Snow-capped Teide Mountain (or Pico de Teide to the locals), is the most iconic feature of holidays to Tenerife. While the island is renowned for its black sand beaches and luxury all-inclusive resorts, this active (yes, active) volcano almost makes the trip worthwhile on its own.
Though it might be over 2000 km from the Spanish capital, Mount Teide is the highest point in Spain – it sits over 3,700 metres high and keeps watch over the rest of the Island. But when you’re not trying to spot your hotel from the top of the rock you can explore the vast (over 115,000 acres) Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site filled with over 160 different types of flora and fauna, and some of the most impressive – and accessible – volcanic landscapes anywhere in the world.
It’s one of the very best things to do in Tenerife – read on for everything you need to know to plan your visit.
Before you can get exploring, you need to get in. The easiest way to reach Mount Teide National Park is by car – if you’re heading here from the north, take the TF-21 La Orotava-Granadilla road or the TF-24 La Laguna-El Portillo road. You’ll also need the TF-21 if you’re approaching from the south, while the TF-38 is the road to take from the west of the island.
If you’re not hiring a car, bus is the way to go – look out for the 348 from Puerto de la Cruz or the 342 from Costa Adeje.
Another reason a car is the best way to travel here is because it allows you to explore the national park at your own leisure before heading up to the summit by cable car. The park will no doubt look spectacular from your car, but for the best views you’ll need to hop on a cable car from the base station (2,356 metres) to the top station (3,555 metres). The journey takes around eight minutes.
Even if you do reach the top station, you still won’t have made it to the highest point in Spain. If you’re up for a challenge, and don’t mind the smell of sulphur, the Telesforo Bravo trail will take you up to the volcano crater. It’s a 40-minute hike and we wouldn’t recommend it to anyone not in the best physical condition, but the views are worth the effort.
Let’s say you’ve made it to the very top of Teide – if you’re lucky enough to go on a day with good visibility, you’ll be able to see not one, but four of the Canary Islands – Gran Canaria, La Palma, El Hierro and La Gomera, as well as the rest of Tenerife itself below.
The particularly fertile volcanic soil here explains why such an extraordinary range of flora and fauna can be found here. If you’re visiting in spring, you’ll be able to see red bugloss – a unique, alien-looking plant that can grow up to 10ft tall and blooms into thousands of tiny red flowers. The Teide Violet is another plant to keep your eyes out for. If you spot these rare flowers you can consider yourself very lucky, because they only grow above 3,300 metres on the slopes of Mount Teide. These plants, combined with the red sand and rocks, and the ‘sculptures’ created by past volcanic activity, much of Teide National Park will leave you thinking you’re on another planet.
Arriving early in the morning helps with visibility as clouds typically form later in the day, and you can catch sunrise, which is always fun. You’d better be an early riser though, as you’ll need to have completed the hike to the top by 9 am! Sunset is similarly stunning, but make sure you wrap up warm – there’s a reason the upper parts of Teide Mountain have a dusting of snow.
Other than Teide itself, there are a number of sites worth checking out here – Roque Cinchado is a striking 27-metre rock formation considered an emblem of Tenerife. Mount Guajara is a dormant volcano about 2700 metres up. Mirador de Chío is yet another great spot to catch the sunset, and Teide Observatory is the place to go to see first-hand why Tenerife’s skies are ranked among the best in the world for stargazing.
There are also two visitor centres in the Teide national park – El Portillo and Cañada Blanca – offering guided walks for all those who want a little more information about Teide mountain or perhaps don’t feel comfortable venturing off on their own. Tickets can be booked at these offices, or in advance by calling (+34) 922 92 23 71 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Tours depart at 9.15am and 1.30pm.