Culture and Cuisine in Tenerife: the Ultimate Island Escape

The volcanic landscape in Tenerife provides near-perfect conditions for making excellent wine
The volcanic landscape in Tenerife provides near-perfect conditions for making excellent wine | © Phil Crean A / Alamy Stock Photo
Tamsin Wressell

This Canary Island has it all: a deep mountainous interior, a swathe of golden sand and a temperate year-round climate. And beyond its diverse landscapes, Tenerife offers a range of cultural attractions to satisfy every traveller. From a resilient town that’s rebuilt itself around art to culinary classes uncovering the secrets of mojo sauce, here are the best ways to sample culture and cuisine on Tenerife.

Throw shapes at a fiesta

The Tenerife calendar is filled with fiestas; each barrio (neighbourhood) hosting their own celebration of Tinerfeño culture. Los Realejos in the north holds more than 80 fiestas a year, and the busiest party months across the island are between May and September with more than 60 in each. The largest of all is the vibrant Carnival of Santa Cruz – considered the second-most popular in the world after the one in Rio de Janeiro – lasting for several weeks every February. Visit outside this time, or head into some of the smaller towns, for a more concentrated and calmer experience.

Tenerife has a cultural calendar chock-a-block with colourful fiestas and celebrations

Get learning at the History and Anthropology Museum

Much of Tenerife’s culture stems from San Cristóbal de la Laguna in the northeast – it was one of the first cities founded on the Canary Islands and remains a historic centre and Unesco World Heritage site. The island’s past is often overlooked for the beaches and beautiful walking trails, but the History and Anthropology Museum, in San Cristóbal de la Laguna, provides a deep dive into island culture through exhibitions and a programme of activities.

Discover Tenerife’s past at the History and Anthropology Museum in San Cristóbal de la Laguna

Lap up culture in La Orotava

The northern town of La Orotava lies close to Teide National Park; valley scenery and Mount Teide rise behind the town. Its stately architecture gives an insight into the area’s grand heritage, but the cobbled streets aren’t particularly well-known to tourists. Casa de los Balcones, the gardens of Hijuela del Botánico, the Church of La Concepción and a trail of gofio mills are itinerary essentials here. There are guided tours available – don’t miss a museum visit or tastings of the local food.

Casa de los Balcones is a 17th-century family mansion built in a quintessential Canary Islands style

Get arty in Garachico

This coastal town has faced several disasters through the years – it’s been hit by an epidemic and floods, and a major volcanic eruption destroyed most of the town in 1706. Today, however, flourishing Garachico has won awards for its artistic treasures and fine arts, and is known for its Saturday street market where local artists sell unique pieces. There’s also a contemporary art museum and the palace of the Marquis of Adeje displaying more of the town’s artistic side. Beyond the creative scene, there are natural swimming pools on the rocky promenade that are well worth a visit.

Take a day trip to resilient Garachico to uncover the creative side of Tenerife

Know your mojo sauces

The unofficial sauce of the Canary Islands, mojo is used on many dishes, from papas arrugadas (wrinkled potatoes) to meat and seafood, and can be found in almost every restaurant and tapas bar. Each mojo has a base of olive oil, pepper, vinegar and garlic, with the two most popular being mojo verde (with coriander and parsley) and mojo picon (with chilli). If you want to recreate your favourite when you return home, join one of the various workshops on the island to learn how to make the traditional sauce for yourself.

Make sure you order a plate of ‘papas arrugadas’ with a side of mojo sauce

Indulge in artisanal goat’s cheese

With an abundance of goats roaming the land, it’s not surprising that fresh goat’s cheese (typically just a few days old) is the best-loved dairy product on the island. The cheese is often cured and smoked in the remote Anaga region, but you can order it from most restaurants and grocery stores. There are incredible varieties, including queso a la plancha (grilled with honey) and almogrote (spread with tomato, garlic and olive oil). The Santa Cruz Food Market is a great place to pick up local foods including cheese, honey and gofio (Canarian flour).

Lose a couple of hours wandering around the stalls of Santa Cruz Food Market

Explore the five wine regions

Blessed with year-round good weather, Tenerife is an ideal spot for growing grapes – five wine regions flourish here as a result. The volcanic earth introduces a unique taste; most wines produced here have an intense, fruity aroma. There are hundreds of wineries across the island – most offer guided tours and tastings that provide an insight into the nuances of Tinerfeño wine production. In the north, the landscape is ideal for growing grapes and vineyards thrive on mountainsides well above sea level.

If you’re an amateur oenophile, don’t skip a wine-tasting experience while you’re in Tenerife

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