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Travel: Putting on the Ritz on the enchanted isle of Tenerife

© Press Association ImagesLos Gigantes, Tenerife.
Los Gigantes, Tenerife.

Swooping beneath the low layer of cloud caressing the tips of a dormant volcano, I can already tell that I’m in for something special.

The dramatic contrast of Tenerife’s landscape is breathtaking. The crystal clarity of the ocean set against craggy mountains and thick vegetation make it look almost prehistoric.

I’m on the inaugural British Airways flight from Gatwick to the popular Canary Island, and I’m keen to find out what’s on offer for a luxury weekend away.

My base is the Ritz-Carlton, Abama hotel on the west side of the island, a 459-room property with nine dining venues, seven swimming pools and an 18-hole championship golf course. Like something out of a fairytale, this sprawling coral palace can be distinguished from miles around, and is no less impressive up close.

Entering into the lobby, with its marble-topped bar, velvet sofas and views out to the beach at the fringes of the resort, I’m welcomed with a tart passion fruit cocktail, the first of many taste explosions to come.

© Press Association Images
Scarlett Sangster at the Ritz Carlton.

My room is in the “adults only village”, which comes with its own separate pool (shared between the villas) and a pool-side bar from which I can order wine, cava, beer and soft drinks throughout the day, as part of my Villa Club package.

Of the hotel’s five evening restaurants, two have Michelin stars (Mediterranean restaurant MB has two). Tonight, I’m dining at Mirador, where I’m excited to meet the hotel manager, Gregory De Clerke.

As I tuck into my seasonal starter, a delightfully fresh take on Salmorejo (a traditional Andalusian soup) with local avocados replacing the tomato, I ask Gregory the history of this coral palace. As it turns out, I can be forgiven for my quick judgement of Tenerife as a budget destination. Gregory tells me the island’s true coming of age is a fairly recent development. Until the late 1990s, the whole west side of the island was dedicated not to tourism, but to agriculture. The Ritz-Carlton, Gregory tells me, was once a banana plantation.

But development doesn’t mean the island has lost its natural resources. On the contrary, at dinner I’m served Tenerife tomatoes as part of my delicately presented burrata salad, and local potatoes pureed to accompany a dreamy variety of white fish known as cherne.

After a long sleep, I wake the next morning ready for a pamper. The Ritz-Carlton spa offers a tempting variety of treatments and wellness experiences, with access to the sauna and water bath for just £20 per day. But I am here for yoga in the spa garden.

Lasting over an hour, the session simultaneously provides both intense relaxation and a great workout. Afterwards, I escape for a quick head and shoulder massage and a dip in the thermal pool.

My short time in Tenerife so far has been utterly indulgent. Now, though, it’s time to escape the safe haven of the hotel and discover what secrets are being harboured by the rest of the island. I head to Los Gigantes, literally translated as “The Giants”, where the terrain changes dramatically from sand, sea and bananas, to basalt and cacti. We take a hiking trail high up on the mountainside to discover villages nestled among the prickly pear, agave and almond trees. It’s from this height that I can really begin to appreciate the true beauty of the landscape.

With an appetite worked up, it’s time to head back to the hotel for my second Ritz-Carlton dining experience. Kabuki, Ricardo Sanz’s Michelin-starred restaurant, is famed for its fusion of Japanese and Spanish cuisine. Each dish is presented in the most exquisite and, in some cases, theatrical fashion, from the sushi and sashimi on hand-decorated dishes, to the banana-cake finale. There is not a moment of the three-hour dining experience I do not feel completely absorbed in the magic.

So, is Tenerife a luxury destination? I would have to say yes. Until the very last sip of Sangria in the tropical sunshine, I feel utterly enamoured by this charismatic Spanish island.


P.S.

Tenerife is Europe’s first named whale heritage site. Private whale watching tours start from £30pp. On my trip, the whales and dolphins are so close I can almost reach out and touch them as they duck and dive beneath the net of the catamaran and leap from the waters on all sides.

Factfile:

British Airways Holidays offers seven nights B&B at the Ritz-Carlton Abama from £799pp, including return flights from London Gatwick. Price based on travel in September. Visit britishairways.com/tenerife