Our affinity for mountain climbing hits a peak.
If we knew one thing when we started researching Tenerife, it was that we HAD to climb Tenerife’s volcano Teide. Alex was the one to first tap into a love of hiking when she was studying abroad in Japan in 2010. She climbed Mt. Fuji and was hooked from then on. As you can see, Alex doesn’t do baby steps. So when we found out that, measured from the base, Teide is the fourth tallest volcano in the world after three Hawaiian peaks, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Little did we know, our ambitions were a little too, well, ambitious.
We waited until we got to Tenerife to research how to climb the volcano (mistake numero uno). Most of the websites were in Spanish and after volleying between google translate and various travel websites, we found out there are three options.
Climb from a starting point somewhere along the driving route to the peak.
Drive up to the lower teleférico (cable car) station and ride in the teleférico up to 3,555 meters above sea level and then hike route 10 to get to the crater.
Drive up to the lower teleférico (cable car) station and ride in the teleférico up to 3,555 meters above sea level and then take route 11 or 12 to enjoy the views.
All we needed was a permit to do option one or two, but guess what. There were no permits available. No permits = no climbing Teide = no bueno. So we were super bummed, but at least we had the teleférico. I just love that word. It rolls of the tongue. Say it with me, tellleférrricooo. Sounds much nicer than ‘cable car’, no? If you prefer to climb to the top, you can secure a permit here. Just do it in advance!
The morning of our ascent, I plugged in our destination in Google Maps: Parque National del Teide. I scoped out our route and could see we were in for a windy drive. Every couple of miles, there was an entrance to a different hiking trail. But alas, we had a destination and despite my pleas, there are still only 24 hours in a day. This ride gave me serious fomo (fear of missing out).
I did make Alex stop at one point though - Corona Forestal Nature Park. Our route took us through the unexpected gem and we were awestruck. Except for a few cars traveling in the opposite direction, we were basically alone driving through the most beautiful forest I had ever seen. The forest is filled with chestnuts, eucalyptus, cyprus and pine trees. It felt like we were in a National Geographic spread. Obviously we pulled over for pictures of the breathtaking view of Teide and fresh air.
The terrain turned to a cross between lunar and martian. The brown and rusty orange land was sliced randomly by a dark grey ribbon of asphalt. As we neared the end of our journey, we spotted a look-out area with a parking lot - Minas de San Jose. It’s a great location for photo ops, but also a space for reflection. Places like this have a way of making you feel perfectly and peacefully insignificant. From this stop, you can access Las Valles trail which is delineated by boarders of rocks which lead the way forward. Find details on the trail here.
Less than 10 minutes up the road is the lower teleférico station. The parking lot is overwhelmed with cars but once you find a spot, it’s free, so at least there's that.
The teleférico carts visitors (in groups of as many as 44) up, gliding above expansive views of the island and the ocean it rests on on an 8 minute trip. The base station is situated 2,356 meters above sea level and as you climb to the upper station, you definitely feel the ascent - boulders fade into pebbles, the temperature steadily declines, and the air thins to a nice refreshing frost… if you’re into that.
Side note: The week before, the whole thing broke down leaving people hanging for hours while others were stranded at the top. For those at the top who couldn’t descend on foot, the ultimate resolution was a helicopter rescue mission. I have to admit, I’m more jealous I didn’t experience the rescue myself, but I’m sure my head’s not in the right place.
Provided there are no mechanical issues, once you get to the top, non-permitted visitors can explore route(s) no. 11 and/or 12, which offer breathtaking views of the island and other Canary Islands off in the distance. The topography of the summit is very rocky, but there are well established flat walkways. It was definitely cold for us. It was March but there were still patches of snow settled in a few places. After 45 minutes of exploring up top, we made our way back to the station to descend to the parking lot. We were running low on time so I had a bit of pep in my step. I'm assuming I wasn't acclimatized to the altitude because a few minutes of "speed" walking rendered me doubled over gasping for air. It could also have been because I hadn't been on a run in months. Either way, we made it down. Our next stop was Icod de los Vinos, but first, a gas station.
Speaking of, want to hear a funny story?
Rewind to the beginning of the day. Somewhere along the way to Teide, Alex was driving along and glanced down at the gas gauge, noticing a measly two notches of gas left. We hadn’t refilled since we picked up the car at the car rental. No problem, right? We’ll just get gas on the way. There. was. no. gas. on. the. way. Let me rephrase. There was no gas station on the one hour and twenty one minute-long drive UP the MOUNTAINS to the VOLCANO. Once we reached the lower station of the teleférico a woman at the information desk told us the closest gas station was, well… far. Thanks to gravity, we made it down without having to waste too much of the precious one notch of gas we had left. We survived to tell our tale and hope you learn from our mistakes!
All that and a bag of tips.
Parking: The parking lot is overwhelmed with cars and the only real advice I have is don’t give up. Circle around until you find someone who’s leaving and follow them to their car. You don’t need to speak their language. They know the deal. They have a parking space. You need one. An appreciative smile will suffice.
El teleférico: If you know when you’ll arrive at the station, consider booking your tickets online first unless you enjoy standing in lines. Book them here. If you don’t get to plan ahead, you can purchase your tickets at the station and kill some time in the gift shop and cafeteria inside the lower station. Oh, and there's free wifi.
At the top: The park only allows visitors to stay up top for an hour. I’m not sure what the repercussions are and how they know you’ve exceeded your hour, but we’re rule followers so try not to overstay your welcome.
Gas: It probably goes without saying, but please get gas before you set out for Teide, or anywhere really. Travel with peace of mind that you won’t find yourself stranded on the side of the road working out how to say, “I need to find the nearest gas station” in Spanish.