The destructive origins of volcanoes often create natural yet otherworldly landscapes, and this has never been truer than in Tenerife. At the very heart of the island is Teide National Park, home to El Teide, Spain’s highest peak and the world’s third highest volcano. It’s one of the most breathtaking destinations in the entire Canary archipelago and is the perfect place to get a fascinating insight into the sheer power of Mother Nature.
If you’re looking for a rewarding experience beyond the usual sun, sand, and sea, don’t miss out on a trip to Teide National Park.
A Long, Long Time Ago
Approximately 300,000 years ago, a massive volcano that towered above Tenerife collapsed, forming the caldera we now know as Las Cañadas. From this amphitheater-like depression, 48 km (30 miles) in circumference, emerged Pico Viejo, the staggering 3,718-high El Teide, and many other smaller volcanoes. Apart from the volcanic complex, the basin is home to thriving endemic flora and fauna, including the Teide white broom, Canary Island wallflower, Teide Bugloss, Canary Island lizard, and Canary Island skink.
Sometime in Tenerife’s early history, the aboriginal Guanches regarded Teide as the one responsible for holding up the sky. It was also believed to be the gate to hell, as evident in the wealth of archeological sites found on the mountain with ritual deposits for warding off evil spirits. To the island’s indigenous inhabitants, after having endured its several eruptions, the volcano was indeed “Echeyde” or “abode of Guayota.
Fast forward to modern times, Parque Nacional de las Cañadas del Teide was awarded the national park status in 1954. Its lunar-like landscape attracts four million visits yearly–the most of its kind in all of Spain. The important attraction was also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the 12 Treasures of Spain in 2007.
Moreover, Teide has turned into a point of reference for studies related to Mars. Their similarity in environmental and geological conditions made the park ideal for testing instruments that will be sent to the red planet. In fact, the Raman instrument that was to be used in the ESA-NASA ExoMars expedition to Mars was tested Las Cañadas del Teide in 2010. Then, in 2017, planetary rovers were also tested in Las Minas de San José, another area in the park with a desert-like landscape.
Why Visit Teide National Park
Offering about 19,000 hectares of peculiar geological features, it’s hard to believe that Teide National Park is from this planet at all. The tourist mecca, veiled with volcanic rocks, lava flows, and lava beds, is breathtaking from every angle. Best of all, visiting this otherworldly attraction doesn’t require a space shuttle (or eating magic mushrooms).
Here are some of the most exciting activities in Teide National Park that will you in awe.
Go on Hiking Adventures
Holidaymakers of all abilities who prefer to travel by foot will love the diverse routes and trails in Teide National Park. There are gentle paths across lava flows that are ideal for short strolls, easy but long hikes on circular or out and back routes, as well as tracks requiring intense climbs to summits. For a satisfying taste of what the park has to offer, we recommend choosing a trail suitable to your fitness level. Taking a moment to admire the spectacularly varied landscape of its many attractions, which gradually becomes less verdant and arider the higher you go, is also a must.
Here are some of the most popular hiking and walking trails within the parkland:
- Chinyero Volcano Loop (2 hours)
- Los Roques de García (1 hour and 15 mins)
- La Fortaleza (4 hours)
- Boca Tauce (1 hour and 16 mins)
- Montaña de Guamaso (49 mins)
- Las Lajas to Cañada del Sombrero (3 hours)
- Parador Nacional to Guajara (4 hours and 30 mins)
- Cañada Blanca to Guajara (5 hours and 14 mins)
- Cañada Blanca – El Teide – Sanatorio (5 hours and 44 mins)
- Sendero de Arenas Negras (2 hours and 47 mins)
- Sendero de la Degollada de Guajara (3 hours)
- El Portillo to Huevos del Teide and Montaña Blanca (5 hours and 30 mins)
- Montaña de la Botija and Montaña Samara (2 hours)
- Mirador Llano de Ucanca – Félix Méndez – Roque Cinchado – La Catedral (2 hours and 20 mins)
- Sendero Crater del Pico del Teide (40 mins)
- Mirador Narices del Teide – Montaña de Chio – Pico de Viejo (5 hrs and 50 mins)
- Teide via Refugio de Altavista (7 hours and 51 mins)
- Montaña Blanca (3 hours and 28 mins)
- Mirador de Chio to Pico Viejo (6 hours and 10 mins)
- Roque Chinchado to Los Huevos del Teide – Pico Viejo (6 hours)
- Montaña Blanca – La Rambleta (7 hours)
- Mount Guajara (4 hours and 15 mins)
Summit Pico del Teide
Reaching the top of Mount Teide at 3,718-meter high is an incomparable adventure that everyone visiting Tenerife must experience at least once in their life. With year-round stable and lovely weather, summiting even in December is a great idea.
There are two ways to reach the top of the mighty El Teide. The first and more popular option is by cable car, which takes tourists from the base station to La Rambleta at an altitude of 3,555 meters. The second is hiking up to the peak. Regardless of how you get there, the closer you are to the summit, the more springy your steps become. And once you finally reach the vertex, the majestic view from all the way up evokes stillness and an unforgettable feeling of calm.
Ready to climb the top of Spain? Keep reading to know everything you’ll need to reach Pico del Teide.
Step 1: Obtain a Permit. All hikes to El Teide summit after 9 am require a permit. It is free, and you can get one from the Parque Nacional Teide reservation website. However, make sure to apply at least two to three months before your planned hike, or it may be too late.
If you are unable to get a permit, you can book a guided tour instead. It already includes the permit, cable car tickets, and insurance.
Some tourists who are unsuccessful in getting a permit and are not a fan of guided tours hike to the peak before 9 am, which means no permit is needed. The best way to do this is by staying in the Altavista Refuge overnight, climbing the summit early the next day, and getting off the peak before 9 am.
Step 2: Select Your Way Up. Visitors can only reach the El Teide summit via cable car or on foot.
As mentioned, the most popular and most effortless way is by taking the cable car up to La Rambleta (the top station) and hiking the last 163 meters up to the peak. If this is your preferred route, make sure to buy the cable car tickets in advance. The cable car ride is available as early as 9 am throughout the year, with varying times for the last ascent and descent. Holidaymakers can also book a special evening tour through the park authority to experience the sunset and watch the evening skies from the roof of Spain. Visit the Volcano Teide cable car page for the latest prices, opening times, and other information.
Please note that these restrictions are in place:
- Visitors with cardiovascular conditions, expecting mothers, and children under the age of 3 cannot ride the cable car due to high-altitude health risks.
- People with any physical or motor disability cannot ascend by cable car due to potential risks if the vehicle needs to be evacuated.
- Passengers already at the top station will have to descend on foot should the cable car system experience technical failure.
For those who wish to be a summiteer on foot all the way, you can go through Trail 7, also known as the Montaña Blanca route, followed by Trail 11. It’s a 5-mile-long hike that starts with a comfortable 5-kilometer walk from the Montaña Blanca car park to the Teide base, where the ascend to Refugio de Altavista begins. Once you reach the cable car station, you’re only 163 meters away from the summit. Typically, the hike to Pico del Teide takes six to seven hours. You can descend via the cable car (only if you booked in advance) or hike down the same way you came.
Step 3. Monitor the Weather. Teide National Park may close the trails to the summit, the Refuge Altavista Refuge, and Pico Viejo due to unfavorable weather conditions. Suppose the cable car is closed for the same reason or due to technical problems. In that case, you can choose, at no cost, to reschedule on the same day as the original booking (should the facilities re-open), reschedule to another date, or request a full refund.
Visitors can monitor trail and cable car status here.
Step 5: Have a Plan B. It’s good to have a backup plan in case the cable car service or the trail to El Teide summit is closed. Many visitors simply choose a different route where they can still enjoy the mars-like landscape of the national park.
Admire Rare Flora and Fauna
While the landscape of Teide National Park is often compared to that of Mars or the moon, it is not devoid of life and colors. In fact, if you visit during springtime, the sight of odd-looking red bugloss is sure to pique your curiosity. The unique plant grows up to three meters high and produces countless vibrant red flowers that stand out against the volcanic terrain from which it emerged. The Teide violet, also known as Teide daisy, is another eye-catching flora that will have you snapping pictures. Though described as delicate, it thrives in 2000 to 3000 meters altitudes and can be found in the El Teide crater, amongst other areas. Consider yourself incredibly lucky if you find one of these as the beauty only appears from beneath the rocks for three weeks in spring.
The fauna won’t disappoint either. Teide National Park is home to several exotic insects most people have never heard of. This includes antlions, Saharan damselflies, devil’s flower mantes, leaf-footed bugs, and robberflies. Visitors may also chance upon its endemic reptiles, such as the Tenerife lizard, Tenerife gecko, and Gran Canaria skink. If you’re into bird-watching, the Tenerife blue chaffinch, Berthelot’s pipit, northern shrike, plain swift, and African blue tit are some of the nesters you may find here. Feral cats, North African hedgehogs, and the very elusive Corsican mouflons, which were introduced to the park, are glorious sights as well.
Watch the Sunset and Try Stargazing
Tenerife is known for its bright, clear skies, but its colorful sunsets and starry night skies are on a different level of spectacular, too. The close of day paints the horizon with strong hues of pink, orange, and purple, which tourists can admire whilst flying towards the highest point of Spain, above craters and solidified lava flows, on a cable car. The splendor of Teide casting its shadow across the Atlantic and towards Gran Canaria is another spectacular moment visitors can witness from atop the national park during sundown.
Come evening, holidaymakers can peer through state-of-the-art telescopes and watch stars sparkle without the pollutants from city lights getting in the way. 83 of the 88 officially recognized constellations by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) can be seen from Teide National Park. During summer, you’ll see the most shimmering stars and even catch a rare glimpse of the Milky Way’s majestic beauty.
Many stargazers and astronomy lovers consider this place the best in Europe for observing celestial beings in all their glory. A claim clearly backed up by the Starlight Foundation, which listed the park as a “Starlight Tourist Destination.”
If you’d like to explore the night skies of Tenerife, a sunset or night tour of Mount Teide is an excellent option for you. Various companies, such as Teide By Night and Volcano Teide, offer guided services that will allow you to enjoy a breathtaking sunset in the national park followed by an exciting astronomic observation of the stars.
Entrance Fee: None
Permits: You need a permit to summit Mount Teide. It’s free, but you have to apply as early as possible.
Parking: Parking is free throughout the park, but it fills up fast during peak seasons.
Main Attractions: El Teide, Roques de García, and Pico Viejo
Visitor Information: There are two visitor information centers in Teide National Park–one at Parador Nacional and the other at El Portillo. You may also visit https://volcanoteide.com/ for updates on the weather and status of the trails and facilities.
Critical Safety Tips: Exploring the park will bring you between 2,000 and 3,718 meters high. At this altitude, ascending too quickly from sea level may cause shortness of breath, lightheadedness, or even nausea. Staying well-hydrated is crucial. The night before the hike, it also helps to sleep in places at a higher elevation, like Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide and Altavista Refuge. Should you fall ill on the trails, we recommend descending immediately. If you are heavily pregnant or suffering from any heart or respiratory condition, we highly discourage you from trying to reach the summit.
Food and Drinks: We recommend bringing your own snacks and water with you, but you can also buy or grab a bite from these places in the park:
- Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide–The hotel has its own restaurant that serves exquisite Canarian cuisine. There’s also a cafe and bar in front of it.
- Cable Car base station cafe–For drinks and small snacks while waiting for your turn to be airlifted.
- Restaurante La Bamby–The restaurant offers mostly traditional Canarian dishes. It has an outdoor seating area with great views and a little gift shop for souvenirs.
- Papillon–The menu from this tapas bar and restaurant consists mainly of Canarian and Spanish dishes, with some global comfort foods like burgers.
- Restaurante El Portillo–Located directly at the entrance of Teide National Park, this restaurant is popular for its coffee, sweets, and meats.
Clothing: At over 3,000 meters high, the summit of Mount Teide is a cold place, so wear or pack warm clothing, like a thermal jacket, wind-and water-proof jacket, beanie hat, and gloves. Do this no matter how warm and sunny it is before your ascend. Also wear sturdy but comfortable hiking boots or walking shoes.
Best Time to Visit: Tenerife enjoys plenty of sunshine and stable warm temperatures that only deviate minimally all year round. However, weather conditions are quite different in the national park, especially up in Mount Teide. As expected, summer offers the most sun and heat. On the other hand, the Winter season is typically warm and sunny during the daytime, but evenings are cooler. There’s also a possibility of snowing.
How to Reach Teide National Park
When visiting Teide National Park, the best options are to drive or join a guided tour with round-trip transportation included. Public transit to and from the park is not recommended as it is limited and always on schedule, so descending too late or too early can be a problem.
Here are the ways to reach the park by car and bus from various points in Tenerife:
From the East (San Cristóbal de La Laguna and Santa Cruz de Tenerife)–Take bus line 108 to La Orotava, then ride bus 348 or drive along TF-24 to the park
From the West (Los Gigantes and Fañabe)–Take bus line 473 or 477 to Costa Adeje, then ride bus 342 to the park. Alternatively, head to Chío, then drive along TF-38 and TF-21 to the park.
A Unique Experience in Teide National Park
Experience martian landscape by walking across the national park’s unique terrain, then feel like the ruler of Spain by summiting the mighty El Teide. While you’re up there, witness its massive shadow cross the Atlantic to reach Gran Canaria, then wait a little longer to see 83 constellations and the Milky Way at night. Sounds incredible? It is.