As we climbed higher the vegetation began to scatter. The land was slowly balding. Rocks jutted from the ground around scraggly shrubs. As the road curved I realized we would be piercing the crown of rock. Mount Teide had loomed in our discussions of places to visit for weeks, but my partner’s parents had wanted to wait for the veil of calima to dissipate.
This was finally it! I’d be travelling into my first volcano crater in moments! My heart began to flutter as fast as the screeching wind ripping past the car.
Then the wall swallowed us up and spit us out into the devil’s arena.
First let me introduce you to Guayota, the malignant deity of Tenerife, and one of my guides that day (literally).
According to the Guanche—Tenerife’s original aboriginal peoples—Guayota is a big black dog, but the visitor centre at El Teide National Park presents him like below.
This devil is famous for kidnapping Magec (god of the sun), shutting him up in Teide and plunging the world into darkness. The humans prayed to Achamán, the benevolent god, who saved Magec and used Guayota to plug the crater.
From then on whenever Mount Teide erupted the Guanche would light bonfires to scare Guayota into behaving.
It is said that the Guanches also believe Teide holds up the sky. This idea is not surprising given the height of the volcano and the clarity of the night sky.
Are you a fan of astronomy? Visit the Teide observatory! There is a hotel in the national park that’s famous for its astronomy nights too.
Mount Teide is 3,718 metres tall, the highest point in all of Spain!
This mass is also responsible for making Tenerife the tenth highest island in the world.
You can visit the top Teide via a cable car service. We decided not to during my visit because of the massive line of tourists waiting to get a lift!
If you want to go see make sure you go early. I hear it’s a very impressive view, though you can’t wander as far as you used to because the area has been restricted to protect the delicate flora. You can’t go see the crater without a special permit for example.
Mount Teide is also famous for being listed as a Decade Volcano by the United Nations Committee for Disaster Mitigation.
The name is given to volcanoes that have a history of large destructive eruptions and are located near populated areas.
Why people choose to live near active volcanoes I will never know… it seems as silly as parking your house in Tornado Alley.
Thankfully, the last time Teide erupted was in 1909 from the El Chinyero vent.
Of course, the whole island owes its existence to the now dormant volcano and its predecessors. Before the giant we see today was born an even more massive series of volcanoes dominated the island.
The first, the Las Cañadas volcano, reached 4,500 metres high until about 160-220 thousand years ago—when the summit collapsed. This collapse resulted in the crater crown we can see today.
The land tried to rise again, but Las Cañadas II also collapsed. A third volcano formed. It too fell.
If you are a fan of land formation and geology this UNESCO national park is definitely for you. The area left behind by the crumbled volcanoes is a treasure trove of material including basalts, basanite, trachy-basalt, phonolites, trachytes and others.
One aerospace company named EADS-Astrium even uses the alien landscape to test its mars designated rovers.
Eventually Teide rose from the rubble we see today and has remained ever since.
As you take it all in and gaze up at the crest of Teide remember that you’re looking at Guayota, forever standing tall over the martian landscape within this bowl of stone.