The Canary Islands are a cluster of islands about 300 km off the continent of Africa, roughly parallel to the borders of Morocco and the disputed country of West Sahara. It has officially been a part of and run by Spain since the indigenous populations, called the Guanches, were conquered around the time Christopher Columbus departed Spain to search for an easy way to India.
The largest of the seven islands (both in population and size) is Tenerife. The entire chain of islands were formed by volcanoes, and they remain active to this day, though they are currently in a dormant state, with the last recorded eruption occurring on Mount Teide (the third tallest volcano in the world, and the largest mountain in the Canaries) in 1909. The island is extremely popular for those seeking kid friendly adventures on their holidays, due to the many cultural and historical sites and activities, as well as the low prices and taxes that tourists will find here.
This active (but dormant) volcano brings millions of visitors to the island each year. The Natural Park, surrounding the mountain, averages 2.8 million annual visitors, and it was designated in 2007 as a World Heritage Site, bringing even more esteem to the island. The top of the mountain is 3,718 meters tall, making it the tallest point in Spain, and the 40th tallest in the world, and the 3rd largest volcano.
There is both a hotel and a small chapel at the base of the hill, and everyone can get up almost to the summit via a cable car, though during the peak of the summer season, one should prepare for a possible two hour wait. Only 200 visitors per day are allowed permits (which are free) to get to the very top from the upper base of the cable cars, via footpaths, but due to the strenuous nature of the last 200 meters and the very high altitude, it is recommended only for those in very good fitness and health.
A recent study seems to suggest that at some point in the future, the odds are good that it will erupt violently, similar to Mount Vesuvius, but there is no way of knowing when that will happen exactly. Until it does, a visit to at least the top of the cable cars is definitely in order, and is recommended for that in grade school and up.
Santa Cruz and La Laguna
These two cities, only 27 km apart, are the two largest on the island, and there is an ingenious tram system linking the two, with the maximum wait time only 45 minutes during the peak parts of the day. Santa Cruz is one of the capital cities of the islands, with Las Palmas being the other. One of the major attractions in Santa Cruz is sure to delight little ones, as the Museum of Nature and Man houses a large collection of Guanche mummies, including a few fetuses.
Another must see is the Auditorium of Tenerife, which has an amazing concrete wave towering over the top of the structure. In February, the city is also host to the second largest Carnivale celebration (the largest being Rio de Juinaro). Both cities are host to many museums and historical structures, with the only higher education institute on the islands being the University of La Laguna. It is recommended to take at least a couple of days to thoroughly explore each city.
Hopefully these tips will inspire you to plan your family holiday in Tenerife, for more information please check out the offers available from @ Direct Line Holidays.
James Helliwell is a travel writer specialising in Africa, cultural India and African destinations.