Mount Teide Tenerife
We arrived at Tenerife South Airport (TFS) at a little after 8 pm for our Mount Teide Tenerife adventure. Disembarking and customs went quite smoothly as we are one of the first off the plane on account of sitting up front near the driver. We eventually found the car hire desk where we picked up our trusty motorised steed for this Tenerife adventure.
It does irk me that no matter how much you spend on car hire your ways offered some sort of gold or silver upgrade service at the desk. It just seems as if they’re trying to screw that little bit of extra money out of you! Me, being a cynical old Hartley, thinks it’s for that very reason.
When booking the car hire online and paying for it, we took out extra insurance, you know just for those ‘just in case’ moments. However, we were offered even more insurance at the car hire desk. I said we already have insurance, look! And proceeded to hand over the paperwork I printed off.
‘Ahh, that’s not our insurance’ I was told.
And this is the sort of thing that annoys me.
We didn’t end up taking their insurance and everything is fine, but it always does worry, after all with putting down £1100 on a card deposit. The way they make it sound is almost like gambling.
“Are you sure you don’t want extra insurance? You never know what can happen! This will cover you against accidental damage, Viking invasions and any freak accidents with armadillos.”
Anyhow, we picked up the car, set the phone on Google maps to the hotel and off we went. We use Google Maps because due to data roaming now being the same over the European Union it costs as much to use Google Maps and data in the UK as it does in Spain. Of course, for those people who voted out, and I’m not one of them, this all may end when we leave the EU. Anyhow, don’t get me started!
But, like a hamster gaffer taped to an ironing board, we just wanted to get out of there.
We go up!
Google certainly took us up some winding roads at first. If you do use Google maps to get to the Parador hotel I would suggest you take the coast route which looks to be more out of your way but actually takes the same amount of time. We came home via this route and it was a lot better than the rutted potholed track we were taken up to get there. To be fair to Google maps, the rutted potholed track only lasted for a few kilometres and then we were on reasonable roads in the mountains. The car just kept going up and up, with Tam, my significant other at the wheel. The reason why she was driving rather than I, is because I still do not like flying!
Now I know what you’re thinking;
You’re a travel blogger! Flying is part of the gig!
Grow up and grow some!
Yes, I hear what you’re saying but flying will never be my favourite pastime. Okay, I try and alleviate some of the stress by flying business class wherever I can. This is not an elitism thing, is just that I’m treated as human by the cabin crew, the drink is a fairly good quality and copious amounts and the seats, even in short-haul, give you more space. Mostly, I have overcome it. If you want to find out how I did it, see my Overcome your fear of flying, it’s what worked for me.
So, therefore, Tam was driving due to me having three glasses of wine in the lounge and four large vodkas on the plane. It wouldn’t do to be driving after having done that plucky work with the old elbow!
But, I was playing my Ace navigator role with aplomb. As I said as we rattled through dark and deserted small villages on the hillside we did wonder where Google was taking us! Ahhh Google, what did we do before you? Oh yeah, that’s right, I read a map!
We felt we were going in the right direction, as Google was just taking us up and up. Several times through the journey we had to pop our ears as we ascended the Stratovolcano. That’s what Tenerife is, it’s one big volcano. When it first started out it was three separate volcanoes over the geological hotspot in the earth that created the Canary Islands, it’s a bit like Hawaii in its formation. Anyhow, these three separate volcanoes merged and created Tenerife. As well as our ears letting us know we were going up, the views off to the side did too. Despite it being dark, you could still tell there were some steep old drops down the sides of the hairpin bends!
Our hotel, Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide, (my full review of it can be read by clicking on the link), was situated at 2200 m above sea level in the slumped volcanic crater of Mount Teide. The roads we travelled on continued to wind upwards through the hills and put me in mind of Colorado. The roads were pretty much deserted, although we were always wary that a random goat would hurl itself in front of the car. However, no such goat materialised out of the dark and we only passed a handful of cars coming the other way. In a little under two hours, we arrived at the hotel.
Wow. Just wow. Getting out of the car and looking up, you could already see the stars in the twilight sky. The air was so warm and dry, a blessing after the crazy humidity we left behind us in the UK. Checking in was a breeze, and we ended up with a room at the front of the hotel. Of course, it was near 11 o’clock when we arrived there were no views to be had. I got my camera gear ready, with spare batteries, tripod and a selection of lenses and we gratefully hit the sack. I just closed my eyes and then the alarm went off. Or at least, that’s how it seemed. I’d set the alarm to 2 am. This, laughingly, was by design.
Stellarium software – it’s free
It’s full of stars!
See the reason why I was here primarily, was for stars. Mount Teide, is arguably the best dark sky location in Europe. The reason why it was 2 am was that the moon didn’t set until just after this time. If you’re trying to take star photos, never have a moon in the sky! The reflected light from the moon will bleach out a lot of stars and your photo will look a bit pants. Also, using my Stellarium program on my laptop I could see where the Milky Way would be after the moon had gone home for the night. It looked to be right behind the Roques de Garcia. Read all about them here on TripAdvisor.
These are an impressive geological feature 400 m from the Hotel Parador and I thought they would make some great foreground interest in my star photos. I was right! Also, when painted with light at night from a torch, you can see the layers in the rock, better than you can during the day.
That’s not to say they’re not fantastic during the day, just a bit different. You know how night, and it’s shadows, make things look different.
I point out these Ibiza photos of the same rocks during the day and at night and you can see what I mean. It’s the same rocks in the sea all that is different is night time. The human eye always seems to fill in details, even ones not there.
Back to Mount Teide Tenerife
So, I spent about 3 ½ hours with my camera out around the rocks taking photos of the stars. If you want to know how to take photos of stars, check out my blog here, it’s quite a convoluted process but I think you’ll agree, it’s worth it in the end. And, as all tasks do, become second nature in the end.
I find it quite a humbling experience to be outside under thousands of stars. Knowing that each point of light is a sun, with possibly planets rotating around them. With the Milky Way arching over my head, I felt small and insignificant. It makes you ponder the big questions in life. Is there intelligent life out there? ( I struggle to find it on this planet). Are we alone? And, just how many weasels can you fit in a phone box?
Mount Teide has so much more to offer than star photos. Obviously, it goes without saying, that stargazing is fantastic here. You won’t believe the number of stars visible! Honestly, it becomes difficult to pick out constellations that you know from home, especially if you live in a built-up area. With light pollution in the sky it’s easy to pick up things like Orion and Cassiopeia but when confronted with a dark sky the millions of stars on offer make finding familiar constellations a problem.
With astronomical twilight at 5:50 am, I returned to my room and I was in soon in the arms of Morpheus. So, going to bed at 6 am makes for a late rising. Now, breakfast at this hotel was €19 each, a bit pricey in our eyes, even for a full hot buffet. The way we found around this, is the cafe next to the restaurant which serves all the tourists visiting the rocks. We managed to get two teas and two cookies for a little over eight euros between the two of us.
Day Time Activities
If you’re thinking of taking a trip here yourself don’t worry, there’s plenty to do during the day. If you’re more active than I, there’s hiking and trail walking, biking, climbing and a myriad of physical activities to take part in. Just behind the hotel, there was a climbing area for proper climbing. You know, the serious ‘Mission Impossible, hanging on by one finger’ type of climbing.
The one thing we enjoyed was just getting in the car, driving, and looking at the scenery. There are so many viewpoints in Mount Teide National Park that it’s an embarrassment of riches.
The viewpoints coming up on the road are shown as a camera, if you’re British, it’s very much like the sign for a speed trap! As can be seen in the photo below.
A Point of View
These viewpoints are undoubtedly worth stopping at. As can be seen above, there is plenty of parking spaces. This overlooked a fantastic lava field with the crater rim behind it. There is usually a car park and some information boards to tell you what you’re looking at! Even though being a bit of a geology geek (yes, my Open University degree was Astronomy, Physics and Earth Sciences including Vulcanology and Climate), I still learn something from reading the boards relating to what I was seeing.
There are some fantastic examples of high viscosity magma ejection at these viewpoints. There is a whole range of colours, landscapes, and rocks to view. Yeah, a lot of people are thinking that’s a rock, wow, could my holiday get any more exciting than this? But honestly, if you only have a passing interest in Earth sciences or great vistas, Mount Teide and Tenerife are for you. My SO has a degree in Design, not Geology, and she loved the trip!
You can see specific flows from the mountain, especially Pico Viejo (like Campo Viejo, the wine). Pico Viejo is, ironically, a reasonably recent eruption of just over 200 years ago which erupted about 5 km² of black lava down the side of the mountain and across the sunken crater bottom. The walls of the crater are also something to behold, they can be seen quite well on Google satellite view below, as can Pico Viejo on the left.
Do bear in mind, Teide is an active volcano, at least in geological terms. Its most recent eruption occurred in 1909 from the El Chinyero vent on the northwestern Santiago rift. For more information on Teide and its volcanic past, see here. It’s also possible to see different eruptions on the satellite image above, the black on the left of the picture stands out particularly well. Also, there is a viewpoint on the road so you can see all the black lava.
There are many different types of terrain, from block lava to pumice. The pumice sections almost looked like a beach, it’s only until you get close and see them that you realise they are pea size bits are rejected pumice. Following the road around the national park of Mount Teide in Tenerife is a great trip. You can see where the road has cut through the landscape, the incredible layers of minerals and volcanic ash side of the road.
And with those incredible minerals come in some amazing colours. At one viewpoint we were greeted by some fantastic green rocks, Illite and Kaolinite apparently being responsible. I wondered if Kaolinite was where that stuff I used to get fed as a kid came from, ‘Kaolin and Morphine’ because it certainly had a chalky taste. Now, I just read that back to myself and surely it couldn’t have been real morphine in that, could it? If it was, that would explain a very great deal…
Access to the Top
There is a cable car that goes up Mount Teide Tenerife, but like most cable cars it doesn’t run during windy weather so you can never guarantee that it will be running. To get right to the top is a little bit of a hike and you need a permit. Visitor numbers are limited, check out this website for details about the Mount Teide Permit.
It is a good thing I think to limit visitor numbers to Mount Teide Tenerife, providing you’re not one of the limited numbers! You have to pick a day a couple of months in advance to be in with a chance of finding availability, providing the cable cars are working on that day, otherwise it’s a very long hike…
To the east of Mount Teide, you’ll find some observatories. With Tenerife having the darkest of dark skies it makes sense to place the observatories up here above the clouds. We drove to observatories just to have a look but I’ve been in quite a few over the years so I didn’t bother going inside.
The telescope tour may not be for everyone so I recommend reading the reviews on TripAdvisor. Some said it was horrendous, others enjoyed it but as I have not been inside I cannot comment.
What kept striking me about Mount Teide was how little water there was and how dry it felt. This, of course, as I later realised, is due to the altitude. Altitude can do funny things to you! You may find yourself getting a bit breathless after just a little bit of activity. If you are on medication, you may find it works differently. (I had to take fewer blood thinners because for some reason my blood was a lot thinner at altitude. Although to be fair it could have easily been the wine!) Also, your taste buds sensitivity is less at altitude.
Yes, things taste different at altitude. The average airliner is pressurised to between 6000 – 8000ft inside when travelling. It has to be pressurised as you cannot breathe at 36,000ft!
The airlines spend a lot (and I mean a lot) of money on their menus, and test in altitude chambers and on real-life flights, testing the flavour of the food when under aircraft conditions.
And, the Parador de Las Cañadas del Teide hotel sits at about 7200ft above sea level.
The air is dry and the lower air pressure does make a difference! Sweet and salty are usually the first tastes to go along with limiting your sense of smell. You know this well, for when you have a cold or a bunged up nose, you have trouble tasting your meal at ground level. For the details see this BBC news article on Why Food Tastes Different on Planes.
Mount Teide Tenerife – Conclusions
Do it! Go for a visit and you won’t be disappointed. If you are going to view the stars make sure it’s during a new moon phase or that the moon at least sets for part of the night. See this website for times and dates, it is a useful tool for planning your trip. If the stars are only a passing interest, the scenery is stunning.
Links and Official Website
Cable Car Opening Times and Reviews on TripAdvisor
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