When we think about Tenerife – one of the seven islands of the Canary Islands – we immediately associate to palm trees and the gorgeous beaches on the south side of the island. I didn’t know anything abot the two faces of the island.
I’ve spent my very first holiday in Tenerife this Summer. I wanted to go before the Summer season to skip the crowd and the long queues and give myself the chance to really discover the island.
After my plane landed, I continued my journey to my hotel by bus. My hotel was located in the north side of the island, in Puerto de la Cruz. To reach Puerto de la Cruz by bus, took two long hours. As the bus was getting closer to its destination, it was getting cloudier and cloudier. Finally, I arrived. “It’s the island of forever Summer!” – I thought. Well, no. By the time I arrived to my hotel it had become totally cloudy, not a single ray of the Sun would show itself. And the next day was the same. I was disappointed.
I had a program booked for the following day, which was on the south side of the island. (it turned out the real tourist paradise was on the south). It meant I had to travel two hours almost every time I had a program, because all of the water sport programs are there. However, given that I am naturally a very adventurous person, I didn’t mind traveling almost the whole island and witnessing all of its diversity. And it shocked me how diverse it actually was!
The island itself has been formed by two volcanoes: Teide and Anaga. It means that the island is a volcano. The more than 3,700m (more than 12,000ft) high Volcano Teide (the volcano’s actual height, measured from the ocean floor is 7,500m (more than 24,00ft)) making Tenerife the tenth highest island in the world. Wow!
Tide towers right in the middle of the island (that’s why the journey takes two hours from the north side to the south: all of the roads have to go around the volcano).
This volcano has huge impact on Tenerife’s weather, making it colder, much cloudier and windier on the north while always bright and sunny on the south. Volcano Teide and Anaga keep almost all the clouds coming with the trade winds on the north side of the island.
As a result, the northern part of the island is cloudier therefore rainier to the southern side. When travel from north to the south I experienced the two faces of the island on my own skin. North: heavy clouds, strong wind and rain, especially when reaching the Northern Airport then undisturbed sunny sky from the South Airport all along the southern and the western side of the island.
This weather phenomenon causes the northern part is much greener and has nice vegetation in contrast to the southern part which is very dry and sometimes desert like.
Since, visiting the top of a volcano had always been on my bucket list, I booked a tour to visit Volcano Teide by bus and then cable car to travel to the (almost) very top (useful info: if you want to visit the crater itself you have to book a special ticket to do so. Good health condition is essential as there is no cable car there to bring you up, you have to climb. It’s an exhausting one hour, and another hour back of course.)
It was interesting to see how the vegetation changed as I was traveling from sea-level to the top of the volcano: on the lower level I saw nothing but stones. It was a stone desert.
The only living creatures were some cactus and succulent plants. As the bus reached the cloud level, I experienced an explosion of the vegetation. Up there, half-way to the top, a rich variation of plants welcomed me. On this level only small farms can be found with very small number of inhabitants, most of them farmers growing mostly potato.
Above the Clouds
Leaving the cloud level behind I reached the level of pine trees. After the pine trees…nothing. Stones…only. I reached a desert of antient volcanic lava and ash. More than 3,000m (approx. 10,000ft) above the sea level on a volcano, there were no life. The bus stopped several times to allow us to admire the view and take some photos. I have never experienced such motionless peace like up there before. The feeling was like I was in a different planet. No plants, no animals. Only the remains of some antient natural disaster echoed on the black rocks. Thrilling.
As the bus continued its journey, we left the serpentine routes behind to reach a strangely flat area. And this was the point when I was shocked. Our tour operator informed us; we were actually travelling in a crater! A 2-million years old antient crater, which was – write and say – 17 km (10.5 miles) wide!
But, how was it possible to travel in a crater when we still didn’t reach the top of Volcano Teide? The answer is: there are 2 volcanos right next to each other: a bigger that actually formed the island, called Pre-Teide. An enormous part of Pre-Teide, however, had slipped into the ocean giving way to a new volcano to be formed: Teide. The landslide caused a volcanic eruption and this eruption had started to form Volcano Teide right next to the old one, Pre-Teide. Mind-blowing, isn’t it?
From the top of Teide, the oval shape of the ancient volcano, Pre-Teide became clearly visible. From the top, I really see the two faces of the island: I could not only see the vast crater of the antient volcano, the weather was clear enough to see the whole island in all its glory: the (today no so) cloudy north side and the crystal clear south side; even one of the neighbour islands was visible.
I have to admit, I felt a bit of disappointment when I arrived to the island: the desert-like landscape, the cloudy north side my hotel was and the Atlantic Ocean with its big waves (much bigger that on the south) lashed up by the trade wind. At the end I am glad that little had I known about the two faces of the island when I booked my holiday because I had a chance to experience it myself (I told you, I am very adventurous). My holiday turned up to be not just a holiday but a very educational and exciting journey in both land and time. I have totally fell in love with Tenerife and hope I can return for another exciting adventure soon.