Long reputed for its concrete jungle of beach resorts, the Canary island of Tenerife has a far less-discovered side to it that often feels and looks like a different island altogether. 

While the likes of Costa Adeje offer family-friendly beaches and countless burger joints, Tenerife’s Northern half is a more local, authentic experience with some of the most stunning scenery you’ll find, dare I say, anywhere in Europe. Sleepy fishing villages, verdant ravines, cloud forests and remote black sand beaches – there are weeks worth of lesser-known sights to take in on Tenerife.

If you really want to explore Tenerife, rent a car, head North and use this list for Tenerife’s best hidden gem destinations for your inspiration. Happy travels!

Tenerife Hidden Gem Itinerary

Tenerife Hidden Gem Map

Anaga Mountains

Anaga Mountains, Mirador de la Cruz

Visiting the verdant peaks on the island’s far Northeast, you might wonder if you’re still on Tenerife. The UNESCO-designated Biosphere Reserve has its own microclimate that makes it by far the greenest (and wettest) part of Tenerife. It’s a stunning, sleepy region known for an incredible array of flora, surreal views and some of the earliest settlements on the island.

Macizo de Anaga is best explored by car and it’s a rewarding outdoor destination both for hikers and masochistic cyclists. The climbs and gradients are unforgiving but the views are worth it. Just bring a rainproof jacket. On your way up from La Laguna, be sure to stop at Mirador Cruz del Carmen for some of the best panoramas you’ll find on all of Tenerife. 

Even if the rest of the island is sunny, Anaga can be covered in view-inhibiting low clouds so I suggest checking the local forecast and setting off in the morning for the best chances of clear weather.

Taganana

Taganana Street, Tenerife

The coast of Anaga is dotted with compact sleepy fishing hamlets. One of my favourites is the hidden gem village of Taganana, a real trip back in time with its steep narrow streets and traditional white Spanish houses. In fact the melodically-named village is one of the oldest Spanish settlements on the island.

The name ‘Taganana’ originates from the word ‘slope’ and that’s entirely representative, with some of the streets actually tough to walk on. There are a couple places to sit down for a coffee or a meal to catch your breath and enjoy the tranquil surroundings. 

 

Benijo Beach

Benijo Beach, Tenerife

One of Tenerife’s most stunning beaches is also hidden away in the Anaga reserve not far from Taganana. The volcanic black sand is complemented by the Roques de Anaga rock formations, making for a raw and remote beach experience a world away from the busy resort-laden beaches in South Tenerife.

Playa de Benijo is known as a nudist beach, though given its remoteness you’ll rarely find more than a handful of people to share the beach with, naked or otherwise.

How to get to Benijo Beach

You can get close to Benijo Beach by car followed by a relatively short walk down a pathway. The road is twisty and sometimes narrow so take care. It takes around an hour from the capital Santa Cruz or La Laguna.

 

La Laguna

San Cristobal de la Laguna, Tenerife

The colourful San Cristóbal de La Laguna (commonly just known as La Laguna) is Tenerife’s former capital and my favourite city in Tenerife. La Laguna is a stunning, well-preserved ancient colonial city and deservedly a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Colourful facades of blue, green, yellow and red line its cobbled streets, and the city has a more elegant, stately vibe than you’ll find anywhere else on the island – probably a nod to its past at the capital. Curiously the name Laguna suggests there should be a lagoon somewhere neary, but that was long drained to prevent the spread of disease at the time.

La Laguna is well-placed as an alternative base from which to explore the island, considering most of Tenerife’s hidden gems are in the island’s North including the nearby Anaga Mountains. Conveniently it’s also right next to Tenerife North Airport.

La Masca

hidden gem travel destinations

The green ravines and razor-sharp peaks in the island’s Northwest are one of my top recommendations for any Tenerife itinerary. The often steep and narrow road that twists through the surreal volcanic landscapes surrounding La Masca make for some of the most exhilarating driving (or cycling!) in Europe. 

If you’re a confident driver, the scenery more than makes up for wrestling the local roads. At one point the ravines reveal the small mountain village of Masca. It’s not much more than a collection of houses improbably scattered along a narrow ridge and linked by stone pathways. It’s all about the views here – I’ll let the photo speak for itself.

 

Garachico

Garachico, Tenerife

The fishing town of Garachico in the Northwest is one of Tenerife’s most pleasant seaside destinations to explore. Garachico has a tragic past, having been in the path of a devastating volcanic eruption in 1706 that buried much of the town in lava. The town was rebuilt but lost its status as Tenerife’s main port yet kept its charm. Signs of the wealthy past are still evident with impressive noble mansions lining the streets of Garachico.

 

La Orotava

La Orotava, Tenerife

The hillside town on the Northern Coast is home to some of the best-preserved examples of Canarian architecture and some of the best local cuisine on the island. The surrounding fertile valley and the volcanic massifs that surround La Orotava make for a unique backdrop and for me personally the best spot for exploring the island from.

The most famous example of the classic local architecture is La Casa de Los Balcones, as the name suggests best known for the balconies that distinguish this building. Amongst the other highlights in this vibrant town you’ll find an impressive tiered garden (Marquesado de la Quinta Roja) and the Plaza de Ayuntamiento, a great spot to watch the locals go about their life.

La Orotava is also a Northern gateway to Teide National Park, mostly a dense cloud forest road that offers probably the most interesting ascent up to the crater.

 

Los Gigantes Cliffs

Los Gigantes Cliffs, Tenerife

For some of the most dramatic coastal views, come to the far West of Tenerife. There you’ll find “The Giants”, a wall of imposing cliffs considered sacred by the aboriginal Guanches. 

The area is a great beach destination although there is a reason it’s loved by surfers – the waves can be powerful. If the sea is calm and you fancy a special dip, visit the nearby Charco Tacon cave. Avoid swimming there and the more exposed rock pools if the waves are on the angry side.

The towns near Los Gigantes makes for a great option as your Tenerife base. The weather on this side of the island is usually some of the sunniest and warmest, you have an array of beaches and heated rock pools to enjoy and it’s still far from the resort jungle of the South Coast. There are also whale and dolphin watching trips available from the local port.

 

Icod de Los Vinos

Icod de los Vinos, Tenerife

Situated in the hills between La Orotava and Garachico, Icod de Los Vinos is a small village surrounded by a lush valley of pine forests. Its piece-de-resistance is easily the El Drago Milenario, allegedly a 2,000-year-old tree that is the centre-piece of the surrounding Parque del Drago.

Icod de Los Vinos is a relatively compact place to visit and makes for an excellent stop on your way to La Masca or Garachico.

 

Teide National Park

Teide National Park Tenerife

Can the national park home to the very volcano that defines Tenerife really be considered a hidden gem? I’ll let you decide, but I’d argue you haven’t been to Tenerife if you haven’t visited the Martian landscapes of its giant crater. Yes, the national park it essentially a huge caldera in the centre of the island up at 2,000m altitude that is an entirely different world to the coastal Tenerife town below. 

Besides the arid, otherworldly scenery you can take a cableway (Teleferico del Teide) from the visitor centre up to Mount Teide itself, the starting point of 3 hiking trails. Needless to say, the views from up there are majestic, especially at sunset as the giant shadow of the peak casts itself as far as the surrounding islands.

 

Do I need to book a permit to visit Teide National Park?

You only need a permit if you want to climb the Pico del Teide itself, i.e. the very peak of Mount Teide, as there is a daily quota in place. To visit the wider area is free, and you don’t need to book ahead to enjoy the cable car up that goes

Keep in mind the temperature up here at 2,000+ m is going to be very different to down on the coast. It’s probably going to be sunny but decidedly chilly especially in the winter months so bring a layer or two. Avoid visiting altogether if a storm is on the way – it’s been known to snow up here and the roads can get closed.

 

How to get to Teide National Park?

The well-maintained roads will take you up from 4 directions. From the southern resorts the TF-51 will take you up in an hour, and a similar time via the forested ascent up the TF-21 from Puerto de la Cruz. From Los Gigantes it’s also about an hour up the steeper TF-38.

TF-21 Road up to Teide National Park, Tenerife

Bonus: Hop on a Ferry to Gran Canaria

The neighbouring Gran Canaria has even more to offer, and it’s just over an hours’ ferry hop from Santa Cruz to Agaete in the Northwest of the island. This makes for a very doable day trip, and the coffee-producing Agaete Valley is one of the most unique parts of the island.

Read more: 11 Hidden Gems of Gran Canaria

How to get around Tenerife

Hiring a car is definitely the best way to get around the island and especially some of the more remote hidden gems spots. Taxis are quite expensive but now more regulated in terms of avoiding rip-offs, and will get you the same places.

Alternatively there is an unfortunately-named TITSA bus network that will get you around the main spots on the island for cheap. You can get the Ten+ card to save on multiple trips, or get a tourist day card.

 

Where to stay in Tenerife?

If you want the most convenient, family-friendly all-inclusive type of resorts, just pick somewhere in Los Cristianos or Costa Adeje.

If you want something more authentic, there are plenty of options. My personal favourite is somewhere on the North coast – La Orotava, Santa Ursula or Puerto de la Cruz. They are perfect you want to explore the hidden gem places on the list that are mostly in the North, with the TF-5 highway offering fast access along the coast and to the main city of Santa Cruz. The only “con” of staying in the North is the higher chance of cloudy / rainy weather as the clouds tend to come from the North and cling to this side of Teide. That said, you’ll still get plenty of sunshine especially in the summer months.

Another great option is the Western Los Gigantes area, a good compromise between being away from the main resorts, sunny warm weather and great beaches. It’s a little further from some of the sights in the Northeast of the island but still very achievable as day trips. I’d also recommend this area as a Tenerife cycling holiday base if you’re fit enough to tackle the relentless climbs.


Enjoy this beautiful island, and if you find places you’d add to this under-the-radar Tenerife destination list, let me know!

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