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Tenerife

Think reliable winter sun, whale watching and a large glitzy festival and you'd probably believe you'd have to go to the Caribbean. Yet only four hours away Tenerife has a year-round average temperature of 23°C, dolphin and whale-watching tours in all seasons ad its carnival in February/March is one of the best in the world.


With security concerns causing tourists to avoid the winter sun hotspots of Tunisia and Egypt's Sharm el Sheikh this year, Tenerife is back on trend, and if you haven't been to the Canary island for a while, it's well worth another look.

While some destinations rest on their fly-and-flop laurels, Tenerife has been constantly updating and has plenty to offer the modern traveller, with boutique hotels, Michelin-star dining and cutting-edge architecture helping keep it current.

The island is compact enough for you to travel around in a day, but it's a game of two halves. The South is where most of the blue flag-awarded beach resorts and the waterparks are concentrated. The North, however, is cooler mountainous and wonderful for scenic exploration in a hire car or on foot.

Among Tenerife's more unworldly landscapes are desert plains and prehistoric forests. The showpiece is Teide National Park with its steamy volcano peak, which can be reached by cable car. Some of the beaches have black sand due to the island's volcanic past, and you can also explore Europe's longest lava tube or swim in seawater pools that collect in lava hollows. The 600-metre high Los Gigantes Cliffs are another Instagram-worthy photo spot.

With all that fabulous landscape it's no wonder the island is popular for hiking, biking and horse riding. It's also one of the top short-haul destinations for golf with eight high standard courses. Modern facilities and the availability of both sea level and altitude training have even made Tenerife a top training ground for Premiership footballers and for athletes competing at Olympic level.

You can also enjoy star spotting of another kind on the island. Clear unpolluted skies have helped turn Tenerife into one of the top astronomy destinations in the world and the annual Starmus festival attracts the likes of Professor Stephen Hawking. You can do your own night exploration from a rural spot or make a guided visit to the Teide Observatory.

On the cultural side, the old quarter of capital Santa Cruz which, bafflingly, is rarely visited by tourists, is well worth a visit. This is also a good area to find nightlife with a local slant. Former capital, La Laguna meanwhile has an UNESCO-listed old town.

Do try the local cuisine, which is an Atlantic and Mediterranean fusion. Specialities include papas arrugadas - the Tenerife take on Spain's patatas bravas. And don't miss the shops, because Tenerife is VAT free. There are several larges malls featuring UK high street brands and gadgets are particularly competitively priced.

Tenerife has more four and five-star hotels combined than any other Spanish destination. Among new accommodation options, a Hard Rock Hotel has just opened on the island with two towers - one adult -only , and one family-friendly. La Laguna Gran Hotel, with a spa and rooftop terrace, opens in January. Golf hotel Las Madrigueras has meanwhile just turned adult-only.

If you favour the less-frequented resorts, consider Costa Adeje and Guia de Isora which have seen upmarket development in recent years, as has the island's more traditional North.

Want an exclusive villa with butler service? Several five-star resorts on Tenerife are happy to oblige. Another Caribbean perk that's a little bit closer to home.