Teno is an area of Tenerife in the northwest of the island, often described as a “secret,” though it is not a very well kept one. It would be very hard to hide the Teno Massif mountain range, nevertheless, it is true that many tourists never get to see any of the wonders of the Isla Baja (“Low Island”).
1. El Guincho
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The road along the coast, just past Icod de los Vinos, takes you through a tiny hamlet called El Guincho. Now admittedly, besides a couple of bars and some spectacular views over the rocky coast, there isn’t a lot there, but if you do stop off in El Guincho you will find an information plaque that explains the village was once home to ospreys, those magnificent birds of prey that feed on fish. The Spanish for this bird is “Guincho,” and hence the name of the place. Look out for a weird succulent, known as Pastel del Risco, the “Cake of the Cliffs,” that grows here with its leaves flat against the rocks.
The coastal town of Garachico is fast developing into a resort and has a fairly recently constructed marina. For many visitors to Teno, it is their gateway into the region. Of great historical interest, Garachico was once the main port for Tenerife until a volcanic eruption in 1706 destroyed much of it. But Garachico was rebuilt and today it features cobblestone streets and traditional Spanish squares, with some natural saltwater swimming pools in the volcanic rock at the seafront. Garachico is easy to reach by road from Icod de los Vinos.
3. Los Silos
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Next stop along the main coastal road into the Low Island is the agricultural town of Los Silos. In the past, it grew rich from the production of cereal that was stored in silos, hence the name. Like Garachico, Los Silos has pretty cobblestoned streets and historic buildings, a traditional square features a bandstand and a farmers’ market is held in the town each week. Above Los Silos are steep ravines, ancient evergreen laurel forests, and high mountains. There are several hiking trails that allow visitors to explore the amazing countryside.
4. Tierra del Trigo – the Land of Wheat
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Above Los Silos is a village known as Tierra del Trigo, which translates as the “Land of Wheat”. You can reach it by road from the town of El Tanque, which is also high above Los Silos, or by a zigzagging road that climbs the cliffs with many a hairpin bend and which has a warning sign for motorists at its top, pointing out that they use the road at their own risk. You need to be physically fit to walk this road even and it is included on websites for Extreme Cyclists. Tierra del Trigo also has the remains of a tower that was once used to keep a lookout for pirates.
Next to El Tanque is the village of Ruigomez. The mountainous countryside around it looks more like Scottish moorland with gorse bushes, brambles, and heather, only here the heather grows into small trees. Ruigomez once had a theme park about the Guanches, who were the original Tenerife islanders before the Spanish Conquest. The Guanche park closed down but the signs for it and its buildings are still there, and unexpectedly further along the road towards El Tanque there is a camel park where visitors can take short rides on these animals. Expect the unexpected in Tenerife!
6. Montaña de Taco and Buenavista
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Further along from Los Silos, we arrive at Buenavista del Norte, the largest town in the Low island, but right next to it is a strange looking volcanic cone mountain known as Montaña de Taco. It is a natural landmark for the area and can be seen from much further along the coast. This mountain has a reservoir in its crater that is said to be the largest reservoir on the island. Buenavista itself doesn’t have much else in the way of appeal for tourists but it is where buses and the road to Masca and El Palmar start and they are well worth seeing.
7. El Palmar
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The 355 bus from Buenavista will take you to Masca, of which we will be hearing more about later, but first there is El Palmar. It is a rural town in a beautiful and winding valley in the Teno Mountains. It has a very unusual looking mountain that looks like it has cracks in it and which overlooks the town. On the other side of the valley is the road to Teno el Alto and there is also a footpath up through the forest covered mountains, You need to be an experienced hiker to take this trail, which is very steep in parts but it is well worth making the effort. The views over El Palmar are incredible.
8. Teno El Alto
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Teno El Alto can only be reached on foot or by vehicle and there is no public transport going there. El Alto means “The High” and this is a very apt description for this remote village in the Teno Mountains. Here life goes on much as it has for hundreds of years and most of the farmers keep herds of goats. There are a couple of bars, a tiny church and square and a little shop selling goats’ cheese products and that’s it. The green hills around it make the location look nothing like anywhere else in Tenerife. There is a curious pyramid-shaped hill, caves and a long footpath down to Punta del Teno.
9. Punta el Teno
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Punta el Teno is the westernmost tip of Tenerife and right on the dividing line between the north and south of the island. It has a lighthouse and a rocky beach with views along the cliffs of Teno. You can get to it by road from Buenavista if the road is open. This road goes through tunnels and follows the coast. It gets closed because of the danger of rockfalls from the mountains above and in wet and windy weather is treacherous. There is a footpath from Teno Alto but getting to Punta el Teno can only be recommended for very experienced walkers. If you can get there, this remote location is well worth it.
10. The Road to Masca
The tiny village of Masca can only be reached on foot over steep mountain trails or on an amazing road with many a hairpin bend, as it winds its way from Buenavista at one end and Santiago del Teide at the other. With only around 100 residents, Masca was isolated from the rest of Tenerife until the road was constructed. Surrounded by lofty mountains and rocky ravines, Masca is Tenerife’s answer to Shangri-La. A gorge leads down to the sea but the trek down this takes around three hours and is not easy. Most visitors arrive in Masca by bus or car but the road is one for experienced drivers only.