With its alien aesthetic and angular white profiles, the architecture of Santiago Calatrava is unmistakable. And that's especially true for anyone who's visited the architect's hometown/playground of Valencia. Santa Cruz's auditorium, one of its most emblematic buildings, looks like the sibling of Valencia's Palau de les Arts -- definitely part of the same family.
San Cristóbal de La Laguna is a gorgeous city for a lot of obvious reasons: for example, its convents, parks, museums, palaces and just the sheer weight of its history. But our appreciation for Tenerife's original capital only deepened as we discovered its modern side.
Situated at 2390 meters above sea level, on the Teide Volcano, the Izaña Observatory (also known as the Teide Observatory) has been in operation since 1964. We took a tour of the premises, which introduced us to the history of the compound and its telescopes, and offered us a chance to stare at ... well, not at the stars, but straight into the sun.
Also known as La Recova, Nuestra Señora de África is the primary market hall of Santa Cruz. It was constructed in 1944 in a neo-colonial style, and today welcomes both tourists and locals to its interior patios, to buy all the trinkets, veggies, or meat they can carry.
Jürgen and I are very much "plan-ahead" guys. When we leave the house, we know exactly what we're going to do; otherwise, we'd never be able to cram so much into 91 short days. But we also leave ourselves open to surprises… such as our visit to the House-Museum of Cayetano Gómez Felipe in La Laguna. And these spontaneous experiences often turn out to be among our favorites. Our plan was to visit the church of La…
On the street of Nava y Grimón, you'll find not one, but two historic convents, both of which are still active. For centuries, the nuns of Santa Catalina de Siena have maintained a bitter, violent rivalry with those of Santa Clara de Asis.
Like you might expect of a Spanish city founded in the 15th century, La Laguna has more than its share of churches. The Catholic Church apparently thought every block needed its own cathedral, convent, or chapel, and walking around town, it's easy to imagine the outlandish power they must have exercised.
On the second half of a long hike that began with an ascent up the Barranco de Ruiz, we passed through the charming village of San Juan de la Rambla, before continuing along the coastline back to our car. Along the way, we stopped for lunch at an amazing local spot.
Located in the extreme northeast of Tenerife, the small town of Punta de Hidalgo looks out over the Atlantic, and is curiously popular with both locals and tourists.
La Orotava is located midway up the valley, overlooking the coastal town of Puerto de la Cruz. Because it's not right on the ocean, it manages to largely avoid tourism -- Europeans visit Tenerife for the beach, and not much else. The elevated position also provides the town with an amazing view, and abundant access to water. There are gardens everywhere in Orotava; in yards, parks, plazas… even the weeds blossom with exuberance.
Any exploration of Santa Cruz de Tenerife is likely to begin in the Plaza de España, an expansive open square near the ocean. At least, that's the first place we headed. We spent a wonderful Saturday morning hanging out in the plaza, and getting a feel for the capital city, which is in turns beautiful, garish, charming, and strange… and definitely has an atmosphere all its own.
The historic capital of the Canary Islands, San Cristóbal de La Laguna (more commonly shortened to La Laguna) is still considered to be the archipelago's cultural heart. We'd be spending a lot of time here during our 91 days on Tenerife, since our home village of Las Mercedes is just up the road, about five minutes by car.