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South Tenerife

south tenerifeThe popular town of Los Cristianos is the second largest holiday resort in the south of Tenerife, the largest being its next door neighbour Playa de Las Americas. Despite their close proximity to one another there is a distinct difference in the atmosphere of the two, especially at night.

One of the main differences you will recognize is that in Los Cristianos, unlike in Las Americas, the town has a history pre-dating its transformation into a tourist resort. Prior to undergoing major development in recent years, Los Cristianos existed as a small fishing village. It has an old town centre, complete with Catholic church, stretching from the port up to the main shopping street Avenida de Suecia.

This grid-like centre is entirely pedestrianised, which is great news of course for tourists and a welcome change from dodging mad taxi drivers in Las Americas. This older area consists of houses in which much of the town’s local Canarian population still lives. In the port, which itself has been extended, you’ll find a still active fleet of small fishing boats. Depending on the time of yr you can see international yachts of all shapes and sizes (and prices!) waiting to set sail for the Caribbean.

It is from Los Cristianos’ port also that the ferry and hydrofoil depart daily to the islands of La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro – the three islands which, together with Tenerife, make up the autonomous Spanish province of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (the other province of the Canary Islands is Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, comprising the islands of Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, La Graciosa and four other uninhabited islets).

These days you will find it difficult to determine where Los Cristianos finishes and Las Americas begins. Both towns have been built up and augmented to the extent that the boundaries between the two become blurred, especially around the seafront area known as San Telmo, where you will find the excellent and newly completed beach Playa de las Vistas.

This is in fact still a part of Los Cristianos, while the neighbouring Compostela Beach area, only a short walk away along the seafront, is in Playa de Las Américas. In reality what happened is that Las Americas kept expanding eastwards until it reached Los Cristianos and couldn’t go any further! (Now the ongoing development of Las Americas is concentrated on its western end, in the area known as Costa Adeje.)

los cristianosLos Cristianos boasts an expanse of beaches along its entire seafront; the aforementioned Playa de las Vistas, which was completed in 1997 using sand imported from the Sahara, is the best in town. Next to the port, right amid the hustle and bustle of the town centre, is another good and popular stretch of beach with many bars, restaurants and shops all around. During times when Los Cristianos does offer beaches almost along its entire seafront expanse, the quality in these other areas can vary. Most of the towns beaches are kept clean and well maintained by the local council.

As with much of Playa de Las Americas, you’ll find many of Los Cristianos’ newer holiday complexes a little further away from the beaches and town centre. When the town first began to realise its potential to cater to larger numbers of tourists, the first area to be developed was obviously around the town centre/seafront area.

But this was as much as 30 years ago, when architecture was more functional than aesthetic, so any of the available accommodation in this central area is not tremendously inspiring (which is not to imply that the quality is necessarily any less). The newer resorts further inland, many built within the last ten years, show that much more attention has been paid to appearance and style.

During times when I’m talking about resorts ‘further inland’, perhaps I should put the distances involved in perspective; even the resorts further from the sea, in the Oasis del Sur area for example, where construction still continues to date, are little more than ten minutes walk from the beach. Admittedly it might take longer coming home as the return journey is uphill, but that’s Tenerife for you: wherever you go you’re either going up a hill – or down one!

On the subject of hills, Los Cristianos (and Las Americas for that matter) is not commonly so steep, for the most part, as to pose undue problems, except perhaps for visitors with severely limited mobility. If this is a consideration for you or someone in your family, it is certainly worth checking that the location of your hotel or apartment will not cause unforeseen problems.

Several visitors to Tenerife rent a car while they are here, and driving on our island is nothing if not a ‘memorable’ experience. In the centre of Los Cristianos parking can be a problem and you should be wary of double-parked cars and delivery vans half blocking the road.

If you find yourself blocked in such a way, just sit in the car and hoot the horn – the culprit will usually arrive fairly quickly and move his vehicle. The town centre is mainly slow to negotiate due to the narrow roads and volume of traffic so if you are heading for the town by car from the motorway we’d recommend that as you come down the hill (the new golf course will be on your right) you take a left fork at the bottom and head for the seafront that way – it’s only a short walk to the centre and parking is much easier just outside the town centre.

If, instead of taking the left, you go straight, then you’ll be heading straight for the town centre and may have a problem finding a parking space. The local council has recently begun a policy of towing away illegally parked cars. There is an underground car park being constructed in the town centre.

las americasLos Cristianos is a match for Las Americas in the quality and variety of retaurants available for your lunch or evening meal. Everything you could wish for is here somewhere – Chinese, Indian, Mexican, Spanish and Canarian of course, to name but a few. And of course the ubiquitous ‘English Breakfast’ abounds in both Los Cristianos and Las Americas.

And for the holidaymaker partial to a drop of liquid refreshment, there is no shortage of bars and pubs in which to unwind and take the weight off your feet. Thanks to the relaxed licensing laws over here (Hoorah!) you’ll never be stuck for somewhere to sample the local brew, day or night, whenever the fancy takes you.

One area, however, in which Los Cristianos does not compare with Las Americas is that of nightlife – nightclubs, discos, ‘fun pubs’ – that type of thing. During times when you can, to any extent of course, find all of the above in Los Cristianos, it is really in Las Américas that you’ll find the unadulterated, no-holds-barred, downright crazy and hedonistic nightlife, particularly in the areas known as ‘Veronicas’ and ‘The Patch’, where drinking and partying until 6a.m. is the norm.

There are two observations about this. Firstly, this is not everyone’s cup of tea and many visitors will surely be happy to be far away from there for this very reason! Second, if this is your idea of fun but you find yourself staying in Los Cristianos rather than Las Americas, don’t forget you’re only five minutes and a few euros away by taxi, so it’s not a big problem – taxis are plentiful at any hour.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression of Las Americas and hope I am not inadvertently doing so: it is considerably larger than Los Cristianos and I should stress that it, too, has many areas where it is quiet and relaxing at night! I’m just emphasizing certain characteristics by way of making a comparison.

So how to summarise Los Cristianos to the uninitiated in a few words? I’d say the following: it’s a fairly small town with a lively town centre but with spacious and relaxed ‘suburbs’, it has many fine beaches, usually good weather, an international clientèle, all the shops and restaurants you could wish for, is in many ways more attractive, perhaps even more ‘exclusive’ than Las Americas but lacks the nightime ‘edge’ of the latter which some, particularly families and older visitors, may see as a blessing, while others might find it a bit ‘quiet’ at night.