WORDS Rebecca Evans
So here we are in February. It’s a funny old month; the promise of spring is just around the corner, but there is still the potential for weeks of single figure temperatures and grim weather. On the upside payday should have alleviated the post-Christmas poverty, so it might be time to look at escaping the rock in search of some much needed sun. This month I’ve been looking at two destinations guaranteed to provide a mid-Winter boost of Vitamin D.
The largest of the Canary Islands and just 4 hours away by air, Tenerife’s year round warm climate attracts over 5 million sun-seekers each year, many of them between December and April when the rest of Europe is shivering.
Whilst it’s fair to say that the large number of British Holidaymakers have left their mark on some resorts, there is far more to this enchanting Island than Sunday Roasts in the Rovers Return.
Dominated by Mount Teide Volcano, which at a little over 3000m tall is the highest point in Spain, the landscape varies seemingly endlessly, from lush green palms and tropical plants, to arresting black sand beaches and rocky volcanic moonscapes. The pleasant temperature, with a daytime average of 21c between February and April, lends itself to getting outside and exploring. A mecca for hikers and ramblers, Teide National Park offers a range of routes for all, from short and relatively flat routes to the thigh-burning ascent to the summit, where efforts are rewarded by spectacular views across the Island to the Ocean (those who prefer a more sedate vacation can cheat the system by hopping on the cable car and emerging at the top a mere 8 minutes later).
This mountainous topography, combined with Atlantic Ocean breezes create the perfect conditions for one of the most exciting and exhilarating of Tenerife’s Winter activities. Silently soaring high above the coastline on a tandem Para-glide flight is an experience not to be missed, even for those (like this writer) who aren’t usually so keen on heights.
It’s not all high altitude antics on this delightful Isle however. The waters around Tenerife teem with marine life and boat trips from almost every resort offer everything from dolphin and whale watching excursions, to deep sea fishing trips, and snorkelling with sea turtles. The naturally charming black sand beaches are interspersed with yellow sand alternatives, reportedly imported from the Sahara desert, and kids (of all ages) shouldn’t miss Thai themed Siam Park, voted one of the best water parks in the world, and for good reason.
Visitors to Tenerife in February may be lucky enough to catch some of the annual Carnival, with parades and events going on throughout the Island, although the most extravagant and impressive of these take place in the capital Santa Cruz. The ‘Cabalgata’ or Grand Parade is considered second only to Rio Carnival when it comes to vibrancy and party atmosphere, however the traditional ‘Burial of the Sardine’ which closes the proceedings must be a contender for Worlds’ most bizarre, featuring a giant sardine toted through the city, followed by a weeping entourage of ‘widows’, many of them in drag.
Carnival or not, Santa Cruz is worth a visit to experience a side of the Island far removed from the bucket & spade resorts of the south coast. The nearby old town of La Laguna is considered the most beautiful in Tenerife and was bestowed World Heritage status in 1999. To take a stroll through the colourful colonial streets is to step back in time.
Getting There: FlyDirect offer direct flights from Jersey to Tenerife weekly from 2nd February to 6th April. www.flydirect.je
Despite the 11 hour flight, the lack of significant time difference, not to mention a favourable exchange rate, makes Cape Town a very viable choice for a Winter break.
Nestled between the breath-taking Table Mountain National Park and the wild Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town is a beautiful and vibrant melting pot of cultures. The tourist heart of the city is the impressive V&A Waterfront, showing the world how Waterfronts should be done, with literally hundreds of shops, restaurants, bars and attractions such as the Two Oceans Aquarium providing countless hour of entertainment. Whilst the V&A is home to a number of sumptuous 5* Hotels, holidaymakers on a lower budget should head for Long Street where B&Bs and Backpacker Hostels are dotted between colourful and eclectic shops, bars and nightclubs.
If the city heat gets too much (average temperatures in February and March are 23 degrees, but can be much hotter) there is a wealth of pretty beaches within the Cape Peninsula, 3 of which are blue flag status. A trip up Table Mountain is a must, to take in the fresh air and views from this iconic spot, and on a Sunday afternoon the locals head to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens where free concerts take place amongst the unique African flora.
There are few greater pleasures in life than an al fresco lunch in Cape Town, enjoying locally caught seafood and a chilled glass of South African Chenin Blanc, likely bottled just a few miles away in the nearby Winelands. If time permits then visitors shouldn’t miss a tour of the Stellenbosch and Franschhoek areas, where countless wineries are only too keen to show off their products.
It will come as no surprise to anyone that a turbulent history runs deep through the veins of this city, and visits to the District Six Museum and notorious Robben Island Prison will leave a lasting understanding of the troubles the city and country have encountered, and how the community has been shaped over many years.
Getting There: Thomas Cook Airlines fly direct from London Gatwick to Cape Town, and British Airways operate a daily service from London Heathrow