Although the name of Gran – or Great – Canaria may indicate otherwise, Tenerife is actually the largest island in archipelago, with 2034 sq. km, and also situated at the geographical heart of the Canary islands.
Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the capital of the island, and alsothe name of one of two provinces that make up the autonomous Community of the Canary Islands, wich in turn are divided in seven island councils. The province is not limited to the island of Tenerife, but also includes the Canaries` western islands: La Gomera, El Hiero and La Palma. Like all the islands that form this archipelago, Tenerife is of volcanic origin and is made up of complex network of cones and calderas, with summit of the Teide lying at the centre. The landscape is rugged and the rocky volcanic coastline is dotted with cliffs, especially at the far north-western (Teno Massif) and north-eastern (Anaga Massif or Point) ends of the island. The south-eastern coastline is lower and gentler scattered with beaches and coves of volcanic origin, with their characteristic fine black sand. The Teide rises up at the centre of the island, surrounded by an intricate and rugged landscape of calderas, badlands and steep slopes. From the top it is easy to make out the neighbouring islands of Gran Canaria, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro, and on exceptionally clear days, even Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and The African coast, lower territories lying to the east of Tenerife.
The island boasts a wealth of natural landscapes and ecosystems. One of the most spectacular of these is the badlands, which, as the name indicates, is a hostile territory made essentially of recently formed volcanic land characterized by its scant vegetation. It is the habitat of several of the island`s endemic species of cactus – like flora such as the cardon, balsam spurge and aenoium. The most arid areas of territory lie to the north of Guimar, forming some of the most noteworthy badlands on the island and a sharp contrast with the areas of laurisilva , the temperate rainforest that covers the land at the altitude of between 800 and 1000 metres in windward zones. As the name indicates, these areas are covered with lush and often impenetrable forest of laurels, white bark acacias, or firetree, a shrub that is found in Anaga and Teno mountains. From 1000 metres upwards, we find vast expanses of the hardly Canary Island Pine, wich is highly resistant to fire thanks to the resin it accumulates inside the trunk and enables it to resprout after a fire. Finally the peaks of the Teide are home to several endemic species that have adapted to the to the high altitudes and fairly dry climate. These scattered clumps of undergrowth cannot be termed as undergrowth, yet include silver thistles, broom, the Teide burnet rose and Teide violet, the only flowering plant to grow at Spain`s highest point and nicknamed the “Teide edelweiss”.
The island`s medianias – the term for midlands rising up to altitudes of 500 metres – and the sun-drenched for two of Canary Island`s most emblematic species: the first of these is drago tree, or dracaena draco – a long – living species that is shroudedin myth and mystery. The Romans used the sage from this tree for dyes and medicine; indeed, it was put to so many uses that the mass felling of this species as far back as 2000 years ago placed it in danger of extinction. The town of Icod de los Vinos is home to one of the oldest examples of these trees, whith dates back several centuries, and stands some 25 metres tall and has a girth of more that 15 metres. Far more common is the stately Canary Island Date Palm, or phoenix canariensis, which grows in groves in sheltered spots. Over the centuries, the nutritious fruits, sap and sage this tree have been used in the production of honey and eau-devie. The fibre from the leaves has also traditionally been used to weave ropes and baskets.
Tenerife is not renowned for an abundance of fauna, although it is home to a number of endemic species of insects, lizards and reptiles, as well as small mammals that were introduced into the island (with the exception of the various types of bat), and birds such as blue chaffinch, Bolle`s pigeon, lauren pigeon, sparrow hawk, long – eared owl and naturally, the wild canary.
Like its neighbours the Salvajes, Azores, Medeira and Cape Verde, the Canary Islands belong to Macaronesia (from the greek, meaning “fortunate”), the modern collective name for these groups of islands and home to various endemic species of flora whose origins lie in the Tertiary Period. Thanks to the cool sea current and the channel that separates Tenerife from Gomera in particular, the island boasts an immense wealth of marine life. This area is home to several species of whales and dolphins that are relatively easy to spot. Tenerife also possesses large bank of tuna and mackerel, squid, cuttlefish, octopus, bream, red porgy, grouper, hake or wreckfish, as well as the tuskfish and Atlantic horse mackerel, as it is known locally, which is so abundant in these waters that the residents of Tenerife are known as chicharreros. Locally cautht crustaceans also feature strongly in the island`s mouth-watering gastronomy, including various species of crabs and the spider crab in particular.
Needless to say, one of the most outstanding features of Tenerife is its complex volcanic formation, the result of relatively recent activity .Dating back a mere one hundred years, with the eruption of the Chinyero vent (in the area around Teno, in the far north-west of island). Today the Teide has several small fumeroles, proof that this apparently dormant volcano may spring to life at any time. The island`s volcanic origins strech back some 15 million years, and during this time the landscape has been shaped by a number of eruptions and successive upward magma flows, as well as the opening of the several calderas in the volcanic complex of the Teide and Pico Viejo. Today there are two basin shaped depressions topped by the peak of the Teide and separate by the rocks.