The Canary Islands have become synonymous with activity and adventure holidays due to the dramatic landscape and year-round warmth. Having visited Lanzarote last year for a triathlon training camp, I was keen to see how the neighbouring island of Tenerife compared for outdoor sports. I visited Tenerife in 2005, but back then partying was on the agenda rather than adventure. This time, I was interested in seeing a more authentic side of the island away from the commercialised clubs and bars.
Thomas Cook Airlines selected a group of bloggers to explore Tenerife for three days and I was lucky enough to be invited. Meeting Georgina, Donna, Arianwen, Sam, Anya, Florine, Sam and David at Gatwick airport for the first time, I was struck by how passionate each blogger was about their individual sports. The group was made up of surfers, scuba divers and cyclists each seeking adventure and some winter sun.
Day One- Southern Tenerife
Myself, Georgina and Donna began our cycling experience at the Canary Bike Tours shop where we were fitted with Pinarello Razha bikes and introduced to our guide and ex-pro cyclist Unai Yus. The planned route would take us on a tour of the south of the island covering around 35 miles.
We headed out of Los Cristianos and followed the coast along to El Medano soon discovering that Tenerife has no flat roads. The route was certainly undulating, but nothing too challenging on this first day. Unlike at home, the road surfaces were well maintained and local drivers were respectful to cyclists.
Riding with a local meant that we discovered lesser-known corners of the island away from tourist hotspots. Our first rest stop was at a cove tucked away behind some apartment buildings where we were joined by Unai’s wife, children and dog. We spent some time relaxing at the beach side cafe and taking photos of La Montaña Roja (The Red Mountain).
From this point, we climbed inland towards San Isidro past the airport through dusty arid terrain. The highlight of the ride came as we let loose down a long winding descent admiring the views out across the sea. We stopped for lunch at the end of this section, enjoying a huge salad at a cafe frequented by locals, before returning back to the bike shop.
From our hotel, I headed out for a 5km run along the sea front. Weaving around tourists on the promenade which was lined with hotels, restaurants and shops, I ran to the end of the bay at Los Cristianos.
Day Two- Northern Tenerife
A change of location for the second day on the bikes meant that we headed to the north of the island. Georgina and I were driven along the coastal road to Tenerife’s capital city Santa Cruz where we began our ride. Following cycle paths through the city we arrived at Las Teresitas- one of the few beaches on the island that doesn’t have black, volcanic sand. The white sands were actually shipped across from the Sahara Desert in the 1970s to create an artificial beach lined with palm trees. Unai told me about the Santa Cruz triathlon held at this beach in the spring and it was instantly added to my mental to-do list.
From the beach, we climbed up to the viewpoint. It was a challenging ascent but nothing compared to what we would experience later in the day! From this vantage point, we had panoramic views of the crystal clear turquoise water and golden sands.
What goes up, must come down! The descent down to the beach was fast and exhilarating, I tried not to cling onto the brakes for dear life!
After a quick stop to re-hydrate, the work really began. Shifting down to my lowest gear and trying to keep my legs spinning, we began the slow ascent through the Agana Mountains. The route which Unai had planned was 24km of constant climbing which sounded very daunting so we broke it down into sections taking short breaks every 2-4 kilometres.
The ascent became steeper and steeper as it twisted through a series of switchbacks. I kept pedaling whilst breathing deeply and focusing on the section of road directly in front of me. This was one of the toughest rides I’ve ever undertaken and I began to doubt my ability to complete it. My body was shaking all over so I reached for the Clif Bar in my bike bag which gave a much-needed energy boost.
Starting again after each rest was a real challenge on such a steep incline. Unai kept the motivation going both mentally and physically- I’ve no shame in admitting he actually pushed us up some of the more challenging sections! Georgina did amazingly well considering she is not a regular cyclist.
As we climbed, we noticed the landscape and climate change. We left behind the arid, barren terrain and rode into lush forested areas. The temperature became cooler and the road was shaded by a canopy of trees. Unai told us that some of these species of trees are endemic to the Canary Islands and have disappeared completely in other parts of the world.
We made a final push to the viewpoint over the valley below. The views really did make the tough climb worthwhile. Lizards darted around amongst the rocks as we posed for pictures with our bikes held proudly above our heads. It was an incredible feeling to look down at the network of zig-zagging roads which we had just conquered all the way from the beach in the distance.
Just 200 metres along the road is a cafeteria in El Bailadero where we rested and ate on a terrace overlooking the mountain range. We devoured a chickpea and chorizo stew followed by braised beef with chips. We decided to end the ride at this point instead of pushing on further up the mountain, it was a huge achievement to get this far and we both felt satisfied with 2887 feet of climbing over 17 miles. The driver came to collect us so thankfully we didn’t need to descend the mountain by bike!
These two rides really highlighted the contrast between Southern and Northern Tenerife and showed us what the island has to offer cyclists- challenging terrain, exhilarating views and plenty of adventure.
I was invited to Tenerife as a guest of Thomas Cook Airlines, but all opinions are my own. Thank you to Thomas Cook and to Georgina for use of the photos.
Have you ever visited Tenerife? Do you enjoy active adventure holidays?