A Hospitable Volcano

Alina Khorosheva, 27.01.2014 15:00
Просмотров: 3993

Through the windows of the descending plane we can already see banana plantations, azure creeks washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, and the proud snowy summit of Teide volcano – the main symbol of Tenerife Island, where we went on a media tour organized by “Anex Tour” for Moscow journalists at the end of December, 2013. We got a taste of the peculiar insular way of life of Tenerife’s residents and saw the main sights and the best hotels of the island resort. (PHOTOS)

Essential Statistics

In summer of 2013 ‘Anex Tour’ sent more than 40 thousand people to Spain in total; two thirds of the tourists spent their holidays in the continental part of the country, while the last third preferred the islands. Among the travelers 16.5% had already been to Spain before.

The total number of Russian tourists who have visited Spain for the past 11 months is 1,535,000 thousand, with the tourist flow having increased 31.3 percent.

Also, in the middle of April of 2013 Tenerife’s administration office for tourism in Russia and the CIS opened in Moscow.

Why Tenerife?

At the end of October ‘Anex Tour’ launched a winter flight program to the Canary Islands, which have long been a travel destination that exuded wealth, success and active lifestyle. The Canaries present you not only with calming sandy beaches, great shopping opportunities and luxurious hotels, but also with vivid, exciting journeys, excursions and new experiences. By the way, this season the tour operator also offered tours to the second largest Canary island after Tenerife – Gran Canaria, but we will leave this story for another time. Today’s one is about the volcano-island…

Anex Tour’ organizes direct flights on Tuesdays and Fridays from Moscow Domodedovo Airport to Tenerife South Airport, also known as Reina Sofia Airport. All the tours include some kind of board, ranging from breakfasts only to full board; tours last for 10-11 days, depending on the departure date. Tourists are offered a number of hotels, from modest ‘three-stars’ to stellar ‘fivers’.

The main advantage of Tenerife is its location – the subtropical climate zone. Hot air that blows in from the Sahara Desert makes for very pleasant, warm weather and allows for year-round seaside holidays. Tenerife is brimming with fun and joy, which makes it a great holiday destination for young people,” says Tatyana Chizhova, the leading Spain expert of the company’s sales department.

Volcano Island

You will be doing a disservice to yourself if you come to Tenerife and do not ‘pay a visit’ to the active Teide volcano (which means ‘White Mountain’ in the language of Guanches, the ancient aboriginal inhabitants of the island). This majestic giant has always been the pivot of the island’s life. Being 3,718 m (12,198 ft) high, Teide is the third highest volcano in the world and the highest mountain in Spain. Despite the island being seismically active, you have nothing to fear – the last eruption of Teide dates far back to 1909…

We had known about the tour program in advance, so we prepared warm clothes for our trip to Teide National Park. As you remember, our journey took place in December, so we brought along winter jackets, caps and scarves. Warm clothes are a must if you plan on visiting Teide in winter, since at the top of the mountain you will be greeted with strong gusts of wind and snow patches. Also, a word to the wise – do have a durable pair of boots for walking on sharp pieces of frozen lava – my suede shoes were completely destroyed by the end of the trip. By the way, you are forbidden to take pieces of lava with you. Sure, there are no lava-detectors (like coral-detectors in Egypt), but it is best to err on the side of caution.

So what can you actually do once you are on the volcano? Enjoy yourself! Enjoy the incredibly clean air (especially relevant for city slickers), unique nature, and a meal high in the mountains, which you can order in the local cafés or a restaurant; and not to forget the breathtaking views which are perfectly suited for creative, ‘cosmic’ photo shoots. By the way, according to the locals, if you visit the peak during clear weather, you will be able to see Gran Canaria, La Gomera, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura from there.

Interestingly enough, right near the mountain, at the height of 2,000 m, there is a hotel of the Paradores network – Parador de las Cañadas del Teide. It boasts not only luxurious rooms, but also magnificent views. If tourists so desire, a telescope can be set up at the observation deck. Then you will be able to see the mountainside and the peak of Teide, which is 1,700 m away, as well as clouds and an endless string of stars.

By the way, you can actually ascend to the top of Teide. There is a funicular which can get you to 3,500 m (11,480 ft), and the rest can be negotiated on foot, but only provided you have a special permit.

Local shops sell unique (and therefore expensive) souvenirs: hand-made jewelry from volcanic lava, which is charged with special energy; warm multicolored mittens with whimsical animal faces, unusual glass or ceramic items, and a variety of sweets, namely almonds in dark or white chocolate, delectable cookies, confiture and cactus jam…

The sightseeing tour across the island took the whole day. Aside from Teide National Park and a number of other interesting locations, during our trip we also visited the one-of-a-kind boutique museum of Malvasia, owned by the famous Bettencourt family.

The hosts organized a wine-testing session of the old shop’s wines just for our group. We were simply amazed at the nontrivial and unparalleled taste of the sweet Bettencourt wines and liqueurs. They were all made from ‘Malvasia’ variety and had an exceptionally rich and strong taste, which was complemented by a delicate aftertaste. All of it with the exception of one red wine variety made from the grapes of a formerly lost Greek grapevine.

Here you can also buy the traditional sauces of the Canaries – Mojo. The ‘green’ version with garlic, oil, herbs and vinegar stood out the most. The shop also has palm syrup, which, according to the residents of the Canaries, aids in strengthening the nervous system and at the same time is the natural Viagra. You can just drink it with your tea, or add it to meat and vegetable dishes as a sauce.

Canary Hotels: Luxurious and Star-Spangled, yet Unpretending and Sweet

A major part of our tour was devoted to visiting and getting to know the local hotels. We were completely fascinated right from the start, since our first hotel was the five-star Iberostar Anthelia, which stands right near the ocean, not far from the airport and 80 km from the capital of the island – Santa Cruz.

Everything in the hotel not only looked good, but was oozing meticulous attention to detail. After just two days we knew the territory of the ‘fiver’ like the back of our hand: we could easily find restaurants, bars, heated pools with seawater, the SPA-complex, fitness center and the way to the sea. By the way, Many Russians and Europeans went on morning jogs along the coast – the promenade stretches for a few miles.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the incredible kitchen of Iberostar Anthelia. Big kudos to the chef! Each meal there was a delight, especially coupled with the ocean view.

It is worth noting that each and every hotel in the flight program of ‘Anex Tour’ possesses a unique charm, irrespective of the star rating. We were genuinely surprised at the stark difference in architecture, services, interior design and policies between the hotels.

For instance, yours truly has especially appreciated the cozy Dream Tacande Gran 5*, which is situated in the resort zone Playa de las Americas, on the first coastline. It is similar in architectural style to an ancient castle, and everything here is tailored-made to provide the most relaxing experience possible. By the way, the building of the hotel used to be owned by the neighboring ‘Bahiadel Duque’, which translates as ‘count’s house’.

Premium-class hotel Iberostar Grand Hotel Salome 5* dazzled us with how exquisite it was. It houses the longest hotel pool in both Spain and Europe!

Catalonia Oro Negro 3* was deemed to be the best-selling hotel due to the best price/quality ratio. The hotel has recently completely renovated a few of its floors, making some unorthodox decorative decisions along the way: snow-white walls now alternate with pictures of colorful exotic birds which adorn the room doors. Seems like a simple idea, yet it never fails to elicit a smile. According to the hotel managers, about 20-30% of Russians stay here during the high season, while in winter there more Europeans.

Another ‘Russian’ hotel – Sol Tenerife 4* – is rightfully considered to be one of the veterans of hotel business in Tenerife, since it was built back in 1979. An inexpensive, modest, but at the same time very nice-looking hotel offers 30 years of experience in high quality service, which has earned it its fame. English, German, Scandinavian and Russian tourists usually spend their holidays here.

The remotest hotel we visited was Abama 5* from The Ritz-Carlton network, and it is no surprise that it employed the most unusual means to get its tourists to the beach. Tourists love it for its pleasant atmosphere, for the opportunity to rest in a calm and quite environment, for its great 18-hole golf courses and for the best private beach in all of Tenerife, which is located in a picturesque creek that is shut off from wind and waves. You can only get there by funicular or by electric car, since Abama 5* is built quite a bit above the coastline. The upside of it is that the view is magnificent no matter what room you settle into.

One of the most beautiful places on the Canaries – Adeje – houses a five-star hotel Sheraton La Caletа. Its buildings, just like those of Abama, are of mild terracotta color, and their fluid, whimsical architectural forms are reminiscent in their unconventional nature of Antoni Gaudí’s famous works.

Among other great five-star hotels, we were shown Iberostar El Mirador 5*, Gran Melia Palacio de Isora 5*, and then – no less brilliant four-star hotels: Iberostar Bouganville Playa 4* and Iberostar Torviscas Playa 4*.

Four Days is Not Enough

Indeed, you should spend here at least 12-14 days in order to experience all the multiple facets of Tenerife, visit its unique parks, buy a few bottles of the local wine, take surfing classes (one class costs about 20 euros), ride horseback on an Andalusian horse along the ocean side, and just plain wander the streets of the Canaries; and, whatever you do, do not forget to visit the famous ‘Loro Parque’.

We did. The park was conceived and is now owned by Wolfgang Kiessling, a man of German descent. This is a truly unique place
which celebrated its 41
st anniversary last year. During this time the park gathered the largest parrot collection in the world – 340 species, and there are 180 birds living and breeding in the pavilion ‘Planet of Penguins’. Each day a special cannon shoots up to 12 tons of snow into the pavilion, which creates the most comfortable environment possible. Also, the park, which is built in Thai style, hosts shows with sea lions and performances with parrots, dolphins and killer whales. Here is a piece of advice as regards the black and white giants: the farther from the stage you sit (preferably the last rows), the better. There is a tradition here to splash guests with water from head to toe, which is really fun, but at the same time really wet…

People with children simply must go on this excursion. ‘Loro Parque’ combines a zoo, a circus and a botanical garden. Here you will find lots of souvenir shops and cozy cafés. You can visit the latter to try a variety of national dishes, among which there are Canaries-style squid and small, black, perfectly round potatoes that are cooked in boiling salted water with their peel on. By the end of the boiling process salt comes out on the surface: this is very tasty, especially when combined with an avocado and olive oil.

In the aquarium of ‘Loro Parque’ you can see approximately 15,000 river and sea dwellers from all corners of the world. A unique 18 m (59 ft) long glass tunnel lets you see sharks swim right above your head. Up to one and a half million visitors a year come to the park.

The evening of our departure, as we were bidding the ocean farewell while savoring cool sangria, we said to ourselves: “Four days is definitely not enough…”

Photos courtesy of Alina Khorosheva

Страны, регионы и города: Russia, Spain
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