Travel restrictions, social distancing and waves of uncertainty have put a pin in our travel plans for the time being. But, that doesn’t mean that we have to say goodbye to our summer holidays. Digital nomads in Tenerife are using the island as their playground and embracing van life. If you search #vanlifetenerife on Instagram, it will return nostalgia fuelled pictures of camper vans parked up next to the ocean. However, it is easy to see how these images stir up wanderlust. It is a lifestyle choice that is a far cry from the traditional 9-5. With a backdrop of Tenerife’s windswept coastline and fast speed mobile data, van life is a logical way for digital nomads to explore the island.
What is Van Life?
Van life is what it says on the tin. It involves streamlining belongings and relocating to a house on wheels. There are many debates as to how this nomadic lifestyle started. Some date it back to the invention of the camper van in the 1950s. Others go further back to 1855 and the creation of ‘The Wanderer’ – a Scottish touring caravan. Today, the first recorded use of the #vanlife hashtag was in 2011. Foster Huntington, an American Ralph Lauren designer, was the initiator of this 10.2 million strong movement. His posts of his VW Campervan parked in picturesque spots of the Californian coast quickly made people latch onto this sustainable travel trend. Fast forward to 2021 and van life has become an idealized notion of the 1855 dream.
Travelling Europe in a Van – How to get to Tenerife with a Van?
Bring your campervan to Tenerife and enjoy van life in the Canary Islands. There are many ways to do this, but it depends mostly on your budget. Escape the cold European winter and hop on a ferry from Cadiz to Tenerife. While this option is pricey and involves 60 hours in a boat, it does however allow you to bring your van. Alternatively, Tenerife offers campervan hire to anyone with a valid driver’s license. Simply select the van that you like and bring your belongings to make it feel like home from home. Be sure to plan if you want to work remotely in Tenerife from a van. While the island has a fantastic communications network, in the more rural areas, a signal can be hard to find. To fully enjoy van life, search for camping spots close to built-up areas if you require a fast, reliable network signal.
Slow Travel in Tenerife
Van life is the epitome of slow travel. It allows travellers to connect with their surroundings and offers a low impact way to explore the island. Leave the overcrowded tourist resorts of the south behind and hit the road in search of authentic Tenerife. At first glance, it may feel as though the entire island has been tainted by tourism’s touch. But, that could not be further from the truth. In every corner of the island, there are pockets of local life. Tenerife is famous for its wild, rugged beaches and ancient forests. In the morning you can be hiking up El Teide, the island’s volcano, and by night you can be in a chilled-out beach bar sipping mojitos. Plus, the island mentality of ‘mañana, mañana’ (tomorrow, tomorrow) will certainly help you to live life in the slow lane. So, if you are planning to enjoy van life in Tenerife, here are my recommendations of places to visit on your Tenerife road trip.
Your Tenerife Campervan Trip – Where to Start!
Start your van life adventure in the island’s capital, Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Park in the open-air car park next to the Auditorium and take a stroll to the Mercado de Nuestra Señora de Africa food market. Here, you can stock up on mouthwateringly good local delicacies. Choose from freshly picked fruit and vegetables. Sample the artisan cheeses and don’t leave without a selection of traditional pastries. Now that you have supplies, it is time to leave the city behind and hit the road.
Head north towards the town of El Sauzal. To get under the skin of the island it is important to understand its agricultural past. However, what better way to do this than to visit a winery? Bodegas Monje has been making wine in Tenerife for over 500 years. As a result, they are at the forefront of wine production here on the island and continue to innovate. Book one of their many tours and get a taste of Tenerife’s young wine. You can even venture deep into the vineyard to see the vines up close.
Continue Your Camper Van Tenerife Road Trip…
With a belly full of wine, it is time to search for a bite to eat. Tenerife is famous for its Guachinches. Locals open up their homes after the wine harvest to sell their wine along with a small selection of traditional dishes. However, today, the term Guachinche is now used loosely for any restaurant serving typical fare. A short drive from Bodegas Monje lies Casa Carlos. This off-the-beaten-track dining spot is not widely known, even amongst locals. Because of this, you can ensure an authentic experience. Be sure to order a small glass of wine to go alongside their grilled cheese with mojo and a hearty Escaldón. After lunch, continue north towards El Teide and set up camp in the Ramon El Caminero campsite. It is a top van life destination and a great base for those wanting to hike around the El Teide National Park. Spend the afternoon exploring before heading back to the camper van before nightfall.
Plan Supper Under the Stars…
Van life is not complete without a heavy dose of al-fresco dining. And, since Tenerife is a recognised Dark Skies destination, you are in for a treat. From the campsite, head deep into the El Teide national park and find a spot that is far away from restaurants and other like-minded travellers. To get a great glimpse of the stars, it is best to minimize light pollution. Open up your van, set up a table and cook something delicious. It is time to watch nature work her magic. The volcano is home to the world’s largest solar observatory and from here, it is possible to see 83 of the 88 recognised constellations. However, be sure to look out for the Milky Way and don’t forget to make a wish on a shooting star before heading back to camp.
Continue the Van Life Adventure…
With El Teide ticked off the list, it is time to enjoy more adventures. Head to the south of the island and set up camp in El Medano at Camping Montaña Roja. El Medano is a bohemian enclave. That is to say, despite its touristy reputation, you will find a more sustainable form of tourism here. It is a surfers paradise and a top digital nomad destination. Hire surfboards and brave the waves or, if you prefer to watch from the sidelines, hit the beach and soak up the sun. After that, with salty skin and sandy hair, head towards the town centre for a tasty bite to eat. In the morning, wake up to painted skies and enjoy breakfast watching some of the best sunrises on the island. Spend the day exploring the south, above all El Puertito de Adeje.
Van Life in Tenerife South
El Puertito de Adeje is a small harbour that is home to a family of sea turtles. These friendly sea creatures can often be found swimming close to shore. And as a result, snorkelers can swim alongside the turtles and admire their beauty up close. Of course, it is important to respect them and not cause them undue harm or stress. If you plan to spend more time in Tenerife south, the hippy beach Diego Hernández is worth exploring. It is a hidden cove close to La Caleta in Adeje. However, it is only recommended for people that don’t mind off-roading as the beach requires a 20-minute hike down a mountain to access it. But, most importantly, the untouched beach and gentle waters that await are totally worth it.
Explore the North of Tenerife by Camper Van
Say goodbye to the golden, dusty landscapes of the south and drive towards the north. However, there are two possible routes to take. One takes you along the highway and offers a more direct route to Santa Cruz. The other offers a picturesque drive with plenty of stopping off points. You can decide which route suits you best, but, for a true van life experience, choose the longer route. Stop off in the historic town of Garachico and explore Tenerife’s version of Pompeii. Dive into the impressive rock pools and learn about how the town was destroyed by El Teide’s violent eruption of 1706. La Orotava and Puerto de la Cruz are two cities en-route that are also worth exploring. Further along, you will reach the UNESCO world heritage site of La Laguna, the island’s first capital city. From here you can reach the end of the island.
Van Life in Bajamar, Tenerife
If you want to reach the furthest point in Tenerife, a trip to Bajamar is for you. This part of the island is shrouded in mystery thanks to the ancient Guanche civilisation. For instance, the rugged coastline is dotted with hidden caves that were once inhabited by the island’s aboriginal Guanche tribes. The unique landscapes are the backdrop for time-honoured myths and legends that tell stories of bloody battles and unrequited love. Today, the towns of Bajamar, Punta de Hidalgo and Tejina are tranquil and the perfect place for families to enjoy the sun. Park up on the dirt track and enjoy uninterrupted views of the ocean. Live the van life dream and bathe in the natural rock pools, taking in the revitalising energy of the seawater.