Travel feature: Tenerife - a fusion of cultures

We weren’t quite on top of the world. But it felt like it.

In the cable car travelling up toward the summit of Mount Teide, a fellow tourist murmured to their companion that this was the most spectacular view they had ever enjoyed.

Tenerife

Tenerife

This claim might have seemed ambitious in other surroundings. But we were, like some intrepid army of ants, ascending the neck of the third tallest volcano on the planet.

We were on the verge of stepping out on to the highest point in all Spain.

Teide does not merely stand with magnificent deportment at the heart of Tenerife; it represents everything that has shaped this island since the dawn of modern time.

Even the word Tenerife means white mountain – echoing the snow which caps it out of season.

Tenerife

Tenerife

Not that you will find much ice or snow elsewhere on lower ground.

Tenerife is known as the island of eternal spring – thanks to a year-round consistently warm climate.

Average temperatures throughout the 12 months remain constantly in the mid 20 degrees centigrade.

Consequently, the winters are always wonderfully warm while the summers are rarely unbearably hot.

Tenerife

Tenerife

For those who seek endless sunshine without inescapable sunburn, this oasis off the north west coast of Africa is as perfect as it is reliable.

But Tenerife is more than just an island delivering suntan and sandy beaches, important though these qualities are to many.

It is a continent in miniature; a glorious fusion of cultures, climate, history, and geography, which is why its appeal as a top tourist destination never fades.

Agatha Christie escaped here briefly during one of the most traumatic periods in her personal life. She wrote a classic short story – featured in The Mysterious Mr Quin – during her stay.

Tenerife

Tenerife

Two hundred years earlier, British naval hero Horatio Nelson tried to snatch it from the Spanish.

He knew it was the ultimate prize.

He failed.

The extraordinary defeat cost him his pride and his lower right arm. But with the charm and generosity of spirit for which the people are still renowned – he and his men were still allowed to leave with their war honours and two loaned schooners.

The British have never since attempted to capture Tenerife – honouring a promise they made at the time - preferring these days to arrive as guests on holiday; where they can view the Tiger – the canon which cost Nelson so much.

Five million tourists each year come to visit this the largest of the seven Canary islands.

Many head for the southern half of the island with its sandy beaches and desert-like quality, which echoes something of Africa beyond.

But this is a land full of contrasts.

Travel to the north and you will discover forests, lush vegetation, vibrant agriculture, and historic cities and towns shaped by centuries of history.

La Laguna, the ancient capital of the Canary Islands, was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO.

Beautifully maintained and spotlessly clean, its architecture spans the generations – with houses from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries rubbing shoulders along the straight, black cobbled roads.

Home to the university of La Laguna it’s not surprising that it’s considered to be the cultural capital of the islands.

Meanwhile, in the administrative capital of Santa Cruz – joined by a revolutionary tram system – stands architecture and culture of today’s generation.

The Auditorio de Tenerife was designed by world renowned architect Santiago Calatrave Valls and was completed in 2003.

Dominating the skyline it is a magnificent modern representation of theatre and opera house, with sweeping curves and not a single angular corner to be found.

The Auditorio, though, like Mount Teide, is greater than itself.

It is a symbol of the modern Tenerife. A community in pursuit of excellence; of quality.

As a result, the new hotels built now should be Five Star, with great facilities, sumptuous design, and superb hospitaility.

The amazing Abama Golf and Spa resort is one such example. Originally opened in 2005, it has a Moorish influence in every element of its décor with luxury painted into every detail.

Even the carp in the pond are worth up to 6,000 euros!

Its Michelin-starred restaurant with its Japanese themed menu was one of the highlights of our visit.

Culinary excellence is to be found everywhere.

It was the hallmark of the hotel where we stayed, the Iberostar Grand Hotel Anthelia – a sumptuous construct out of marble overlooking the sea.

From a tapas lunch in a traditional old restaurant like La Hierbita in Santa Cruz to the Bodegas Monje – a winery in the north – the food and wine are exceptional.

They are all truly local, too.

Whether it is enjoying the famous Canary wrinkly potatoes served with the local Mojo sauce – which we got to make – or enjoying some of the island’s famous wines; the hospitality is extraordinary.

Most striking of all, is the pride with which locals hold their islands and its unique geographic features.

Mount Teide is both a national park and a world heritage site.

The moonscape vistas have formed a backdrop for big budget movies and expensive car launches.

The main crater is so vast that everything and everyone within it is reduced to insignificance.

Here, the mountain is king.

When you are not viewing it from the cable car – try a different vista, looking up from the sea.

The supreme morning of our stay was a boat trip to watch the wales and dolphins.

We saw both.

It was magical, as we looked across the ocean from the wildlife of the water to the towering majesty of the mountains beyond.

If you thought you knew Tenerife. Think again.

A visit there may have cost our most famous Admiral an arm. It won’t cost you and arm and a leg.

It will, however, offer you the holiday experience of a lifetime – a little over four hours away from Gatwick Airport thanks to a new route from British Airways opened this year.

Fact file

British Airways flies five times a week from London Gatwick to Tenerife and offers seven night holidays staying at the 5* Iberostar Anthelia in Tenerife from £689 per person, based two adults sharing, for travel between November and January. Package includes return flights and room only accommodation. For reservations visit ba.com/tenerife or call 0844 493 0758

For general tourism information on Tenerife please visit: www.webtenerife.co.uk

Accommodation: Prices at the Iberostar Anthelia start from 85 euros (£74) per person per night in a double room with Garden View, including breakfast. Iberostar Hotels and Resorts has seven hotels in Tenerife. For more information and reservations: www.iberostar.com