The Geography of Tenerife: A Complete Guide


Tenerife is the largest and most populous island of the Canary Islands, located off the west coast of Africa. It has an area of 786 square miles (2036 sq km) and a population of around 889,936. The island is situated at about 28 degrees latitude north and 16.5 degrees longitude west.

The geography of Tenerife is diverse and fascinating, with a range of landscapes that include beaches, forests, mountains, and volcanic terrain. The island is dominated by the imposing Mount Teide, which rises to a height of 3,718 meters above sea level and is the highest peak in Spain. The northeastern part of the island rises sharply to a jagged mountain ridge of volcanic origin, while the southwestern part is characterized by a more gentle terrain with a number of beaches and resorts.

Geographical Location

Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and is located in the Atlantic Ocean, approximately 200 miles off the west coast of Africa. It is situated at about 28 degrees latitude north and 16.5 degrees longitude west. The island has an area of 786 square miles (2036 sq km) and a population of around 889,936.

Tenerife is part of Spain and is an autonomous community. It is the most populous island of the Canary Islands and is home to the highest point in Spain, Mount Teide, which stands at 3,718 meters (12,198 feet) above sea level. The island is also known for its beautiful beaches, stunning landscapes, and diverse flora and fauna.

Tenerife is located in a strategic position for trade and commerce, making it an important hub for transportation and logistics. The island has two airports, Tenerife North Airport and Tenerife South Airport, which connect it to various destinations around the world. The island is also home to several ports, including the Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is one of the busiest ports in Spain.

Climate of Tenerife

Tenerife has a subtropical oceanic climate, which means it has mild temperatures and plenty of sunshine throughout the year. The island’s location in the Atlantic Ocean and its topography create a range of microclimates, which vary depending on altitude, proximity to the coast, and exposure to trade winds.

The average temperature in Tenerife during the warm season is around 26°C, while during the winter season, it is around 17.5°C. The island experiences little seasonal variation in temperature, and the weather is generally pleasant all year round.

However, there is a difference in climate between the northern and southern parts of Tenerife. The northern part is more humid and cooler than the southern part, which is drier and warmer. The north receives more rainfall than the south, particularly in the winter months.

The sea temperature in Tenerife is also relatively stable throughout the year, ranging from 19°C in the winter to 23°C in the summer. The water is generally calm and clear, making it ideal for swimming, snorkeling, and other water activities.

Physical Geography

Tenerife is a volcanic island with a diverse and rugged landscape that attracts visitors from around the world. The island is divided into two parts by the central mountain range, which runs from north to south. The eastern part of the island is characterized by steep cliffs and rugged terrain, while the western part is flatter and more fertile.

Mountain Ranges and Peaks

The central mountain range of Tenerife is dominated by the massive Mount Teide, which is the highest peak in Spain at 3,718 meters (12,198 feet) above sea level. The mountain range is also home to several other peaks, including Pico Viejo, Guajara, and Chinyero. The mountain range is a popular destination for hikers and climbers, with many trails and routes leading to the summits.

Volcanic Landscapes

Tenerife’s volcanic landscapes are some of the most unique in the world. The island was formed by a series of volcanic eruptions, and the resulting landscapes are characterized by rugged lava fields, towering cliffs, and deep gorges. The Teide National Park, which surrounds Mount Teide, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the most stunning volcanic landscapes on the island.

Coastal Features

Tenerife’s coastline is a mix of rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, and rocky coves. The island’s northern coast is characterized by steep cliffs that drop into the Atlantic Ocean, while the southern coast is home to some of the island’s most popular beaches, including Playa de las Americas and Los Cristianos. The island’s western coast is home to several small fishing villages, while the eastern coast is home to the island’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

Flora and Fauna

Tenerife is home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. The island’s unique geography and climate have led to the development of many endemic species, as well as a diverse array of marine life.

Endemic Species

Tenerife is home to a number of plant species that are found nowhere else in the world. One of the most famous is the dragon tree (Dracaena draco), which is a symbol of the Canary Islands. The tree has a distinctive shape and can grow up to 20 meters tall. Other endemic species include the Canarian pine (Pinus canariensis), which covers large areas of the island’s mountains, and the Canarian palm (Phoenix canariensis), which can grow up to 30 meters tall.

In addition to plant life, Tenerife is also home to a number of endemic animal species. These include the Tenerife giant lizard (Gallotia intermedia), which is found only on Tenerife and the nearby island of La Gomera. The island also has a number of endemic bird species, including the Tenerife blue chaffinch (Fringilla teydea) and the Tenerife laurel pigeon (Columba junoniae).

Marine Life

Tenerife’s location in the Atlantic Ocean has led to the development of a rich and diverse marine ecosystem. The island’s waters are home to a wide variety of fish, including barracuda, tuna, and marlin. Dolphins and whales are also commonly spotted in the waters around Tenerife, making it a popular destination for whale watching tours.

One of the most unique marine species found in Tenerife’s waters is the loggerhead turtle (Caretta caretta). These turtles can grow up to a meter in length and are known for their distinctive reddish-brown shells. The waters around Tenerife are also home to a number of species of sharks, including the sand tiger shark (Carcharias taurus) and the angel shark (Squatina squatina).

Human Geography

Population Distribution

Tenerife has a population of around 889,936 people as of 2023. The island has a population density of approximately 1,129 people per square mile. The population is distributed unevenly across the island, with the majority of the population concentrated in the coastal areas and urban centers.

The northern part of Tenerife is more densely populated than the southern part. The largest city on the island is Santa Cruz de Tenerife, which is home to approximately 206,593 people. Other major urban areas include San Cristóbal de La Laguna, La Orotava, and Puerto de la Cruz.

Urban Areas

Tenerife has several urban areas, which are home to a significant portion of the island’s population. Santa Cruz de Tenerife is the largest urban area on the island and serves as the capital of the province. It is a bustling city that is home to many government buildings, cultural institutions, and commercial centers.

San Cristóbal de La Laguna is another major urban area on the island. It is a historic city that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The city has a rich cultural heritage and is home to many museums, galleries, and historic buildings.

Puerto de la Cruz is a popular tourist destination and is home to many hotels, restaurants, and entertainment venues. It is located on the northern coast of the island and is known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant nightlife.

Environmental Issues

Climate Change Impacts

Tenerife, like many other islands, is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns can have significant effects on the island’s ecosystems, which are already under pressure from human activities such as tourism and urbanization.

One of the most significant impacts of climate change on Tenerife is the increasing frequency and severity of droughts. This has led to water shortages, which have been exacerbated by the island’s growing population and tourism industry. In addition, rising sea levels and more frequent extreme weather events such as storms and floods threaten the island’s coastal areas and infrastructure.

Conservation Efforts

To address these challenges, conservation efforts are underway on Tenerife. The island is home to several protected areas, including the Teide National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. These areas are managed to protect the island’s unique flora and fauna, as well as its cultural heritage.

In addition, there are ongoing efforts to promote sustainable tourism and reduce the island’s carbon footprint. For example, initiatives to promote renewable energy and energy efficiency are being implemented, and there are plans to expand public transport and encourage cycling and walking.