Tenerife and La Gomera

Happy New Year, everyone! I’m back with a fresh(ish) post on our most recent trip. The second half of last year was exhausting at best as we did not go on holiday from August until December, something that the recent years have proven unusual for us. So before the year ended, we were on our maximum holiday vibe and bid Germany goodbye for the next ten days.

So why Tenerife?

  1. Tenerife is a Canary Island on the Atlantic Ocean, located closer to the African continental plate than the European and the winters are moderately warm.
  2. I may have mentioned before that we have been keeping up going to Spain at least once a year since 2015 as part of my studying the language.
  3. I also may have mentioned before that I work for an airline that is, for the most part, a holiday flyer and among our destinations are 5 of 7 Canary Islands, including Tenerife which we picked because it’s the biggest among the islands.
  4. Did I mention moderately warm winters? (as in around 25C, full sun and the ocean)

Where to stay in Tenerife

It is important to consider that the northern part of the island is much different than the southern. It is not only because of the wave of tourism that contrasts the two but also the climate. When we were in the north, it got cloudy with some drizzle from time to time especially in the early mornings and it was cold and wet on some days. The south, on the other hand, was warm and sunny, though on some days too windy for a proper swim in the ocean. But it was much quieter in the north, even in the capital, Santa Cruz. Tourists are everywhere on the island even this time of the year but the south is more of a haven for families on all-inclusive holiday packages. I guess it’s all more of a matter of taste.

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In our case, we had 4 different accommodations with 2-3 overnights at each.

What to do / Where to go

During the first few days, we were staying in Tacoronte, which is about 20 minutes away from Santa Cruz and Icod de los Vinos, respectively. We spent the days just driving around and exploring the area and the small towns.

Bajamar Natural Pools

Some coasts of the island are not safe for swimming because of the strong waves. As a solution, natural pools were built so people can still get their dose of Vitamin Sea without the danger of getting wiped out. Entrance to the pools is free of charge and it’s open to everyone! Unfortunately, we did not get to swim on that day because the water was just really cold and it was a windy day. But it was relaxing to watch the waves crash against the walls of the pools as they often get really high.

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And it was perfect for some silly mermaiding.

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Puerto de la Cruz

There is much more going on in this city since there are also some big hotels in the area. It’s a port city that also has a beach and some shops and restaurants.

Garachico

Garachico is a quaint little town close to our second Airbnb in Icod de los Vinos. We got out rather late to buy some snacks so our host recommended this town to us since there the other ones in the surrounding area close down early. We found this small café in the town’s plaza and it was beautifully decorated for the yuletide season.

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Sitio Litre – Orchid Garden

The orchid garden of Sitio Litre is open to the public for a small fee to satisfy our eyes with a variety of flora of all colours. Agatha Christie used to come to this garden and it inspired some of her works.

 

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San Cristobal de la Laguna

We found this city from driving from one Airbnb to another. Its historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and its the most populous city of the island.

Teide National Park

No trip to Tenerife is complete without a trip to Teide National Park. The summit of Mount Teide is the highest point in Spain. We were able to book cable car tickets on the same day for 27,-€ each (roundtrip) so we could skip the queue. Driving up to the cable car station, I was already anxious because I thought we just blew away our money on the cable car tickets. We drove up some hairpin curves with very low visibility and couldn’t see 10 metres ahead of us because of the fog and I was afraid we won’t be able to see anything once we’re up there because of that. But once we were at a much higher point, it was clear and sunny and, apparently, we were high above the clouds. From this point everything around us was just spectacular and a visit was well worth it. Good thing the wife is an amazing driver even if the drive required her hand stuck permanently on the handbrake to start accelerating again mid-steep.

Once we finally got to the cable car station, we noticed immediately how the air was just different. It got harder to breathe because the air was so thin and it was also really cold, something one must not ever underestimate when planning a trip to Mount Teide.

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RIP Sunglasses that were blown away by some very sudden strong wind while they were sitting comfortably on my nose. There was no way to retrieve them since they landed on uneven ground in a restricted area. The wife had to convince me that they are “just sunglasses” and “it wasn’t worth it to risk my life over them” — yeah, right. 
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He’s just everywhere you look.

La Gomera

We combined our trip to Tenerife with a day-long excursion to La Gomera. It’s the second smallest of the Canary Islands and it’s pretty close to Tenerife, requiring only a 30-minute ferry ride. We took an organised tour which was a new experience for us. It was just rather hard to go by your own when you don’t really know where to go (also, it’s cheaper at around 60,-€ per person all-inclusive). This way, we were able to see the most important attractions — which were all spectacular. Also, I think it helps in the preservation of the island if tourists are in a more controlled environment.

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Our tour guide was a quirky guy who explained everything well. He was so passionate about keeping La Gomera a paradise. He brought us to beautiful, photographable places and also to a small eatery that serves a local specialty, the Gomeron – a mixture of grappa and palm nectar, a local product of the island. Next, he had us walk around a little bit to show us some plants, like this amazingly big Ficus benjamina:

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At garden centres they are rather small

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The trip included lunch at a local restaurant where some locals let us hear the Silbo Gomero – traditional whistling language used by the Gomerans to communicate even up to this day.

Lunch was followed by the trip to Garajonay National Park.

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View of the island of Tenerife from La Gomera

Beaches

Back to Tenerife, we explored some beaches as we were staying in the south in the latter days of our holiday. As expected, it was much warmer and the weather was a bit more predictable on this part of the island.

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This one is Playa El Bollullo which is located in the north. Though gorgeous, the stretch is almost in full shadow which is a shame because it’s really cold.

Snorkeling

  • Los Gigantes, Masca Bay. Los Gigantes is another port city but this one comes with some adventure. We booked a kayaking tour with Teno Activo that took us to see Masca Bay. Two hours of kayaking did our physical fitness a favour and it helped that we were surrounded by such beauty. Also, we had the chance to go snorkeling, which was a first for me and we took advantage of our new snorkeling gear which I recommend to everybody for they are really great.
  • Playa de las Teresitas. It’s a clean and family-friendly, but nonetheless quiet beach in San Andres with yellow sand and a chance to see some fish swimming close to the shore.
  • El Puertito. We read somewhere that there is a chance to see turtles here but no such luck for us. Anyhow, there were plenty of other sea creatures to stalk since the floor is pretty rocky but the water shallow and it was so far the best one we snorkeled at.
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Make sure to get yourself one of these babies if you want to snorkel because these are great and you don’t even have to accidentally breathe in seawater to spot some critters. Find them here.

Food

Spanish cuisine is absolute comfort food for me. I could dive into a tub of jamón anytime. But the Canarian cuisine has a few more specialties that are easy to love. The best way to find local food is to look out for Guachinches. Traditionally, they are small establishments that serve their own wine and homemade food. Today, more and more restaurants across the island tag themselves as “Guanchinche-style” but these are good nonetheless since they also serve traditional food that include grilled meat dishes, seafood, paired with the typical Canarian sauces called mojo. What I especially loved is the Canarian grilled goat cheese. Yum!

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One Guachinche was part of a banana plantation which made my heart really happy

 

 

Philippines: Taal Volcano Crater Lake

Short background on myself: I was born in Germany and currently based there, but I had spent 13 years in the Philippines. It’s where I went to school, met most of my friends, and where most of my family still lives – in the beautiful city of Tagaytay, in the province of Cavite. Tagaytay City is a favoured tourist spot because of its cool climate and because from there, nature shares with us a ridiculously beautiful view of the Taal Lake, and of the Taal Volcano, also known as the smallest volcano in the world. The Taal Lake is also the largest lake on an island in the world.

Fun Fact: That cone right in the center is not the volcano itself, although often mistaken by tourists. It’s just part of the whole thing, but in itself it’s a volcano called Binintiang Malaki.

Nevertheless, it’s a breathtaking vista and people just keep coming back, myself included. The city is also conveniently close to Manila, which makes it easily accessible to the crowds.

As a local, I had always been curious about what’s inside the volcano. In my 13 years in the country, I had countless chances to go on a hike but never actually went and neither has most of my family.

The Tour

We took the tour on my second day back in the country and, by we I meant myself, three cousins from the Philippines, four cousins from Germany including their respective partners, my mum and my aunt. We rented out a van including a skilled driver who knows his way around the hairpin curves of Tagaytay-Talisay Road, the one that, from the name itself, connects Tagaytay City to Talisay, Batangas – where our transfer to the volcano starts off.

Van + driver rental inclusive of gasoline costs: 2000 PHP or ca. 35 € (c/o Mum because she’s generous like that)

We were supposed to leave at 6 AM but because my cousins hadn’t been ready when we arrived at their doorstep to pick them up, we had a bit of a delay. We had breakfast at Sinangag Express (although not along the way but it was worth the inconvenience) and bought a litre of water each at one of the many 24h convenience stores in the area. This had proven to be helpful for what was waiting for us down the road. We arrived at around 8:30 AM at our resort of choice (they also offer accommodations), made the arrangements, and got on our respective boats. Each boat was able to accommodate up to 7 people so it was just right, us being 14 people in total. We were given two options regarding the trail we would take. We decided on the Secret Trail, which was a bit pricier and also a little more challenging.

Boat: 3000 PHP, total of 6000 PHP
Entrance fee on the island: 100 PHP each, total of 1400 PHP
Docking fee: 50 PHP per boat, total of 100 PHP

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The boat ride took about 45 minutes, and at about 10 AM we were at the shore of the volcano island. We were offered a guide by our boatman but we refused as advised by my sister, who took the same tour a few weeks prior. She said there is absolutely no need for it because the trail is easy to follow. We walked on and found ourselves at the bottom of the trail. Just imagine having to step on hot sand going up a steep path and that for about 45 minutes!

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It goes waaay up

I remind them from time to time to look back and breathe in the view.
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This man goes up and down this trail on his horse to sell water at the top.

On the way up, my aunt got dizzy after going up a few metres of extreme steep. I turned to my mum, who was standing a few metres behind us and asked her for a Dextro Energy (glucose cube, she’s diabetic so she always carries these around with her) but soon realised that she was feeling the same way after taking on the same path (or maybe it’s just one of those sister things, they’re pretty close). Now, they each took a cube and felt so much better almost instantly, but they asked us to go on and they’ll follow after, what we later found out, taking a power nap in the shade of a tree. I honestly didn’t expect them to come anymore after what happened but I guess they just didn’t want to miss out on what was waiting for us all up there.

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And I must say, it was all worth it.
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We rested for a while, perhaps about 45 minutes, to take pictures and enjoy the view. After a while my mum and aunt arrived on the viewing deck and we saw how happy they were to have made it. Cold bottled water was sold on the deck for 50 PHP each (500ml) which is nothing for us who really needed it and also a big help to the vendor who is a local of the island. I even think it’s smarter to buy more once up there instead of bringing so much with you which can get heavy and get you tired easier.

So the way down was pretty easy, except for some very steep parts where you have to really watch your steps. If the hike up took about 45 minutes, going down only takes 30 minutes. The view here is also really nice so I guess that helped a lot.

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It got a bit windy on the ride back but our captain, who looked not older than 10 years old, seemed to be enjoying himself.

Tips:

  • If you want to visit the Taal Volcano, there are many tour operators who offer this trip that can pick you up right from your hotel in Manila. Otherwise you may also choose to go with your own vehicle and pick one of the many boat ride offers on the streets of Talisay, Batangas.
  • The locals will try to sell you a tour guide for the reason that you might step on uneven, soft ground, which never happened to us but they might be able to give you some trivial information about the place.
  • Please refrain from taking a horse on the way up. They will try to give you one, but once you’re there you will notice that most of the horses are tired and in poor condition.
  • Bring water — I suggest bring 1 litre each unless you’re a heavy drinker, then bring some more. It will be scorching hot on the way up and you will need it. There are no stores along the way but there is a vendor right at the top with cold bottles of water (500ml, 50 PHP each) and Gatorade (500ml, 70 PHP each). Once you get there, your bottle might probably be empty so it’s time for a refill. Don’t bring too much on the way up so you don’t get more tired from carrying heavy bottles around and also to help the local vendor make some money as well.
  • Please throw your trash in the trash bags available right at the top and right at the bottom.
  • Our resort, 26 Santa Maria Resort, also offers accommodations, in case you would like to stay in the area a little longer. The owner is a german guy named Walter, and they give fair prices to all tourists.