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Winter Sunshine

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Published: 13 Dec 2012      

A regular question posed to us is where can I go for some warm / hot weather during the winter months?

When I began working in travel over 40 years ago, the Canaries or Madeira would have been as far as most people would have travelled, unless of course, you could afford the Caribbean, which most people couldn’t! In fact many people were quite content to find winter sunshine in the Mediterranean. Cyprus being the premium area, followed by the Costa del Sol, Costa Blanca, Majorca and to a lesser extent Malta.

Today our customers are a little more discerning, they want to be guaranteed warmer weather and in many cases they want it to be hot rather than warm! Let’s just look at some of the options available:

Australia and New Zealand
Far East
Middle East
Atlantic Islands

There are of course other areas, such as South America, but generally people don’t travel there with the intention of finding winter sun.

Each week over the next couple of months, I’ll write a little about each of the above regions, what they have to offer and what to watch out for! I’ll add a few tips where appropriate as well sharing my own experiences.

In this first article I’m going to start with The Atlantic Islands. Really I am referring to the Canaries, Madeira and the Cape Verde islands. Beginning with Tenerife:

The Canary Islands are made up of four well known islands as well as a number of smaller ones quite close to the coast of Morocco. The most popular is of course Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands. There are two very distinctive sides to Tenerife, the North and the South. Historically the North of the island was the popular holiday destination, whilst the South was just barren desert. The reason for the demise of the North, was that almost every day the sky would cloud over and there would be some showers from time to time. This enabled the North of Tenerife, to develop wonderful botanical gardens with exotic flowers providing carpets of colour. However the early 1970s saw the beginnings of mass tourism with low cost charter flights, particularly appealing to the sun starved Northern Europeans, most of which wanted constant sunshine (never mind the sunburn) rather than a desire to admire beautiful plants.

At that time the South of Tenerife being barren desert, provided very low cost land, so the developers quickly moved building the beginning of Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos. Hotels, apartments and time share accommodation was built and sold, bars, restaurants and night clubs all appealing to Northern European party goers, but eventually the bubble burst! Everyone became sick of the excesses and sophistication took root.

The North of Tenerife continued with very limited development appealing to those who want more than just uninterrupted sunshine, whilst in the South, new resorts began to emerge, such as Costa Adeje, where better hotels were built, appealing to families as opposed to the twenty something partygoers. The prices reflected the higher quality and the hotels were built providing good food as well as service, with high quality hotels.

The big disadvantage of Tenerife has always been that is has no real beaches, the island is a volcano, topped by Mount Teide, which is really worth visiting. As you drive up to the 12,000 foot summit, you pass through lunar landscape, which you may recognize from a number of films. Eventually you will need to board a cable car, for the 8 minute ride, it is spectacular! You then need good shoes or boots to continue to the summit, here you will find the air is very thin, the smell of sulphur quite pervasive, getting stronger as you get closer to the summit. During winter months, this will be snow covered. In fact Teide is the world’s third highest volcano.

When driving to or from the peak of Teide, expect to drive through the clouds and see clear blue sky above you, whilst below is a surreal carpet of cotton wool looking cloud. When looking to the South Western horizon, emerging from the azure sea, is the small island of La Gomera. I’ll write a little more of La Gomera in my next blog.

The rich volcanic soil and the warm sunshine is perfect for bananas, they grow everywhere, and have many uses, wonderful to eat as well as being the base for a liquor.
The Spanish have been masters at producing liquors for many years, so do try some after dinner to help your digestion.

Our tastes have become more international and people visiting Tenerife will look forward to experimenting more than they did 30 years ago! Tenerife offers a wonderful mixture of traditional Spanish food such as Canaries potatoes, Paella, Lobster, King prawns and of course salad.

The most popular things to see and do include whale and dolphin watching, the waterpark at Siam Park, the animal park at Loro Parque and of course Aqualand in the Costa Adeje, where you can enjoy the waterpark as well as the Dolphinarium! Not forgetting the climb to Mount Teide and the Botanical Gardens.