The Canary Islands, like the Hawaiian Islands, were each built as they passed over a volcanic hotspot in the ocean floor. Mount Teide is the third highest volcanic structure in the world after Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
Some of the Canary Islands volcanoes are still very active, as shown by the 2021 eruption on La Palma.
Mount Teide, the volcano on Tenerife, is fairly quiet, but when you get near the top, you realise things are still happening there.
At 3,718 metres (12,198 feet) above sea level and more than 7,500 metres (24,606 feet) above the ocean floor, the peak of Teide is the highest point of Tenerife, of any Spanish territory, and in the Atlantic Ocean. Its location, size, looming silhouette in the distance and its snowy landscape give it personality. The original settlers considered Teide a god and the volcano was a place of worship.
I only made it almost to the top because you need a permit for those last few metres, but I didn’t know that until too late, so I had to make do with the tourist route.
Mount Teide is easily accessible from any of the resorts on Tenerife. There is a road going past it, and plenty of parking space. For those of us who prefer not to drive when on vacation, there are also buses – two each way a day, so you take one out there in the morning, and catch the other going back in the afternoon, whichever end of the island you are staying on.
Once you’ve parked, or got off the bus, the next stage of the journey is by teleferico – cable car. You can do it on foot, though I don’t recommend that if you have to be back in time to catch the bus. The teleferico runs continuously from 9am to 4pm, unless it gets too windy. It’s a popular tourist destination, and even in late October, we had to queue for a while to get tickets.
On the way up (and again when coming down) you get wonderful views of the surrounding lava fields – different colours indicating different types of volcanic activity over the millennia. Various shades of red dominate, but there are also browns and blacks.
Cocooned in the cable car, you don’t appreciate the effect of altitude until you step outside at the top. Suddenly it is cold. Very cold at times. Even with the steam coming out of the sulphur vents, it’s hard to feel warm. Quite a few visitors were heading back to the teleferico within five minutes because they were inadequately dressed.
A sign tells you which way to go – if you have a permit for the top, you go one way, otherwise take one of the two trails to lookout points. Safe paths have been made in the rocks, but they are still uneven. And you need to walk slowly. The thin air can make you feel light-headed, and a helping of sulphur gas makes it worse. But once there, the view is fantastic – worth staying and appreciating until you feel too cold.
Back at the bottom station, you can explore the surrounding crater – Teide itself grew up within the remains of a much older volcano. Footpaths take you out to the rim, or to the visitor centre and café.
I’ve seen photos taken in the spring (apparently April – June is best) with the area ablaze with broom and other wildflowers, but in October the vegetation was mainly dead and dry. There are birds and lizards here too, and a variety of insects.
The Tizon lizards were great characters. Probably attracted by the bananas in our lunch, they thoroughly investigated the camera bags, and we had to check that we weren’t taking any back to base. Each of the Canary Islands has its own lizard species.
I had planned to visit again in spring 2014, but horrendous storms created mudslides that blocked the roads, and the best I could do was photograph the snowy peak from a distance.
In 1954, the Teide, and the whole area around it, was declared a national park. In June 2007 it was recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage site for being “one of the richest and most diverse assemblages of volcanic landscapes and spectacular natural values in the whole world“. Just west of Teide is the volcano Pico Viejo (Old Peak). On one side of that, is the volcano Chahorra o Narices del Teide, where the last eruption in the vicinity of Mount Teide occurred in 1798.
With 2.8 million visitors per year, Mount Teide is one of the most visited national parks in the world. It is surrounded by the Park Natural Corona Forestal – a massive natural forest for hiking & biking amid mountains, valleys & ravines with native wildlife.
I could go on and on about this place, but all the information is in the two websites mentioned below. I previously didn’t think a trip to a tourist hotspot like the Canary Islands would interest me. However, most of the mass tourist activity is in the main resort in the south and along the coast. There is so much more to this island, and, having been there, I’m happy to go again – I’ll try a different time of year next time.
The easiest way to visit Tenerife is via a cheap holiday deal, however this will likely leave you in either the mass tourist area of the south, or a small resort in the north.
Either way, there are two buses a day from each end of the island to Mount Teide, giving you a few hours to enjoy the mountain and its surroundings. Also, organised coach trips are available from most of the hotels. If you have a hire car, you have more flexibility.
Two websites with loads of information are the Volcano Teide experience (background information) and the linked Teide Guide where there is more practical information for visitors, what to visit en route, where eat, tours and trails, etc.
Click on covers for more information.
Books on wildflowers are more easily obtained on the islands – I always found more there than in any online shop.
Note that buying books through these links makes a small commission (at no extra cost to you) that helps with the maintenance of this website.
More on the Atlantic Islands
Walking from Peurto del Carmen to the Playa Quemada with views of the Monumento Natural de Los Ajaches.
If you are visiting Madeira via a cruise ship and have limited time on the island, a visit to Ribeiro Frio will give you a good flavour of the place.