The Perfect Canarian Holiday: The Hidden Gems of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Loro Park

The idea of a never-ending spring has always appealed to me. The climate of my native country, Latvia, is too cold and inclement; my favourite, Thailand, becomes very hot and airless during summer time; and my new home of London welcomes me with dampness… I despaired of finding the ideal combination. Then I came across Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Even in the airport I realised that this was a place I could live.

Santa Cruz mountain view

The climate on Tenerife is close to ideal, with temperatures between 18 to 25 degrees all year round, even in February when we explored it. We decided to start with the capital, Santa Cruz, and we didn’t regret it. Most tourists skip it, as there aren't any beautiful beaches or famous tourist attractions. The weather in Santa Cruz is chillier than on other parts of the island, especially during the wintertime, but it's still very warm

Botanical garden in Santa Cruz

There is a beautiful botanical garden, Garcia Sanabria, just opposite the gorgeous Iberostar Grand Mencey Hotel that was to be our home for a few days. So we decided to start exploring Santa Cruz from there.

Floral Clock in Garcia Sanabria garden

The garden opened more than 80 years ago, and today it is the largest urban park in the Canary Islands. A particular highlight of the park is the Floral Clock, which was manufactured in Switzerland.

The main square in Santa Cruz

The main square in Santa Cruz, Plaza de Espana, with an artificial lake.   

Santa Cruz

Tenerife is the largest island in the Canary Archipelago. There are seven large and six small islands altogether. The town of Santa Cruz was founded in the 15th century by Spanish conquerors. The name of the town comes from the holy wooden cross, which conquerors brought to the new land.

La Laguna

In the beginning, Santa Cruz was just a small port, but the capital was San Cristobal de la Laguna, situated higher in the mountains; it was a very rich and powerful city. Today, locals call it the cultural capital of the Canary Islands. La Laguna’s historical centre was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. It welcomes you with quiet and peaceful streets with lots of bright and colourful colonial style buildings.     

La Laguna

Tenerife Auditorium

Santa Cruz also has a modern side. The newest attraction, and symbol of the capital, is now the Tenerife Auditorium, home to the island's symphony orchestra.

Tenerife Auditorium by night

Its original design and unusual shape provoked lots of rumours, and its opening in 2003 was covered by media from all over the world, including the “The Financial Times” and “The New York Times”.

Famous Carnaval in Santa Cruz, photo by Jesus D’Sousa

One more reason to come to Santa Cruz in winter time is to see the famous Carnaval. This is the largest and most spectacular carnival in Europe, and the second most popular in the world after Rio de Janeiro.

The Santa Cruz Carnaval takes place every February and it attracts thousands of people. In 1987, the carnival appeared in the Guinness Book of Records with the largest group of people dancing together in an open space. Can you imagine? 250,000 people dancing simultaneously!

Orca show in Loro Park

One more place you can’t miss on Tenerife is the famous Loro Park with its amazing orca show. This is honestly the best animal park I have ever been to. It’s just unbelievable what these huge killer whales are capable of doing. 

Loro Park

The park is located just half an hour's drive from the capital in Puerto de la Cruz and highly recommended to everyone, not just families with kids. Adults will have a lot of fun here, just like we did. We spent the whole day here and watched the orca and dolphin shows twice.

Loro Park

Founded 43 years ago, Loro Park was conceived as a paradise for parrots. Over the years, it has developed into one of the biggest attractions in the Canary Islands with over 45 million visitors to date. Today it’s home to different animals including penguins, dolphins, gorillas, tigers, sea lions and six gorgeous orcas.  The first four orcas came here in 2006 from America. Morgan was rescued by a Dutch Dolphinarium and the youngest one, baby Adan, was born here in the park. This is something of a miracle as orcas don’t usually have babies in captivity.     

Dolphin Show in Loro Park

According to Trip Advisor, Loro Park is recognised as the best zoo in Europe and the 3rd best in the world.

Penguinarium in Loro Park

Loro Park is home to the world’s largest penguinaruim.  The hundreds of penguins that  entertain visitors would probably be surprised to hear that they don't live in the Antarctic.

Sea Lions show

The sea lions here are amazing as well. They are so alive and artistic.

The voulcanic beach

Just opposite the Loro Park we found amazing beach with black voulcanic sand.

Iberostar Grand Mencey Hotel

After spending a couple of days in the capital, I can give you at least 5 reasons to come here and enjoy it as well:

  1. To see the real Tenerife, away from the traditional tourist routes
  2. To try traditional Canarian cuisine
  3. To visit the most amazing carnival in Europe
  4. To walk through the old capital of Tenerife – San Cristobal de La Laguna
  5. To treat yourself like a movie star by staying at the Iberostar Grand Mencey Hotel.

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I still remember my first trip. It was to London. I fell in love with this city the moment I saw it. Just - "click", and my heartbeat quickened. I was chosen by it. Red and funny double-decker buses, serious black cabs, the gorgeous Buckingham palace... That's it! I am your admirer forever! From that moment I have visited many places and have been to many countries. Traveling became my passion. My long lasting love, which I hope will never end.

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