This February and March I was lucky enough to spend almost 6 weeks on the beautiful island of Tenerife. Now I’ve been to Tenerife before, but this was the first time I went there with a particular goal in mind: to practice and improve my landscape photography. It’s an amazing place for that so I was incredibly excited and spent almost the entirety of my spare time exploring the island and searching for those memorable views. For a first ever photo-trip in my live, I think it was a great success. Over these weeks I visited a lot of places on the island and today I want to share with you a list of locations I personally consider to be the best for landscape photography on Tenerife. Incidentally, most of these are worth visiting even if you’re not a photographer at all – for their sheer beauty and relaxing vibe. And while locals will, undoubtedly, know a lot more secluded and off-the-beaten-path places, if you only have a limited time on the island and want to make the most of it, this list is a great place to start.
Benijo Beach (Playa Benijo)
Benijo beach is probably the most popular place for photography on Tenerife, and for good reason. Located in the remote north-eastern part of the island, this dark sand beach is best known for its huge waves and massive protruding rocks, that can make swimming here dangerous but at the same time create a very photogenic scenery that looks absolutely stunning as the sun is setting.
Sunset is indeed the best time for photography here, especially during the summer, when the sun is setting into the ocean rather than behind the mountains and the sand strip of the beach is generally wider. But even in winter the place is absolutely fantastic and well worth a visit. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind if you want to walk away with a great image. Firstly, the area is quite difficult to photograph, both technically and artistically. Personally, I struggled the most with the composition, which may sound strange, as Benijo offers just about anything a compelling image might need – crushing waves, smooth sand, huge rocks and dramatic skies. Still, finding a good composition here requires an attentive eye and a sense of a good image, which I’m still yet to master.
It’s also quite tricky technically. The light on Benijo can come and go in a matter of moments and often you only have seconds to setup the shot or fiddle with the filters. Also, for the best images, you probably want to shoot from the water, so you need to constantly be on your toes and watch out for incoming waves (trust me, you don’t want them to hit your camera, or you, for that matter). All this may prove quite stressful for beginner photographers.
Secondly, the weather on Benijo is completely unpredictable. It may be all sunny with not a cloud in the sky in the south of the island, yet completely overcast, misty or even rainy in the north, where Benijo is. Worse, conditions change constantly and no forecast can accurately predict what’s going to happen. In fact, when I first came to Benijo, the weather was perfect as I left south and the forecast promised the same thing for the north. And yet, to my utter disappointment, after driving for an hour and a half to get to Benijo, I was greeted by a mist and a completely grey sky with absolutely no sun.
I decided to stick around and wait nonetheless, totally expecting to come back empty handed, but just as the sun was about to set, an opening suddenly appeared in the sky, illuminating the entire beach with a magical golden light. It only lasted for a few minutes, barely enough to setup and snap a couple of pictures. Hey, that’s landscape photography for you – sometimes you just get lucky. The bottom line is – don’t give up, going to Benijo is always a bit of a gamble and there’s always a chance you might need to come again.
And lastly, always make sure to check the tide times before heading to Benijo. That information is easily available on the internet, for instance here. I’ve been to Benijo both on high and low tide and I definitely recommend coming when the tide is low. At low tide, more of the sand strip is revealed, shortening the distance to the rocks and creating numerous additional options for interesting reflections and patterns and generally more compelling compositions.
Alcalá is by no means as famous as Benijo or Teide, yet in my own personal list of top photography locations on Tenerife, this little town on the west coast of the island easily takes the second place. What I love most about Alcalá is a beautiful seafront walkway that is great not only for photography, but also for calm ocean walks or having a dinner while watching the sunset.
The coastline in Alcalá is very ragged and rocky and constantly changes with every tide. It is thus a perfect place to hunt for little closed rock pools, reflections or waves. I visited Alcalá on numerous occasions and always found something new and interesting to photograph. Besides, it’s only a 20 minutes drive from the touristic south area of the island where I resided, therefore making Alcalá my default go-to destination whenever I had no time to come up with a better shooting location for the evening.
Punta de Teno
Punta de Teno is the westernmost point of the island. Getting here is somewhat tricky – the route follows a series of turns at the edge of the cliff that goes straight down into the ocean. You might have seen this road in an opening sequence of Fast and Furious 6. For a long time the road was closed off following an accident a few years back when a part of it simply collapsed into the sea but it is now finally open again. However, private vehicles are still not permitted between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, during which time you’d have to use a taxi or a bus to get to Punta de Teno. So it’s probably best to come here on a weekday. Or for sunset, which, unsurprisingly, is the best time for a photographer anyway.
Punta de Teno is best known for its lighthouse. However, there’s also a small beach here, which makes it quite popular with the locals on a sunny day. The water here is incredibly clean and transparent and a lot of people (myself included) enjoy jumping into it from the small ship dock next to the beach. As for landscape photography, the lighthouse is an easy and obvious target during sunset. I would also highly recommend taking a short hike to the north along the coast, where you would find lots of small bays and rocks offering endless options for a good composition. A path that starts right from the parking place will get you there.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to get close to the lighthouse – the road is blocked by a massive gate. Your best bet is to shoot from the rocks to the left of it, as shown above. It’s not ideal, with quite a bit of stone still showing in the foreground, but it’s the only available option unless you want to climb the rocks down to the path on the other side of the gate. I’ve seen a lot of locals do this successfully, so it’s perfectly doable, although definitely not easy. Just please remember that this is illegal and that you’ll bear full responsibility for your actions. On weekday evenings there’s not a lot of people around to see you do it, and it’s Spain, so chances are no one is going to care anyway, but if you get to the lighthouse and then get stuck down below unable to get out and have to call for a helicopter to rescue you, then you’re in trouble.
Teide is the highest mountain not only on Tenerife, but also in Spain. Interestingly, if measured from the ocean floor, it’s the highest volcano in the world outside of the Hawaiian islands. So if you hike all the way to the top, breathtaking views of the island are pretty much guaranteed. For photographers, though, the main point of interest should not be the summit itself, but rather Teide National Park that surrounds the volcano at the elevation of more than 2000 meters and is easily accessible by car. It’s the most visited national park in the whole Europe and unsurprisingly so – it features a lot of interesting and quite diverse landscapes.
Teide and its surroundings are beautiful all year-round, but the best season for photography is probably late spring and summer. Late May is the flowering season of a unique Tenerife plant called tajinaste, that is quite popular with photographers for its unusual shape and color, while summer is a perfect time to get some incredible shots of the Milky Way.
I was on Tenerife in March and despite my best efforts and waking up crazy early, my attempts to shoot the Milky Way turned out completely futile. Early spring is just not the best time in the northern hemisphere to see our galaxy in the sky. Unlike in winter it’s not entirely impossible, but still quite difficult. But don’t let that discourage you. Teide National Park offers so much more than just star photography. Just take your time and explore, there’s no shortage of incredible views around here, such as lunar landscape, God’s Finger rock or a viewpoint called “Mirador de Chipeque”, an incredible place to see Teide and the clouds below.
In all honesty, Tenerife is a sunset island offering almost endless opportunities and locations to capture the last light of the day. But if you prefer waking up early to shoot the sunrise, there are a couple of places definitely worth visiting. One of the best ones, in my opinion, is La Tejita beach next to El Medano. There’s both sand and rocks here, with the silhouette of the Red Mountain (Montaña Roja) in the background completing the composition. The beach is easily accessible with a parking close by and in the early hours of the day you will pretty much have it all to yourself.
Another great sunrise destination is a village of Tajao (San Migel de Tajao) that is mostly famous for its fresh fish and fish restaurants. As a photographer though, you would probably be more interested in unusual rock formations located right next to the village harbour. Just follow a path along the shore to the north-east (it’s not marked on Google Maps, but trust me, it’s there) and you’ll be sure to find a number of compelling sunrise compositions.
Los Christianos and Costa Adeje
All the locations listed above require a car to get to. But even if you’re just visiting an island with a family for week-long beach vacation and haven’t rented a car, you can still take a few great shots. Just make sure to take your camera with you at sunset and you won’t be disappointed. Below are just a couple of suggestions to check out, all of which are walking distance or just a short taxi ride away from the the main touristy areas.
In Los Christianos, I highly recommend taking a short (20 minute) hike to the top of the hill located on the outskirts of the city. Its hilltop offers incredible views of the southern coast and towns of Los Christianos, Las Americas and Costa Adeje that are especially magnificent during the blue hour right after the sunset. Just make sure to take your tripod and a flashlight with you, if you intend to stay till darkness.
Las Americas beach (Playa de las Americas) is a popular place for surfers to gather and practice, so if you fancy doing some sports and action photography, just grab your long lens and head over there. That’s also where the header image for this article was shot, at these coordinates.
And if you stay a bit further to the north, around Costa Adeje, I definitely recommend paying a visit to the small village of La Caleta. It’s a great place to either shoot the sunset or simply enjoy a dinner in one of the many restaurants around, watching the sun go down.
So these are my seven suggestions. But no matter where you go on the island, Tenerife is a great destination for landscape photography. Just have some patience and don’t be afraid to go out and explore. There are tons of hikes and walks here that might well lead you to an amazing view few people will even know about. What I outlined above is just a start.
While out and about, make sure to take care of yourself and your gear. Always check the tide times and when shooting the rocks during the low tide be careful as those may be extremely slippery. At sea and on the beach, always watch the waves. Salt water often means death to electronics, so take precautions. Sometimes even something as simple as a plastic bag will do. Sooner or later a wave will come unexpectedly and completely soak you and your camera. It happened to me, and I guarantee it will happen to you, so better be safe than sorry.
Never leave anything in the car. I have read about things being stolen from cars in the parking lots of Teide, Punta de Teno and other places on the island. I’ve never been a victim of a theft myself, but a couple of guys did try to get in my bag right in the middle of the touristy area in Costa Adeje once, so watch your pockets too. However, apart from thieves, Tenerife is a perfectly safe place.
Use filters. You will find ND, graduated ND and polarizer filters especially useful for sunsets and bright reflections.
And always remember to have a good rest. Photography is not the only thing to do around here. Tenerife is also a perfect place to put your camera down and just relax, swim and enjoy the sun.