint at Le Jardin before reaching Cruz del Carmen. The journey time from La Laguna is around 20 minutes.
To plan your journey, check Tenerife bus times here
Are you looking for a 5-day Tenerife Itinerary?
Don’t worry if you can’t spend a week in Tenerife. Simply modify this itinerary to accommodate a shorter stay and your preferences.
For instance, if you are not a person who is keen on the great outdoors and walking, ditch Teide and the Anaga Forest. This will give you time to explore Tenerife’s colonial towns and its capital.
To help you put together a 5-day itinerary, here are the places that I consider must-sees, and where to go if you have the time
Must-see places in Tenerife
- Anaga Forest
- Mount Teide
- La Laguna
- La Orotava
Places to visit in Tenerife if you have enough time
- Icod de Los Vinos (there’s not much more to the town than the dragon tree)
- Garachico (a lovely town but short on sights, especially with the closure of Covento de San Francisco)
- Santa Cruz de Tenerife (a taste of Tenerife city life but perhaps better suited to those who are keen on museums and architecture)
I hope that this article and the sample itinerary will help you plan your week in Tenerife and that you will love the island as much as I did. I’d love to know how you get on. Just leave a comment below.