Covid cancelled Christmas: One reader’s experience of a rather different celebration in Tenerife in Spain’s Canary Islands

THERE are no friends or family, and not a mince pie in sight this Christmas, but Sarah is determined to make the best of it. Here she shares her experience with the Olive Press.

December 23

Thanks to a last-minute change of plans, this is going to be the first Christmas I’ve spent alone. A Covid outbreak has left my family in Edinburgh stuck in cheerful isolation and their homes are now off limits, with the traditional Christmas dinner plans in tatters. I hesitated at the prospect of an unplanned holiday on my own but rather than being stuck in my cold flat in Madrid I find myself at 8:20am touching down in the gentle sunshine of Tenerife North airport.

My first stop after checking in at my hotel in Puerto de la Cruz (Sol Costa Atlantis) is the magnificent Lago Martianez, just five minutes away. Designed by Lanzarote artist and architect Cesar Manrique, this sprawling complex of salt-water swimming pools has room for hundreds of sunbathers in a network of patios that still manage to feel secluded.

It’s early and quiet, and the water is not exactly warm, but this means I have the largest pool to myself, with stunning views of the mountains.

Lago Martianez Swimming Pool Complex In Puerto De La Cruz
A near deserted hotel pool. All photos by Sarah Crozier.

After drying off in the sun, I wander along the promenade, through the town centre, past black volcanic beaches and settle in the terrace of Marlin’s restaurant. It’s right on the sea, and I enjoy some fried squid and grilled king prawns, and a glass of the local white wine.

Christmas Eve

I wake in time to catch the sun rising above the sea (it’s definitely worth the extra for the sea view) and am soon on a bus to Icod de los Vinos. The main attraction in this small town is the supposedly thousand-year-old Dragon Tree rising above botanical gardens. 

Victoria Garden In La Orotava

After a wander around the terraced gardens, a quick Google reveals I am only metres from the Museo de Malvasía, which offers a local wine-tasting and nibbles for just €4.50. Its garden is delightful, and the three small glasses of wine go down a treat.

Wine Tasting In Icod De Los Vinos
Tasting local wines.

 I take the 15-minute bus ride further along the coast to the picturesque seaside village of Garachico for lunch. The central square is lively with locals and tourists enjoying a drink in the sun. 

Garachico
Picturesque Garachico.

Lest we forget it’s Christmas Eve, there is a life-sized nativity scene – known as a Belén in Spanish –  in front of the impressive San Francisco convent. 

I had wanted to wander down to the sea front but all routes to the promenade are cordoned off – a rough sea has made incursions into the town. 

I realise that my plans for swimming may have been rather optimistic; it turns out there is a reason that the south of the island is favoured by beach-lovers at this time of year.

Christmas Day 

It doesn’t feel very Christmassy, but the sun is shining and I am energised. I take an invigorating walk up to La Orotava, the town above Puerto de la Cruz, known for its historic old town and baroque cathedral.

This takes me a bit over an hour, and I am rewarded with glorious views of the coast and a multitude of nativity scenes in the Constitution Square – it seems every scrap of grass has an angel or shepherd lurking in it.

Christmas Camel Lights In Puerto De La Cruz

Back in town, I treat myself to a leisurely lunch of grilled sea bass in the Andana Beach Club. A siesta and a family Zoom wrap up an unexpectedly enjoyable Christmas Day.

Boxing Day

The one thing I organised before arriving was a tour up El Teide, the volcano that looms over the island and Spain’s highest summit. We’ve been told to wrap up well, and boy do we need it, as we find out at our chilly first photo stop.

After wending our way up through pine forests towards the national park, our minibus pulls in at a cafe. On our guide’s recommendation I order a barraquito – a healthy combo of coffee, condensed milk, whipped cream and cinnamon with a splash of the local liquor – just the thing to keep the cold at bay! 

Me Up El Teide
Sarah on the volcano, half way up Spain’s highest peak.

The next stop is the cable car, which will take us up to 3,555m. The permits to climb the remaining trail up to the crater were sold out long before I booked my trip, but even at this height the altitude shortens your breath.

You can see all the way to the islands of La Gomierra, El Hierro and La Palma, and we are quite literally above the clouds.

View From El Teide With Islands In The Background
Impressive views across the islands from El Teide

December 27

The last morning, and to the Fundacion de Cristino de Vera in San Cristobel de la Laguna for a bit of culture.

The Tenerife artist’s symbolic paintings, with spare images of objects and figures, provide the perfect setting for some calm reflection at the end of a fantastic solo trip.

In one etching, the majestic outline of El Teide forms the backdrop to a skull: a memento mori, or reminder of our own mortality – and to make the most of life.

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