Sometimes, only a hangover will do. I wanted to wake up with a sore head and a furry tongue. Like so many of us living under leaden skies for so long, I felt sun-starved and fun-hungry.
And so, on a drizzly winter morning, I boarded a BA flight to Tenerife, the largest of the seven Canary Islands. My husband and I were bound for its west coast and the Ritz-Carlton, Abama, one of its most glamorous resorts.
He fancied some tennis; my only goal was to recline with some long-neglected novels, wine glass in hand. My copy of Thackeray’s Vanity Fair had been abandoned just before Wellington met Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo.
Our week in Tenerife turned out to be a total disappointment. In the best possible way.
Deirdre Fernand spent a week at the Ritz-Carlton, Abama, one of Tenerife’s most glamorous resorts
The slothful holiday I had longed for never materialised. All because a rocky outcrop in the Atlantic belonging to Spain, lying 200 miles off the coast of Africa, seduced me with its mountains, forest trails and snow-capped volcano.
With year-round temperatures averaging 22c, it’s reliably warm and sunny. Little wonder more than five million tourists visit Tenerife each year, with us Britons leading the charge of this balmy army.
Had I done my homework, I would have found out that all the natural wonders of the island lay within an hour’s drive of our hotel.
It took a patient concierge, Carlos, to explain that we could visit the volcano, Mount Teide, or go whale-watching — and still be back in time for dinner.
He spoke of sun-dappled vineyards and ancient villages that clung to the hillside.
The hotel (above) looks out to the verdant island of La Gomera and lies an hour’s drive from all the natural wonders of the island
‘I promise you will have a wonderful adventure’, he gushed, waving us off. ‘Not many of our guests ever bother to explore.’ It made us feel like Columbus discovering the new world.
Mind you, it’s easy to see why so few leave the resort, built in the style of a Moroccan citadel, which tumbles down a hillside to a sandy beach. With nearly 500 rooms, eight restaurants, two of them Michelin-starred, and seven swimming pools, it’s so vast a small train whizzes guests from one end to the other.
We could happily have spent our days lazing by the infinity pool, with its views of the verdant island of La Gomera. But we knew if we didn’t make a break for the perimeter early on, we would never tear ourselves away.
I’m so glad we did. Following Carlos’s instructions, we set off along a twisting road through the national park to the slopes of the volcano. Towering above us was a peaceful Mount Teide, which last erupted in 1909.
As we gained altitude, the temperature plummeted and we encountered summer and winter.
Deirdre hiked through the Mount Teide National Park. ‘Towering above us was a peaceful Mount Teide (above), which last erupted in 1909,’ she says
Behind us we could see the ocean shimmering under a midday sun; ahead: an alpine scene of spruce and pine. Soon we found ourselves above the treeline, among jagged rocks and lava fields, all 50 shades of grey.
This was the otherworldly landscape we’d heard about. As we stopped to take photos, the cold wind stung our faces. With waves of freezing fog rolling in, the rock formations assumed a ghostly air.
We were relieved to reach the Parador Canadas del Teide, the only hotel in the park, to thaw out with hot chocolate.
Carlos was right about the adventures on our doorstep — and we were indeed back in time for dinner.
Deirdre explored Masca, above, a hamlet that perches halfway up a mountain
BA Holidays offers seven nights’ B&B in a deluxe spa view room at The Ritz-Carlton Abama from £799 pp, on selected dates in May 2023, including flights from London Gatwick. Book by January 31, 2023 ba.com/tenerife
Few visitors to Tenerife will know that around half the island comprises national or local parks, and we were keen to see more. Another foray took us north to Masca, a hamlet that perches halfway up a mountain.
First settled by the indigenous Guanche people who lived here before the Spanish conquest 600 years ago, it’s home to about 50 people. Until the first road was built in the 1970s, it was accessible only on foot or by mule.
Our guide, Manuela, led us along these ancient trails, stopping so we could gawp at the views of the sea in the distance. This was quite another kind of wild beauty: waterfalls, cliffs, rock pools and vertiginous ravines.
If only I could tell you about the boat we took out to see the whales. Or the lazy afternoons we spent tasting the rosé from the local vineyards. But we ran out of time. Shame I never once opened my copy of Vanity Fair. I wonder who won the Battle of Waterloo…