On a journey through Tenerife, you will experience things that you may have never thought possible. A backpacking adventure through this land includes seeing everything from cloud forests to lava fields to vineyards to jolly and smiling locals.
To paint a picture of what backpacking through Tenerife feels like, you start out driving along the coastal road, passing by banana plantations, whitewashed houses and little bars. You will even see the occasional goat herder. Life was simpler here. The land feels strange but dreamily exotic.
Breaking Away from Stereotypes
You may have heard of Tenerife before, but a backpacking excursion will provide you with incredible insight into Canarian culture. This isn’t your typical place with generic hotels and two-for-one cocktails.
There are trees here that bleed dragon’s blood if struck by a sword. They are called Dragon Trees and can live to be thousands of years old. That may sound like a legend from Game of Thrones, but the Dracaena Draco, or Dragon Tree does have a red sap that has been used in traditional medicine ever since the Guanches, the local inhabitants, migrated here in 1000 BCE.
As you explore the islands you may get to hear complex songs coming from birds that you have not heard or seen anywhere else. That is because the Canaries are the only place on earth where a whistling language has ever been developed, the Silbo Gomero.
The birds are actually people communicating over distances as long as 7 kilometers (4 miles), and as complex and beautiful as their songs might seem, you cannot even imagine how much information a discerning ear can gather from them.
History of the Canary Islands
The local aboriginal population, the Guanches, are genetically similar to the Berbers of North Africa from where they are thought to have originated about a thousand years ago.
The history of the islands may actually be even more ancient than that as Roman historian Pliny the Elder speaks of an expedition in 50 BCE that found ruins of an ancient civilization. What that civilization may have been and where exactly are the ruins that Pliny the Elder speaks of is left to the imagination and daring of the backpacker traveling through this land in search of adventure.
The Canary Islands were colonized by Spain in the 15th and 16th centuries. Those centuries are as bloody and as sad as you would expect of any bit of history that pertains to the Dark Ages.
The good news is that the local population was not completely exterminated. The ones that survived assimilated with the Spanish and were able to infuse the developing local society with some of the more fascinating elements of the Gunches culture. The whistling language, for example, is now protected as an intangible cultural heritage.
Don’t worry though, if you are planning to travel deep into the islands, away from the main roads, you will still be fine even if you do not speak Spanish or whistle El Silbo. Almost all of the locals speak English and understand German. They also have vineyards and the local food is as delicious as it is colorful. So you should be so lucky as to get lost here and be rescued by a local farmer!
Eating Lunch at a Beachside Restaurant
If you come here, one food that you must try that is part of Canarian Culture is called Papas Arrugadas. These are wrinkled potatoes that get cooked in salt until they become shriveled up and crispy. This will go down with a treat that has been dipped in what’s known as Mojo. This is the signature salsa of the Canary Islands, and you must experience it on a backpacking adventure through this country.
Hiking the Famous Masca Gorge
One of the places that you must check out is known as Masca Gorge. It has become a famous hike that follows a stream bed down into a river ravine. This area has become one of the most popular backpacking destinations in all of Tenerife, and you have a picturesque gorge worth seeing.
Masca is a small village that has 90 residents, and words can’t express the level of beauty that you will look upon. The easiest way to get here is by renting a car, but the one thing that you should keep in mind is that you will have to walk back to your car. You can either walk back to your car, or you could take a water taxi back to your car. During the trip, you may want to consider a guided tour because this will give you a little more background on the local geography, the history and the layout of the land.
What Does Canarian Culture Feel Like?
As the sun starts to set, and we were back at the traditional hotel, which has a courtyard with the rooms, we saw surfers catching the last waves of the night. You also saw old men roasting chestnuts over a fire as they drank young red wine with an all-around jolly vibe. The beaches here are black sand beaches. With the average temperatures in Tenerife being between 70 to 80 degrees, you can chill outside drinking and talking with your buddies well into the night.
Check out the Clear Dark Skies of Tenerife
Because of the way the sky looks in Tenerife, you have one of the best places to go stargazing. You can study the solar system and our place in the universe from here. If you visit during the month of June, Tenerife holds a stargazing festival known as Starmus. You will hear some great music, learn about the planets, and Stephen Hawking even once helped with this festival. Some of the things that you will do is tour the telescopes, and you can even look through a telescope that will show you the sun. You can see sun spots and solar flares on it.
Great Budget Location
Backpackers are famous for traveling the country on a small budget. Tenerife isn’t quite as expensive as what you might imagine, and double rooms will run you 30 Euros per night. You can expect to pay about 40 Euros per person each day for food, accommodations and public transport. You may want to plan it carefully and search out the deals before making a choice.
Beware of Los Gigantes
There are those who come for a true backpacking adventure with just a backpacking pack and a tight budget, and while they want to see the country, they don’t want to pay a lot to do it. Los Gigantes is beautiful, and it has spectacular beaches like the Playa de la Arena, but this is not a place to hang out if you are on a tight budget.
Still, it might be worth it to stop over in Los Gigantes to see the surrounding cliffs and check out the beaches. You just have to remember that you can easily go over your budget at this location if you’re not careful. A cabby was telling me that the hoteliers have been aware of the cash-cow potential of the place for many years and the prices here are well above average.
Backpacking through Tenerife teaches you to open your eyes and experience life, not just spend money. Don’t take it so seriously! You have to learn how to enjoy yourself on your adventures. The people of Tenerife could also teach visitors a thing or two about friendliness and being there for each other. You feel like the community here is tight-knit, and they watch out for each other, which is a wonderful quality of the Canarian culture.
Tenerife – Chinamada – Andrew’s Walks
Dragon Tree – Needpix Creative Commons
Papas Arrugadas – La Provincia
Los Gigantes – Wikimedia Creative Commons
Guest Author Bio
Nick is an experienced backpacker who enjoys traveling to new destinations and interacting with the local culture. In his free time, he is also blogging at GlobalBackpackers.com with tips and advice from his experiences.