A Visit to Pico del Teide, Tenerife


Alexander works to cool down a steam vent on Teide. 

We briefly visited Tenerife on our way sailing to La Gomera, here in the Canaries.  Tenerife, if not the Canaries, is dominated by Mount Teide.  We had been catching glimpses of it ever since we first approached the islands, and wanted to see it up close.

At 3,700 m/12,000 ft, or more than two miles high, it was beyond our family’s current hiking abilities.  (Even more impressive is the mountain’s height from the ocean floor. It rises 7,500 m/24,600 ft from its base.)  But there is a good road that goes most of the way up, and a cable car available to cover most of the remaining distance.

There are really two mountains, one on top of another. Unlike Gran Canaria, which was riddled with ridges and rifts and deep valleys, the entire island of Tenerife rises more gently and steadily from its shoreline,  up and back into the interior.  The drive up was pleasant and the road only moderately inclined, as compared to the tortuous switch-backs of Gran Canaria.

An hour’s drive took us to top of the “first” mountain, an enormous caldera that was created when the volcano blew its top about 150,000 years ago. The result is an enormous plane, mostly round, that is about seven miles in diameter.


Paul and Sima inside the caldera in front of the summit.

One gets a sense of how big Teide really is from inside the caldera. A second peak rises up from this plane, roughly doubling the height of the mountain.  Teide’s peak is the result of secondary, younger eruptions that grew out of the caldera.

We drove across the caldera to the base of this second peak.  We parked the car in a lot, and took a cable car from a lower station, rising  another 1,000 meters to an upper station, closer to the top.  From there, we did a 2 km hike around the upper station.

We could look down and see the walls of the caldera and its floor, looking a bit like a giant, dried-out bowl of oatmeal that had boiled, bubbled, and eventually cooled.


The caldera from above.



A family picture at the upper station, looking northeast along Tenerife.


Tenerife’s observatory to the lower right.  Tenerife and nearby La Palma both host world renowned observatories.  The skies here are frequently clear and cloudless, and the altitude takes one above what clouds might sometimes be found.


A view towards La Gomera, to the west.

Teide is, supposedly, going to blow sometime in the “near future,” although it is anybody’s guess as to just when.  Certainly, there were lots of steaming vents that one could  use as hand-warmers, demonstrating that things are active and alive under the surface.


A view of Teide’s tippity-top from the upper station.

Our hike around the upper station was hardly challenging, rolling up and down  a path among the lava fields, but we really struggled.  We were just above the defined level of “High,” where diminished oxygen begins to be a problem, and at the start of the “Very High” zone.  We hadn’t done anything to acclimate. In fact, we had broken all the rules, rushing up from sea level to this height in a matter of a few hours.  As a result, we really felt the lack of oxygen, and needed to stop and take frequent breaks.  Sima, the kids, and I all felt lethargic, and I admit to feeling confused about the operation of my camera.


Alexander and Aylin are becoming good hikers, but this short stroll at 12,000 feet completely winded them.  And Sima and me as well. 

We took the cable car back down, and then began the drive back to our marina in Las Galletas, stopping frequently to enjoy the view.


Teide in the late-day sun.


Alexander and Aylin quickly came back to life, here exploring a lava tube that we discovered just off the side of the road.


Mom and son share a kiss.



The late-day sun in the compressed atmosphere of Teide, just below the caldera.

We stopped for dinner at a road-side restaurant most of the way home, and later climbed into bed exhausted.  We hadn’t climbed all the way to the 12,200 feet, but it sure felt like it.

3 responses to “A Visit to Pico del Teide, Tenerife

  1. Paul and Sima love your more frequent reports. is the volcano you mentioned the one that is supposed to fall into the ocean and cause a huge east coast US tsunami? also, Barbara and I wonder type of job you’ll be able to stand after holding your lives in your hands on a daily basis? corporate law would seem way to structured and even dull by comparison.


  2. Pingback: A Canarian Snow Storm | Sailing Leander·

  3. I highly recommend to do an excursion to Pico del Teide when you come for holidays in Tenerife!


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