28/01/2016 12:34 GMT | Updated 28/01/2017 05:12 GMT

Tenerife Surprises


This month I'm travelling once more, leaving behind the UK's mildest, wettest Winter on record for Tenerife, a volcanic island in the Atlantic ocean where Winter thankfully seems like Spring. Tenerife probably needs no introduction as thousands come every year to bask in the sun and get their annual dose of vitamin D. Over three million visitors a year also visit Teide National Park, a Unesco World Heritage Site famous for Mount Teide, the imposing 3,718 metre peak dominating the whole island.


It always surprises me that people travel thousands of miles and sit on aeroplanes for hours on end to travel to the Caribbean or other tropical places where quite frankly it often rains and no, it's not "liquid sunshine", it's rain. The Canary Islands are only 4 hours away, there's no jet lag to cope with and the weather is guaranteed. I was also bemused on my visit that every view, every Spanish church and village, the surreal scenery in Teide National Park, the light and vibrant colours reminded me of my recent journey throughout South America. I could have got a snap shot of it all within a few days in Tenerife or in my local cinema. The lunar like landscape has been used in countless Hollywood movies from Clash of the Titans to One Million Years BC.


A modern cable car takes you to the summit of Mount Teide where below you is a sea of clouds. Sunset is a good time to visit followed by a spot of star gazing. Tenerife has extremely clear skies thanks to the trade winds and the thermal inversion they produce.


On attempting to climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, I remained in one spot, paralysed with fear "we've got a freezer here" exclaimed the guys in the control tower. With my fear of heights, I can barely make it to the top diving board at a swimming pool and therefore it might seem an odd choice of activity to return to Mount Teide and throw myself of the mountain, a vertical drop of 2,200 metres. However, this is what I chose to do but thankfully on a two seater paragliding flight strapped to an experienced pilot. The half hour flight over the Valle de La Orotava comes complete with go pro. I can highly recommend taking the plunge and another bucket list item ticked of.


Nowadays, it's not difficult to get tips and advice on a destination. There's no shortage of information in guide books and the internet whilst your tour guide is often not backwards in coming forwards with facts and sights to see, at times perhaps not of great interest. I've lost count of the number of times I've been pointed out a concrete factory, hospital or the home of some local dignitary that nobody has ever heard of. However, there are things you spot that you are just dying to know why ? Why for example in Tenerife are the palm trees wrapped in crocheted blankets ?


and sometimes the houses too.


And why would you spend all day creating a sandcastle masterpiece in the rainier North of the island ?


What Tenerife is known for, is it's carnival, the second largest of its type in the world combining parades, shows and parties in the streets and squares of the island's capital Santa Cruz. This year the carnival takes place between February 5th - 10th. Key dates to look out for are Friday 5th February the 'Carnival inaugural parade" and Tuesday 9th February the 'Coso Apoteosis de Carnaval', the grand parade at 4 pm. Never one to miss a party, I got a small taste of the vibrant celebrations to come watching the marching drummers, practising and being drilled by an the enthusiastic drum major.


Santa Cruz is also now known for the spectacular Auditorio de Tenerife opera house, designed by Santiago Calatrava and one of the most striking buildings in the world.


It reminded me of Sydney Opera House and whilst the latter might be grander if doesn't have a pile of decorated rocks surrounding it. Yet another Tenerife surprise. Everybody from Tom Jones to Duke Ellington, Little Richard to Richard Strauss have been painted on to the stones, often looking more like characters from The Simpsons. There were Spanish names galore who I didn't know but were most probably world famous Spanish footballers. This was my third visit to Tenerife and each time I've discovered or experienced something different, it's an island that caters for a wide range of tastes and I for one am hungry for more.


To find out more about Tenerife