Introducing Parque Nacional del Teide
Covering 189.9 sq km, Teide is not only Spain’s largest national park, it is the most popular, attracting a whopping four million visitors a year. A visit here should top everyone’s itinerary. Most folk arrive by bus and don’t wander far off the highway that snakes through the centre of the park, but that just means that the rest of us have more elbow room to explore. There are currently 21 walking tracks (30 more tracks will soon be signposted) marking the way through volcanic terrain, beside unique rock formations and up to the peak of El Teide (Pico del Teide), which, at 3718m, is the highest mountain in Spain.
This area was declared a national park in 1954, with the goal of protecting the landscape, which includes 14 plants found nowhere else on earth. The park is simply stunning; more than 80% of the world’s volcanic formations are here, including rough badlands (deeply eroded barren areas), smooth pahoehoe or lajial lava (rock that looks like twisted taffy) and pebble-like lapilli. There are also complex formations such as volcanic pipes and cones. The park protects nearly 1000 Guanche archaeological sites, many of which are still unexplored and all of which are unmarked, preventing curious visitors from removing ‘souvenirs’.
El Teide dominates the northern end of the park. If you don’t want to make the four-hour climb to the top, take the cable car. Surrounding the peak are the cañadas, flat depressions likely caused by a massive landslide 180,000 years ago.
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