It’s not every day that you get the chance to walk on an active volcano. So, if you are heading to the Canary Islands make sure you go to Mount Teide in Tenerife. You can travel into the surrounding parkland to enjoy views of the volcano and admire the varied landscapes. Then either hike or take a cable car up.
Visiting Mount Teide was one of the best things we experienced in Tenerife and it is well worth visiting. It is very popular and as a protected site, access is limited. Book your cable car ticket in advance to avoid disappointment as they sell out almost every day. Also the very top of the volcano “the summit” can only be reached by foot and you will need a permit to hike there.
We’ve put together a simple guide for visiting Mount Teide. With all the information you need to plan your visit. Plus, we’ll share a little insight and info from our recent self-drive and cable car experience.
The Spanish Canary Islands were formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions. Mount Teide is a volcanic peak that stands 7,500 metres tall from the ocean floor in the centre of Tenerife. It is the highest Volcano outside of Hawaii. Classed as an active volcano, the last recorded eruption was in 1909. The top of Teide is the highest point in Spain, it has UNESCO World Heritage status and the surrounding 47,000 acres is a protected National Park.
How to get to Mount Teide
Mount Teide by public bus
A public bus runs from the main beach towns in either North or South Tenerife. This is the most cost-effective way to visit Teide but timetables are limited and subject to change. From Puerto de la Cruz in the North bus 348 leaves currently at 9:15 then returns at 16:00. From Playa de las Americas in the South bus 342 leaves currently at 9:15 then returns at 15:30.
*RELATED article: A wonderful winter holiday in North Tenerife
Mount Teide by group excursion
Book onto an organised tour as a day-trip excursion. Depending on the price this could be via coach, on a mini-bus, with a tour-guide or self-guided. This is a great option of you don’t feel confident driving yourself. Be aware that companies run excursions on certain days of the week and pick up will be early in the morning. Some companies will book the cable car assent as a package for you but some of the cheaper options only cover travel to the Volcano so you must buy your assent ticket separately.
Mount Teide by self-driving
We chose to drive ourselves to Teide as it gave us the flexibility to arrive and depart when we wanted. As well as the freedom to stop on route. You can easily hire a car in Tenerife and it is very cheap. We hired a small car from Europcar for 2 days with full insurance for €70. Be sure to study the map before starting your drive or use a navigation system and be ready for lots of winding roads and blind corners. The drive will take 90+ minutes at a sensible pace.
*RELATED article: Hiring a car in Spain
Driving to Mount Teide
There are 4 main access roads that connect to the TF-21. The road surface conditions are great and Teide is well signposted. However, there are sections during the incline with no barrier and a sheer drop. Plus some stretches with no road centre markings and numerous tight corners and bends.
The views are amazing but at times the drive was a little hair raising. You need to have full concentration as the driver and a good navigator/obstacle spotter by your side. One the main problems we found was the danger presented by other drivers. Either not staying to their side of road during bends or slowing down to admire views but not pulling over safely.
The scenery during the drive to mount Teide is amazingly varied. We drove from Puerto de la Cruz which is surrounded by banana fields. Catching glimpses of colourful buildings nestled amongst tropical vegetation. As we snaked our way up above the town the view of the ocean was stunning. At times it was hard to see where the water ended and the sky started.
We soon left the sea behind and drove into a dense forest of tall pine trees. They provided shade from the sun and a fresh, clean smell in the air as we drove further up towards Teide. As mentioned before, you have to keep your wits about you for the sharp turns. There are plenty of view points with parking space to stop and admire the scenery, have a picnic or take a short walk.
The top of the volcano dominates the skyline during the midway part of the drive. The terrain changes and becomes dessert like with spikey tufts of grass and dry bushes. As you drive up the base of Teide, you loose sight of the summit and become surrounded by craters of red and gold earth. A dusty haze shimmers in the sunlight and it feels like you could be on another planet.
Parking is limited at Teide cable car dock. Allow plenty of time to find a parking space, then walk up to the cable car docking station. We arrived 1 hour before our afternoon timeslot and that worked out just about right after a coffee and toilet break before boarding.
Mount Teide cable car
A standard return journey on the cable car is €27. When pre-booked, you are given an e-ticket and timeslot. Join the queue 10-20 mins before your time and exchange your booking confirmation for a physical ticket at the booth. There are 2 modern cable cars, each holds 44 people and the ride lasts 8 minutes. During the queue and when boarding it gets very crowded and the journey is certainly not for those scared of heights.
At the top
You will be 3,555 metres above sea level when disembarking the cable car. The air is thin and the temperature drops significantly, even on a sunny day. You are now above the clouds and surrounded by coarse rock, all different shades of rich reds and browns. There are viewing areas either side of the cable car disembarkation area and the view is breath taking.
Time at the top is limited to 1 hour but not really monitored. This is ample time to look around and take photos and you will find the temperature and lack of air mean you won’t comfortably last much longer. The summit is still a hike from here. No. 10 trail takes you to the crater and requires a permit (see below info about hiking).
What if you can’t go up
If you arrive and cannot get a ticket for the cable car, or access has been disrupted due to bad weather, there are still stunning views, photo opportunities and hiking trails throughout the lower levels of Teide National Park. Take a walk to various viewpoints, visit the Teide Observatory, or have lunch in a nearby restaurant.
Hiking Mount Teide
Access to the summit
Hiking Teide takes great physical effort and should only be attempted if you have the relevant experience and equipment. You can choose to take the cable car one way and hike the other but remember all tickets must be pre-booked and to hike to the peak of Mount Teide un-guided you will need a permit. Obtain this way in advance as only 200 are issued per day.
The most popular hiking route is the Montana Blanca trail No.7. It takes approximately 5 ½ hours to ascend and 4 ¼ hours to descend. This trail is a distance of 8.31 km and includes an altitude change of 1,188 metres. Get more info about what the trail entails here.
What to do if you can’t get a permit
People book permits 2-3 months in advance so it can be difficult. If you want to hike but can’t get a permit you could try booking an official guided trip up Mount Teide or book to stay in the AltaVista Refuge (this is also the way to see Teide at sunrise).
If that’s too expensive or fully booked consider hiking Teide but not to the peak. Take the trail to Pico Viejo No.12 or La Fortaleza No. 11 from the cable car disembarkation dock. Get more info about these options here.
My tips for visiting Mount Teide
- If you decide to self drive, make sure you are confident taking sharp bends and blind corners
- Be considerate of other cars on the road
- Only use the official lay by areas to stop and take photos
- Parking is free but very busy, it’s easier to find a spot along the lower road and walk 200m to the cable car
- Book cable car tickets on the website at least 3 days ahead
- Aim to arrive 30 min – 1 hour before your cable car time
- There are 2 counters selling reasonably priced snacks and drinks at the cable car station
- Join the queue 10 – 20 mins before your time and be patient while queuing to board the cable car
- Be ready for the ascent, high altitude, drop in temperature, shortness of breath and ear popping
- Wear suitable layers and thick rubber soled boots
- Watch your step and walk slowly along the designated paths, stopping to catch your breath when needed
- Respect the barriers and don’t touch the rock, vegetation, snow or ice
- There is a toilet facility at the top but no food or drink
- If you cannot get tickets to take the cable car up, there are lower level walking routes to see amazing views
- Don’t forget you need a permit to hike to the summit
- Pregnant women, children under 2 years and anyone with a heart condition are advised not to ascend Mount Teide
I hope this guide to visiting Mount Teide has given you the information you need. Or provided some insight to inspire you to go up the volcano some day!
Have you been up Mount Teide? Tell us all about it in the comments box below ↓↓
Other Seeking the Spanish Sun travel guides you may enjoy reading…