By Andrea Wren
Ahhh good old Tenerife – Bet Lynch's favourite Canary Island and the winter sun destination for the 'Brits Abroad' contingent. But are the preconceptions that many of us have of a holiday in Tenerife valid? And is there a 'different side' of the island to discover?
Shattering the illusions of Tenerife as a gathering ground for beer-soaked, sunburn-striped, bargain-basement holidaymakers was the purpose of a trip I was on with Low Cost Holidays, who took me out to there a couple of weekends ago to do a short-break walking holiday and see what else the island can offer.
Unfortunately, the impressions I did have of Tenerife were met the minute I arrived at the Ten Bel Alborada apartments hotel – think giant, concrete car park decorated with red and white caution tape around crumbling parts of the pool, with worse customer service than you'd get from traffic wardens, plonked in a dump of a resort rumoured for muggings, and then you're still nowhere near how bad it was.
Thankfully though, our walking guide Christine soon gave us respite from this less salubrious location of the island, to show us its true beauty, hidden away on fig-laden volcanic walks and in lizard-scattered valleys.
Tenerife's inspirational corners
Christine has lived in Tenerife for 11 years, and as an experienced hiker and guide, she knows the bits where you won't find Brits guzzling all-inclusive lager and dancing to The Village People.
Kitted out with sturdy boots and carrying much bottled water, our first day's walk was to be a relatively gentle ascent up and around the volcanoes of Arena Negras and Chinyero, providing blissful tranquillity through pine forest and over black ash landscapes.
Yes, I have to admit, I was very pleasantly surprised. We spent a long time treading pine needle paths while shaded from the hot sun from their parent trees, and we had been lucky enough to meet an almond-farmer who smashed opened shells to let us taste the fresh nuts. Was this really Tenerife?
As I sat at a rest stop feeling the small pinch of a tiny lizard's mouth on my finger (the little daredevil had come close to see if I had any food, and when I put my finger out, it promptly bit me thinking it had secured a meal!), I was in awe of how easy it is to escape the package tourist masses and find a completely different experience here – providing you know where to look.
And a full day of walking through such diverse scenery – from stepping over pine cones the size of dinosaur eggs to kicking up charcoal-coloured dust as we tramped over lava fields – really showed me what Tenerife was capable of providing. It was just a shame we had to head back to the Ten Bel Alborada at the end of the day.
Still, our second day of walking, doing the popular Masca route, surprised me further. I was expecting helpings of the same in terms of the vistas and terrain, and yet it couldn't have been more different. Starting in the tiny and picturesque 'forgotten village' of Masca, we began the deep descent that this walk (well, scramble) was to be about.
Not a walk for the inexperienced, there were a couple of perilous moments and I frequently found myself thinking of the Danny Boyle film '127 Hours'. But it was so utterly enjoyable, clambering lower and lower into the gorges and through the rocks, and discovering hill streams and lush fauna in the valleys. The real prize though, was stripping off and jumping into the sea in Masca Bay – a beckoning oasis - at the very end of the walk, before enjoying a much-welcomed beer on the boat (pre-booked!) back to Los Gigantes.
I half expected to wake up the next day with a bottom the size of a peach after all the effort my glutes had put in doing the Masca trek. Alas, this was not to be the case, but my stiff thighs and other aches were felt in relish at the work I'd done on that hike.
As I was moving robotically due to the smart of muscles never used, I was thankful my last day in Tenerife with Christine was a drive up into the Teide National Park to get views of the summit of Mount Teide, Tenerife's highest peak at 3718m.
It was pretty spectacular up here, and I was struck by how accessible this scenery was, with excellent roads to reach it. For the less able-bodied, this is a perfect way to find some of Tenerife's beauty spots and natural splendour, without the hiking. So in this regard, there is something for everyone here. Just hire a car, or hire Christine to bring you.
So what did I discover? Well, there IS a different and very beautiful side to Tenerife, if you stay away from the dodgy resorts like Las Galletas where we were based, and this lovely scenery can be more accessible than you think.
But would I visit the island just to come walking again? I don't know about that, because I'd want a nice place to relax after the walking as well, and that bit I didn't find, and wasn't shown.