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Mt Teide - highest mountain in the Canary Islands and mainland Spain
Mt Teide photos
The magic and majesty of Mt Teide
Mt Teide is the first thing anyone flying towards Tenerife will see of this popular destination in the Canary Islands. You simply cannot miss this amazing mountain as it towers above the clouds, and in winter is often covered in gleaming white snow all around its peak.
Mt Teide is the highest mountain in the Canary Islands and in all of mainland Spain, and at 3,178 m above sea-level it is the third highest volcanic mountain in the world. The Teide National Park (Parque Nacional del Teide, as it is called in Spanish) became a World Heritage site back in 2007 when UNESCO honoured it in this way.
Not surprisingly, Mt Teide is a very popular location for tourists to visit, and every day excursion parties arrive up on it at the tourist centre. Other people arrive by car, and once a day the Tenerife TITSA bus company runs a return service from the northern resort of Puerto de la Cruz and another from Las Americas in the south of the island. Many visitors enjoy walking up Teide but it is a very steep climb and you need a special permit to go right to the top.
Of all the places that are a "must-see" on Tenerife, Mt Teide is at the top of the list. It really is like visiting another world up on its higher reaches where the miles and miles of bizarre volcanic rock formations make the countryside look more like the Moon or Mars.
Because of the amazing otherworldly landscapes that Mt Teide provides it is no surprise to find that various film and TV production companies have used the place as a location. The science-fiction movie Barbarella was filmed in part on the mountain.
In one place by the road there are blue rock formations known as Los Azulejos. The unusual colouration is due to mineral content. In other parts the rock is reddish or a sandy-coloured pumice. In some places shiny black obsidian can be seen.
Across the road from the tourist centre are the Roques de García. A group of strangely-shaped rock columns. To the south of this part is the Llano de Ucanca, which is a vast plain that looks a bit like a sandy beach surrounded by mountains.
Further on up there is the Teleférico cablecar, which takes passengers up to a point 163m below the actual summit. To walk the rest of the way a special permit must first be obtained from an office in Santa Cruz.
At this height though some people will suffer from altitude sickness and it is not recommended for anyone with heart conditions or breathing problems. If you are climbing this last stretch of the mountain and feel at all ill then you must give up and go back on down because it can be dangerous to ignore the warning signs your body is giving you. You need to be careful in locations like this if you want to be safe in Tenerife.
Because of the extremes in temperature and the unique habitat the mountain provides there is a very special endemic flora and fauna that can be found there. This makes Mt Teide a wonderful places for naturalists and botanists to search for rare and unusual plants of Teide, as well as people who simply enjoy the spectacular scenery.
Mt Teide flora
Flora and fauna of Mt Teide
The Tenerife Lizard (Gallotia galloti) is common up on Mt Teide and can be seen running about and basking in the sun even when there is snow still on the ground in shadier parts. The lizards live by the Tourist Centre too where they scavenge scraps that visitors drop outside the restaurant there.
The Canary Blue butterfly (Cyclyrius webbianus) can often be seen in the area by the Tourist Centre too. Its caterpillars feed on species of leguminous shrubs that grow in the area.
An interesting bird you might see is the Great Grey Shrike (Lanius excubitor). This grey, black and white songbird has the unusual habit of impaling its small animal prey on the thorns of bushes and trees. Shrikes are also known as "butcher birds" because of this behaviour.
Of the plants that grow up on Mt Teide, the Red Viper's Bugloss (Echium wildpretii) is the best known, and this is hardly surprising because its tall red flowering spikes have become a plant symbol for the island of Tenerife and appear in countless paintings as well as on postcards and in photos in guidebooks. The much smaller blue-flowered Echium auberianum is another very rare species of Viper's Bugloss that grows in the high mountain area of Mt Teide.
The Teide Wallflower (Erysimum scoparium) with its mauve-violet-coloured flowers is another very pretty wild flowers that grows up on Teide. The Teide Violet (Viola cheiranthifolia) grows right up on the summit of the mountain and is found nowhere else in the world.
On the rocky plains the white-flowered Teide Broom (Spartocytisus supranubias) perfumes the air and produces nectar that feeds the honeybees that come from the hives kept up on the mountain.
The Guanches, who were the original inhabitants of Tenerife before the Spanish conquest, used to take their flocks of sheep and goats up onto the mountain in the summer to graze the animals there, and then to go back down to the coastal plains in the winter. These people believed that Mt Teide was where the evil spirit known as Guayota was housed. They called the mountain "Echeide."
It is easy to see why the Guanches thought Mt Teide was the home of evil spirits when you consider what it could do when it erupted. Even today the sulphurous gases are still emitted from vents high up on its peak.
The awesome power of the mountain cannot fail to impress. Mt Teide is a very strange and otherworldly place that is sure to stay in your memory if you visit it.
© 2010 Steve Andrews