Highlights of Tenerife

Tenerife, the largest and most famous of the Canary island archipelago, has an international reputation for bearing burnt Britons, boozy bars and tacky souvenirs, yet the reality stretches way beyond this over-clichéd and limited picture.

Stretching over 2,000km2 and with 350km of Atlantic coastline Tenerife is a landscape of luscious subtropical growth, volcanic rock formations which ignite the imagination more than shapes in clouds, and mountainous hiking territories, in particular the exquisite Anaga, Teno and Las Cañadas mountain ranges.  All these are centre pointed by the talismanic Mount Teide (El Teide). At 3,718 metres, it is Spain’s highest peak and the third largest volcano in the world. This geographically staggering environment is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and people flock from all around the island to hike one of its many trails or to cruise to the summit in a cable car. The black volcanic beaches are also a draw, though in the northeast coastal village of San Andrés sits Playa de las Teresitas - a man-made, urban beach with golden sands and a grand reputation.

Whilst regions for nature-loving visitors also exist in the northwest and northeast, particularly in the exquisite Anaga mountain range, 900,000 (43% of the total Canary islands population) people call Tenerife home. The significant metropolitan areas -Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Los Cristianos, Playa de las Américas and Adeje - make up most of this, but in the background pockets of traditional life rolls on relatively unnoticed.

4.5 million tourists arrive in Tenerife annually, most heading to resort towns of Los Cristianos, Adeje and Playa de las Américas in the south for the blue-flagged golden sand beaches, Siam Park (Europe's largest water theme park) and plenty choices of activities and restaurants. Unsurprisingly, these areas are heavy on hotels and nightclubs, neon lights and northern Europeans sizzling in the midday sun.

In the north, Puerto de la Cruz still has a thriving tourist trade but is a haven by the south's standards; Santa Cruz de Tenerife, the island’s capital, is relatively unspoiled by the influx of other cultures but has recently seen a huge number of day visitors due to the city being a popular cruise destination. It boasts one of the world's largest carnivals, and the leisure before labour mindset of the Tinerfeños can be seen in all its Latin American pizzazz. For a more authentic Canarian feel and way of life, the historical towns of La Orotava, San Cristóbal de La Laguna and Garachico are a must. On the west of the island, the two "giants" can be checked off your 'must see' list - the huge Dragon Tree in Icod de los Vinos and the steep giant cliffs which dominates the Los Gigantes' skyline.

Throughout the constellation of villages and small towns peppered over the island, traditional holds supreme. Exotic fruits, potatoes, tomatoes and grapes (wine of Tenerife is an unsung delight) are cultivated and exported, plenty still on family-owned holdings. Guachinches (family-run eateries serving their own produce and wines) sprouted as a result of this. 150,000 tonnes of Bananas are produced each year, making Tenerife the chief grower in the Canary Islands. The seafood trade is evident in the local diet and of course the restaurants. Weekly local markets can be visited for fresh produce and various arts and crafts.

To explore further afield on the island, by foot or car, is to be guided through the island’s past. From aboriginal caves and rock inscriptions to grander houses built on the foundation of colonial rule and prosperous ties to the New World to churches and festivals dedicated to saints, it's all here, and it's all incredible.

So whether sprawling on the beach, shopping and salsa dancing or scaling lonely mountainous tracks, Tenerife is sure to suit you. One thing's for sure though: there are sights, smells and history beyond the boundaries of the beaches and the boulevards of bars.