Teide National Park, on the Spanish island of Tenerife, is named after the Teide-Pico Viejo stratovolcano, the highest peak on Spanish soil. At 3718 metres, Teide-Pico Viejo is the third-tallest volcanic structure in the world. Strictly, there are two volcanoes: Teide, and the slightly smaller Pico Viejo.
So why visit? Tenerife flights arrive regularly from all over the world, including many low-cost options such as Jet2. While many visitors head for the beach, Teide offers a different experience. A Spanish national park since 1954, and named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, the area is considered essential to preserve, not least because of the evidence it is said to provide of the geological processes that underpin the evolution of oceanic islands.
In fact, Teide is one of the most visited national parks in the world. But don’t let that make you think it’s crowded… The landscape is other-worldly, with craters reminding you of moon footage: Mars robots have even been tested here.
The landscape may look barren, even empty, but it doesn’t take much of a closer look before plants and animals native to Teide can be seen: red Tajinaste flowers (the three-metre-high ‘tower of jewels’) poking up amongst the rocks and rubble – or you may glimpse the blue sides of a Southern Tenerife Lizard skittering past if you’re lucky. Spring is a particularly good time to visit to see this area in best of bloom.
A highlight of a trip to the national park is the cable car journey almost to the peak of the volcano at 3550 metres. Even walking the lower slopes by foot can be taken at a steady pace, easily managed by most people of reasonable fitness – although the high altitude can require more puff than usual. Park rangers offer guided walks in Spanish and English which are free (though entry to the national park is charged).
The last volcanic eruption was over 300 years ago, and so nowadays visits are considered safe! Accommodation is scarce, however, so don’t expect out-of-this-world hotels. But when you get ‘out of this world’ from the view, that’s good enough. And Teide is also more than just a day trip – many people spend an entire hiking holiday here. With the ancient university town of La Laguna, lava caves, and the resort of Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast, the national park can easily be the entire focus of your trip.