Tenerife and La Gomera: Far From the Madding Crowd?

Are you planning to visit Spain? If you like quiet, relaxed holidays amid magnificent scenery, then maybe Tenerife would not be top of your list.

Mt Teide Viewed from Agulo, La Gomera
Mt Teide on the Skyline from Agulo, La Gomera

Five million tourists visit Tenerife every year, attracted by its all-year sunshine and warm, temperate climate, resulting in many potential visitors having an image of crowded beaches and rowdy nightclubs.

However statistics show that the vast majority of tourists confine themselves to a relatively few south coast resorts such as Playa de las Américas, Los Cristianos and Costa Adeje. Few explore the more scenic western and northern parts of the island and even fewer take the short ferry ride across to the much quieter island of La Gomera.

Northern Coastline of Tenerife
Northern Coastline of Tenerife

So for senior travellers who often desire a relatively quiet and scenically interesting holiday, it would appear that getting away from Tenerife’s south-coast resorts could provide the answer. I decided to check it out, with a hire car providing the means to get to the less accessible parts of the island.

Surprisingly I opted to stay in one of the south coast resorts, Los Cristianos! There were several reasons for choosing this resort as my base: it is near to the airport, has relatively inexpensive hotel accommodation, and tends to be quieter than the other resorts attracting a more mature visitor and, importantly, it is the ferry terminal for La Gomera. It proved a good choice!

My Highlights of Tenerife and La Gomera

The volcanic peak Mount Teide, at 12,200 ft, is the highest mountain in Spain and totally dominates Tenerife, and is visible from many parts of La Gomera.

Dramatic Scenery in Mt Teide National Park
Dramatic Scenery in Mt Teide National Park

My drive up from Los Cristianos to the Teide Cable Car lower station went through some spectacular scenery in the Mt Teide National Park. There is plenty of parking at the lower station at 7,730 ft, and it is just an 8 minute cable car ride to the upper station at 11,660 ft.

You can get a permit in advance to walk up to the summit, but I found the rarefied atmosphere was making me a bit breathless; I was quite content with the magnificent views from the upper station.

The cable car return fare is currently 27€ in the morning and 24.30€ after 2pm. There are no discounts for seniors, but it is great value for money anyway.

Liana Trees in the Botanical Garden
Liana Trees in the Botanical Garden

Puerto de la Cruz on the north-west coast of Tenerife may be another resort town, but I found it to be much quieter and more relaxing than the south coast resorts.

The Botanical Garden in Puerto de la Cruz is one of the finest in Spain, with a wide range of tropical and sub-tropical species including massive South American liana trees. The entrance fee is just 3€.

• The Teno Rural Park in the west of Tenerife is an old volcanic massif with scenic deep ravines and fertile valleys.

Not only do you need to take care when driving along the steep narrow roads, but you also need to keep an eye on your possessions. Some friends left their car open when stopping briefly at a viewpoint, only to find on their return that a handbag had gone.

Small Hamlet in the Teno District
Small Hamlet in the Teno Rural Park

• Seafront walk from Los Cristianos to Playa de las Américas. They may be busy, noisy resorts, but I must admit that this 3 mile return walk as the sun is setting (and before the nightclubs open up) is an excellent way to spend the early evening. A nightcap at one of the bars along the way, looking out towards La Gomera, can be quite a relaxing experience.

• Ferry Trip from Los Cristianos to La Gomera. Residents of La Gomera consider the ferry to be a ‘filter’ that keeps their island quiet, as not many tourists make the trip. Strange, as the ferry journey is a highlight in itself, watching Mt Teide behind gradually getting smaller and La Gomera rearing up in front.

Quiet Street in San Sebastian
Quiet Street in San Sebastian

The Naviera Armas Ferry takes 70 min and costs 25€ each way for seniors, a 6€ discount. The return fare for a car with two adults is about 150€.

• The port of San Sebastián may be the largest town in La Gomera, but it still retains an old world charm. The 15th Century Castilian fortress Torre del Conde in the central park is well worth a visit.

• The fishing village Playa Santiago on the sunny side of La Gomera is a world apart from the beach resorts of Tenerife, being largely unaffected by mass tourism, except for one large hotel. Scenic deep ravines lead down to the village.

Torre del Conde
Torre del Conde

• The  lush forests around the centre of La Gomera in the Garajonay National Park contrast sharply with the vegetation of the dry coastal areas. Many of the trees are covered in thick swathes of moss and lichen.

Again I found great care had to be taken when driving around on steep twisty roads and through tunnels, but the magnificent scenery when travelling to Hermigua  and Agulo in the north and Valle Gran Rey in the west, made it all worthwhile.

Travel and Accommodation

Playa Santiago
Playa Santiago

Many budget airlines fly to Tenerife. To keep the price down, I booked mid-week flights through Ryanair and was happy with the service provided; flights were on time both ways.

I was also travelling outside the peak summer holiday period which again kept prices down.

I booked my accommodation after carefully checking through lots of hotel reviews in order to find one of the quieter ones in Los Cristianos.

If sorting through lots of different flights and choosing one of the multitude of available hotels is not your forte, then you can always leave it to the over-50s holiday specialist Saga Travel to arrange it for you.

Car Hire

Valle Gran Rey
Valle Gran Rey

My trip was booked at the last minute and I made the mistake of leaving car hire until I arrived in Los Cristianos. Not only was it more expensive than booking beforehand, but initially I was fobbed off with a car with very doubtful brakes – not a good idea on the island’s hairpin bends.

I should also have taken out car hire excess insurance before setting off on my holiday, as local insurance was much more expensive. See my article on Car Hire.

Overall Impressions

Yes, you most certainly can get far from the madding crowd in Tenerife and La Gomera. Most of my time was spent viewing magnificent coastal and mountain scenery in quiet, isolated settings – with the warm, sunny weather a great bonus.

Posted 5th June 2015 by Steve Hanson, with photos by STE’S Photo Editor, John Esser, and STE’s Holiday Editor, Tony Taylor