Leaving Siam Park behind, we headed back to our ‘blogger bus’ and soon we were winding up and up on our way through Teide National Park, through weird lunar landscapes, enveloped in mist and clenching our buttocks slightly when passing cars on the narrow roads with a sheer drop on one side. Soon, we emerged into the sunshine, looking down on the blanket of cloud below
Pronounced ‘teh-ee-deh’, not ‘tidey’ as I thought, the still-active volcano is the third highest in the world (12, 198ft to be precise) and the highest point in Spain.
We soon arrived at the Parador, part of a chain of Spanish hotels consisting of refurbished historic buildings: fortresses, convents, palaces and castles, all lovingly restored and available to stay in.
The Parador atop Teide (the only hotel within the National Park) is a odd-looking mishmash of original 60s ‘ski chalet’ looking building, with some more modern looking bits added on. The rooms are basic, but comfortable (mine smelt a bit like my Grandma’s house used to smell: a mixture of boiled cabbage and moth balls). From my room I could see right up to the summit of Teide, but, and I have to be honest here, that really was its only redeeming feature. Everything needs refurbishing, the staff are surly and unhelpful and the food’s not much either. My advice? Come early, do the cablecar up the volcano, enjoy the experience and then leave. You really don’t need to stay. Even our stargazing experience was somewhat dampened by taking place in the hotel carpark (a slightly unromantic setting), but our astronomy expert was gratifyingly bonkers and we got to see Saturn’s rings through his enormous cannon-like telescope, so it wasn’t a total washout.
The next morning, we were up and out early to catch the cable car up to the summit (well, within 500ft of the summit – you need a permit to actually walk right up to the top). The view is incredible, but be warned, it’s hard work walking at altitude, the paths are rocky and a bit wobbly, and it’s darned cold up there. If you’re going to go, even if it’s warm at the bottom, you’ll need sturdy boots and a decent coat.
Do go, though, because the view is spectacular. You can see right across to Gran Canaria and also to La Gomera and the landscape is astounding:
Heading back down afterwards, we stopped to see where Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans were both filmed. The peaks of black frozen lava topped with glistening obsidian give the whole place an almost otherworldly beauty. It’s a wonderful place to take children – they’ll never have seen anything like it and the myths and legends (as told by our fabulous guide, José Ramón) attached to Teide are magical beyond believe.
In fact, the actual stories of Tenerife’s past are pretty fabulous too, from its original inhabitants, the Guanches, to its subsequent occupation by the Romans and finally through to the Spanish conquest and the failed British invasion (it’s where Nelson lost his arm) – the history of the island is fabulous, and a good guide will keep you (and the kids) enthralled.
Next up, it’s the May festivities (in which we dress up in local costume) and food, glorious food!