The Land of Hidden Volcanoes
Dating back millions of years, volcanic activity has molded Tenerife in to the unique and fascinating island we see today.
Touring the island you will be amazed by the ever changing, dramatic landscapes and spectacular scenery providing backdrops for some unforgettable holiday experiences
Join travel writer Jane Dunford and local guide Jose Ramon on a journey through the five key volcanic areas… and discover the natural side of Tenerife
In the north west of Tenerife the Teno Rural Park dates back over 7 million years, when huge amounts of balsatic lava created an immense volcano that emerged from the seabed. What remains today is effectively an island within an island, with inland cliffs, rugged mountains, deep ravines and gorges.
A highlight is the area around the Punta di Teno lighthouse, Tenerife’s most westerly point, where the sheer Los Gigantes cliffs plunge in to the sea. Its a popular spot for swimming in the natural pools, fishing, watersports and of course just enjoying the amazing views.
The coastline is impressive but heading inland, towards the village of Masca the drama continues… Don’t like speeded up footage
Together with Anaga in the northeast and Adeje in the south, Teno belongs to the old volcanic regions where volcanic activity stopped a long long time ago, millions of years ago. That’s why, in the area, we don’t get to see volcanic cones or lava flows so common on the rest of Tenerife. Soft materials like those have been washed away by erosion.
This is the village of Masca behind us
Yes also known as the lost village because the road was only open in the early 70s so actually Masca was not known, not even for the rest of the islanders, til the road was open in 1971
I guess the hiking in this area must be incredible
That’s the main thing, they can hike from Masca to all different places towards the coastline, towards the mountains and wherever you go here there is always something that will surprise you…there is a beautiful path that links the village
with the seafront. Once you get down to the seafront you have the biggest cliffs, Los Gigantes, the giants we call them because those are the biggest cliffs on Tenerife.
It has to be one of the most spectacular views on the island
A Volcanic Experience tour with local operator El Cardon, provides an insight into not only the geology but local traditions including a demonstration of the famous ‘Salto del Pastor’ – a technique developed by shepherds over the years to follow their flocks across the seemingly inpenetrable landscape.
And lastly in this land of ancient volcanoes, don’t miss the colourful seaside town of Garachico – nestling beneath a 1500ft cliff, in the 16th century, this was the most important port on the north coast until it was destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1706.
Garachico is a lovely old town, very sleepy, very authentic, gorgeous location. Lovely boutique hotels, really quaint little village square, a fantastic base if you are staying in the north.
Over three million years ago, the most active centre of volcanic activity shifted toward the central zone of Tenerife. First a great dorsal mountain range was formed, with concentrations of lava accumulating on each side, in the form of spurs, leaving deep "valleys" with very different characteristics
Güímar Valley, to the south, is a dry barren landscape with its own unique flora – best appreciated with a walk through the Special Nature Reserve.
La Oratava Valley to north, benefits from more rainfall and a rich volcanic soil, perfect for growing the kind of crops for which Tenerife has become famous worldwide.
Bananas of course are the island’s best known export, but increasingly its wines are also making their mark.
We have 15 different types of wine, most of them are reds, but they are made with unique grapes from the Canaries. We have for example, this one Drago Blanco, its made with Listan blanco. The grapes we have here you cannot find anywhere else, that’s because here we didn’t get Filoxera, a disease that destroyed the vineyards in Europe but it didn’t come here so the whites are unique from the Canaries.
And why is Tenerife such a good wine producer?
Well we have the perfect conditions, the weather is always sunny, the volcanic soil is very rich so we can produce any type of grape and plants
No visit to La Oratava Valley would be complete without visiting the town of the same name – packed with examples of grand, traditional Canarian homes dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries, some now housing exhibits of local produce and crafts.
And what better way to truly appreciate the amazing lush landscapes of the northern Tenerife than from the air
No visit to Tenerife would be complete without a visit to Mount Teide National Park at the very heart of the island. Rising 3718 metres above sea level Mount Teide itself is the highest point in Spain, the third highest volcano in the world and the whole National Park was declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 2007.
So we’ve been exploring the park and its just huge isn’t it and so many different landscapes
Yes definitely, we started off on the west side of the park where we saw the black cinder cones and lava flows which proves the youth of that region. Then we stopped at the famous Garcias Rock, which is the result of erosion of volcanic areas. We’ve seen Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain and now we are here in this kind of lunar landscape
You could spend days here there’s so much to see
Yes there’s a Parador where you can stay overnight or you can stay up there on the top of Mount Teide or something that I highly recommend, if you like hiking, is a trip to the top of the mountain, stay there overnight and then early in the morning you walk up to the very top of Mount Teide and wait for the sun to come up, that is incredible
Wow, that must be amazing.
Heading back down from Teide National Park you come to two of the most important places on the island. La Laguna, the island’s first major settlement and Santa Cruz, the capital.
In Santa Cruz take in the Auditorium along the seafront esplanade, explore the Museum of Man and Nature and the neighbouring TEA arts centre or enjoy drinks and tapas on the lively Calle de Noria
Nearby La Laguna has a very different feel and it remains the cultural, religious and academic centre of Tenerife. In 1999 the historical centre was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and has been beautifully restored to showcase the traditional architecture. Small boutiques, vintage shops as well as characterful bars and restaurants and a varied events and festivals programme is drawing in growing numbers of visitors.
Continuing to the north east you come to The Anaga, geologically one of the oldest parts of the island and another stunning area for hiking. Explore the rugged north eastern coastline from the tiny village of Taganana and discover yet more breathtaking views
Or head inland to the vast ancient forests that cover this part of the island, easily accessible by well marked trails and walks
This is called the Path of the Senses and there are boards around encouraging you to interact with the forest - to smell the smells, touch the bark feel everything around you and to really feel part of the forest
Suitable for all grades of walker, including families, Jose Ramon tells us more about this very special forest…
This is called Laurisilver, it actually means Laurel Forest. This is the type of forest that stretched out across Europe and north of Africa before the Ice Age. Experts have found fossil trees and plants in this forest that are still alive.
So its very different to the rest of the island isn’t it
Yes indeed, on the rest of Tenerife, there’s plenty of cinder cones and lava flows, this is completely different. Volcanic activity stopped in this region about 3 million years ago so we are visiting one the of oldest volcanic regions on Tenerife
LAND OF CONTRASTS
Millions of years of volcanic activity have resulted in creating an island that is geographically jam packed with contrasts and surprises. Within a relatively short driving distance from north to south you will find yourself travelling through such dramatically different landscapes its almost like time travel.
A day trip from the north could for example begin with a walk or swim from one of Tenerife’s distinctive black beaches.
Moments later, you could be passing by banana plantations and vineyards
Call in at Icod de los Vinos, a characterful small town on the north coast and home to the famous El Drago, the world oldest and biggest specimen of the endemic yucca type Dragon tree.
More record breaking can be found just a few minutes down the road at the Visitor Centre for the Cave of the Wind, the largest lava tube in Europe
How was the cave formed?
So it was 27000 years ago, the lava flowed down from Pico Viejo and the process was similar to when you throw away one bucket of water, yes. So in this case the lava was flowing down to find the sea, the surface dried and the lava continued underneath and then produce volcanic pipe.
How long is the visit?
Here at the visitor centre we have a presentation for 20 minutes, the with 2 minibuses we go from here to the top to the mountain, about 5 minutes, then we are going to walk 20 minutes in the forest, talk about the plants, animals and geology and then 1 hour and 20 minute inside of the cave. So in total about 2 hours 20 minutes
Back on the road from the black coast, through the green valleys, following the route of the lava flows up towards Mount Teide before too long you reach the Coronal Forest, a dense ring of Canarian Pines encircling the National Park and then emerging from the forest, you will find yourself heading towards the strange and varied landscapes of the National Park
We are in the area where we can see all these fairly recent cinder cones, that’s the reason its so black, so dark. There’s the one that destroyed Garachico in 1706 or the Chinyero which was the last volcanic eruption on the island in 1909
The height of the National Park and the low levels of light pollution provide the perfect conditions for star gazing…
Here we have a very clear air, very static air so the sky quality is very high, very good for star gazing.
So we are high up, above the clouds, its amazingly clear and calm up here
Yes, usually the clouds are around 1500 metres altitude here we are around 2000 metres so here we are very sure we have the best conditions.
Recognised by the Starlight Foundation as a Starlight Tourist Destination, Tenerife is one of the best places in the world to appreciate the magnificent night skies.
LAND OF LIGHT
In the south of Tenerife the contrasts may not be as obvious but the volcanic influences are still very evident.
The landscape is so very different from the north, its much more bleached out and you don’t have the rugged dark volcanic landscape that we saw before
This place where we are is the result of very violent volcanic eruptions and the material that we are looking at is called pumice. Traditionally locals have used it for construction, they also used it for farming because this material keeps the humidity in the ground in this dry southern part of the island.
On this south east coast we get Trade Winds affecting the Canaries and that’s why its the perfect spot for wind and kite surfing
And its not just activities above the water that make the southerly coastline so special. The perfect water temperature makes watersports including diving, a year round activity. Diving instructor and passionate conservationist, David Nobillo introduces Flyover, a one to one diving excursion that is open even to novice divers…
Flyover is an experience for kids from 12 years to 99 – the dive is going to be with an instructor face to face and hand to hand, the idea is to have the feeling of the ocean. The turtles are the star of the area, the green girls of the area, but we can show you the area, and while you enjoy it with the ocean, what we can do all the time is control the health of the animals. Its our work to teach the people to respect the things that they come to see
Staying with a south coast ocean theme, there is one more excursion not to miss…
We are going to go 2/3 miles and we are going to find the pilot whale.
How likely are we to see them
In this part of the island we have 5/600 of these whales around here, we see them every day. This is one of the best places in the world to see whales and dolphins because we can see 30 different types
Usually I’d think of seeing whales, you know, wrapped up warm, maybe out in Canada but this is just lovely, the sun is shining, the sea is so calm, just waiting for the whales to appear…
Between Tenerife and La Gomera its 3000 metres deep, this is why the whales are so close on the coast. In other countries you need to go out a long way to see whales but here you can see them very close. This part of the island is like a natural cover for the whales.
A detailed look at the five Volcanic zones of Tenerife. Travelguru Jane Dunford, accompanied by local guide, Jose Ramon Gonzalez learns about how the island was formed and how the volcanic origins influence all aspects of life on the island
The five Volcanic zones are:
Ancient Volcanoes – the north west of Tenerife and home to Teno Rural Park, effectively an island within an island. Activities include cultural and eco tours, hiking and mountain biking
Two Valleys – the dry barren landscape of the Guimar Valley contrasted with the lush and fertile La Oratava Valley. Activities include paragliding and mountain biking
Legendary Volcano – the region from Mount Teide in the very centre of the island heading east to the capital Santa Cruz and the north eastern Anaga Rural Park. Activities include hiking, climbing and surfing
Land of Contrast – a diverse and geologically fascinating region from the north west coast to the centre of the island. Activities include the Cave of the Wind Lava Tunnel, wine tasting, hiking and star gazing
Land of Light – the paler landscapes of the south, dominated by pumice stone. Activities include waterspouts, diving and whale watching
For general information on holidays in Tenerife click here Tenerife Tourism
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