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From Sea Level to the the Roof of the World - A visit to Mt Teide National Park Tenerife

Mention the name Tenerife and people think of the hotels, beaches and night clubs of Playa de las Americas. But in the north of Tenerife there is an amazing mountainous landscape above the clouds, dominated by soaring outline of Mount Teide.

My trip to the roof of Tenerife was one of the most remarkable I've ever experienced. In the space of one day I went literally from sea level to what felt like the stratosphere (see footnote below).

I was on a press trip to Tenerife and our itinerary included a day excursion to Mt Teide National Park. Our minibus took us from the port and on busy highways to the west side of the island. We stopped off at the picturesque town of La Orotava.

Our journey continued onwards and upwards, following a winding road which took us up through the clouds. Soon we were looking down onto the clouds as if our minibus was a plane.

Following a winding road hilly road, we entered a rock-strewn prehistoric landscape as far as the eye could see. You could almost imagine dinosaurs rearing their heads above the rocky outcrops, or volcanoes blasting smoke and lava into the sky.

This landscape was created by volcanic activity over thousands of years. The last eruption of Mount Teide was in 1909.

As we got closer and closer to the gigantic and graceful form of Mount Teide, we spotted what seemed like a tiny wire strung along miniscule pylons. This was the cable car which takes visitors to a viewing point close to the summit. Unfortunately due to an engagement in the morning, we didn't have enough time to ascend Mount Teide.

Our lunch stop was at the state-run hotel which stands in the middle of the rocky plain by the foot of the mountain. On getting out of the minibus, I was struck by the purity and freshness of the landscape. Wild flowers in bright yellow sprouted among the rocks. The sky was a deep clear blue. The air seemed pure and rarified. The heat was dry and there was a cooling breeze. Small insects scuttled among the rocks and pebbles.

It was like being in Colorado, or somewhere on the Arabian peninsula. But the most remarkable thing of all was the fact that surrounding this huge natural theatre of giant rocks, canyons and mountains is the Atlantic Ocean, visible on all sides from the top of Mount Teide. It felt like being on top of the world.

I was captivated, and could have stayed and watched the changing light through till dusk, but we had to be back in the port in time for the departure of our cruise ship. The minibus took us along winding roads and down a slope where the landscape formed a V shape, with the white fluffy clouds in between, like a vast plain of cotton wool.

The most spectacular sight of the day was our final panoramic view of Mount Teide from the south, with the clouds stretching out from the foot of the mountain and out over the ocean.

Descending through the cloud layer was eerie as the trees became silhouetted in the mist. Soon we slipped back into the real world again and took the main highway to Santa Cruz.

A short time later we were watching the sunset from our cruise ship bound for Madeira.

My brief but awe-inspiring visit to Mt Teide National Park was unforgettable. I hope to return there some time soon and complete the journey from sea level to the summit of Mount Teide.

I would recommend anyone visiting Tenerife to take a trip to Mt Teide National Park. For those arriving by cruise ship it should be possible to do the whole excursion in one day - including the cable car to the top of Mount Teide. Don't miss it!

See all volcano photos.

Footnote:
Mt Teide is 12198 feet or 3.7 kilometres above sea level. The stratosphere begins from as low as 12km up - depending on location and other factors, so visitors to the summit of Mt Teide are well on the way there!

Written by Aidan O'Rourke
Posted/Updated 2005-10-18

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