Lying mainly in the municipality of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, this natural space, also known as the Anaga Country Park, will surprise visitors due to its lush green tones – the result of the influence of the trade winds - ,its steep ravines and tiny country and coastal villages perched on its hill and cliff tops.
Our route begins in the seafaring district of San Andres, situated to the north of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, past the commercial and fishing port (in the northern basin), the Yacht Club and the Sailing School. The seven kilometres that separate it from the capital take us through traditional districts such as Acapulco, Valleseco and Maria Jimenez. The district of San Andres nestles in the foothills of the Anaga Massif. Along the coast we will find several juice bars and restaurants, close to the fishermen`s association, where diners can savour delicious fish, seafood and creamy rice dishes or the classic fish fritters of churros: white fish coated in flour and fried in hot oil. Next to the boats tied up the docks we find Las Terasitas Beach, a favourite with the islanders and considered to be one of Europe`s finest artificial beaches. The sand was brought from the desert in what was once the Spanish Sahara and today is known as Moroccan Western Sahara. The sand is regularly renewed and protected by a breakwater. In front of the coast is a small palm grove which is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Indeed, it is the ideal spot to practise sports such as jogging or beach volleyball. San Andres is also the site of military battery that appears to be divided in two, as well as a simple 18th century church. A market is held here on Saturdays and Sundays between 11 a. m. and 9 p. m. during the summer months, where visitors flock to buy crafts and local produce.
This spot, which was affected by the torrential rains of 2009 and 2010 and by urban restructuring, is the starting point for two roads that take us to the park: the first goes to Las Gaviotas Beach and Igueste de San Andres, the most densely-populated point in east Tenerife. Whilst the second runs through the park towards El Bailadero and the country town of Taganana.
Although the road that leads to the district of San Andres is short, it takes us past breath taking precipices, but does not reach as far as the lighthouse. However, it does go as far as Los Organos viewpoint, a former military base commanding excellent views of Las Teresitas Beach, and from where on a clear day you can make out the breath taking silhouette of the Teide. On the other side lies a smaller black sand beach, known as La Chica or Las Gaviotas, popular with nudists and gays. A narrow road leads down to the car park and popular beach bar. Past the small fishing village of Igueste de San Andres, where the locals have cleverly adapted the steep slopes to tropical fruit plantations, we come to a series of breathtakingly sheer cliffs dotted with tiny coves and Antequera Beach, accessible by boat. Further on, can catch a glimpse of Rogue Bermejo Beach, and rugged Las Salinas Point, one of the easternmost spots on the island, with Anaga Lighthouse perched on top. This remote spot boasts historic sites such as the fortifications of La Atalaya and El Semaforo, as well as the picturesque Neo-Gothic Church of San Pedro. Legend has it that this was the birthplace of the feared pirate known as Cabeza de Perro or “Dog Head”, who launched countless attacks on ships loaded with treasures from the Caribbean.
In order to follow the main route around the Country Park, visitors should make their way back through San Andres and up the narrow twisting road offering truly stunning views.
Anaga Country Park is home to patches temperate laurisilva rainforest in that is geologically the oldest part of the island (eruptions dating back to more than 4 million years ago). This area is especially affected by the fresh and humid trade winds, as can as be seen from viewpoints such as El Bailadero, especially during the afternoon. This ecosystem, which dates back to the Tertiary Period, is characterised by flora and fauna that can also be seen on other islands in the Macaronesia. The principal species of flora include the lurel, small-leave holly and lime trees, and on the arid southern sides, the typical cardon cacti and balsam spurge. As for the fauna, visitors should look out for the Cory`s shearwater than inhabitants the rocky areas at the far end of peninsula. The park has several rocky areas such as Anaga, Ijuana and Pijara that have been declared Integral Nature Reserves. It`s the ideal spot for a day`s walking, following the signposted trails from villages such as Chamorga, which takes us along the shores of El Junquillo Beach, through El Draguillo, Benijo and as far as the Anaga lighthouse.
The road goes through Roque de Taborno, which has a viewpoint offering stunning views of Taganana and Roques de Anaga, Dentro y Fuera. The road then takes us down through the peaceful town of Taganana, nestling in lush valley covered in rich green carpet of vegetation. The name Taganana comes from a Guanche word indicating the presence of rocks where these primitive settlers once buried their dead. The town is divided into several districts separated by rich terraces suitable for growing crops and palm-filled ravines. It boasts several fine examples of traditional architecture and the Church of Nuestra Senora de las Nieves, which celebrates its annual festivities in August. Interestingly, this three-nave temple is one of the oldest on island. Particularly worthy of note is Mudejar coffered ceiling and Flemish triptych.
The road takes us along the rugged coastline, past the hamlet of Almaciga, the Roque de Las Bodegas (joined artificially to the island) and the beaches of San Roque and Benijo. This latter beach is particularly popular among surfers. This area, especially around the rock, is dotted with numerous traditional taverns known as guachinches and simple bars and restaurants serving locally produced wines and freshly-caught fish accompanied by the typical papas arrugas or wrinkly potatoes. Accommodation option are limited to rented villas or apartments. At the end of the road, the tiny village offers spectacular views of the Roques de Anaga and deserted beaches such as El Draguillo.
Retracing our steps, the road now heads towards Mount Las Mercedes which, like Anaga, forms part of the volcanic chain aligned with the Teide. At the crossroads we can take the TE 123 road to the Pijaral Integral Nature Reserve, taking time to stop off at the breath-taking and mythical Bailadero viewpoint, where legends has it that the last Guanche ruler took his own life. Despite the somewhat unattractive construction, the truth is that this viewpoint looks out over a landscape of exceptional beauty, where visitors can admire the principal slopes in this park. The road becomes extremely narrow, taking us through a thick laurisilva forest that offers occasional glimpses of Teide. Twelve kilometres further on we come to the village of Chamorra, from where we can visit Anaga lighthouse, situated 3.2 km away.
The main route to La Laguna via Las Mercedes takes us past a number of fabulous viewpoints commanding views of Teide and that are permanently shrouded in a damp mist. Well worth stop are the viewpoints of El Pico del Ingles (960 m) and La Cruz del Carmen (920 m) with its simple chapel. Side roads lead down to scattered coves and tiny country villages.
From the village of La Mercedes we come to the fascinating town of Tegueste, with its parish Church of San Marcos. El Socorro, which has a chapel and traditional Canary Island style architecture. The impeccably-kept village of Tejina and finally coast, which leads us to Hidalgo Point, famous for its natural pools. Just before Hidalgo Point, the tourist town of Bajamar boasts a paleontological site dating back more than 130 000 years known as La Mancha de la Laja. This area, made up of interlayers of sand and basaltic lavaflow, is rich in fossils of animals that are now extinct, such as giant Tenerife lizard.
Visitors can follow the wine trail through the area around Anaga or visit the Guerra Valley. This agriculture area was probably originally dedicated to sugar cane plantations and rum production, although today activity is centred on grapes, ornamental flowers and fruit. The Guerra Valley is the site of Tenerife`s Museum of Anthropology, housed in an old 18th century mansion that once belonged to the Carta family. It provides a fascinating insight into the traditions and lifestyle of the inhabitants of the island.