This is, without doubt, the icon of Tenerife. Teide National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007 under the Natural Asset category. It also boasts a European Diploma awarded by the European Council, and it is part of the Natura 2000 Network Sites. The Park is well deserving of such acknowledgements. Firstly, it boasts the broadest sample of supra-Mediterranean vegetation on Earth. Secondly, it covers one of the world's most stunning volcanic landscapes – and certainly the most outstanding in the Canary Islands.
Teide National Park lies right in the middle of the Island, at an altitude of 2,000 m (6,500 ft) above sea level, topped by Spain's highest peak at 3,718 m (12,198 ft). These record-breaking figures add to the fact that it is the most visited national park in Europe, welcoming some three million visitors a year.
From a geomorphological point of view, this place is one of nature's true wonders. The structures of the caldera and the Teide-Pico Viejo stratovolcano are unique in the world. But its list of virtues does not stop there. With hundreds of cones, lava tongues and caves, it is the focus of much scientific and scenic interest. Not to mention its wealth of fauna and flora, which includes a significant array of endemic Canarian species and several others that only live in the Park.
Teide National Park was created in 1954 in recognition of its volcanic and biological singularity. Covering roughly 19,000 hectares (47,000 acres), it is the largest and oldest out of all the national parks in the Canary Islands. It has a peripheral protection area and is surrounded by Corona Forestal Natural Park, which covers an expanse of 46,612.9 hectares (115,183 acres), making this the largest protected nature area in the entire archipelago.
By guagua (bus):
- From Puerto de la Cruz, line 348.
- From Costa Adeje, line 342.
- From the north along the TF-21 La Orotava-Granadilla road or along the TF-24 La Laguna-El Portillo road.
- From the south, along the TF-21 road.
- From the west, along the TF-38 Boca Tauce-Chío road.
What to see?
Even from the car, the park is a spectacular sight to see. The landscape is breathtaking from every angle. To explore it thoroughly, the best thing is to drive up on one road and down on another. The greatest contrast occurs if you enter from the north and exit towards the south or vice-versa. Cañadas del Teide is a gigantic caldera spanning 17 km (10.5 miles) across, from which the summits of Pico Viejo and Mount Teide rise up to 3,718 m (12,198 ft), making this Spain's highest point and the third tallest volcano in the world. Its snowy white peak contrasting with tongues of black lava petrified on the slopes is a unique combination that never fails to surprise.
If you come in springtime, look out for the unmistakable colour of the red bugloss, a unique plant that can grow up to 3 m (9.8 ft) tall and bursts into bloom with thousands of tiny bright red flowers. Another of the world's unique treasures you will find here is the Teide violet, a proud symbol of the Park that grows only above altitudes of 2,500 m (8,200 ft). If you manage to see one, consider yourself extremely lucky.
If the landscape and vegetation seem taken from another planet, the fauna is no disappointment. Keep an eye out for the smallest of creatures. Most of the insects here cannot be found anywhere else. You will also come across unique reptiles, such as the Tenerife lizard, the Tenerife gecko and the Canarian lizard. For bird lovers, prepare to see kestrels, great grey shrikes and some endemic species such as blue chaffinches. There is also a mammal that is worthy of special mention, though it was introduced by man: the Corsican mouflon. Spotting one is quite a challenge, as they tend to hide from human view.
What to do?
One of the most exciting experiences the National Park has in store for you is a ride on the cable car. The base station stands at an altitude of 2,356 m (7,729 ft) and climbs up to the top station at 3,555 m (11,663). The journey between the two takes roughly 8 minutes and the thrill is electrifying. Once at the top, you will be treated to some stunning views from the lookout point.
But even if you take the cable car to the top station, you still can't quite say you've made it to Spain's highest point. There is a trail from here that leads you up to the crater on foot. It takes roughly 40 minutes and is a difficult walk, but just think of the pride of telling your friends you have reached the top of the country on your own two feet. If you are lucky enough to go on a clear day, the view will bless you with the sight of up to four islands from atop the peak of this almighty mountain: Gran Canaria, La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera, not to mention the entire island of Tenerife opening out at your feet to proudly reveal its full beauty. If you want to live this unforgettable experience, you will need to apply for a special licence which you can get from the website www.reservasparquesnacionales.es. We recommend you apply one or two months in advance, depending on the time of year. The licence is free but it will only be valid for the chosen date. If you can't make it up there because of the weather or any other circumstances, the licence will expire.
However, if you spend the night at the Altavista Refuge, you won't need to apply for a licence at all to access the Mount Teide's peak and see the sunrise. But if you choose this option, you will need to have completed the walk by 9 o'clock in the morning. So basically, you need to get up bright and early, climb to the top and back down again as quickly as possible. We assure you it's worth it!
You will be able to feel at one with the National Park's wilderness thanks to a Network of Trails that lead you on self-guided walks of the area, unless you prefer to have an official guide (available all year round except on 1 and 6 January and 25 December). The walks are varied in terms of distance, duration and difficulty. If you decide to go for a guided walk, you will need to book at the National Park office from Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 2 pm, or alternatively call (+34) 922 92 23 71, write an email to email@example.com or go to one of the National Park's Visitor Centres.
The following guided walks set off from the El Portillo office:
- Arenas Negras 2 h. - 2 h. 30 min.
- La Fortaleza 3 h. 30 min.
- Risco Verde 3 h.
Departures at 9.15 am and 1.30 pm (except the La Fortaleza trail, with just one departure first-thing).
There are also guided walks from the Cañada Blanca Visitor Centre:
- Roques de García 2 h. - 2 h. 30 min.
- Degollada de Guajara 3 h. 30 min.
- Guajara 5-6 h.
Departures for the first walk are at 9.15 am and 1.30 pm (the other two are just once a day at 9.30 am).
There is another walk that sets off from both points:
- Siete Cañadas (one-way) 4-5 h.
Departures at 9.15 am or at 9.30 am.
If you decide to take the walk at your own pace, indulge in the silence and feel how small you are compared to the vastness all around you, you will find that this trail is perfectly marked and signposted. In any case, the office and the visitor centres will provide you with any further information you might need.
Few places in the world boast such an extraordinary landscape and state-of-the-art science facilities together. The IAC (Canarian Institute of Astrophysics) is equipped with some of the world's most important facilities. To visit them and get a close-up of the secrets of the universe, contact the company Volcano Life, providing guided tours in Spanish, English and German. You will need to book in advance by calling (+34) 637 365 429 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org You can also visit the website volcanolife.com If a visit to the National Park made you feel small, prepare to venture into the cosmos and discover the true dimensions of the great beyond.
This observatory was located in Tenerife because, together with La Palma, Chile and Hawaii, its skies are among the best in the world for stargazing. There is a regional law under the rather poetic name of the Sky Law which controls light pollution levels and prevents “progress” from depriving Tenerife's residents of one of nature's simple pleasures: gazing up at the star-studded sky. Plus, the Island has been awarded the International Starlight Destination certificate. There are institutions and companies who specialise in “star tourism” and provide information and guided tours. For more detailed information, go to the “Stargazing” section.
As you know, the wonders of the Park are not only in the sky – the ground is full of them too. Beside the El Portillo Visitor Centre are the Botanical Gardens, where you will be able to see plant species from the Canary Islands' mountain-top vegetation which are rarely spotted in their natural habitat, and many of them are endemic to the Park or the Island.
If you want to get even closer to nature, we recommend you spend a night at the Altavista Refuge. Located at an altitude of 3,270 m (10,730 ft), a stay here is an experience in itself, but you are only allowed one night. Usually, people stay here to make an early climb up to the peak without a licence, to get that unforgettable view at sunrise. At the refuge, guests are given bed sheets and can heat up liquids in the kitchen. Prices range from 10 to 20 euros and the only way to book is on the net: telefericoteide.com/altavista.
Lastly, the National Park has two Visitor Centres that open all year round (except on 25 December and 1 January). On the one hand, the El Portillo Visitor Centre shows the Park's geological history and the relationship between the beings that inhabit the area and their surroundings. On the other hand, the Cañada Blanca Visitor Centre focuses on the interaction between mankind, Las Cañadas and Mount Teide. Both open from 9 am to 4 pm.
What to take?
Up in the mountains, any form of exercise becomes exhausting after a while, so make sure you pace yourself to avoid wearing yourself out too soon. Take water or an isotonic drink with you, as well as energy foods such as fruit or nuts. Wear suitable footwear for the loose and stony mountain ground you will be walking on. Take extra care in winter, especially in the event of snowfall. In Summer, don't forget that solar radiation is particularly strong here and can cause serious sunburn, so we suggest you wear sun screen and a hat. In any case, it is a good idea to take some warm clothing and a raincoat whatever the time of year because the weather can turn suddenly. Last but not least, be sure to put your phone in your backpack.
What not to take?
Stones. You may find it extremely tempting to pocket a few volcanic stones with interesting shapes, but this is seriously harmful for the landscape and is completely forbidden. Remember, the best souvenir is the one you take back in your memory and your heart.