When Thomas Cook arranged a bespoke day outing on the train from Leicester to Loughborough for a group of temperance supporters in 1841, he could never have known just what he’d started. By the end of the 1950s, millions of Brits were discovering the joys of the package holiday and returning home in winter with a suntan to make their friends seethe with envy.
Up until Mr Cook’s endeavours made travel affordable for a mass market, it was only those who could afford to pay long sea voyages who could witness the allure of ‘abroad’ first hand, including those whose health drove them to seek destinations with warmer and drier climes in which to over-winter. One such destination was Tenerife.
At the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th, visitors to Tenerife consisted primarily of scientists, explorers and well-to-do Victorians travelling on the advice of their physicians, and after they came ashore at Santa Cruz, it was to the capital city of La Laguna and the spa towns of La Orotava and Chasna (the old name for Vilaflor) that they were headed. Other than basic coaching inns along the hot and dusty roads, and La Laguna’s hotels, there were few establishments capable of catering to the needs of visitors. In order to rectify that, the Hotel Grand Taoro was constructed in Puerto de la Cruz, or Puerto de la Orotava as it was known, in 1890. Quickly established as one of the few ‘civilized’ (by Victorian England standards) places on the island, the Taoro became a magnet for the great and the good including Queen Victoria, Sir Winston Churchill and Agatha Christie.
For everyone who wanted to make the journey from La Orotava to Vilaflor, it was a long and arduous affair which was undertaken along the old camino real known as Camino de Chasna. But it was worth it for those with respiratory problems to whom the fresh mountain air and spring waters of Chasna were a literal tonic. The village was described by one poetic, early traveller as “…a landscape impregnated with the scent of pine; a haven of peace for the spirit and an environment conducive to good health for the body.” The Camino de Chasna is still very much in use and is part of the GR131 walking route that traverses the island, one of a network of walking trails that is once again growing in tourism importance.
Today, the vast majority of Tenerife’s tourists flock to the island’s coasts and beaches to soak up the winter sunshine, only venturing into Vilaflor on day trips and en route to Teide National Park. But head into the hills and you’ll discover a growing sector of the tourism market which is rediscovering the rural Tenerife so loved by the Victorians. Younger Dutch, French, Scandinavian and British visitors are heading to La Orotava, La Laguna and Vilaflor and staying in one of the island’s burgeoning boutique rural and spa hotels from which they’re striking out to explore hiking trails and enjoy the serenity and traditionalism of an island whose rural tourism is about to come full circle.
Category : about tenerife
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