More than five million visitors came to Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands, in 2019. Most of the guests came by air; a little less than 650.000 people landed on board ferry and cruise ships in the island's capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. The city is the ideal starting point for getting to know Tenerife and its diverse sights.
Tenerife - city scenery
The island offers nature lovers uniquely beautiful landscapes. These include the Teide National Park with the huge caldera, the Anaga Nature Park, the Teno Nature Park or the cliffs of Los Gigantes. City vacationers enjoy the sights of the island's capital or the neighboring city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna. The city of Puerto de la Cruz on Tenerife's north coast is also worth a visit. This city is famous for its black volcanic sand beaches and the Loro Parque zoo.
Our five top favorites in Tenerife
A two-week vacation is not enough to get to know all the highlights of the island. Cruise ship passengers are therefore spoiled for choice as to which of the sights to choose.
Two historical cities
The day in Santa Cruz de Tenerife is ideal for visiting one of the two largest cities in Tenerife. It is obvious to discover the port city of Santa Cruz. Another option is to visit the town of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, ten kilometers away. The city with 153.000 inhabitants is located in the north of Santa Cruz on the Aguere plateau.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is one of the two capitals of the Autonomous Region of the Canary Islands. Santa Cruz is a must-see big city away from the tourist crowds. The city represents business and administrative Spain. In our opinion, not many curious people are drawn to the city of 209.000 inhabitants (population: estimate 2020). The settlement of Tenerife once started from Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife from a bird's eye view
The city has churches worth seeing, impressive secular buildings, old and modern museums as well as beautiful parks and squares. And - by the way - the diverse shopping opportunities make you want to stroll through the city. We report on our Santa Cruz favorites under One day in Tenerife.
San Cristóbal de La Laguna
San Cristóbal de La Laguna was the first city in the Canary Archipelago to be awarded the title of UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The lively city presents itself in its center as a colonial city with interesting historical buildings. San Cristóbal is the bishopric and the location of the University of the Canary Islands.
Tenerife - San Cristóbal de La Laguna
Tenerife - San Cristóbal de La Laguna - Cathedral
The Spanish rulers built a city in the 15th century based on a strict geometric pattern. For more than 300 years, San Cristóbal was Tenerife's capital. The city still has many examples of colonial architecture. The colonial heritage prompted UNESCO to place San Cristóbal's old town center under the protection of the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Particularly worth seeing churches are the cathedral and the main parish church Nuestra Señora de la Concepción with the 28 meter high bell tower built in the Tuscan style.
Trams run between Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal city center. Line 1 starts in Santa Cruz at the “Fundación” station. The stop is about a kilometer from the cruise ship terminal. Allow half an hour for the journey time.
Excursion destinations in the area
Tenerife is 2.034 square kilometers. Day visitors will find some outstanding sights outside of the two cities. We include several national and natural parks as well as the seaside resort of Puerto de la Cruz.
The Teide National Park
The Pico del Teide, Spain's highest mountain, is often surrounded by thick clouds. If the clouds are missing, the 3.718 meter high Teide shows itself from its best side. The stratovolcano and the surrounding caldera form the Parque Nacional del Teide. The national park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2007. The spectacular national park is almost 190 square kilometers.
Tenerife - Pico del Teide
The diameter of the caldera Las Cañadas del Teide is approximately 17 kilometers. The caldera is a spacious volcanic collapse cone. It is one of the largest volcanic craters in the world. The steep slopes and rock faces show traces of the history of its origins. Slag fields and sandy deserts alternate. The play of colors in the rock contrasts from red to yellow.
The vegetation of the caldera is sparse. The Teide Adderhead, a plant up to three meters high, is astonishing. The adder head blooms from May to August and has thousands of soft flowers in white or red color. The plants are found exclusively on Tenerife.
Tenerife - Red adder head
On the way to Teide, visitors pass a unique geological formation. It is called La Tarta, "the cake". This is followed by the Teide Observatory at an altitude of 2.390 meters. The facility is used for satellite observation and the testing of optical communication technologies for space applications.
Tenerife - La Tarta stone formation
The distance between Santa Cruz and the Parador de Cañadas del Teide in the center of the caldera is 60 kilometers. There are several miradors along the route that offer great views.
A cable car leads to the Teide. The gondolas transport visitors from 2.356 meters to 3.555 meters. The journey time is eight minutes. From the mountain station there is a 20-minute walk to the La Rambleta viewpoint. From this mirador, the west side of the island can be seen in good weather. Mountain hikers need a free special permit to climb the mountain. Approval must be obtained from the national park administration months before the planned ascent.
In 2021 the ticket for a return trip by cable car will cost 37 euros.
The Anaga Mountains
Volcanic activity formed the Anaga Mountains in northeastern Tenerife, 20 kilometers long and 5 to 10 kilometers wide. Its highest peaks are the 1.024 meter high Cruz de Taborno and the 909 meter high Chinobre. The higher areas of the mountains are covered with laurel forest, a typical tree species of the region. A ridge road opens up the mountains. The region is designated as a biosphere reserve and also as a nature park. The mountain range is known not least because of the caves carved into the lava rock. Typical examples of this style of living can be found in the village of Afur.
Tenerife - View of the Anaga Mountains
Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the center of the Anaga Mountains separate 30 kilometers.
Puerto de la Cruz
Another destination that is worth seeing and worthwhile is the holiday destination of Puerto de la Cruz, located on the north coast of Tenerife. The city, which has well over 30.000 inhabitants, is surrounded by greenery. Puerto de la Cruz is surrounded by extensive banana plantations and vineyards; the prevailing warm, humid climate promotes plant growth. Other agricultural products are the papas arrugadas, the Canarian potatoes.
Puerto de la Cruz - in the foreground Castillo de San Felipe
Tenerife - Puerto de la Cruz
The sights of the city are
- the historic cityscape with colonial buildings and the Plaza del Charco
- the beaches of dark volcanic beach
- the Lago Martiánez outdoor seawater pool designed by the architect César Manrique
- the impressively beautiful Jardín Botánico
- the leisure and animal park Loro Parque, known far beyond Tenerife's borders.
The Bateria de Santa Bárbara is located at the fishing port. The fortress was used to defend the port against pirate attacks. The Plaza del Charco is the meeting point of the city. Some of the buildings on the west side of the square date from the 17th century. The inner courtyards with their artfully designed galleries are remarkable.
If you don't want to swim on the dark volcanic sand beaches of the open sea, visit the outdoor seawater pool Lago Martiánez. César Manrique, the architect and environmentalist from Lanzarote, created the huge bathing area in Puerto de la Cruz with a large “lake”, several small swimming pools and a restaurant. Visitors swim in sea water that is pumped into the basins from the Atlantic. Manrique also designed part of the coastline. The adjacent Avenida Colón is the urban promenade; life pulsates there.
The black beach of Puerto de la Cruz
Puerto de la Cruz - Lake Martianez
Entrance fee to the swimming pool: 5,50 euros
The Jardín Botánico, located above the sea, has an abundance of native and exotic plants. The gardens were created in 1788 as an acclimatization garden for tropical plants. Two years later the Jardín Botánico was set up. He owns an important collection of tropical and subtropical plants. The botanical garden, which is open to visitors, covers an area of around 20.000 square meters.
Puerto de la Cruz - Botanical Garden - Cactus Garden
Puerto de la Cruz - Botanical Garden
The Fundación Loro Parque combines excellently maintained parks, zoo experiences and a show program with animal training. The unique facility owns the largest aquarium in Europe, the world's largest collection of parrots and penguins. People who love animal shows enjoy the dolphin and orca shows.
Puerto de la Cruz - Orca Show in Loro Parque
Distance from the cruise terminal to Puerto del La Cruz: 40 kilometers. The city can be reached via the TF-5 northern motorway.
In Santa Cruz, tickets for Loro Parque are sold in the park adjacent to Calle la Marina. From there, the buses that take the park visitors to Loro Parque start. Calle La Marina is opposite the berths for the cruise ships.
The cruise lines offer a variety of varied excursions on Tenerife. Nothing speaks against this form of excursion. As individualists, however, we prefer public transport or a rental car. There are providers near the cruise terminal.
Update June 2021