Tenerife is known as ‘the island of eternal spring’. Does that mean it’s always warm and sunny?
Although many people imagine Tenerife as mainly a perpetually sunny beach destination, there’s actually a lot more going on as far as the weather is concerned. Because of the island’s diverse topography and some unique climatic factors, such as the northeast trade winds, Tenerife actually has multiple microclimates, which means that the weather can vary drastically from one part of the island to the other.
Remember the song ‘Four Seasons In One Day’ by Crowded House? Well, it’s a bit like that.
Take, for example, the route from any part of the island towards Teide, which we have been covering a lot on our tours. Starting from sea level we can drive past either dry and barren countryside (if coming from the south) or green and lush mountains (when approaching from the north).
The contrast between the two parts of the island is always a huge surprise to our guests.
Suddenly we’re driving through a green and humid forest under a cover of thick trade wind clouds, finally crossing Teide National Park with its dry rock formations and desert-like landscape. The scenery changes a lot and we’re constantly faced with different temperatures.
It can be 25°C in Puerto de la Cruz as we drive through the valley of La Orotava. Heading to the island´s interior towards Teide National Park the temperature can suddenly drop dramatically, especially as we cross the sea of clouds, which is typically accompanied by rain and fog. At the Teide cable car base station it can be hot again or windy as hell. Looking up you can see the snow-capped peak of the volcano Teide. This island is just crazy!
And during mid winter, the whole Teide National Park can be covered with snow. And not just a little bit, sometimes the road to the park can be closed all the way starting from La Caldera’s forests from the north, due to heavy snowfall and difficulty to plow the roads. If you’ve ever wanted to go snow sledding and sunbathing on the same day, start from Teide and descend back under Las America’s palm trees.
So, what are microclimates then?
Scientifically speaking, microclimates are a set of local weather conditions that differ from those in the neighbouring areas. Sometimes this can be a slight difference, but may also be a substantial one.
Basically, this means completely different weather in different parts of the island (sunny and hot or cool, rainy and foggy…) . In some places the temperature can drop significantly within just a few dozen miles.
In January, you can sometimes see people dressed in winter coats and boots in the northern town of La Laguna while the folks in Las Americas are happily swimming and sun tanning on the beach.
Like we said, just crazy!
Is there a difference between weather in the north and the south?
Yes, definitely. In many ways they are like two completely different islands. Lying in the rain shadow of Mount Teide, the south is warm and sunny throughout the year. Consequently, the landscape looks more like a desert with vegetation that tends to consist of cacti and other prickly plants. This is also where some of the best beaches are and, unsurprisingly, most tourists who visit Tenerife base themselves in the south.
The north is more lush and green due to a higher amount of rainfall. It may not be your first choice for a beach destination but should definitely not be overlooked. Away from the tourist hotspots, the main attraction here is the unspoilt nature and the numerous activities that you can do. Hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing, trail running… you name it.
You said something about trade winds. What are they?
The climate is Tenerife is heavily impacted by the trade winds that blow from the northeast. Basically, these are a pattern of so-called surface winds that blow on each side of the equator. The trade winds flow from the subtropical high pressure areas towards the equatorial areas of low pressure.
The Coriolis Effect in combination with high pressure causes trade winds to move from east to west, providing a cool breeze in the northeast of the island. Consequently, north Tenerife is more humid with heavier rainfall, while the south stays hot and sunny most of the time.
Due to the trade winds, the climate in Tenerife is also relatively mild with lower average temperatures than what you’d normally expect at these latitudes.
I don’t want my holiday ruined by rain. Where should I go?
The south coast is generally the safest bet for any sun worshipper. June and July receive the least rainfall (an average of just 1mm), so you’re practically guaranteed endless sunshine.