Tenerife, sitting prominently as the largest island in the Canaries, is known the world over by holiday makers. With its temperate climate all year round and long days of sunshine, it has become a favourite for not just summer trips, but also in winter when much of Europe see’s rain, snow, and much colder temperatures. Whilst the good weather in winter is an incredible draw, with many of the beachside locations receiving hefty numbers of tourists, there is also an adventurous side to the island. Drive around the island and it won’t be long before you are presented with jutted peaks and high volcanoes. The island presents several areas where adventure is possible. On the outer edges, coastal landscapes make way for spine like ridges and intricate rock stratification. More centrally, the volcanic Teide National Park awaits. With landscapes reaching altitudes of 3,715m, there is a world of adventure awaiting. Whilst, of course, a drive through the National Park presents several popular routes, Tenerife is a place where true solitude and adventure can be found on an incredible network of trails. In this article, Fay and Matt outline some of their favourite hikes in Teide National Park, as well as their hints and tips for making the most of the island and why Tenerife should be in your mind when it comes to winter adventure.
Tenerife was a location we’d wanted to visit for quite some time. It has been somewhere that we’ve had three trips cancelled to because of covid restrictions, so we were eager to get hiking once our trip came back on the cards! You see, this high altitude landscape really appealed to us – it was like a combination of the other Canary Islands, except on overdrive. Everything just seems bigger! It’s clear that Tenerife has an association of being a tourist hotspot and is synonymous with beach holidays. Whilst there is of course absolutely nothing wrong with that, there is a whole lot to explore on the island. So even if you’re not feeling particularly adventurous, we’d really recommend at least a tour or hiring a car for a day to drive into the mountains. You won’t regret it!
Image description: A landscape image. An incredible, browns and red coloured lava field gives way to smoother hills which head upwards to a volcanic peak. There are trees which contrast in colour to the right.
Where to Stay
The island is quite large – relatively speaking, at 2,000 square meters. However, the island is blessed with a good road structure for getting around. So, it’s perfectly possible to make the most of the coast and resorts and still enjoy adventures in the National Park. Typically, staying on the North West coast of the island, we could be in the centre of the park within an hour’s drive. If you’re with family on a trip, for example, this can make things so much easier. Many of the hotels are based around resort towns, but there is also the option of a mountain refuge in the park. We’d advise checking if this is open depending on the time of year you visit – it had not reopened since covid restrictions, so best to always plan ahead. The closest hotels to Teide National Park can be found in Vilaflor, just outside the National Park. If you’re thinking of camping, it is important to note that camping in Spain is not legal. However, there are a number of campsites on the island, and it’s worth checking out exact opening and closing dates through the year in advance of booking your trip to allow you to plan accordingly. If you’re planning to hike in the park, a car is a must really. It’s also worth noting that a lot of the car parks in the National Park do fill up pretty quickly, but they also have a constant stream of people leaving and entering so you shouldn’t be waiting too long for a space.
Image description: A portrait image. Fay walks away from the camera on a hiking trail. Around Fay is rock and bush – desert like. In the background is a rich red lava field. It is sunny and the rocks create contrasting shadowed shapes on the ground. Fay wears cropped black leggings, black hiking shoes, pink top, yellow bag and hiking poles.
When to visit
Whilst Tenerife is a destination that suits year round travel due to its temperate, warm climate, it’s worth keeping in mind that due to its high altitude, the National Park is likely to feel a lot cooler. You can typically expect a one degree Celsius drop in temperature for every 100m gained in altitude, so whilst it can be hot and sunny in a resort town, the story higher up can be different. So be sure to pack lots of layers and sun cream in your day bag! The island, due to its steep mountains and exposure to trade winds, experiences microclimates. It can be sunny in one area and literally a couple of kilometers away be an entirely different story. Teide itself, being at over 3,700m, is subject to snow cover in the cooler months (between December and February) and this can vary from year to year. So, plan your trip accordingly and be prepared. We visited in November, and whilst some days in the mountains were a little overcast, we also found that when we drove from the coast up into the mountains, we usually broke any cloud. It meant we were getting clear blue skies in the park, with the most incredible cloud inversions. Other days, we were getting the most atmospheric cloud rolling through the mountains making for amazing photographs and memories.
Image description: A landscape image. In the background, a rock face is crowded with cloud and creates an atmosphere. In there foreground are lava black rocks, scrub bush and trees.
It’s important to be aware that the National Park is at high altitude. With many adventures we head out on, we’d normally choose to stay at altitude in order to acclimate for our activities, so this has less of an impact day to day. With many of the resorts on the island being at close to sea level, this wasn’t as possible and we did find that for the first couple of days, we struggled more with the thin air. Our advice here, especially if you’re not used to higher altitude hiking, is to start with hikes that are at lower altitudes and over the days you’re there, build up. Whilst any symptoms we experienced were minimal, it is worth noting that common symptoms of being at altitude are slower movements, becoming out of breath faster, heavier breathing, headaches, feeling sick and a loss of appetite. We’ve hiked at altitude so many times at this point that we know what to expect and have work arounds to help with this. However, if you’re not used to this, it can feel quite unnerving – so if this is new to you, it’s worth looking at some resources around how this could feel so you know what to expect and how to work with it.
Image description: A landscape image. A desert landscape with smooth hills from sand and red rock formations.
Hikes in Teide National Park
All routes seen below are integrated with Outdooractive:
Technically, this hike is just outside the National Park barrier, but that makes it no less incredible. This hike is a great introduction to hiking in the National Park and is a lovely one to start with. Expect to hike through varying landscapes. You’ll hike around the base of Montana Chinyero with the luscious smell of pine forests all around, to then be transported into an otherworldly alien landscape of lava and big views of Teide itself. This hike, whilst it can be shorter, can also be extended to include other trails – clearly marked and labelled. You could spend all day exploring this area!
Image description: A landscape image. The scene is covered with cloud so creates an atmosphere. In the background, spiney mountain tops and rock formations are pushed into shadow, creating graphic shapes. In the foreground are scrub bushes and rocks.
This trail was probably one of the most popular we did, and with a small parking area, was actually quite hard to get a space even first thing in the morning. However, due to a constant stream of people finishing this relatively short hike, it didn’t take long to get a space. This was undoubtedly one of our favourite hikes in the national park. The varying views throughout, the combination of being higher up and then lower down and the variance of views that gives. The incredible lava field you’re just sprung out into and presented with. You really feel like you’re on another planet on this hike. It’s also worth tagging on the summit of Montana Samara itself (which we did right at the end of our hike) as the views you get are incredible! Whilst you might think the amount of cars you see at the start would make the hike feel busy, there were many sections of this hike where we didn’t see another person and felt very much like we were able to experience this in the solitude and peace we wanted.
Image description: A landscape image. Matt walks through the frame in a desert landscape with black lava and red rock formations. The sky is overcast.
Looking for other things to do whilst planning your trip to Tenerife? The island is blessed with a stunning coastline too and we’d recommend enjoying the best of both worlds on your trip. Check out our guide to natural swimming pools, swimming spots away from the crowds and the best beaches on Tenerife.
Montanã el Cedro
For us, this route felt like a hidden gem. Tucked away on the S-18 walking route, with little information at the parking spot of what to expect, it would be easy to miss. Admittedly, it’s closeness to the road made us wonder if we’d regret taking a day to do this trail. Turns out, you have absolutely no idea of the road quite close by. In our opinion, this is one of the most spectacular trails in the park, because it offers something truly unique and different. A relatively flat path winds through rocky canyon sides with the most incredible smell of pines. You then dip into a world of lava, with 360 degree views of towering ancient caldera walls, Teide itself, and lava like worlds. You’re then taken up el Cedro to some truly breathtaking views. This hike is all about the journey and what an amazing, different and textured one it is.
Image description: A landscape image. In the foreground, green pine trees create an interesting colour juxtaposition with the red and black rock of the lava fields behind. In the far distance, Mt Teide stands tall and proud. The sky is blue.
Valle de las Piedras Arrancadas
A long, beautiful hike down into an incredible valley of never ending rock and desert solitude. This hike could be done as a one way if it is possible for you to organize transport from one end back to your car. If you’re thinking of doing this, we’d recommend starting at Minas de San José car park and hiking to the Restaurante Marmitia visitor centre. Do not be put off by the there and back route, though, the views are unique both ways.
Image description: A landscape image. Fay stands in the foreground looking out at the volcanic view. Mountains and peaks fold in front of each other in reds and browns. In the far right, Mt. Teide towers above all other mountains. It is overcast with low contrast. Fay wears black cropped leggings, a grey top, hiking poles and a yellow bag.
Teide, Pico Viejo and Roques de Garcia
To actually summit Mount Teide, you need a permit. These can be obtained for free, however, you need to book and secure this quite a while in advance. This can be tricky as you need to give an exact window of time for which you’ll be at the summit section. It’s also tricky if you book your trip last minute or don’t know the specific date at which you want to climb the mountain. A permit is only needed from the last section – from the cable car station to the top to limit the number of visitors at the very top each day. This is of course an amazing experience and one that is on many people’s list of mountains in Europe they want to climb. There are numerous ways to summit the mountain without a permit – such as summiting before 9am. But with a lot of altitude to gain, is going to mean a very early start. Many people will also stay at the Refugio Altaviste on the way up, tackling the summit early in the morning so as not to need a permit, but as mentioned earlier, this Refugio has been closed since the pandemic. However, if summiting Teide isn’t something that massively bothers you, another option is to take the cable car up to near the summit and hike down to Pico Viejo at 3,135m. Getting the cable car starts from the Teide Cable Car Station. It is advisable to check online before your trip, to book your cable car time to avoid disappointment and to check up to date pricing. From there, you can hike down to Roques de Garcia. This is a hardcore hike. With over 1,500m of descent over loose surfaces, you’ll be looking at a full day, but what an incredible experience. The views are breathtaking! Your legs will certainly be sore at the end of this, but you won’t regret it!
Image description: A landscape image. In the foreground, pine trees frame the image and make way for Montana Samara pictured in the distance with its trail to the top. Browns and greens that make up the landscape give way to a slightly overcast sky.
Looking for other Canary Islands articles and inspiration? Find more here…