Puzzle Tenerife.jpg
Clockwise from top: Dracaena draco, Roques de Anaga, Teide National Park, Traditional Canarian house and Auditorio de Tenerife.
Spain Canary Islands location map Tenerife.svg
Location of Tenerife in the Canary Islands
Tenerife is located in Spain, Canary Islands
Location in Spain
LocationAtlantic Ocean
Coordinates28°16′7″N 16°36′20″W / 28.26861°N 16.60556°W / 28.26861; -16.60556Coordinates: 28°16′7″N 16°36′20″W / 28.26861°N 16.60556°W / 28.26861; -16.60556
ArchipelagoCanary Islands
Area2,034.38 km2 (785.48 sq mi)[1]
Coastline342 km (212.5 mi)[1]
Highest elevation3,718 m (12,198 ft)[1]
Highest pointTeide
Autonomous CommunityCanary Islands
ProvinceSanta Cruz de Tenerife
Capital and largestSanta Cruz de Tenerife (pop. 204,856)
President of the cabildo insularCarlos Enrique Alonso Rodríguez
Demonymtinerfeño/a; chicharrero/a
Population904,713 (2018)[2]
Pop. density444.71 /km2 (1,151.79 /sq mi)
LanguagesSpanish, specifically Canarian Spanish
Ethnic groupsSpanish, other minority groups
Additional information
Time zone
 • Summer (DST)
Official websitewww.tenerife.es
Satellite photography of Tenerife.

Tenerife (/ˌtɛnəˈrf/; Spanish: [teneˈɾife]) is the largest and most populated island of the seven Canary Islands.[3] It is also the most populated island of Spain,[3] with a land area of 2,034.38 square kilometres (785 sq mi) and 904,713 inhabitants,[2] 43 percent of the total population of the Canary Islands.[3] Tenerife is the largest and most populous island of Macaronesia.[4]

Approximately five million tourists visit Tenerife each year, the most visited island of the archipelago.[5] It is one of the most important tourist destinations in Spain,[6] hosting one of the world's largest carnivals, the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Tenerife is served by two airports, Tenerife-North Airport (site of the Tenerife disaster, which killed 583 people) and Tenerife-South Airport. Tenerife is the economic capital of the Canary Islands.[7][8][9][10]

The capital of the island, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is also the seat of the island council (cabildo insular). The city is capital of the autonomous community of Canary Islands (shared with Las Palmas de Gran Canaria), sharing governmental institutions such as presidency and ministries. Between the 1833 territorial division of Spain and 1927, Santa Cruz de Tenerife was the sole capital of the Canary Islands. In 1927 the Crown ordered that the capital of the Canary Islands be shared, as it remains at present.[11][12] Santa Cruz contains the modern Auditorio de Tenerife, the architectural symbol of the Canary Islands.[13][14]

The island is home to the University of La Laguna; founded in 1792 in San Cristóbal de La Laguna, it is the oldest university in the Canaries. The city of La Laguna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the second city most populated on the island and the third in the archipelago. It was capital of the Canary Islands before Santa Cruz replaced it in 1833.[15]

Teide National Park is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is located in the center of the island. In it, the Mount Teide rises as the highest elevation of Spain, the highest of the islands of the Atlantic Ocean, and the third-largest volcano in the world from its base.[16] Also on the island, the Macizo de Anaga (massif) has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 2015.[17] It has the largest number of endemic species in Europe.[17]


The island's indigenous people, the Guanche Berbers, referred to the island as Achinet or Chenet in their language (variant spellings are found in the literature). According to Pliny the Younger, Berber king Juba II sent an expedition to the Canary Islands and Madeira; he named the Canary Islands for the particularly ferocious dogs (canaria) on the island.[18] Juba II and Ancient Romans referred to the island of Tenerife as Nivaria, derived from the Latin word nix (nsg.; gsg. nivis, npl. nives), meaning snow, referring to the snow-covered peak of the Teide volcano.[19] Later maps dating to the 14th and 15th century, by mapmakers such as Bontier and Le Verrier, refer to the island as Isla del Infierno, literally meaning "Island of Hell," referring to the volcanic activity and eruptions of Mount Teide.

The Benahoaritas (natives of La Palma) are said to have named the island, deriving it from the words teni ("mountain") and ife ("white").[citation needed] After colonisation, the Hispanisation of the name resulted in adding the letter "r" to unite both words, producing Tenerife.[20][21]

However, throughout history there have been other explanations to reveal the origin of the name of the island. For example, the 18th-century historians Juan Núñez de la Peña and Tomás Arias Marín de Cubas, among others, state that the island was likely named by natives for the legendary Guanche king, Tinerfe, nicknamed "the Great." He ruled the entire island in the days before the conquest of the Canary Islands by Castilla.[22]


The formal demonym used to refer to the people of Tenerife is Tinerfeño/a; also used colloquially is the term chicharrero/a.[23] In modern society, the latter term is generally applied only to inhabitants of the capital, Santa Cruz. The term "chicharrero" was once a derogatory term used by the people of La Laguna when it was the capital, to refer to the poorer inhabitants and fishermen of Santa Cruz. The fishermen typically caught mackerel and other residents ate potatoes, assumed to be of low quality by the elite of La Laguna.[23] As Santa Cruz grew in commerce and status, it replaced La Laguna as capital of Tenerife in 1833 during the reign of Fernando VII. Then the inhabitants of Santa Cruz used the former insult to identify as residents of the new capital, at La Laguna's expense.[23]


The earliest known human settlement in the islands date to around 200 BC, by Berbers known as the Guanches.[24] However, the Cave of the Guanches in the municipality of Icod de los Vinos in the north of Tenerife, has provided the oldest chronologies of the Canary Islands, with dates around the sixth century BC.[25]

Regarding the technological level, the Guanches can be framed among the peoples of the Stone Age, although this terminology is rejected due to the ambiguity that it presents. The Guanche culture is characterized by an advanced cultural development, possibly related to the Berber cultural features imported from North Africa and a poor technological development, determined by the scarcity of raw materials, especially minerals that allow the extraction of metals. The main activity was grazing, although the population were also engaged in agriculture, as well as fishing and the collection of shellfish from the shore or using fishing craft.[26]

As for beliefs, the Guanche religion was polytheistic although the astral cult was widespread. Beside him there was an animistic religiosity that sacralized certain places, mainly rocks and mountains. Among the main Guanche gods could be highlighted; Achamán (god of the sky and supreme creator), Chaxiraxi (mother goddess identified later with the Virgin of Candelaria), Magec (god of the sun) and Guayota (the demon) among many other gods and ancestral spirits. Especially singular was the cult to the dead, practicing the mummification of corpses. In addition, small lithic and clay figurines of the anthropomorphic and zoomorphic type associated with rituals, interpreted as idols, have appeared on the island. Among these stands out the so-called Idol of Guatimac, which is believed to represent a genius or protective spirit.

Territorial organisation before the conquest (The Guanches)

About one hundred years before the conquest by king Juba II, the title of mencey was given to the monarch or king of the Guanches of Tenerife, who governed a menceyato or kingdom. This role was later referred to as a "captainship" by the conquerors. Tinerfe "the Great", son of the mencey Sunta, governed the island from Adeje in the south. However, upon his death, his nine children rebelled and argued bitterly about how to divide the island.

Two independent achimenceyatos were created on the island, and the island was divided into nine menceyatos. The menceyes within them formed what would be similar to municipalities today.[27] The menceyatos and their menceyes (ordered by the names of descendants of Tinerfe who ruled them) were the following:

Territorial map of Tenerife before the conquest

The achimenceyato of Punta del Hidalgo was governed by Aguahuco, a "poor noble" who was an illegitimate son of Tinerfe and Zebenzui.

Spanish conquest

Alonso Fernandez de Lugo presenting the native kings of Tenerife to Ferdinand and Isabella

Tenerife was the last island of Canaries to be conquered and the one that took the longest time to submit to the Castilian troops. Although the traditional dates of conquest of Tenerife are established between 1494 (landing of Alonso Fernández de Lugo) and 1496 (conquest of the island), it must be taken into account that the attempts to annex the island of Tenerife to the Crown of Castile date back at least to 1464.[28] For this reason, from the first attempt to conquer the island in 1464, until it was finally conquered in 1496, 32 years passed.

In 1464, Diego Garcia de Herrera, Lord of the Canary Islands, took symbolic possession of the island in the Barranco del Bufadero (Ravine of the Bufadero),[29] signing a peace treaty with the Guanche chiefs (menceyes) which allowed the mencey Anaga to build a fortified tower on Guanche land, where the Guanches and the Spanish held periodic treaty talks until the Guanches demolished it around 1472.[30]

In 1492 the governor of Gran Canaria Francisco Maldonado organized a raid that ended in disaster for the Spaniards when they were defeated by Anaga's warriors. In December 1493, the Catholic monarchs, Queen Isabella I of Castile and King Ferdinand II of Aragon, granted Alonso Fernández de Lugo the right to conquer Tenerife. Coming from Gran Canaria in April 1494, the conqueror landed on the coast of present-day Santa Cruz de Tenerife in May, and disembarked with about 2,000 men on foot and 200 on horseback.[31] After taking the fort, the army prepared to move inland, later capturing the native kings of Tenerife and presenting them to Isabella and Ferdinand.

The menceyes of Tenerife had differing responses to the conquest. They divided into the side of peace (Spanish: bando de paz) and the side of war (Spanish: bando de guerra). The first included the menceyatos of Anaga, Güímar, Abona and Adeje. The second group consisted of the people of Tegueste, Tacoronte, Taoro, Icoden and Daute. Those opposed to the conquest fought the invaders tenaciously, resisting their rule for two years. Castillian forces under the Adelantado ("military governor") de Lugo suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Guanches in the First Battle of Acentejo on 31 May 1494, but defeated them at the Second Battle of Acentejo on 25 December 1494. The Guanches were eventually overcome by superior technology and the arms of the invaders, and surrendered to the Crown of Castile in 1496.[32]

Spanish rule

Many of the natives died from new infectious diseases, such as influenza and probably smallpox, to which they lacked resistance or acquired immunity. The new colonists intermarried with the local native population. For a century after the conquest, many new colonists settled on the island, including immigrants from the diverse territories of the growing Spanish Empire, such as Flanders, Italy, and Germany.

As the population grew, it cleared Tenerife's pine forests for fuel and to make fields for agriculture for crops both for local consumption and for export. Sugar cane was introduced in the 1520s as a commodity crop on major plantations; it was a labor-intensive crop in all phases of cultivation and processing. In the following centuries, planters cultivated wine grapes, cochineal for making dyes, and plantains for use and export.[33]

Trade with the Americas

Amaro Pargo (1678-1741), corsair and merchant from Tenerife who participated in the Spanish treasure fleet (the Spanish-American trade route).

In the commerce of the Canary Islands with the Americas of the 18th century, Tenerife was the hegemonic island, since it exceeded 50% of the number of ships and 60% of the tonnage. In the islands of La Palma and Gran Canaria, the percentage was around 19% for the first and 7% for the second.[34] The volume of traffic between the Indies and the Canary Islands was unknown, but was very important and concentrated almost exclusively in Tenerife.[34]

Among the products that are exported were cochineal, rum and sugar cane, which were landed mainly in the ports of the Americas such as La Guaira, Havana, Campeche and Veracruz. Many sailors from Tenerife joined this transcontinental maritime trade, among which the corsair Amaro Rodríguez Felipe, more commonly known as Amaro Pargo, Juan Pedro Dujardín and Bernardo de Espinosa, both companions of Amaro Pargo, among others.[35]

Emigration to the Americas

Tenerife, like the other islands, has maintained a close relationship with Latin America, as both were part of the Spanish Empire. From the start of the colonization of the New World, many Spanish expeditions stopped at the island for supplies on their way to the Americas. They also recruited many tinerfeños for their crews, who formed an integral part of the conquest expeditions. Others joined ships in search of better prospects. It is also important to note the exchange in plant and animal species that made those voyages.[36]

After a century and a half of relative growth, based on the grape growing sector, numerous families emigrated, especially to Venezuela and Cuba. The Crown wanted to encourage population of underdeveloped zones in the Americas to pre-empt the occupation by foreign forces, as had happened with the English in Jamaica and the French in the Guianas and western Hispaniola (which the French renamed as Saint-Domingue). Canary Islanders, including many tinerfeños, left for the New World.

The success in cultivation of new crops of the Americas, such as cocoa in Venezuela and tobacco in Cuba, contributed to the population exodus from towns such as Buenavista del Norte, Vilaflor, or El Sauzal in the late 17th century. The village of San Carlos de Tenerife was founded in 1684 by Canary Islanders on Santo Domingo. The people from Tenerife were recruited for settlement to build up the town from encroachment by French colonists established in the western side of Hispaniola. Between 1720 and 1730, the Crown moved 176 families, including many tinerfeños, to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico. In 1726, about 25 island families migrated to the Americas to collaborate on the foundation of Montevideo. Four years later, in 1730, another group left that founded San Antonio the following year in what became Texas. Between 1777 and 1783, More islanders emigrated from Santa Cruz de Tenerife to settle in what became St. Bernard Parish, Louisiana, during the period when Spain ruled this former French territory west of the Mississippi River. Some groups went to Western or Spanish Florida.[36]

Tenerife saw the arrival of the First Fleet to Botany Bay in June 1787, which consisted of 11 ships that departed from Portsmouth, England, on 13 May 1787 to found the penal colony that became the first European settlement in Australia. The Fleet consisted of two Royal Navy vessels, three store ships and six convict transports, carrying between 1,000 and 1,500 convicts, marines, seamen, civil officers and free people (accounts differ on the numbers), and a vast quantity of stores. On 3 June 1787, the fleet anchored at Santa Cruz at Tenerife. Here, fresh water, vegetables and meat were brought on board. Commander of the fleet, Capt. Arthur Phillip and the chief officers were entertained by the local governor, while one convict tried unsuccessfully to escape. On 10 June they set sail to cross the Atlantic to Rio de Janeiro, taking advantage of favourable trade winds and ocean currents.

Emigration to the Americas (mainly Cuba and Venezuela) continued during the 19th and early 20th century, due to the lack of economic opportunity and the relative isolation of the Canary Islands. Since the late 20th century, island protectionist economic laws and a strong development in the tourism industry have strengthened the economy and attracted new migrants. Tenerife has received numerous new residents, including the "return" of many descendants of some islanders who had departed five centuries before.[36]

Military history

Admiral Nelson wounded at Tenerife

The most notable conflict was the British invasion of Tenerife in 1797.[37] On 25 July 1797, Admiral Horatio Nelson launched an attack at Santa Cruz de Tenerife, now the capital of the island. After a ferocious fight which resulted in many casualties, General Antonio Gutiérrez de Otero y Santayana organized a defense to repel the invaders. Whilst leading a landing party, Nelson was seriously wounded in his right arm by grapeshot or a musket ball, necessitating amputation of most of the arm.[38] Legend tells that he was wounded by the Spanish cannon Tiger (Spanish: Tigre) as he was trying to disembark on the Paso Alto coast.[33]

On 5 September 1797, the British attempted another attack in the Puerto Santiago region, which was repelled by the inhabitants of Santiago del Teide. Some threw rocks at the British from the heights of the cliffs of Los Gigantes.

The island was also attacked by British commanders Robert Blake, Walter Raleigh, John Hawkins, Woodes Rogers.[39]

Modern history

Between 1833 and 1927, Santa Cruz de Tenerife was the sole capital of the Canary Islands. In 1927 the government ordered that the capital be shared with Las Palmas, as it remains at present.[11][12] This change in status has encouraged development in Las Palmas.

Tourists began visiting Tenerife from Spain, the United Kingdom, and northern Europe in large numbers in the 1890s. They especially were attracted to the destinations of the northern towns of Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz de Tenerife.[40] Independent shipping business, such as the Yeoward Brothers Shipping Line, helped boost the tourist industry during this time, adding to ships that carried passengers.[41] The naturalist Alexander von Humboldt ascended the peak of Mount Teide and remarked on the beauty of the island.

Before his rise to power, Francisco Franco was posted to Tenerife in March 1936 by a Republican government wary of his influence and political leanings. However, Franco received information and in Gran Canaria agreed to collaborate in the military coup that would result in the Spanish Civil War; the Canaries fell to the Nationalists in July 1936. In the 1950s, the misery of the post-war years caused thousands of the island's inhabitants to emigrate to Cuba and other parts of Latin America.

Tenerife was the site of the deadliest accident ever in commercial aviation. Known as the "Tenerife airport disaster", in which 583 people were killed, the airliner collision took place on 27 March 1977, at Los Rodeos airport in the north of the island when two Boeing 747 airplanes collided.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the so-called Riada de Tenerife of 2002 took place on 31 March of that year. It was a phenomenon of cold drop characterized by the repeated fall of torrential rains accompanied by electrical apparatus, affecting the metropolitan area of Santa Cruz de Tenerife and extending in the NE direction towards the San Andrés area.[42] The rains caused 8 dead, 12 missing and dozens of wounded.[43] In addition to the human losses, the flood caused considerable material damage, 70,000 people without light as well as the total or partial destruction of at least 400 homes. The losses were calculated at 90 million euros.[44]

On the other hand, in November 2005, Tenerife was the Canary Island most affected by Tropical Storm Delta. Winds of 140 km/h were recorded on the coast and almost 250 km/h on the Teide, Tenerife's summit.


Palm tree canyon in inland Tenerife.

The oldest mountain ranges in Tenerife rose from the Atlantic Ocean by volcanic eruption which gave birth to the island around twelve million years ago.[45] The island as it is today was formed three million years ago by the fusion of three islands made up of the mountain ranges of Anaga, Teno and Valle de San Lorenzo,[45] due to volcanic activity from Teide. The volcano is visible from most parts of the island today, and the crater is 17 kilometres (11 miles) long at some points. Tenerife is the largest island of the Canary Islands and the Macaronesia region.[4]


Tenerife is known internationally for its warm and pleasant climate, as the "Island of Eternal Spring" (Isla de la Eterna Primavera).[46] The island, which lies at the same latitude as central Florida, enjoys a warm tropical climate with an average of 18–24 °C (64–75 °F) in the winter and 24–28 °C (75–82 °F) in the summer. It has a high annual total of days of sunshine, and low precipitation in all but the mountain areas. The moderate climate of Tenerife is controlled to a great extent by the tradewinds, whose humidity is condensed principally over the north and northeast of the island, creating cloud banks that range between 600 and 1,800 metres (2,000 and 5,900 feet) in height. The cold sea currents of the Canary Islands also have a cooling effect on the coasts and its beaches, while the topography of the landscape plays a role in climatic differences on the island with its many valleys. The moderating effect of the marine air makes extreme heat a rare occurrence and frost an impossibility at sea level. The lowest recorded temperature in downtown Santa Cruz is 8.1 °C (46.6 °F), the coldest month on record still had a relatively mild average temperature of 15.8 °C (60.4 °F).[47] Summer temperatures are highest in August, with an average high of 29 °C (84 °F) in Santa Cruz, similar to those of places as far north as Barcelona and Majorca, because of the greater maritime influence. At a higher elevation in La Laguna, the climate transitions to a Mediterranean climate with higher precipitation amounts and lower temperatures year round. The climate of Santa Cruz is very typical of the Canaries, albeit only slightly warmer than the climate of Las Palmas.

Major climatic contrasts on the island are evident, especially during the winter months when it is possible to enjoy the warm sunshine on the coast and experience snow within miles, 3,000 metres (9,843 feet) above sea level on Teide.[48] There are also major contrasts at low altitude, where the climate ranges from arid (Köppen BWh) on the southeastern side represented by Santa Cruz de Tenerife to Mediterranean (Csa/Csb) on the northwestern side in Buena Vista del Norte and La Orotava.[49]

The north and south of Tenerife similarly have different climatic characteristics because or the rain shadow effect. The windward northwestern side of the island receives 73 percent of all precipitation on the island, and the relative humidity of the air is superior and the insolation inferior. The pluviometric maximums are registered on the windward side at an average altitude of between 1,000 and 1,200 metres (3,300 and 3,900 feet), almost exclusively in the La Orotava mountain range.[48] Although climatic differences in rainfall and sunshine on the island exist, overall annual precipitation is low and the summer months from May to September are normally completely dry. Rainfall, similarly to that of Southern California, can also be extremely erratic from one year to another.[50]

Climate data for Santa Cruz de Tenerife
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 28.4
Average high °C (°F) 21.0
Daily mean °C (°F) 18.2
Average low °C (°F) 15.4
Record low °C (°F) 9.4
Average rainfall mm (inches) 31.5
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 8.0 7.2 6.9 5.5 2.9 0.9 0.2 0.8 2.7 6.1 8.8 9.4 59.4
Average relative humidity (%) 64 65 62 61 61 61 58 60 64 66 65 66 63
Mean monthly sunshine hours 178 186 221 237 282 306 337 319 253 222 178 168 2,887
Source #1: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología[51]
Source #2: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología[52] (1981–2010), Extremes (1921 – present)
Climate data for Tenerife South Airport
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 29.3
Average high °C (°F) 21.7
Daily mean °C (°F) 18.4
Average low °C (°F) 15.2
Record low °C (°F) 9.0
Average rainfall mm (inches) 16.6
Average rainy days (≥ 1.0 mm) 1.8 2.2 1.9 1.1 0.3 0.0 0.0 0.2 0.6 1.6 1.9 3.5 15.1
Average relative humidity (%) 62 64 63 65 66 68 65 67 68 67 64 66 65
Mean monthly sunshine hours 193 195 226 219 246 259 295 277 213 214 193 195 2,725
Source #1: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología[53]
Source #2: Agencia Estatal de Meteorología[54] (1981–2010), Extremes (1921 – present)
Buenavista del Norte
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: [59]


The volcanic ground of Tenerife, which is of a porous and permeable character, is generally the reason why the soil is able to maximise the absorption of water on an island of low rainfall, with condensation in forested areas and frost deposition on the summit of the island also contributory causes.[60]

Given the irregularity of precipitation and geological conditions on the island, dam construction has been avoided, so most of the water (90 percent) comes from wells and from water galleries (Horizontal tunnels bored into the volcano) of which there are thousands on the island, important systems that serve to extract its hydrological resources.[61] These tunnels are very hazardous, with pockets of volcanic gas or carbon dioxide, causing rapid death.[62]

Pollution and air quality

The Canary Islands have low levels of air pollution thanks to the lack of factories and industry and the tradewinds which naturally move away contaminated air from the islands. According to official data offered by the Health and Industry Ministry in Spain, Tenerife is one of the cleanest places in the country with an air pollution index below the national average.[63] Despite this, there are still agents which affect pollution levels in the island, the main polluting agents being the refinery at Santa Cruz, the thermal power plants at Las Caletillas and Granadilla, and road traffic, increased by the high level of tourism in the island. In addition on the island of Tenerife like on La Palma light pollution must be also controlled, to help the astrophysical observatories located in the island's summits.[64] Water is generally of a very high quality, and all the beaches of the island of Tenerife have been catalogued by the Ministry of Health and Consumption as waters suitable for bathing.[65]


Map of Tenerife

Tenerife is a rugged and volcanic island sculpted by successive eruptions throughout its history. There are four historically recorded volcanic eruptions, none of which has led to casualties. The first occurred in 1704, when the Arafo, Fasnia and Siete Fuentes volcanoes erupted simultaneously. Two years later, in 1706, the greatest eruption occurred at Trevejo. This volcano produced great quantities of lava which buried the city and port of Garachico. The last eruption of the 18th century happened in 1798 at Cañadas de Teide, in Chahorra. Finally, and most recently, in 1909 that formed the Chinyero cinder cone, in the municipality of Santiago del Teide, erupted.[66]

The island is located between 28° and 29° N and the 16° and 17° W meridian. It is situated north of the Tropic of Cancer, occupying a central position between the other Canary Islands of Gran Canaria, La Gomera and La Palma. The island is about 300 km (186 mi) from the African coast, and approximately 1,000 km (621 mi) from the Iberian Peninsula.[67] Tenerife is the largest island of the Canary Islands archipelago, with a surface area of 2,034.38 km2 (785 sq mi)[68] and has the longest coastline, amounting to 342 km (213 mi).[69]

In addition, the highest point, Mount Teide, with an elevation of 3,718 m (12,198 ft) above sea level is the highest point in all of Spain,[70] is also the third largest volcano in the world from its base in the bottom of the sea. For this reason, Tenerife is the 10th-highest island worldwide. It comprises about 200 small barren islets or large rocks including Roques de Anaga, Roque de Garachico, and Fasnia adding a further 213,835 m2 (2,301,701 sq ft) to the total area.[68]

Origins and geological formation

Tenerife formation

Tenerife is an island created volcanically, building up from the ocean floor 20–50 million years ago.[71]

According to the theory of plate tectonics, the ascent of magma originating from the Earth's mantle is produced by the effects of tectonic activity from faults or fractures that exist at the oceanic plate. These fractures lie along the structural axes of the island itself, forming themselves from the Alpine orogeny during the Tertiary Period due to the movements of the African plate.

Underwater fissural eruptions originated from the pillow lava, which are produced by the rapid cooling of the magma when it comes in contact with water, obtaining their peculiar shape. This pillow-lava accumulated, constructing the base of the island underneath the sea. As this accumulation approached the surface of the water, gases erupted from the magma due to the reduction of the surrounding pressure. The volcanic eruptions became more violent and had a more explosive character, and resulted in the forming of peculiar geological fragments.[71]

After long-term accumulation of these fragments, the birth of the island occurred at the end of the Miocene Epoch. The zones on Tenerife known as Macizo de Teno, Macizo de Anaga and Macizo de Adeje were formed seven million years ago; these formations are called the Ancient Basaltic Series or Series I. These zones were actually three separate islands lying in what is now the extreme west, east, and south of Tenerife.[72]

A second volcanic cycle called the Post-Miocene Formations or Latest Series II, III, IV began three million years ago. This was a much more intense volcanic cycle, which united the Macizo de Teno, Macizo de Anaga and Macizo de Adeje into one island. This new structure, called the Pre-Cañadas Structure (Edificio pre-Cañadas), would be the foundation for what is called the Cañadas Structure I. The Cañadas Structure I experienced various collapses and emitted explosive material that produced the area known as Bandas del sur (in the present-day south-southeast of Tenerife).[71]

Subsequently, upon the ruins of Cañadas Structure I emerged Cañadas Structure II, which was 2,500 metres (8,202 feet) above sea level and emerged with intense explosive activity. About one million years ago, the Dorsal Range (Cordillera Dorsal) emerged by means of fissural volcanic activity occurring amidst the remains of the older Ancient Basaltic Series (Series I). This Dorsal Range emerged as the highest and the longest volcanic structure in the Canary Islands; it was 1,600 metres (5,249 feet) high and 25 kilometres (16 miles) long.[71]

About 800,000 years ago, two gravitational landslides occurred, giving rise to the present-day valleys of La Orotava and Güímar.[71] Finally, around 200,000 years ago, eruptions started that raised the Pico Viejo-Teide area in the centre of the island, over the Las Cañadas caldera.[71]

Orography and landscape

The uneven and steep orography of the island and its variety of climates has resulted in a diversity of landscapes and geographical and geological formations, from the Teide National Park with its extensive pine forests, juxtaposed against the volcanic landscape at the summit of Teide and Malpaís de Güímar, to the Acantilados de Los Gigantes (Cliffs of the Giants) with its vertical precipices. Semidesert areas exist in the south with drought-resistant plants. Other areas range from those protected and enclosed in mountains such as Montaña Roja and Montaña Pelada, the valleys and forests with subtropical vegetation and climate, to those with deep gorges and precipices such as at Anaga and Teno.

Central heights

The principal structures in Tenerife, make the central highlands, with the Teide–Pico Viejo complex and the Las Cañadas areas as most prominent. It comprises a semi-caldera of about 130 km2 (50 sq mi) in area, originated by several geological processes explained under the Origin and formation section. The area is partially occupied by the Teide-Pico Viejo strato-volcano and completed by the materials emitted in the different eruptions that took place. A known formation called Los Azulejos, composed by green-tinted rocks were created by hydrothermal processes.[33][71][48]

South of La Caldera is Guajara Mountain, which has an elevation of 2,718 metres (8,917 feet), rising above Teide National Park. At the bottom, is an endorheic basin flanked with very fine sedimentary material which has been deposited from its volcanic processes, and is known as Llano de Ucanca.[33][71][48]

The peak of Teide, at 3,718 metres (12,198 feet) above sea level and more than 7,500 metres (24,606 feet) above the ocean floor, is the highest point of the island, Spanish territory and in the Atlantic Ocean. The volcano is the third largest on the planet, and its central location,[clarification needed] substantial size, looming silhouette in the distance and its snowy landscape in winter give it a unique nature.[73] The original settlers considered Teide a god and Teide was a place of worship.

In 1954, the whole area around it was declared a national park, with further expansion later on. In addition, in June 2007 it was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site.[74] To the west lies the volcano Pico Viejo (Old Peak). On one side of it, is the volcano Chahorra o Narices del Teide, where the last eruption occurred in the vicinity of Mount Teide in 1798.

The Teide is one of the 16 Decade Volcanoes identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior (IAVCEI) as being worthy of particular study in light of their history of large, destructive eruptions and proximity to populated areas.


The uneven contours of the Anaga massif

The Anaga massif (Macizo de Anaga), at the northeastern end of the island, has an irregular and rugged topographical profile where, despite its generally modest elevations, the Cruz de Taborno reaches a height of 1,024 metres (3,360 feet). Due to the age of its material (5.7 million years), its deep erosive processes, and the dense network of dikes piercing the massif, its surface exposes numerous outcroppings of both phonolitic and trachytic origin. A large number of steep-walled gorges are present, penetrating deeply into the terrain. Vertical cuts dominate the Anagan coast, with infrequent beaches of rocks or black sand between them; the few that exist generally coincide with the mouths of gorges.[33][71][48]

Teno massif—Cliffs of the Giants area

The Teno massif (Macizo de Teno) is located on the northwestern edge of the island. Like Anaga, it includes an area of outcroppings and deep gorges formed by erosion. However, the materials here are older (about 7.4 million years old). Mount Gala represents its highest elevation at 1,342 metres (4,403 feet). The most unusual landscape of this massif is found on its southern coast, where the Acantilados de Los Gigantes ("Cliffs of the Giants") present vertical walls reaching heights of 500 metres (1,600 feet) in some places.[33][71][48]

The Adeje massif (Macizo de Adeje) is situated on the southern tip of the island. Its main landmark is the Roque del Conde ("Count's Rock"), with an elevation of 1,001 metres (3,284 feet). This massif is not as impressive as the others due to its diminished initial structure, since in addition to with the site's greater geologic age it has experienced severe erosion of its material, thereby losing its original appearance and extent.[33][71][48]


The Dorsal mountain ridge or Dorsal of Pedro Gil covers the area from the start at Mount La Esperanza, at a height of about 750 m (2,461 ft), to the center of the island, near the Caldera de Las Cañadas, with Izaña, as its highest point at 2,390 m (7,841 ft) (MSLP). These mountains have been created due to basaltic fissural volcanism through one of the axis that gave birth to the vulcanism of this area.[33][71][48]

The Abeque Dorsal was formed by a chain of volcanoes that join the Teno with the central insular peak of Teide-Pico Viejo starting from another of the three axis of Tenerife's geological structures. On this dorsal we find the historic volcano of Chinyero whose last eruption happened in 1909.[33][71][48]

The South Dorsal or Dorsal of Adeje is part of the last of the structural axis. The remains of this massive rock show the primordial land, also showing the alignment of small volcanic cones and rocks around this are in Tenerife's South.[33][71][48]

Valleys and ravines

Valleys are another of the island's features. The most important are Valle de La Orotava and Valle de Güímar, both formed by the mass sliding of great quantities of material towards the sea, creating a depression of the land. Other valleys tend to be between hills formed by deposits of sediments from nearby slopes, or simply wide ravines which in their evolution have become typical valleys.[33][71][48]

Tenerife has a large number of ravines, which are a characteristic element of the landscape, caused by erosion from surface runoff over a long period. Notable ravines include Ruiz, Fasnia and Güímar, Infierno, and Erques, all of which have been designated protected natural areas by Canarian institutions.[33][71][48]


The coasts of Tenerife are typically rugged and steep, particularly on the north of the island. However, the island has 67.14 kilometres (41.72 miles) of beaches, such as the one at El Médano, surpassed only in this respect by the island of Fuerteventura.[75] There are many black sand pebble beaches on the northern coast, while on the south and south-west coast of the island, the beaches have typically much finer and clearer sand with lighter tones.[33][71][48]

Volcanic tubes

Lava tubes, or volcanic pipes are volcanic caves, usually in the form of tunnels formed within lava flows more or less fluid reogenética duration of the activity. Among the many existing volcanic tubes on the island stands out the Cueva del Viento, located in the northern town of Icod de los Vinos, which is the largest volcanic tunnel in the European Union and one of the largest in the world, although for a long time was even considered the largest in the world.

Flora and fauna

The island of Tenerife has a remarkable ecological diversity in spite of its small surface area, which is a consequence of the special environmental conditions on the island, where its distinct orography modifies the general climatic conditions at a local level, producing a significant variety of microclimates. This diversity of natural microclimates and, therefore, habitats, means that a rich and diverse flora (1400 species of plants) exists on the island, with well over a hundred entirely endemic to Tenerife.[76] Endemic species include Viper's bugloss, Teide white broom, Teide violet etc. The fauna of the island has many endemic invertebrates and unique reptile, bird and mammal species. The fauna of Tenerife includes some 400 species of fish, 56 birds, five reptiles, two amphibians, 13 land mammals and several thousand invertebrates, along with several species of sea turtles, whales and dolphins.

The vegetation of Tenerife can be divided into six major zones that are directly related to altitude and the direction in which they face.

  • Lower xerophytic zone: 0–700 metres (0–2,297 feet). Xerophytic shrubs that are well adapted to long dry spells, intense sunshine and strong winds. Many endemic species: spurges, cactus spurge (Euphorbia canariensis), wax plants (Ceropegia spp.), etc.
  • Thermophile forest: 200–600 metres (660–1,970 feet). Transition zone with moderate temperatures and rainfall, but the area has been deteriorated by human activity. Many endemic species: juniper (Juniperus cedrus), dragon trees (Dracaena draco), palm trees (Phoenix canariensis), etc.
  • Laurel forest: 500–1,000 metres (1,600–3,300 feet). Dense forest of large trees, descendants of tertiary age flora, situated in a zone of frequent rainfall and mists. A wide variety of species with abundant undergrowth of bushes, herbaceous plants, and ferns. Laurels, holly (Ilex canariensis), ebony (Persea indica), mahogany (Apollonias barbujana), etc.
  • Wax myrtle: 1,000–1,500 metres (3,300–4,900 feet). A dryer vegetation, poorer in species. It replaces the degraded laurel forest. Of great forestry importance. Wax myrtles (Myrica faya), tree heath (Erica arborea), holly, etc.
  • Pine forest: 800–2,000 metres (2,600–6,600 feet). Open pine forest, with thin and unvaried undergrowth. Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis), broom (Genista canariensis), rock rose (Cistus spp.), etc.
  • High mountain: over 2,000 metres (6,600 feet). Dry climate, intense solar radiation and extreme temperatures. Flora well adapted to the conditions.[76]

Prehistoric fauna

Before the arrival of the aborigines, the Canary Islands and especially the island of Tenerife, were inhabited by endemic animals now mostly extinct. These specimens reached larger than usual sizes, because of a phenomenon called island gigantism.

Among these species, the best known in Tenerife were:

  • The giant lizard (Gallotia goliath) inhabited the island of Tenerife from the Holocene until the fifteenth century AD. It was a specimen reaching a length of 120 to 125 centimeters (47.2 to 49.2 inches).[77]
  • The giant rat (Canariomys bravoi): Fossils mostly dating from the Pliocene and Pleistocene. Its skull reached up to 7 centimeters long, so it could have reached the size of a rabbit, which would make it quite large compared to European species of rats. Tenerife Giant Rat fossils usually occur in caves and volcanic tubes associated with Gallotia goliath.[78]
  • The giant tortoise (Geochelone burchardi): A large tortoise, similar to those currently found in some oceanic islands like the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean and the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean. Remains found date from the Miocene; this tortoise may have inhabited the island until the Upper Pleistocene, apparently becoming extinct because of volcanic events long before the arrival of humans. Its shell measured approximately 65 to 94 centimetres (26 to 37 inches).[79]

Protected natural areas

Map showing the classification of protected areas in Tenerife

Nearly half of the island territory (48.6 percent),[80] is under protection from the Red Canaria de Espacios Naturales Protegidos (Canary Islands Network for Protected Natural Areas). Of the 146 protected sites under control of network in the Canary Islands archipelago,[81] a total of 43 are located in Tenerife, the most protected island in the group.[82] The network has criteria which places areas under its observation under eight different categories of protection, all of them are represented in Tenerife. Aside from Parque Nacional del Teide, it counts the Parque Natural de Canarias (Crown Forest), two rural parks (Anaga and Teno), four integral natural reserves, six special natural reserves, a total of fourteen natural monuments, nine protected landscapes and up to six sites of scientific interest. Also located on the island Macizo de Anaga since 2015 is Biosphere Reserve[17] and is the place that has the largest number of endemic species in Europe.[17]


Law and order

Building of the Presidency of the Canaries Autonomous Government in Santa Cruz

Tenerife island's government resides with the Cabildo Insular de Tenerife[83] located at the Plaza de España at the island's capital city (Palacio Insular de Tenerife). The political Canary organization does not have a provincial government body but instead each island has its own government at their own Cabildo. Since its creation in March 1913 it has a series of capabilities and duties, stated in the Canary Autonomy Statutes (Spanish: Estatuto de Autonomía de Canarias) and regulated by Law 14/1990, of 26 July 1990, of the Régimen Jurídico de las Administraciones Públicas de Canarias.[84]

The Cabildo is composed of the following administrative offices; Presidency, Legislative Body, Government Council, Informative Commissions, Spokesman's office.


Tenerife is an autonomous territory of Spain. The island has a tiered-government system and a special status within the European Union in which it holds lower tax rates compared to other regions. Santa Cruz is the seat of half of the regional government departments and parliament and it is there that the governor is elected by the Canarian people. Afterwards, they are appointed by Madrid. There are fifteen members of parliament who work together in passing legislation, organising budgets and improving the economy.[85]


The island, itself part of a Spanish province named Santa Cruz de Tenerife, is divided administratively into 31 municipalities.

Only three municipalities are landlocked: Tegueste, El Tanque and Vilaflor. Vilaflor is the municipality with the highest altitude in the Canaries (its capital is 1,400 metres (4,600 ft) high).

The largest municipality with an area of 207.31 kilometres (128.82 miles) is La Orotava, which covers much of the Teide National Park. The smallest town on the island and of the archipelago is Puerto de la Cruz, with an area of just 8.73 square kilometres (3 square miles).[68]

It is also common to find internal division, in that some cities make up a metropolitan area within a municipality, notably the cities of Santa Cruz and La Laguna.

Below is an alphabetical list of all the municipalities on the island:

Map of Municipalities in the island of Tenerife
Name Area
Adeje 105.95 20,255 42,886 47,280
Arafo 33.92 4,995 5,509 5,562
Arico 178.76 5,824 7,688 7,831
Arona 81.79 40,826 75,484 79,448
Buenavista del Norte 67.42 4,972 4,827 4,755
Candelaria 49.18 14,247 25,928 27,641
Fasnia 45.11 2,407 2,961 2,768
Garachico 29.28 5,307 5,035 4,819
Granadilla de Abona 162.40 21,135 41,209 48,374
La Guancha 23.77 5,193 5,422 5,428
Guía de Isora 143.40 14,982 19,734 20,991
Güímar 102.90 15,271 18,244 19,739
Icod de los Vinos 95.90 21,748 23,314 22,749
La Matanza de Acentejo 14.11 7,053 8,677 8,956
La Orotava 207.31 37,738 41,552 41,833
Puerto de la Cruz 8.73 26,441 31,349 30,483
Los Realejos 57.08 33,438 37,517 36,405
El Rosario 39.43 13,462 17,247 17,352
San Cristóbal de La Laguna 102.60 128,822 152,025 155,549
San Juan de la Rambla 20.67 4,782 5,042 4,799
San Miguel de Abona 42.04 8,398 16,465 19,672
Santa Cruz de Tenerife 150.56 188,477 204,476 204,856
Santa Úrsula 22.59 10,803 14,079 14,445
Santiago del Teide 52.21 9,303 10,689 10,755
El Sauzal 18.31 7,689 8,988 8,947
Los Silos 24.23 5,150 4,909 4,757
Tacoronte 30.09 20,295 23,623 23,961
El Tanque 23.65 2,966 2,814 2,670
Tegueste 26.41 9,417 10,908 11,203
La Victoria de Acentejo 18.36 7,920 8,947 9,040
Vilaflor de Chasna 56.26 1,718 1,785 1,645
Totals 2,034.42 701,034 879,303 904,713


The counties of Tenerife have no official recognition, but there is a consensus among geographers about them:[89]

  • Abona
  • Acentejo
  • Anaga
  • Valle de Güímar
  • Icod
  • Isora
  • Valle de La Orotava
  • Teno

Flags and heraldry

Flag of Tenerife
Coat-of-arms of Tenerife

The Flag of Tenerife was originally adopted in 1845 by the navy at its base in the Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Later, and at present, this flag represents all the island of Tenerife. It was approved by the Cabildo Insular de Tenerife and the Order of the Government of the Canary Islands on 9 May 1989 and published on 22 May in the government report of the Canary Islands and made official.[90]

The coat-of-arms of Tenerife was granted by royal decree on 23 March 1510 by Ferdinand the Catholic at Madrid in the name of Joan I, Queen of Castile. The coat-of-arms has a field of gold, with an image of Saint Michael (the island was conquered on the saint's feast day) above a mountain depicted in brownish, natural colors. Flames erupt from the mountain, symbolizing El Teide. Below this mountain is depicted the island itself in vert on top of blue and silver waves. To the right there is a castle in gules, and to the left, a lion rampant in gules. The shield that the Cabildo Insular, or Island Government, uses is slightly different from that used by the city government of La Laguna, which utilizes a motto in the arms' border and also includes some palm branches.[91]

Natural symbols

The official natural symbols associated with Tenerife are the bird blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea) and the Canary Islands dragon tree (Dracaena draco) tree.[92]


Locals at the Semana Santa (Easter) in Los Realejos

According to INE data of 1 January 2018, Tenerife has the largest population of the seven Canary Islands and the most populated island of Spain with 904,713 registered inhabitants,[2] of whom about 25 percent (220,902) live in the capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and nearly 50 percent (424,200) in the metropolitan area of Santa Cruz–La Laguna.[93] Santa Cruz de Tenerife and the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna are physically one urban area, so that together they have a population of over 382,331 inhabitants.[94][95]

After the city of Santa Cruz the major towns and municipalities are San Cristóbal de La Laguna (144,347), Arona (72,328), La Orotava (40,644), Adeje (38,245), Los Realejos (37,224), Granadilla de Abona (36,224), and Puerto de la Cruz (31,131). All other municipalities have fewer than 30,000 inhabitants, the smallest municipality being Vilaflor with a population of 1,900. In addition to the registered population, there are numerous non-registered residents, primarily tourists.

Demographic evolution of Tenerife

Recently Tenerife has experienced population growth significantly higher than the national average. In 1990, there were 663,306 registered inhabitants, which increased to 709,365 in 2000, an increase of 46,059 or an annual growth of 0.69 percent. However, between 2000 and 2007, the population rose by 155,705 to 865,070, an annual increase of 3.14 percent.[96]

These results reflect the general trend in Spain where since 2000 immigration has reversed the general slow down in population growth, following the collapse in the birth rate from 1976. However, since 2001 the overall growth rate in Spain has around 1.7 percent per year, compared with 3.14 percent on Tenerife, one of the largest increases in the country.[97]



Tenerife is the economic capital of the Canary Islands.[7][8][98] At present, Tenerife is the island with the highest GDP in the Canary Islands.[99] Even though Tenerife's economy is highly specialized in the service sector, which makes 78 percent of its total production capacity, the importance of the rest of the economic sectors is key to its production development. In this sense, the primary sector, which only represents 1.98 percent of the total product, groups activities that are important to the sustainable development of the island's economy. The energy sector which contributes 2.85 percent has a primary role in the development of renewable energy sources. The industrial sector which shares in 5.80 percent is a growing activity in the island, vis-a-vis the new possibilities created by technological advances. Finally, the construction sector with 11.29 percent of the total production has a strategic priority, because it is a sector with relative stability which permits multiple possibilities of development and employment opportunities.[100]


Puerto de la Cruz, in the North, during winter, featuring background snowy mountains

Tourism is the most prominent industry in the Canaries, which are one of the major tourist destinations in the world.

In 2014, 11,473,600 tourists (excluding those from other parts of Spain) came to the Canary Islands. Tenerife had 4,171,384 arrivals that year, excluding the numbers for Spanish tourists which make up an additional 30 percent of total arrivals. According to last year's Canarian Statistics Centre's (ISTAC) Report on Tourism the greatest number of tourists from any one country come from the United Kingdom, with more than 3,980,000 tourists in 2014. In second place comes Germany followed by Sweden, Norway, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Finland, Switzerland, Poland, Russia and Austria.

Tourism is more prevalent in the south of the island, which is hotter and drier and has many well developed resorts such as Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos. More recently coastal development has spread northwards from Playa de las Americas and now encompasses the former small enclave of La Caleta (a favoured place for naturist tourists). After the Moratoria act passed by the Canarian Parliament in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, no more hotels should be built on the island unless they are classified as 5 star-quality and comprise different services such as golf courses or convention facilities. This act was passed with the goal of improving the standard of tourism service and promoting environmentally conscious development.

Evening sunset at the beach Playa De Las Americas, Tenerife

The area known as Costa Adeje (Las Américas-Callao Salvaje) has many facilities and leisure opportunities besides sea and sand, such as shopping centres, golf courses, restaurants, water parks (the most well-known being Siam Park), animal parks, and a theatre suitable for musicals or a convention centre.[citation needed]

In the more lush and green north of the island the main development for tourism has been in the town of Puerto de la Cruz. The town itself has kept some of its old-harbour town charm mixed with northern European influences. Still, the tourist boom in the 1960s changed the outlook of the town, making it cosy and cosmopolitan at the same time, and a favourite for the more mature traveller (notably the German and Spanish tourist). Puerto de la Cruz is also home to the controversial Seaworld-owned zoo, Loro Parque, which won the Trip Advisers travellers choice award[101], but which has also been accused of mistreatment of the animals in its captivity, including orcas[102] and is currently boycotted by major travel agents including TUI Group (Thomson) and Thomas Cook.[103]

In the 19th and most of the 20th century large numbers of foreign tourists came, especially British, showing interest in the agriculture of the islands. With the world wars, this sector weakened, but the start of the second half of the century brought new forms of tourism. Due to its warm climate, the first emphasis was on Puerto de la Cruz, and for all the attractions that the Valle de la Orotava offered, and following the promotion sun and beaches, around 1980 the tourist boom was born in south Tenerife. The emphasis was on cities like Arona or Adeje, shifting to tourist centres like Los Cristianos or Playa de Las Americas, which now house 65 percent of the hotels on the island. Tenerife receives more than 5 million tourists every year; of the Сanary islands Tenerife is the most popular. However, this data also reflects the large quality of resources that tourism consumes (space, energy, water etc.)[33][104]

Currently, the municipality of Adeje in the south of the island has the highest concentration of 5 star hotels in Europe[105] and also has what is considered the best luxury hotel in Spain according to World Travel Awards.[106]

Agriculture and fishing

The Botanic Gardens in Puerto de la Cruz

Since tourism dominates the Tenerifian economy, the service sector is the largest. Industry and commerce contribute 40 percent of the non-tourist economy.[107] The primary sector has lost its traditional importance on the island to the industrial and service sectors. Agriculture contributes less than 10 percent of the island's GDP, but its contribution is vital, as it also generates indirect benefits, by maintaining the rural appearance, and supporting Tenerifian cultural values.

Agriculture is centred on the northern slopes, and is also determined by the altitude as well as orientation: in the coastal zone, tomatoes and bananas are cultivated, usually in plastic enclosures, these high yield products are for export to mainland Spain and the rest of Europe; in the drier intermediate zone, potatoes, tobacco and maize are grown, whilst in the south, onions are important.[33]

View of fields around Anaga

Bananas are a particularly important crop, as Tenerife grows more bananas than the other Canary Islands, with a current annual production of about 150,000 tons, down from the peak production of 200,000 tons in 1986. More than 90 percent of the total is destined for the international market, and banana growing occupies about 4200 hectares.[108] After the banana the most important crops are, in order of importance, tomatoes, grapes, potatoes and flowers. Fishing is also a major contributor to the Tenerifian economy, as the Canaries are Spain's second most important fishing grounds.


As of 2009, Tenerife had 910MW of electrical generation capacity, which is mostly powered from petroleum-derived fuels. The island had 37MW of wind turbines and 79MW of solar panels.[109]

Industry and commerce

Commerce in Tenerife plays a significant role in the economy which is enhanced by tourism, representing almost 20 percent of the GDP, with the commercial center Santa Cruz de Tenerife generating most of the earnings. Although there are a diversity of industrial estates that exist on the island, the most important industrial activity is petroleum, representing 10 percent of the island's GDP, again largely due to the capital Santa Cruz de Tenerife with its refinery. It provides petroliferous products not only to the Canaries archipelago but is also an active in the markets of the Iberian Peninsula, Africa and South America.

Historical heritage


Castle of San Andrés, declared of National Tourist Interest Center

There are many monuments on the island, especially from the time after the conquest, we can highlight the Cathedral of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, the Church of the Conception of La Laguna and the Church of the Conception in the capital. The Basílica de Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria can be found on the island (Patron of Canary Islands). Also noteworthy on the island are the defensive castles located in the village of San Andrés, as well as many others throughout the island.

Among other impressive structures is the Auditorio de Tenerife, one of the most modern in Spain, which can be found at the entry port to the capital (in the southern part of Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife). Another prominent structure is the Torres de Santa Cruz, a skyscraper 120 metres (390 feet) high (the highest residential building in Spain and one of the tallest skyscrapers in the Canary Islands).[110]

Archeological sites

The island also has several archaeological sites of Guanche time (prior to the conquest), which generally are cave paintings that are scattered throughout the island, but most are found in the south of the island.

Two of the most important archaeological sites on the island are the Cave of the Guanches, where the oldest remains in the archipelago have been found,[111] dating to the 6th century BC,[112] and the Caves of Don Gaspar, where the finding of plant debris in the form of carbonized seeds indicates that the Guanches practiced agriculture on the island.[111] Both deposits are in the town of Icod de los Vinos.

Other important sites of archaeological site of Los Cambados and the archaeological site of El Barranco del Rey both in Arona.[113] One could also highlight the Cueva de Achbinico (first shrine Marian of the Canary Islands, Guanche vintage-Spanish). In addition there are some buildings called Güímar Pyramids, whose origin is uncertain.

There are also traces that reveal the Punic presence on the island, as in the wake commonly called "Stone of the Guanches" in the town of Taganana. This archaeological site consists of a structure formed by a stone block, large, outdoor, featuring rock carvings on its surface. Among these is the presence of a representation of the Carthaginian goddess Tanit,[114] represented by a bottle-shaped symbol surrounded by cruciform motifs. It is thought that the monument was originally an altar of sacrifice linked to those found in the Semitic[114] field and then reused for Aboriginal ritual of mummification.[114]

Culture and arts


In the 16th and 17th centuries, Antonio de Viana, a native of La Laguna, composed the epic poem Antigüedades de las Islas Afortunadas (Antiquities of the Fortunate Isles), a work of value to anthropologists, since it sheds light on Canarian life of the time.[115] The Enlightenment reached Tenerife, and literary and artistic figures of this era include José Viera y Clavijo, Tomás de Iriarte y Oropesa, Ángel Guimerá y Jorge, Mercedes Pinto and Domingo Pérez Minik, amongst others.


During the course of the 16th century, several painters flourished in La Laguna, as well as in other places on the island, including Garachico, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, La Orotava and Puerto de la Cruz. Cristóbal Hernández de Quintana and Gaspar de Quevedo, considered the best Canarian painters of the 17th century, were natives of La Orotava, and their art can be found in churches on Tenerife.[116]

The work of Luis de la Cruz y Ríos can be found in the church of Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia, in Puerto de la Cruz. Born in 1775, he became court painter to Ferdinand VII of Spain and was also a miniaturist, and achieved a favorable position in the royal court. He was known there by the nickname of "El Canario."[117]

The landscape painter Valentín Sanz (born 1849) was a native of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes de Santa Cruz displays many of his works. This museum also contains the works of Juan Rodríguez Botas (1880–1917), considered the first Canarian impressionist.[118]

Frescoes by the expressionist Mariano de Cossío can be found in the church of Santo Domingo, in La Laguna. The watercolorist Francisco Bonnín Guerín (born 1874) was a native of Santa Cruz, and founded a school to encourage the arts. Óscar Domínguez was born in La Laguna in 1906 and is famed for his versatility. He belonged to the surrealist school, and invented the technique known as decalcomania.[119]


The arrival from Seville of Martín de Andújar Cantos, an architect and sculptor brought new sculpting techniques of the Seville school, which were passed down to his students, including Blas García Ravelo, a native of Garachico. He had been trained by the master sculptor Juan Martínez Montañés.[120]

Other notable sculptors from the 17th and 18th centuries include Sebastián Fernández Méndez, Lázaro González de Ocampo, José Rodríguez de la Oliva, and most importantly, Fernando Estévez, a native of La Orotava and a student of Luján Pérez. Estévez contributed an extensive collection of religious images and woodcarvings, found in numerous churches of Tenerife, such as the Principal Parish of Saint James the Great (Parroquia Matriz del Apóstol Santiago), in Los Realejos; in the Cathedral of La Laguna; the Iglesia de la Concepción in La Laguna; the basilica of Candelaria, and various churches in La Orotava.


Canarian timple

An important musician from Tenerife is Teobaldo Power y Lugo Viña, a native of Santa Cruz and a pianist and composer, and author of the Cantos Canarios.[121] The Hymn of the Canary Islands takes its melody from the Arrorró, or Lullaby, from Power y Lugo Viña's Cantos Canarios.[122]

Folkloric music has also flourished on the island, and, as in the rest of the islands, is characterized by the use of the Canarian Timple, the guitar, bandurria, laúd, and various percussion instruments. Local folkloric groups such as Los Sabandeños work to save Tenerife's musical forms in the face of increasing cultural pressure from the mainland.[123]

Tenerife is the home to the types of songs called the isa, folía, tajaraste, and malagueña, which are a cross of ancient Guanche songs and those of Andalusia and Latin America.


Architecture in Santa Cruz (Plaza de España)
Auditorio de Tenerife, icon of architecture in Canary Islands[124]

Tenerife is characterized by an architecture whose best representatives are the local manor houses and also the most humble and common dwellings. This style, while influenced by those of Andalusia and Portugal, nevertheless had a very particular and native character.[48]

Of the manor houses, the best examples can be found in La Orotava and in La Laguna, characterized by their balconies and by the existence of interior patios and the widespread use of the wood known as pino tea ("pitch pine"). These houses are characterized by simple façades and wooden lattices with little ornamentation.[48] There are sash windows and it is customary for the chairs inside the house to rest back-to-back to the windows. The interior patios function like real gardens that serve to give extra light to the rooms, which are connected via the patio by galleries frequently crowned by wood and stone.

Gadgets like stills, water pumps, benches and counters, are elements that frequently form part of these patios.[48]

Traditional houses generally have two storeys, with rough walls of variegated colours. Sometimes the continuity of these walls is interrupted by the presence of stone blocks that are used for ornamental purposes.[48]

The government buildings and religious structures were built according to the changing styles of each century. The urban nuclei of La Orotava and La Laguna have been declared national historical-artistic monuments.[125]

In recent years, various governments have spearheaded the concept of developing architectural projects, sometimes ostentatious ones, designed by renowned architects–for example, the remodeling of the Plaza de España in Santa Cruz de Tenerife by the Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. Other examples include the Playa de Las Teresitas project by the Frenchman Dominique Perrault; the center known as Magma Arte & Congresos; the Torres de Santa Cruz; and the Auditorio de Tenerife ("Auditorium of Tenerife"). The latter, by the Spaniard Santiago Calatrava, lies to the east of the Parque Marítimo ("Maritime Park"), in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, and is characterized by its sail-like structure, which evokes a boat, and has become a symbol for the city and island,[126] which makes Santa Cruz de Tenerife one of the Spanish cities with the most futuristic buildings.


Traditional costume

Distinctive representatives of craftsmanship on the island are Tenerife Lace (calado canario), which is drawn work embroidery, and the intricate doilies known as rosetas, or rosette embroidery, particularly from Vilaflor. The lace, often made for table linen, is produced by the intricate and slow embroidering of a stretched piece of cloth, which is rigidly attached to a wooden frame and is finished with illustrations or patterns using threads that are crossed over and wound around the fijadores, or pins stuck in a small support made of cloth.[127] These decorated, small pieces are afterwards joined, to produce distinct designs and pieces of cloth.[128]

Another Tenerife-based industry is cabinetwork. The north of the island produced various master craftsman who created distinctive balconies, celosias, doors, and windows, as well as furniture consisting of pieces made in fine wood. Basketmaking using palm-leaves was also an important industry. Other materials are chestnut tree branches stripped of their leaves and banana tree fibre (known locally as la badana).[129]

Pottery has a long history harking back to the production of ceramics by the Guanches. The Guanches were unfamiliar with the potter's wheel, and used hand-worked clay, which gave their pottery a distinctive look. Pottery was used to produce domestic objects such as pots and grills, or ornamental pieces such as bead collars or the objects known as pintaderas, which were pieces of pottery used to decorate other vessels.[33]

Traditional celebrations

Annual performance to honour "Our Lady of Candelaria" at Socorro Beach, Güímar

Carnival of Santa Cruz

Perhaps the most important festival of Tenerife, popular both on a national and international level, is the Carnival of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which has been declared a Festival of International Tourist Interest (Fiesta de Interés Turístico Internacional).[130] The carnival is celebrated in many locations in the north and south of the island, but is largest in scope in the city of Santa Cruz.[131] Contests are celebrated, and the carnival includes bands of street musicians (murgas), groups of minstrels (rondallas de Tenerife), masquerades (comparsas), and various associations (agrupaciones). Once the Queen of the festival is elected, the first part of the carnival ends, and thereafter begins the actual street carnival, in which large numbers of people gather in the centre of Santa Cruz, with the carnival lasting ten days.[132]

Pilgrimages (Romerías)

The most traditional and widespread religious festivals on the islands are the pilgrimages or romerías.[133] These events, which incorporate Christian and non-Christian elements, are celebrated by various means: with wagons and floats, plowing teams and livestock, in honor of the patron saint of a particular place. The processions are accompanied by local dances, local dishes, folkloric activities, local arts and crafts, local sports, and the wearing of traditional dress of Tenerife (trajes de mago).

The origins of these events can be attributed to the parties and celebrations held by the richest classes of the island, who would gather to venerate their patron saints, to which they attributed good harvests, fertile lands, plentiful rainfall, the curing of sicknesses and ending of epidemics, etc. They would thus give homage to these saints by consuming and sharing the fruits of their harvest, which included the locally cultivated wines. These have developed into processions to mark festivals dedicated to Saint Mark in Tegueste, where the wagons are decorated with the fruits of the earth (seeds, cereals, flowers, etc.); to Saint Isidore the Laborer in Los Realejos; to Saint Isidore the Laborer and Maria Torribia (Saint Mary of the Head) in La Orotava; the Romería Regional de San Benito Abad in La Laguna; Virgin of Candelaria in Candelaria; Saint Roch in Garachico; Saint Augustine in Arafo; and the Romería del Socorro in Güímar.

Holiday of the Virgin of Candelaria

The Virgin of Candelaria is the patron of the Canary Islands; a feast is held in her honor two times a year, in February and August. The Pilgrimage-Offering to the Virgin of Candelaria is celebrated every 14 August in this event is a tradition that representations of all municipalities of the island and also of all the Canary archipelago come to make offerings to their patron. Another significant act of the feast of the Virgin of Candelaria is called "Walk to Candelaria" held on the night of 14 to 15 August in which the faithful make pilgrimage on foot from various parts of the island, even coming from other islands to arrive at Villa Mariana de Candelaria.

On 2 February we celebrate the feast of the Candelaria. Also on this day come to town many members of the Virgin.

Holiday of the Cristo de La Laguna

It is celebrated every 14 September in honor of a much venerated image of Christ in the Archipelago, the Cristo de La Laguna, is held in the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna.

Corpus Christi

Soil Tapestry in the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (Town Square) in La Orotava

The religious festival of Corpus Christi is particularly important, and is traditionally celebrated with floral carpets laid in the streets. Particularly noteworthy are the celebrations in La Orotava where a very large carpet, or tapestry, of different coloured volcanic soils, covers the Plaza del Ayuntamiento (town square). These soils are taken from the Parque Nacional del Teide, and after the celebration, are returned, to preserve the National Park. The celebration of Corpus Christi in Orotava has been declared of Important Cultural Interest among the official Traditional Activities of the Island.[134]


Among the numerous other celebrations that define Tenerifian culture, Easter remains the most important. This is celebrated across the island, but is particularly notable in the municipalities of La Laguna, La Orotava and Los Realejos, where elaborate processions take place on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday, or "Resurrection Sunday". Holy Week in the city of San Cristobal de la Laguna is the largest of the Canary Islands.[135]


As with the rest of Spain, Tenerife is largely Roman Catholic.[136] However, the practice of other religions and denominations has increasingly expanded on the island due to tourism and immigration, as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Evangelicalism, Judaism and Afro-American religion.[137] Minority religions are stationed in the island: Chinese Religions,[138] Bahá'í[138] and the neopaganism native form, the Church of the Guanche People,[138] among others.

Basilica of Candelaria, sanctuary of the Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of the Canary Islands

An important Roman Catholic festival is the celebration of the feast day associated with the Virgin of Candelaria, patron saint of the Canary Islands, who represents the union of the Guanche and Spanish cultures.[139] The Guanches became devoted to a Black Madonna that Christian missionaries from Lanzarote and Fuerteventura left on a beach near the present-day Villa Mariana de Candelaria, which gave rise to the legends and stories associated with the Virgin. These legends fueled the cult of the Virgin and the pilgrimages to Candelaria that have existed to this day on the island. Another cult to the Virgin Mary exists in the form of Our Lady of Los Remedios (la Virgen de Los Remedios), who is patron of the island and Roman Catholic diocese of Tenerife (Diócesis Nivariense).

Peter of Saint Joseph de Betancur, franciscan missionary in Guatemala born in Tenerife. It was the first canary to be canonized by the Roman Catholic Church. This saint is very venerated in Tenerife.

In Tenerife were born two Catholic saints who were of the greatest missionaries in the Americas: Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur and José de Anchieta. The first was a missionary in Guatemala and founder of Order of Our Lady of Bethlehem (the first religious order of the Americas), the second was a missionary in Brazil, and was one of the founders of São Paulo and of Rio de Janeiro. It also highlights the figure of the mystic Mary of Jesus de León y Delgado. This nun died with a reputation for holiness and is highly revered throughout the Canary Islands. Her body is intact in the Convent of Santa Catalina de Siena in San Cristóbal de La Laguna.

Principal Roman Catholic places of worship on the island include:

  • The Basilica of Candelaria (in Candelaria): The place where the image of the Virgin of Candelaria can be found, this sanctuary is built in neoclassical style, and is visited daily by the parishioners, who visit the Villa Mariana out of devotion to the Virgin.
  • The Cathedral of La Laguna (in San Cristóbal de La Laguna): The seat of the Diocese of Tenerife (known as the Diócesis Nivariense, or Nivarian Diocese), the cathedral is dedicated to Our Lady of Remedies (la Virgen de Los Remedios). A combination of neo-Gothic and neoclassical architectural elements.
  • Real Santuario del Cristo de La Laguna (in San Cristóbal de La Laguna): One of the most important churches in the Canary Islands, it contains the venerated image of the Cristo de La Laguna, and is a symbol of the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna.
  • Principal Parish of Saint James the Great (Parroquia Matriz del Apóstol Santiago): Situated in Villa de Los Realejos, this parish church was the first Christian church built on the island after its conquest by Castilian forces. It is dedicated to Saint James the Great, as the conquista was completed on the saint's feast day on 25 July 1496. It was, along with the Parish of the Conception of La Laguna, one of the first parishes of the island.
  • The Church of the Conception of La Laguna (Iglesia de la Concepción de La Laguna): One of the most ancient buildings on Tenerife, its construction was ordered by Alonso Fernández de Lugo. It has been declared a National Historic Monument. Around this church were built the dwellings and infrastructure that formed the nucleus of the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna.

Other important churches include the Church of the Conception in La Orotava (Iglesia de la Concepción); the churches of San Agustín and Santo Domingo in La Orotava; the church of Nuestra Señora de la Peña de Francia in Puerto de la Cruz; the church of San Marcos in Icod de los Vinos; the church of Santa Ana in Garachico; and the Church of the Conception (Iglesia de la Concepción) in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

The first saint of Tenerife[140] and Canary Islands[141] was Santo Hermano Pedro de San José Betancurt, born in the town of Vilaflor, Tenerife. His shrine is a cave in Granadilla de Abona, near the coast, where he lived in his youth.

Another notable building on the island is the Masonic Temple of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, generally considered the finest example of Masonic temple architecture in Spain;[142] it was the Masonic center of the country until the military occupation of the island by the Franco regime.[143]

The headquarters of the Islamic Federation of the Canary Islands is in Tenerife; the organization was founded to unite the Muslim communities of the Canary Islands in a common association.[144]


Formal education in Tenerife began with the religious orders. In 1530, the Dominican Order established a chair of philosophy at the convent of La Concepción de La Laguna. Still, until well into the 18th century Tenerife was largely without institutions of education.

University of La Laguna, the oldest and largest university in the Canary Islands

Such institutions finally began to develop thanks to the work of the Real Sociedad Económica de Amigos del País ("Royal Economic Society of Friends of the Country"), which established several schools in San Cristóbal de La Laguna. The first of these was an institute of secondary education established in 1846 to fill the gap left by the closure of the Universidad de San Fernando (see University of La Laguna).[145]

An 1850 annex to this building was the Escuela Normal Elemental, the archipelago's first teachers' college or normal school, which became the Escuela Normal Superior de Magisterio from 1866 onward. These were the only institutions of higher education until the dictator Miguel Primo de Rivera created several institutions. A turning point came around the time of the rise of the Second Spanish Republic. From 1929 to 1933 the number of schools nearly doubled.

Shortly after this, though, the start of the Spanish Civil War and the following dictatorship of Francisco Franco constituted a considerable reversal. Education in the hands of religious orders had a certain importance on the island until the 1970 Ley General de Educación ("General Law of Education") shifted the balance from religiously based education to public education. Public schools continued their advance during and after the post-Franco Spanish transition to democracy. Tenerife today has 301 centers of childhood education (preschools), 297 primary schools, 140 secondary schools and 86 post-secondary schools.[146] There are also five universities or post-graduate schools, the University of La Laguna, the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (National University of Distance Learning), the Universidad Internacional Menéndez Pelayo (Menéndez Pelayo International University), the Universidad Alfonso X el Sabio (University of Alfonso X the Wise) and the Universidad de Vic (Escuela Universitaria de Turismo de Santa Cruz de Tenerife, "University School of Tourism of Santa Cruz de Tenerife"). The largest of these is the University of La Laguna.

The Universidad Europea de Canarias (European University of the Canary Islands) is located in La Orotava and is the first private university in the Canary Islands.[147]

Science and research

While Tenerife is not prominent in the history of scientific and academic research, it is the home of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (Astrophysical Institute of the Canaries). There is also an Instituto de Bio-Orgánica Antonio González (Antonio González Bio-Organic Institute) at the University of La Laguna. Also at that university are the Instituto de Lingüística Andrés Bello (Andrés Bello Institute of Linguistics), the Centro de Estudios Medievales y Renacentistas (Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies), the Instituto Universitario de la Empresa (University Institute of Business), the Instituto de Derecho Regional (Regional Institute of Law), the Instituto Universitario de Ciencias Políticas y Sociales (University Institute of Political and Social Sciences) and the Instituto de Enfermedades Tropicales (Institute of Tropical Diseases). This last is one of the seven institutions of the Red de Investigación de Centros de Enfermedades Tropicales (RICET, "Network of Research of Centers of Tropical Diseases"), located in various parts of Spain.

Puerto de la Cruz has the Instituto de Estudos Hispánicos de Canarias (Institute of Hispanic Studies of the Canaries), attached to Madrid's Instituto de Cultura Hispánica. In La Laguna is the Canarian delegation of the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC, Superior Council of Scientific Investigations), the Instituto Canario de Investigaciones Agrarias (Canarian Institute of Agrarian Investigation), the Instituto de Estudios Canarios (Canarian Institute of Studies) and the Centro Internacional para la Conservación del Patrimonio (the International Center of the Conservation of Patrimony).

Other research facilities in Tenerife are the Instituto Tecnológico de Canarias, the Instituto Vulcanológico de Canarias, the Asociación Industrial de Canarias, the Instituto Tecnológico de Energías Renovables (Technological Institute of Renewable Energy) and the Instituto Oceanográfico de Canarias in Santa Cruz de Tenerife.


Guanche figures at Pueblo Chico in La Oratava

The island boasts a variety of museums of different natures, under dominion of a variety of institutions. Perhaps the most developed are those belonging to the Organismo Autónomo de Museos y Centros,[148] which include the following:

  • Museum of Nature and Man: located in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, this museum exhibits the natural riches of the Canary Islands and of the pre-Hispanic people who inhabited these. The Museum of Nature and Man is a world reference in regard to preservation of mummies. The complex is composed of three museums:
    • The Museum of Natural Sciences
    • The Architectural Museum of Tenerife
    • The Canarian Institute of Bioanthropology
  • Museum of the History of Tenerife: located in the city of La Laguna, the history of museum presents an overview of the institutional, social, economic and cultural development of the Island in from the 15th to 20th centuries.
  • The Museum of Science and the Cosmos, also located in La Laguna adjacent to the property of the Instituto de Astrofísica as a museum about the laws and principles of nature, from those of the cosmos to those of the human body.
  • The Museum of Anthropology of Tenerife, in La Laguna as well, more specifically in Valle de Guerra is a public institution for the investigation, conservation and spread of popular culture
  • The Centro de Documentación Canario-Americano (CEDOCAM, Center for Canarian-American Documentation), located in La Laguna has a mission of strengthening cultural relations and elements of common identity between the Canaries and the Americas, through such means as conservation, information and diffusion of their shared documentary patrimony.
  • The Centro de Fotografía Isla de Tenerife ("Island of Tenerife Photographic Center") located in Santa Cruz de Tenerife offers an annual program of expositions that allows contact with tendencies and works of various renowned and emergent photographers of the Canaries. In the future, this center will share a headquarters with the Instituto Óscar Domínguez de Arte y Cultura Contemporánea (Óscar Domínguez Institute of Art and Culture).
  • The Tenerife Espacio de las Artes (TEA, "Tenerife Arts Space") also in Santa Cruz de Tenerife was founded to promote knowledge of the many contemporary tendencies in art and culture among the local population and visitors, by organizing cultural, scientific, educational and technical activities.

Independent of the Organismo Autónomo de Museos y Centros are: