Los Realejos, Tenerife

Home to five nature reserves

The church of Santiago Apóstol in the upper part of Los Realejos is the oldest church on the island, dating back to 1496.

It is built on the site of the formal surrender by the native Guanches to the Spanish conquistadores.

The area was once almost entirely agricultural, though these days its proximity to the tourist centre of Puerto de la Cruz means that many of its inhabitants travel the few short miles to the coast to work.

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Los Realejos itself is noted for its rich natural surroundings, which include five nature reserves.

The municipality stretches from the higher reaches of Teide National Park down to the volcanic sand beaches of El Socorro - an excellent surfing venue - La Fajana, Castro and La Grimona.

Above Los Realejos is the lookout point of Mirador de la Corona, with its magnificent views over the Orotava Valley and the coast.

The town has many important historical and architecturally interesting buildings dating back over the last 500 years.

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The town is judged to be the most festive in Spain, with more than 80 celebrations and fiestas a year taking place.

The best known, the Fiesta de La Cruz in May, dates back nearly 300 years and draws visitors from all over the island. The fireworks display that kicks off the celebrations is considered to be one of the biggest anywhere in the Canary Islands, fueled as it is by the rivalry that exists between two big fireworks manufacturers.

After the fireworks, there is the procession of La Cruz (the cross). The churches are adorned by floral carpets and there is a 'battle of the flowers' involving decorated cars that also parade through the town.

Outside the boundaries of Los Realejos, there are many opportunities to pursue leisure activities, such as walking, paragliding or hang gliding, all carried out amid some of the most spectacular scenery on the island.

Popular places for both visitors and locals include the Rambla de Castro walk, Montaña del Fraile mountain, the hillsides of la Cordillera del Tigaiga, the cliffs of Terreno, Los Campeches and the Barranco de Ruiz ravine.