Tenerife! – part 1
[pentru versiunea în limba română, click aici]
This year for our summer vacation we decided to go to a place we never visited: Tenerife, in the Canary Islands. It is situated in the Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Africa, a little to the north of the Northern Tropic. As such, it benefits from a subtropical climate, with warm weather all around the year, with daily average temperatures of 18-20°C in winter and 22-25°C in summer, earning the nickname of “the land of eternal spring”.
Unlike other years when we went on vacation by ourselves, this time we went with our two boys, ages 1 and 5, and a large group of friends, in total 21 adults and 10 children ranging from 1 to 12 years of age.
This will be a 3-part story about our adventures there. The first part is about how to get there, and how to get around once on the island; the second part about the natural attractions of the island, and the last episode will be about the animal parks, the water parks, and about eating on the island. Ready? Here we go!
There are a few options for getting to Tenerife, but unless one is prepared to drive and go by ferry for about a week each way, they all involve flying. From Romania, there are three options:
* direct flights, around 5 1/2 to 6 hours long, operated by the flag carrier, Tarom, on behalf of various travel agencies. I only encourage you to go this way if you are going on a vacation package sold by one of these agencies, otherwise, they ask for an insane amount of money (550€/pax for one week or 850€/pax for 2 weeks, no matter the age – so for our infant child we would have had to pay a similar price to us adults). Also, the flights are operated once weekly, on Tuesdays, making for a very rigid schedule.
* Low cost carriers – all our group except for us and our godsons went this way; on the up side, if you buy the tickets way ahead of time you can get a better deal than with full service carriers. However, keep in mind that due to their climate, the Canary Islands are in demand all around the year, and the ticket prices aren’t that small even booked half a year in advance. The downside is that you have to pay for checked luggage, which can increase the price by a hefty amount, and in case things go wrong and you miss a flight you are on your own and out of luck.
* Full service carriers – this is the way we went, with Tarom to and from Spain, and Air Europa and Iberia from mainland Spain to Tenerife. Our logic was that if something goes awry the airlines will still find a way to get us home. Since we were traveling with small children, the difference in price over the low-cost carriers (around 100 € for the four of us) was well worth it. As it turns out, we missed our connecting flight in Madrid due to a problem with the computer system which prevented us from checking in for our second flight neither online nor at Tenerife airport, and while we got home on the next flight later that day free of charge, I did ask around and the prices various airlines asked to get two adults, a child and an infant home (some of them having places on flights only on the second or third day) were in the range of 2500-3000€ for full service carriers or 1000-1500€ for low-cost carriers.
One caveat (we found about this on the island, but luckily it wasn’t a problem for us): Tenerife has two airports: Tenerife South and Tenerife North, near the capital Santa Cruz. While the southern airport is situated close to the sea, the northern one is in a valley between mountains, and it often suffers from fog, especially during winter, leading to diverted flights and delays. Arriving on the island, or flying on direct flights that might not be too much of a problem, but when leaving, especially with a short connection between flights, it might cause one to miss their flight, creating all sorts of problems. So, if you have the choice, go for the southern airport, event if that costs a few bucks more!
The island of Tenerife has a well-organized transport network, with buses covering the whole island all through the day and there are taxis everywhere – the price is roughly an euro/km.
For mobility reasons, we decided to rent cars. While the large car rental networks are present in the Canary Islands, our travel agent recommended to go with a local car rental agency, Plus Car Tenerife. Their prices were well under the large networks’ prices, (we paid less than 200€ for a Seat Ibiza Combi for two weeks, compared to around 350€ the others asked), and on the roads, we only saw a few cars from the large names, while Plus Car and Cicar made up the bulk of rental cars (both international and local agencies had their logo visibly displayed on their cars, but the locals outnumbered the internationals apparently by a rate of 10:1).
Fuel in Tenerife is cheaper than in mainland Europe, at around 1€/l for petrol and .9€/l for Diesel. There are no toll roads in Tenerife, so once you get your car, the only extra cost is the fuel you burn.
The road network is made up some 150 km of highways which are very well maintained and go around two-thirds of the island on the coast (they are working on increasing the length of highways, with plans to eventually make a full ring around the island), and many first, second and third class roads that crisscross the island. Due to the mountains on the island, the fastest way to get from one point to the other on the coast is to drive around the island on the highways, even though the distance as the crow flies between towns on opposite sides of the island or the ends of the highway is between 30 to 40 km (20-27 mi). On the other hand the mountain roads, narrow and twisted, have an undeniable charm and lead to breathtaking areas and views that otherwise would be missed.
Between islands you can either take a ferry or a flight. We went on a day trip to neighboring Gomera Island (some 40 km away) and found out there are 6 round trips each day served by two companies (Armas and Fred.Olsen with 3 round trips each), with prices of 32 or 34 € one way for adults and 16 or 16.50 € one way for children aged 4 to 11 (total 180 – 185€ for the 4 of us). Plane tickets with Binter Canarias from Tenerife North to La Gomera (2 daily flights each way) would have cost 265€ for the 4 of us if purchased ahead of time (a month or more in advance), or just shy of 400€ on the spot.
Next, the natural attractions of Tenerife. Until then, a few images from the island, with the promise that the next two parts will have more.