Discover the Real Tenerife & La Gomera for Solo Travellers

Resort: Tenerife
Operator: Riviera Travel
Destination: Canary Islands
Price From: £1247.00

Overview

The Canary Islands are renowned for their white sandy beaches and vibrant nightlife, but our eye-opening tour takes you beyond the glittering resorts to where youll discover wildly beautiful islands of incredible diversity, charming colonial towns, historic ports and remote mountain villages. Well see truly incredible green spaces, with towns taking great pride in their impeccably landscaped parks, which showcase a diverse range of tropical and subtropical plants. Then there are the magnificent highlights shaped by nature: emerald forests, volcanic wonders, unique flora and fauna, and perhaps the most dramatic of them all, Mount Teide, Spains highest mountain.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Arrival in Tenerife

Arrive at the airport for your flight to Tenerife and transfer by coach to San Cristbal de La Laguna. Our hotel for seven nights is the four-star La Laguna Gran Hotel, where your stay includes breakfast.

This evening we enjoy an informal drinks reception, followed by a three-course dinner at the hotels main restaurant, La Laguna Gran Hotel Restaurant, for a chance to get to know our travel companions a little better.

Day 2 – La Laguna

This morning we have a guided sightseeing tour of San Cristbal de La Laguna, known simply as La Laguna. Its hard to believe the old town was once a haphazard jumble of buildings, as today youll find atmospheric squares and straight streets flanked by colourful mansions, lively bars and an eclectic mix of shops. If you feel a sense of dj vu, it could be because La Lagunas meticulous layout provided the blueprint for many Spanish towns in the Americas, such as Old Havana in Cuba and Lima in Peru.

After our engaging tour, the rest of the day is at leisure. La Laguna is a joy to explore on foot, so have your camera at the ready to capture the many photogenic scenes youll no doubt encounter. The high walls of elegant villas conceal well-manicured courtyards each a delightful oasis typically containing a little fountain and garden.

Perhaps visit the Museum of the History of Tenerife to unearth the islands exciting past, or head to La Lagunas cathedral to see its hidden treasures. Built on the site of a former Mudjar church and an ancient Guanche necropolis, the cathedral houses masterpieces by prominent Canarian artists, Spains largest collection of Byzantine icons, and the tomb of Alonso Fernndez de Lugo, conqueror of Tenerife.

Or why not relax and watch the world go by? Take your pick of the many cafs lining the old towns plazas and have a barraquito a strong coffee taken up a notch with liqueur, condensed milk and cinnamon. Perhaps sample the local cuisine try some sancocho Canario, salted fish with garlic and red pepper salsa, often served with papas arrugadas, wrinkly potatoes boiled in salt water.

Day 3 – Mount Teide

Today we delve into the islands volcanic roots and get up-close with its geological superstar, Mount Teide. Towering over Tenerife at 12,198 feet almost three times the height of Ben Nevis Teide is Spains highest peak and Europes highest active volcano. We spend the day in Teide National Park, an awe-inspiring wilderness of gaping craters, majestic volcanoes and lava streams. The extraterrestrial character of this landscape may have you wondering if youve ventured into Martian territory in fact, scientists have used this very location to test space robots, due to the similarities in environmental conditions with Mars! At the parks visitor centre, we learn about the extraordinary formation of Teide and Tenerife, as well as the endemic flora and fauna that thrive in this seemingly inhospitable land.

We then take an eight-minute cable car ride, which leaves us just 535-feet shy of Teides summit. Nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking views of the rugged valley below, and on clear days, you can glimpse the neighbouring islands of La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro.

Next, we explore Las Caadas, the vast caldera created by the collapse of ancient craters. With free time to take in the lunar landscape, why not follow the parks easy and informative trail over flat terrain ideal for appreciating the mesmerising geological features sculpted by nature, from igneous intrusions to undulating pahoehoe. Look out for the endemic plants that have managed to colonise this barren terrain, such as the striking Teide vipers bugloss, whose distinctive red spires can reach 6 feet in summer.

Altitude note:Oxygen levels are low at 12,198 feet, so those with heart or respiratory problems may prefer to remain at the base cable car station.

Day 4 – Santa Cruz

Today we visit Santa Cruz, the picturesque capital situated on the divine coast, with rolling hills providing a dramatic backdrop. An exciting blend of colonial history and modern dynamism, this bustling port city is home to fantastic architecture, brightly painted buildings, quirky shops, world-class museums and art galleries, vibrant street art and a green oasis in the city park. Santa Cruz also hosts the second-largest Carnival after Rio de Janeiro, which the city is twinned with.

After our city tour, the rest of the day is free. Under lively Plaza de Espaa lie the ruins of the Castle of San Cristbal, today a museum that also houses the El Tigre canon, which famously shattered Vice-Admiral Nelsons right arm in the decisive Battle of Santa Cruz in 1797. For a closer look at Spains victory over the British Royal Navy, head to the Military Museum, where weapons, model ships and more bring to life the riveting past. The Museum of Nature and Archaeology is worth a visit for those interested in meeting the mummies of the Guanches.

As you stroll through the old town, its difficult to miss the striking six-tier belfry of the Church of Immaculate Conception, the citys oldest church step inside to see its intricate Mudjar-styled ceiling. A short walk away is the Baroque San Francisco church, most renowned for its image of Christ, credited with saving Santa Cruz during a cholera epidemic in 1893. Treat your senses to a veritable feast at the Market of Our Lady of Africa, a superb collection of market stalls, shops and eateries. A dazzling array of treasures from the sea can be found at the fish market, while all sorts of fruit and vegetables tempt the eye in a kaleidoscope of colours. Enjoy a selection of Canarian tapas freshly prepared before your eyes, wash it down with a refreshing drink and observe the Santacruceros going about their day.

Day 5 – La Gomera

After an early breakfast, we travel by coach to the port of Los Cristianos, where we catch the 50-minute fast ferry the worlds largest passenger trimaran to the idyllic neighbouring island of La Gomera. Although close in distance, La Gomera is miles apart from Tenerife in character and scenery. The landscape is a rugged masterpiece of emerald valleys, mist-shrouded forests, towering cliffs, volcanic rock formations and black-pebble beaches. The terraced hillsides are impressively dotted with houses perched in hypnotic rows.

Our first stop is the visitor centre of Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO-protected wonderland where ancient laurel forests reign. The fascinating exhibits are devoted to all aspects of the park, including the island as a whole and the traditional rural life of the Gomeran people.

A traditional lunch is included today at a local restaurant, where youll also be treated to an uplifting demonstration of Silbo, La Gomeras unique whistling language, which arose from a need to transmit messages across the islands challenging terrain. Listen to the lovely performance while you take in spectacular views across the ocean to Tenerife and its mighty volcanic crown.

This afternoon we continue through the national park, pausing at several viewpoints for more breathtaking views before returning to San Sebastin, Christopher Columbus last port of call before crossing the Atlantic in 1492. We take the ferry back to Tenerife and return to our hotel in the early evening where we will have dinner together.

Day 6 – Free Day

You have the entire day at leisure, so what is it to be? Relax in your hotel or take your time discovering more of La Laguna. Wander the palm-lined streets and browse the shops for some souvenirs, or visit the convent of Santa Catalina, which is still home to a community of nuns. The palaces of Nava and Salazar are two of La Lagunas best-preserved old mansions and superb examples of local architecture.

You could return to Santa Cruz via the very convenient tram that connects the two cities. Like many Spanish cities, it has its fair share of beautiful parks, such as the Palmetum botanical garden, which houses the greatest collection of palms in Europe built atop an old municipal rubbish dump. For a touch of the avant-garde, why not visit the Tenerife Auditorium? Imaginatively designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, this soaring white wave of a venue is the Canaries answer to the Sydney Opera House. The sweeping vistas of the coast from its panoramic caf are some of the most impressive views in Santa Cruz.

Day 7 – La Orotova & Icod de Los Vinos

After breakfast, we drive along the northern coast to La Orotava, one of the loveliest towns in Tenerife. Set in a lush valley, the remarkably preserved colonial town is a picture-postcard maze of cobbled streets, flower-filled squares and handsome Castilian mansions. Every year during Corpus Christi celebrations, carpets of flowers mixed with coloured sand pave the streets in a stunning display of devotion. This exuberant explosion of colour can be seen throughout the year, especially in spring, in the bright flowers blooming on the surrounding hillsides.

During our guided walking tour, we step back in time to learn about La Orotavas history and its system of centuries-old water mills and aqueducts. Discover how wealthy bourgeois families lived through the stately homes along Calle San Francisco, known for their intricately carved wooden balconies and leafy interior courtyards. Perhaps the most famous of these houses is La Casa de los Balcones, whose untreated balconies have lasted more than 300 years! Our tour includes entry to this 17th-century mansion, whose museum is dedicated to a variety of local handicrafts, from lacework to ceramics, and gives us an idea of how the house would have looked in its heyday.

There is time for lunch at your leisure before we continue to Icod de los Vinos, a charming town shaped by its relationship with the surrounding countryside. The Canary Islands has many unusual plants, but the most famous of them all is the dragon tree, a symbol of Tenerife. Shaped like an umbrella with branches that sprout tufts of spiky leaves, dragon trees when cut secrete a reddish sap once believed to have magical, medicinal properties. Icod de los Vinos is home to the largest and oldest surviving specimen, El Drago Milenario the thousand-year-old dragon. Interestingly, dragon trees are not actual trees, so El Dragos actual age is disputed, estimated to be anywhere from several hundred years to several thousand years old. Nevertheless, El Drago is a truly magnificent sight at over 65 feet tall, with an even larger circumference and over 300 main branches.

Apart from curiously shaped flora, Icod de los Vinos also boasts many pretty houses, including Casa del Pltano, an old hacienda that really brings to life the story of the Canary Islands bananas. A visit here provides insights into the many varieties, the history of banana cultivation on the islands, and even explains the reasons behind the name of Londons Canary Wharf.

After a wonderful day of sightseeing, we return to our hotel in La Laguna.

This evening, we take a short drive to the Tenerife House of Wine, set in a russet-coloured farmhouse so typical of the Canarian haciendas of the past. We gather in the tasting room to taste some excellent local wines, which go particularly well with the complimentary cheese all produced in Tenerife, of course. Then its a delicious dinner of traditional Canarian fare at the restaurant, whose terrace offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic.

Day 9 – Return Flight

Transfer to the airport for your return flight home.

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