Tenerife is part of the collection of islands known as the Canary Islands situated off the North West coast of Africa. The islands were formed by volcanic eruptions between 20 and 50 million years ago
Many people believe that the name for this group of islands comes from the Canary bird. However the name Canary is believed to come from the word Canaria which means dog.
It is believed that when the first Europeans came to the islands they saw seals which the Romans referred to as “sea dogs” hence Gran Canaria – Island of Dogs.
Tenerife itself is the largest and most populated of the Canary’s and attracts over five million visitors a year.
The volcanic island originates from what is now the World Heritage Site of Teide National Park which is not only the highest peak in the Atlantic Ocean but also the highest of Spain.
Due to the year round weather, Tenerife is known as the Island of Eternal Spring (Isla de la Eterna Primavera) as it is on the same latitude as the Sahara Desert the average temperature in the winter is between 18 – 24 deg C and between 24 -28 deg C in the summer. The moderate climate is controlled to a great extent by the trade winds whose humidity is condensed to a great extent over the north and northeast of the island. Hence the reason for a slight difference in the climate between the north and the south of the island.
The Canary Islands have low levels of air pollution thanks in part to the lack of industrial factories and also to the trade winds, this means that Tenerife is one of the cleanest places in Spain. Water is generally of high quality is catalogued by the Ministry of Health and Consumption as waters suitable for bathing.
The island has two airports in both the south near the Golf del Sur and the north near the island’s capital of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Despite the island being a relatively small surface area the ecology is quite diverse, this in part is down to the fact that because of the landscape there are micro climates which means that plants and animals can survive and grow in mini environments. There is reported to be over 100 plants endemic to the island out of the 1400 species which exist.
The fauna on the island is also quite unique with some 400 species of fish, 56 birds, 5 reptiles, 2 amphibians, 13 land mammals and many invertebrates sea turtles and of course whales and dolphins.
Because of the landscape there is a change in the vegetation as the altitude changes and is divided into six different types of vegetation.
Lower xerophytis – up to 700 metres, Thermophile – 200 to 600 metres, Laurel Forest – 500 to 100 metres, Wax Myrtle – 1000 to 1500 metres, Pine Forest – 800 to 200 metres, High Mountain – over 2000 metres.
Before the aborigines, the islands, particularly Tenerife were inhabited by endemic animals now mostly extinct. However because of the island’s isolation the animals grew to sizes larger than their “counterparts” on the main lands.
Examples of these are the lizards, rats and tortoises.
The earliest known human settlement in the island dates back to about 200 BC. Known as the Guanches. Evidence of these indigenous people can be seen in one of the most interesting walks on the island. This walk starts at the top of the town of Adeje, and is known as Barranco del Infierno.
The Guanches ruled Tenerife but was split into several territories, in the main these territories still exist but are more commonly known as municipals.
Spain invaded Tenerife between 1402 and 1496 and has been a part of Spain since then.
Slavery by the Spanish of the natives was introduced, primarily as punishment to those that resisted them. It was at this time that more immigrants from other areas of Europe came and settled on the island.
In the 1520’s this meant that much of the pine forest was destroyed to fuel the growing population and crops such as sugar cane and grape vines were formed for local consumption and to export.
Because of the Spanish Empire there has been a very close relationship with Latin America particularly with Venezuela and Cuba which is maintained even today.
The many ships that were heading from the mainland of Spain to colonise “The New World” would stop at Tenerife and the other islands for supplies and many of the local people took advantage of this and decided to emigrate.
Emigration to the Americas continued through the 19th and the early 20th century due mainly to lack of economic opportunity relative isolation of the islands. However in the latter part of the 20th century new laws were brought in to protect the economy and the development of the tourism industry has seen a great increase in migrants and the return of descendants who had left many years ago.
There have been many conflicts associated with the islands the most notable conflict was the British invasion of Tenerife in 1797. On the 25th July Admiral Haratio Nelson launched an attack at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the capital then and as is now. It was during this conflict that Nelson lost his right arm. The battle lasted several months along the south coast, after which the British did not succeed.
Between 1833 and 1927 Santa Cruz de Tenerife was the sole capital of the Canary Islands Las Palmas then became the shared capital as is today. From the 1890’s tourism to Tenerife increased in large numbers primarily from Spain, the United Kingdom and northern Europe mainly to the north.
In March 1936 Francisco Franco was posted to Tenerife by the then Republican Government He realised that this position was to put him in a position where he couldn’t develop his political aspirations. However it was at Gran Canaria he agreed to collaborate in a military coup and in July 1936 the Canaries came under the rule of The Nationalists.
Since the second world war Tenerife has developed into a major destination for tourists and because of this the island has now got two airports to service the tourism industry. The south coast from the south airport to Los Gigantes have been developed to accept all these visitors.
Although many of the tourist come to Tenerife to soak in the sun and sea, there are many activities you can get involved with and many places of interest not least the Teide National Park and many other places to visit. Transport to get to and from these places of interest is very good, from tramways in Santa Cruz de Tenerife to the bus service where you can use a discount card known as the Bono card.
Before visiting Tenerife it is strongly recommend that you read more about modern Tenerife to give you a more complete idea of what to do and where to go.