Teide National Park was created in 1954, after Covadonga and Ordesa National Parks, making it the third oldest National Park in Spain. This national park is in the centre of Tenerife and it is made up of a large cirque, known as Las Cañadas, and El Teide, the highest mountain in Spain (3717m). The area as a whole, at an altitude higher than 2000 m, makes up 13,500 hectares, making it the fifth largest National Park in Spain.
There is disagreement among geologists about the formation of Las Cañadas. Some think that it is made up of two calderas, one eastern caldera and a western caldera separated by the Roques de García which were formed by the sinking of the old volcanic structure and in whose northern part the present day Teide-Chahorra structure was formed.The second theory differs in that it starts from the assumption that a large valley open to the north was formed in the original shield itself as the result of erosion brought about by atmospheric factors and large landslides.As in the first hypothesis it is believed that this valley was later filled by material emitted from Teide-Chahorra.
A third hypothesis views the formation of Las Cañadas as the consequence of a landslide that created the landscape of the area as it is today. It seems reasonable to believe that in one way or another and to varying degrees the landscape that we see today in the National Park is the result of the phenomena described in each of the theories.
The formation of the cirque of Las Cañadas must have been complete 175,000 years ago,and yet the building up of the Teide is still going on today.The last historic eruption that occurred in the area of the Park and which lasted three months was that of Chahorra,which in 1798,shot out lava through various mouths known as Las Narices del Teide (Teide's Noses). Whatever the correct hypothesis, today there is a large cirque which is 16k in diameter.Two thirds of the perimeter is bordered by large cliffed walls (in Guajara, 500 metres high) and the Teide is roughly in the centre.
The Teide is in fact several volcanoes,one superimposed upon another.Particularly noteworthy are Destaca Chahorra or Pico Viejo with a crater of 800m. in diameter and slopes that show residual activity in the form of solfataras (the gas escapes at a temperature of 86 C).El Pilón ,which is only 150 m high, rises above the Rambleta, an old crater of 850 m. in diameter.The old caldera, Las Cañadas, is full of every kind of volcanic material .Nowadays it is a varied landscape in which lava flows sometimes forming extensive rocky fields called "malpaíses" (badlands) or "volcan" (volcano), others flow down hill producing large passages.Still others stick out like tongues from other volcanoes or older lava flows.The lava and scoria are of many colours, from dark colours close to black through to reddish tones.This is the result of oxidization of manganese over time. As a general rule it is possible to say that the darker lavas are more recent ( if they contain manganese).
In the Park, small volcanic cones can be observed that are structurally almost perfect. The wall of the crater is higher one side because the ash accumulated on the side where the wind was blowing at the moment when the eruption occurred.
Other mountains, like Montaña Blanca, are formed by the accumulation of lapilli of phonolithic composition or of pumice stone. This light stone forms from the gaseous lava which expands and solidifies to form spongy material after being violently expelled during eruptions at high pressure but at a low temperature.
Another mineral to look out for is obsidian, a shiny black material that can in sunlight,produce various colours as a result of diffraction.This is a lava or volcanic glass which, because it is on the crests of the lava flows and in contact with very cold air,solidifies without having time to form crystalline structures.
The area known as Los Azulejos has always attracted the attention of visitors because of the greenish colours of the soil there, often erroneously attributed to copper salts.In fact the colours are the result of iron minerals changing state through contact with volcanic gases and mineral waters in the subsoil. Finally , it is worth looking closely at the structure that typifies the Park,namely the "cañada", which has given its name to the zone. A "cañada" is a sedimentary plain which is light yellow in colour and is normally found at the foot of the walls of the cirque where all the material resulting from erosion of the escarpments accumulates.Some like that of Ucanca, which also gets sediment from the Teide, can be as large as 3 k . in diameter.In winter it is not unusual to see small lakes that form in the cañada only to disappear again later.
After the geological riches the flora are next in importance in the Park. Only the peak of the Teide and some very recent lava flows that have still not started to break down are devoid of plant life .
The rest of the volcanic landscape has been invaded by a plant world that is fully adapted to the rigorous conditions that are the norm at these altitudes. The majority of the plants are genuinely Canarian (some 50 plants) and many of them are endemic or almost exclusive to the National Park (15).
The most typical and most striking plant is the Teidebroom (Spartocytisus supranubius),which is covered with pinkish white flowers in spring to give a new splash of colour to the landscape.A particularly colourful plant is the "hierba pajonera" ( Descourainia bourgeana ) plant with its yellow flowers.When it dries its flowers form striking straw coloured pulvinularous scrub.Other colourful species that are often seen in the Park are the marguerite or Teide marguerite ( Argyranthemum teneriffae ),the Teide Blister Cress ( Erysimum scoparium ) and the "codeso" (Adenocarpus viscosus ) with its distinctive smell and yellow flowers.
Nevertheless, what really captures the attention of the visitor is the red-flowered vipers bugloss ( Echium wildpreti ). a boraginaceous plant which grows to a height of 3 metres forming a pyramid-shaped cluster of red flowers.Another plant that stands out because of its delicacy and soft colours is the little plant described by Alexander von Humboldt: the Teide-violet ( Viola cheiranthifolia) which lives on the slopes and
high ground of Guajara in conditions that can only be described as extreme.It flowers precisely when it is able to take full advantage of the melting snow.The most varied and rare flora are found in the crags, fissures and cracks in the walls of the cirque, the oldest part of the Park. They have sought refuge here from the livestock and from the effects of the eruptions that took place in the atrium of the cañadas.
The really interesting fauna are the invertebrates and more specifically the insects.More than 400 species live at these altitudes and many of them are endemic species of particular scientific interest.Nevertheless, this marvellous and varied animal world passes unnoticed by the visitor in part because the fauna are small but also because they remain hidden during the day.
Perhaps spring is the only time that we really are aware of them because there are so many to be seen flying around and drinking the nectar of the flowers.
The Park has few large animals.Of those that stand out are the Canarian lizard ( Gallotia g. eissentrauti ), some wild cats and rabbits ( Oryctolagus cuniculis ) which were introduced to the island .There are also bird species worthy of note, including the raven ( Corvus corax tingitanus ) the barbary partridge (Alectoris barbara koenigi), the rock dove ( Columba livia canariensis ), the kestrel (Falco tinnunculus canariensis), the great grey shrike ( Lanius excubitor koenig ), the Berthelot`s Pipitt ( Anthus b. berthelotii) and the chiff chaff ( Phylloscopus collybita canariensis ) The " Pajaro Azul del Teide" ( Blue bird of the Teide ) deserves a special mention.
It is a rather large finch.The female of the species is greyish but the male has colourful blue plumage.Despite its name, this bird is normally found in the pine forest outside Las Cañadas and the Teide.Nevertheless it can often be seen on its frequent visits to the National Park,like other bird species, such as the canary ( Serinus canaria ) or the blue tit,( Parus caeruleus teneriffae ).
The Teide National Park is not affected by the northeasterly trade winds because it is located at a height above the 2000 metre mark.These winds only break the sea of clouds in exceptional circumstances and come into the north eastern part of the Park. At these altitudes very dry southeasterly winds blow thus producing a climate inversion.
The climate of the Park can be described as a sub-alpine continental climate in marked contrast with the climate in low and medium altitude parts of the island.During the day, the bright sunlight produces high temperatures ( up to 40 C )which later , when night falls , drop dramatically in winter to -8 C or even lower temperatures in certain deep valleys. At dawn during the cold season the rocks and plants are often covered by large icicles which the islanders call " cencellada".
The air apart from the fact of being clean and clear,is very dry with a relative humidity which is normally below 50%, and in summer falls to 25 % .The average annual temperature is 9 C and there is little more than 400mm of rain, which means that it is extremely dry.
There are heavy snowfalls in winter which normally correspond to cold fronts coming from the north or north east.The Teide usually has snow on its summit for quite a long time.This was known even in ancient times. The Romans called Tenerife " Nivaria ".
Since the beginning of the human settlement on Tenerife until the first millennium B.C. The Guanches,the primitive inhabitants of the island, came up to Las Cañadas from where they lived to graze their livestock.Existing written sources are not very specific. They talk of the presence of nobles which lead small groups of guanches with their families and livestock. They went up in the summer and stayed in Las Cañadas until the first snows fell.Many archaeological remains have been found in the area of the Park which testify to the poverty of their material culture. Simple crafted hand made pots (they did not have potter´s wheels )which are oval or hemispherical and decorated with rough incisions were kept in hiding places so as to avoid having to carry them back and forth each year,"tabonas" ( a kind of knife) obtained from the obsidian were used for cutting, roughly worked leather was used as clothing, there were hand mills and little else.They made use of the cavities in the earth as dwellings but also built huts from dry stone covered with foliage or skins. Whenever people died they were buried in caves and depending on their social class were mummified and buried with some of their wordly goods.Very few well preserved archaeological remains are to be found today in the area of the Park.
GOING UP THE TEIDE
From 9 am to 4pm there is a cable car that takes you from the base of the Teide at a height of 2,356 m. to the Rambleta at 3,555 m. The ride takes eight minutes. From La Rambleta it is possible to walk up to the peak ( this takes a further 25 minutes ).
EATING IN THE PARK
The " Parador Nacional de Turismo " has a restaurant and a bar and there are also restaurant and bar facilities where you get the cable car.If you approach the park from the east you will find a range of bars, restaurants and souvenir shops in the area between El Portillo de la Villa and the entrance to the park.
A high standard of hotel accommodation is available in the Parador Nacional in Cañada Blanca. Beds are also available in the Refugio de Altavista ( an alpine hut ) ( 3,260 m.) on the path that goes up to the Teide.
This has sufficient space for 60 people and is open from April to November.
There is a Red Cross centre in El Portillo.There are also first aid kits in the Education Centre, the Parador Nacional , the cable car station and the Refugio de Altavista.
We advise visitors not to leave the marked paths and to wear appropiate footwear for the terrain.
On the main road that runs through the Park just past the 41 k. mark there is a filling station which is open from 9am to 6pm. Telephone services are available in the Parador Nacional.
THE VIEW FROM THE PEAK OF THE TEIDE
Following this road, entering the National Park, we reach Montaña Mostaza on our left and the Valle de Las Piedras Arrancadas.Almost immediately we are confronted by the stunning view that Montaña Rajada, Montaña Blanca and the enormous mass of the Teide present. Stop and look to the left at Tabonal Negro with its silvery sheen and at Los Blanquiales to the right.
A little further on you will find the cable car station from which you can go up to the base of the Pilón de Azúcar del Teide. As long as it is not windy or too icy on the summit,going up to the top is not to be missed.From the top if you are lucky enough to strike a clear day, aside from the magnificent view of the whole Park, you will be able to see all the islands in the archipelago.La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro on one side and Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and even Lanzarote on the other.
On your descent follow the road to the Parador Nacional, which is right inside the Park and directly opposite the popular Roques de García, which appear on the thousand peseta note.
El Oso, El Miembro del Guanche,Roque Cinchado, Roque Burro,Roque de la Bruja, the reddish green tones of the wall known as Los Azulejos and La Catedral on Los Llanos de Ucanca, the largest cañada, all await you here.
If we take the road to Chio and the south, through the isolated canary pines there is a wonderful view of the Pico Viejo and the Narices del Teide, the last eruption , inside the National Park.In 1800, two years after the explosion, Nicolás Segundo de Franqui described it as follows: "An unbroken column of fire and enormous stones,A continuous roar like thunder. An explosion every ten seconds which was louder than the sound of ten mortars fired at the same time and which made the foundations of that chain of mountains shudder as if the very ground under our feet were fleeing from us."
HIKING ALONG THE LAS CAÑADAS TRACK
Although this track does not provide an overall vision of the Park, it does allow one to get a sense of the spirit of the volcano.It runs from the El Portillo to the Parador and is in fact the same path that the Guanche herdsmen used to travel between the north and the south of the island.It means walking more than 15 kilometres under the burning sun in summer or up to your knees in snow in winter,but it lets you experience the true sensation of walking on the very bowels of the earth.From the Cañada de Diego Hernández we pass by Risco Verde and the Cañada de las Pilas, stopping at the crag known as La Papelera.We go on past the Cañada de la Angostura and the Cañadaa de la Grieta where we can see the ruins of a German observatory financed by the Kaiser William 11 and of houses provided for the sick who were treated in this climate for infectious diseases and respiratory complaints.Montón de Trigo, La Mareta and the beautiful and fantastic shapes of the Cañada del Capricho follow.
The cañadas were the pastures of the lucky Guanches, who divided their territories between several " menceyatos" ( kingdoms). The Menceyatos of Taoro took their herds to the Cañada de la Angostera, the Cañada de Montaña Blanca,the Cañada de los Rastrojos and the Cañada of Pico Cabras.The Menceyatos of Abona had grazing lands that went from Cañada de la Angostura in the east to Llano de Ucanca in the west.The herdsmen of Adeje stayed in the most eastern extreme of the cirque, while those from Icod went as far as the north face of the Teide leaving the Llano de Maja and the edge of the " caldera" of Las Cañadas to those from Güimar.
The track, which finishes at the Parador, provides a glorious view at the end of the Montaña de Guajara, which owes its name to a Guanche princess, the main character of a popular legend.