Pico del Teide – A volcanic playground

Pico del Teide – A volcanic playground

The Canary Islands bubbled up from an isolated hotspot and formed a chain of islands as the continental plate moved across it over several millions of years. The older islands to the east have been steadily eroding away in the meantime, but especially the western part of the archipelago still boast some impressive big mountains (and an active volcano!)

Pico del Teide volcano

Pico del Teide on Tenerife is the biggest of them all. It’s even taller than any of the other mountains on the Spanish mainland. Surrounded by a huge caldera, its peak rises up an astonishing 3718 metres into thin air. Its flanks are a volcanic playground, with a multitude of colourful cones and bizarre cathedral-like rock formations.

Roques de García, Teide National Park, Tenerife.
Pico del Teide looming in the distance behind the Roques de García.

Cathedral Rock, Teide National Park, Tenerife.
Bizarre rock formations all over the place.

Canary Islands volcanic landscapes

You can find winding roads along titled layers of rock and miscellaneous volcanic deposits. With breathtaking mountains and rugged volcanic landscapes there is a lot of truly beautiful nature to be discovered on the Canary Islands.

On the way to Teide National Park you’ll pass various miradores and lookout points. Many of these come with nice walking tracks to further explore the surroundings.

Roques de García

From Mirador de la Ruleta and Parador de Cañadas del Teide you can wander amongst the iconic Roques de García on the edge of the caldera, about 1700 metres below the top of Pico del Teide. One of the most striking formations in the area is Roque Cinchada, an iconic symbol of Tenerife. There’s a multitude of hiking tracks within the giant Las Cañadas caldera itself.

Roque Cinchado, an iconic formation in Teide National Park, Tenerife.
Roque Cinchado, an iconic formation at Roques de García.

Mirador El Tabonal Negro, Tenerife, Canary Islands.
Mirador El Tabonal Negro, with the ‘skeletons’ of the typical Canarian Tajinaste flowers in the foreground. These high altitude flowers bloom in dazzling red colours during May and June.

The Samara volcano

Another great option is the less visited west flank of Pico del Teide. From Mirador de Samara on Road TF-38 you can do a beautiful circular hike close to the impressive Volcán de Samara. The black hills and lava fields provide a striking contrast with green Canary Pines and red craters in this area, with Pico del Teide looming in the distance.

View to Volcán de Samara across to Pico Viejo and Teide. Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
View to Volcán de Samara across to Pico Viejo and Teide in the distance.

Volcán de Samara, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
Huge craters and lava fields on the flanks of the Samara volcano.

How to get to Pico del Teide

By car

Teide National Park is right in the centre of the island. Road TF-21 winds its way in multiple hairpin bends and steep inclinations around the southern flanks of Pico del Teide. You’ll pass through the charming mountain village of Vilaflor, where it’s also possible to stay overnight.

Vilaflor is a great location to explore the park from. Staying there saves you a lot of time driving up & down from the coastal areas of Tenerife. From Vilaflor it takes only 30 minutes by car to Roques de García and the Teide National Park, and about 40 minutes to the cable car station at the base of Pico del Teide.

By guagua bus

The local buses are called ‘guagua’ on the Canary Islands. There is one bus a day going up to the Teide cable car station from Los Christianos and other main towns on the southwest coast. It leaves in the morning and goes back down at the end of the afternoon, so you’ll have about 4 hours to explore the area.

View to the coast from Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands.
View to the southwest coast of Tenerife from the slopes of Pico del Teide.

Teleférico cable car

You can go almost all the way to the top of Pico del Teide by cable car. The Teleférico del Teide goes from its base station within the national park at 2356 meters to La Rambleta at an altitude of 3555 meters. From there you can explore walking tracks circling around the upper slopes and leading to several stunning viewpoints.

It’s essential to book the cable car online in advance, within a specific timeslot. Unfortunately there is no longer a ticket office at the base station.

Pico del Teide temperature

Even though Tenerife is well known for its balmy temperatures all year round, it’s a whole different climate up in Teide National Park. The caldera sits more than 2000 metres above sea level. When it’s 25 degrees on the coast, it can be just a couple of degrees above freezing on the mountain. In the winter months there’s often snow on the top of Pico del Teide and the walking paths at La Rambleta can be icy. Warm clothes and even gloves are essential!

Las Cañadas caldera, Pico del Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands.
The giant Las Cañadas caldera, a colourful volcanic playground.

The road into Teide National Park, Tenerife, Canary Islands.
The road into Teide National Park.

The top of Pico del Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands.
The top of Pico del Teide, only accessible with a permit…

Access to Teide Peak crater track

If you want to go up to the top itself and smell the sulphur, you will need to book a permit in advance at the Teide National Park authorities. The permit is free, but there is a strict limit to the number of people that can go up each day. And you need to book a specific time slot well in advance.

Staying overnight on Pico del Teide!

Another interesting option is to stay overnight at the Altavista Refuge mountain hut, located on the eastern slope below the cable car station. I didn’t know about this at the time I visited, but I definitely want to stay there next time I go to Tenerife!

Besides the chance to see the amazing sunset and legendary starry skies, you can also access the Teide Peak crater track between 06:00 and 09:00 hrs the next morning. You don’t need to apply for a permit beforehand – it’s included in your stay.

Update: Unfortunately the Altavista Refuge has been closed since 2020, and still remains closed until further notice. There is no specific reopening date as of yet. Hopefully this option will become available again in the near future…

Sea of clouds below Pico del Teide. Tenerife, Canary Islands.
The Sea of Clouds beneath Pico del Teide.

Pico del Teide map

This handy interactive map shows the locations in the pictures above. You can also zoom in for more details of the island of Tenerife itself.

Mountains & Volcanoes – Pico del Teide, Tenerife, Canary Islands

This article was originally published as a NaturePic Challenge: pictures of epic nature with a specific theme, and places that will trigger a natural high.

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Tilted layers of rock and Teide observatory, Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain.
Titled layers of rock, with Teide astronomical observatory in the distance.

Pico del Teide, Tenerife and La Palma

The video below shows a beautiful compilation of various places around Tenerife and La Palma, from a trip I made with two friends in December 2021. In the first 3 minutes you can see the colourful caldera around Pico del Teide and images from Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

It also features the final days of the erupting volcano Cumbre Vieja on La Palma (from 10:37), Roque de los Muchachos and the south coast around Fuencaliente.

Video by Freek Slangen.

More to explore & discover

El Hierro – A volcanic hotspot underneath the sea

La Palma – Cumbre Vieja Volcano Route

Mount Etna – Vigorously steaming from all its craters

Hawaii – Volcanic fields of fire

Fimmvörðuháls – The fiery pass across Eyjafjallajökull

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First published: 22 February 2017

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