Movie Tourism – Canary Islands

Film production and tourism attract over 10 million people year round to the 7 Canary Islands, located just off the coast of Morocco. Known as the Fortunate Islands in classical Greek mythology, they are indeed a delightful vacation destination with a climate typical of subtropical volcanic islands. Tourists will find culture and cuisine similar to the Spanish islands in the Caribbean.

Several movies have been filmed in the Canaries including Planet of the Apes and the Ten Commandments, as well as the more recent remakes of Papillon and Clash of the Titans. This article will focus primarily on Tenerife, “the island of eternal spring,” with brief information on Lanzarote, where scenes from the fantasy Clash of the Titans took place. With a cast including Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, and Sam Worthington, the production begun in 2002 was later converted to 3D after the huge success of Avatar.

Mystery surrounds the prehistoric Guanche cavemen who first inhabited Tenerife, where they came from, and why they failed to progress over time. Eventually, the Spanish takeover in 1495 practically eliminated the ancient Guanche culture for some time. With a diverse environment from beaches and natural pools to forest and mountains, there are numerous attractions for travelers to enjoy in colonial Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz, and other towns on Tenerife.

Things to Do: While in Puerto de la Cruz, visit Loro Park, a huge, beautifully maintained botanical garden and zoo founded in 1972. In addition to an impressive variety of plants such as orchids, palms, cacti, and the native Drago trees, the zoo houses all types of animals, as well as the largest parrot collection in the world, a shark tunnel, dolphin aquarium, and the Arctic habitat of Planet Penguin.

Hours: 8:30am – 6:35pm, year round. Admission: $42 – Adults, $28 – Children.

7 restaurants, gift shop, etc.

Museums: We will highlight a few of the many museums on Tenerife, most with free admission.

Museum of Nature and Man – Located in Santa Cruz, the capital and main port of the island. Features significant archaeological artifacts, animal and plant collections, and other items of interest to anthropologists and botanists. Hours: Tues – Sun, 10am to 8pm. Small admission fee.

Museum of the History of Tenerife – Housed in the Casa Lercaro is the island’s history from the Spanish in the 15th century through 18th century British to the autonomous Canaries of today (owned by Spain).

Regional Military Museum – Housed within the Almeida Castle is military history with maps, weapons, and flags of the Canaries dating back to Lord Nelson’s attack in 1797. Hours: Tues – Sat, 10am to 2pm.

Museum of Wine and Vine (La Baranda) – An old farmhouse where travelers can sample the five regional wines of Tenerife, enjoy concerts and exhibitions at the Casa de Miel (House of Honey), have lunch, or visit the gift shop. Open daily except Mondays. Hours: Tues – Sat, 11am to 8pm. Sun – 11am to 6pm.

Other Attractions: Mt Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, surrounds the dormant Teide volcano, the highest peak of Spain at over 10,000 feet and the third largest volcano in the world. Over 3 million people each year follow the trails up the mountain to the observatory, or take the cable car to within a few feet of the center of the volcano.

Tenerife has its own pyramids in the Ethnographic Park of Guimar, about 15 miles from Santa Cruz. Discovered by renowned anthropologist, Thor Heyerdahl, these pyramids closely resemble those found in Mexico, South America, and Egypt. Also of interest to visitors are the archaeological excavation of a Guanche cave, an exhibition of ancient watercraft, and a replica of Ra II. The park has numerous courtyards, terraces, and balconies, as well as a gift shop and various special events.

Hours: Open daily, except 25 Dec & 1 Jan, 9:30am to 6pm. Admission: Adults – $13, Children – $7. Handicap accessible. (Note: Prices and hours may change.)

Accommodations: No shortage of apartments, hotels, and rural places to stay. Highly recommended is the 5-star luxury Hotel Botanico & Oriental Spa Garden, with guestrooms and elegant penthouse suites, a Thai pagoda, 4 restaurants, and other amenities. Rates: Begin at $193 for deluxe room to $400+ for suites. Packages also available. (For real extravagance, book the Bill Clinton suite, an exclusive, separate wing of the penthouse, complete with a wrap-around terrace, three bedrooms, lounge area, and indoor whirlpool. Call for rates.)

Also mentioned is the 4-star Hotel Beatriz Atlantis & Spa, located in Puerto de la Cruz near Lake Martianez. Buffet restaurant, 2 bars, and glass dome spa facility, with shopping center nearby. Water sports, activities for kids, ideal for families.

Reasonable Rates: From $106 to $145 – double room with sea view.

Others in Puerto de la Cruz with good ratings include the Gran Turquesa Playa – avg rates $74/double room, and the all-suites Las Aguilles, rates from $94 to $260, breakfast included.

Dining & Entertainment:

Restaurants and cafes offer a variety of cuisine, from traditional Spanish to seafood and pork. Try papas arrugadas (crinkly fries), spicy mojo and salmorejo dips, and wine, of course. Highly rated is Lucas Maes, expensive, but excellent food and ambiance. Prices: $25 – $50. Hours: Wed-Sun, 1-3:30pm, 7-11pm.

Enjoy Mediterranean or vegetarian at Mil Sabores, moderately priced from $17, open Mon-Sat, 6:30am to 11pm, or Escondida for Thai & Basque. Prices: $60 – 3 course meal. Live entertainment. Hours: Wed-Mon, 1-4pm, 7pm-2am.

Visitors will find numerous nightspots on Tenerife including casinos, pubs, and bars, many with live music and open until 5 or 6am. If you’re familiar with the Caribbean, Rio, or Mardi Gras, you know that Carnival is Big entertainment, with music, street dancing, costumes, and parades. Carnaval de Santa Cruz in 2011 – 10 Feb to 13 Mar. Mostly free admission.

Scenes from Clash of the Titans and Krull were also filmed on Lanzarote, birthplace of famous artist Cesar Manrique whose works contributed to the island’s main source of income, tourism. Of interest to visitors are Timanfaya National Park and the submerged volcanic “Tunnel of Atlantis.” Other attractions include Manrique’s creation of the Cactus Garden, open 10am to 6pm, and the LagOmar Museum with an interesting history of Omar Sharif while filming The Mysterious Island, open 10am to 6pm (winter), 10am to 7pm (summer), Tues – Sun. Admission: Adults – $6, Children – $3.

Visit the 16th century Castillo de San Gabriel and the 18th century Castillo de San Jose, converted into an art gallery by Manrique in 1974. Hours: Daily, 11am to 9pm.

Besides beautiful beaches and incredible scenery, there are the usual fiestas, markets, shops, and theme parks. Rent a bike or drive around the island to appreciate its natural beauty.

Three main resorts, Puerto del Carmen, Costa Teguise, and Playa Blanca, offer numerous things to do and places to stay. At Puerto del Carmen, you’ll find over 100 restaurants, great shopping, and water sports, as well as the IronMan international cycling event in May/June, and the July Fiesta de Carmen. Costa Teguise is known for its beaches, windsurfing, cycling, and the only golf course on Lanzarote (to date). Accommodations range from budget to high dollar. Being less crowded, Playa Blanca may be preferred for the upscale atmosphere.

Getting there: Flights from Europe, the UK, and other countries on major airlines including Air France, Alitalia, American, Delta, British Airways, and Spain’s national airline, Iberia.

(Ferries & inter-island flights available.)

Sharon L Slayton

Filed Under: Movie tourism

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