Spain Snapshots: A Visit to Spain’s Highest Point, el Teide

The Megane steadily climbed out of Santa Cruz de Tenerife, past La Laguna and into the plush interior of the island. The pines and windy roads took me back to Colorado, but with an occasional glimpse of Atlantic waters.

Gua guas pushed up the hill slowly, and Forrest swerved around them, comfortable as he shifted into third in our rental car and rode the mountain up. Tenerife was formed by an underground volcano 30 to 50 million years ago, and its highest point, Teide, actually gives the island its name: tene (mountain) and ife (white), joined by an /r/ during the colonial period. The entire island is formed from volcanic rock, in fact, evident from the steep ride up and down, and the white-capped mountain is visible from seemingly every rincón of the largest island in the archipelago. 

Once we reached the national park and UNESCO World Heritage site, we parked the car and took the gondola up the mountain. Most tourists don’t venture up to the top, standing nearly 3800 meters above sea level, despite Teide being one of the most visited sites in Spain. The landscape is almost barren, and the only sign off life we saw after starting our ascent were lizards.

Steep rock stairs have been carved into the rock face, but we still scrambled over boulders, stopping for vistas and water breaks every 10 steps because the air was so thin. 

The great crater caused by multiple eruptions in visible from just about everywhere on the island, but seeing it from a bird’s-eye-view was insanely cool.

From the very top, you can see Gran Canaria to the east and la Gomera to the west. We actually hiked above the cloud level that covers the occidental side of the island, watching them get burned off by the warm midday sun.

If you go: Visitors can take the gondola up the mountain at the cost of 25€. If you want to hike to the top, you’ll need to print off an access pass on the national park’s main page. It’s free, but you’ll have to bring a form of ID.

Be sure to dress in layers, as it’s cold at the top, and wear comfortable shoes. Bring sunscreen, sunglasses and plenty of water, as there are no facilities after leaving the visitors center.

Have you ever visited a national park in Spain?

My rental car was graciously provided by Car Rentals UK. All opinions (as well as the memories of my stomach dropping during the hairpin turns) are my own.

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living amongst pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she works in higher education at an American university in Madrid and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.


  1. I did this hike last year. So awesome in the true meaning of the adjective!
    The Spain Scoop recently posted..The Best La Gomera BeachesMy Profile

  2. I had no idea Teide was that, uh, pointy! Looks super huge and definitely deserving of the highest-point-in-Spain title. And cool tidbit about the name’s etymology; I assume that comes from the native Guanche language?
    Trevor Huxham recently posted..Confessions of a Texan in SpainMy Profile

    • I’d say the top was about 10 square meters, that’s it! And, yes, the name comes from the Guanche language and figured you’d enjoy that!

  3. Stunning photos Cat. I’m going to have to add this to my Spain itinerary!
    Jen recently posted..Destination of the Week – BathMy Profile

    • Tenerife was a nice surprise – going off-season and staying away from the South and its holiday resorts is a big help!

  4. This is an amazing hike! The views are stunning!
    Jamie recently posted..Day Trips | LincolnMy Profile

  5. Great post, Cat. We enjoy excellent views of Teide from Gran Canaria. And your tip of dressing like an onion applies to hiking across the islands. Lots of microclimates.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted..Canary Motorcycle ToursMy Profile

  6. Looks beautiful! Not a hike-y person but the panorama sounds stunning!
    Caitlyn recently posted..The Balkan surpriseMy Profile

    • I’m starting to see myself as a more hike-y person…beats spending money!

      And, in all fairness, you can take the gondola up to the almost top, no need to hike the whole thing!

  7. Oh this hike looks amazing! I love hiking when I can go (no mountains around here though the Catskills are about 2 hours away). Hiking a (non active) volcano is definitely on my list of things to do. Is the Teide still considered an active volcano?


  1. […] experience was. I actually didn’t know it had anything to do with food until after we’d climbed to the peak of Teide on empty stomachs and was promised a mountain of […]

  2. […] the southeast side of Tenerife and the island of Gran Canaria, but also got special permission to access the peak via foot. It was a steep, hot climb, but well worth the […]

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