When I told my colleagues that I would be visiting Tenerife during the New Year's holiday, they thought that I finally had succumbed to a relaxing beach vacation. They were surprised to hear that it would put me within reach of 3 WHS. Those that had been to Tenerife themselves all offered "El Teide" as the island's most likely WH candidate.
The Teide WHS
is a volcanic landscape that actually covers two peaks (Pico Viejo and Teide), of which the latter is the most iconic. I already enjoyed good views of it from the plane while approaching Tenerife Norte Airport, and from the top of the Garajonay
on La Gomera.
|Mount Teide bugloss (Echium wildpretii)|
Teide NP is part of our infamous "One million visitors or more"
- connection. Visitor numbers have actually been dwindling over the past 5 years
(due to the economic crisis?). Still it can get very busy up there, and I used Hubert's excellent advice
how early to start out. I left my hotel in Granadilla at 7.30 a.m. When I arrived at the park some 45 minutes later, it was almost freezing cold (+2.5 Celsius) but I had the place to myself. Just wonderful.
I stopped at a few Miradores
, watching the sun rise. Comparisons to the moon have been made, but the landscape looked more like Southwestern USA to me. It's not that barren: tough plants cover large parts of the ground. The most prominent spot here at the southern side of the park is the Roques de Garcia
. This is a series of strangely shaped rocks, the erosional remnants of an earlier version of the volcano. There's a 3.5 km long trail that loops around them. Although the temperature left me with very cold hands, I opted to do this medium level hike and see the rocks up and close.
The path starts out easy, but gets more tricky half-way. You actually walk along the back-side of the rocks. I even got lost a bit, I was starting to scramble up a hill when I saw 2 people approaching from the other side showing the right path. The real climb is left to the end, a switchback trail all the way up to the main viewpoint again. That trail is where I got the best views, including that of the photo right above.
After the hike I drove down the road that cross-sects the park. There are a couple more viewpoints, but none I found as spectacular as the Roques
. I already had decided beforehand to forego on the cable car ride to the top. The visitor center "El Portillo" at the northern end of the park turned out to be closed on January 1st. It was free to enter the attached botanical gardens though, where I was immediately attracted to another view of the Teide.
Teide NP entered the WH List in 2007, at the same session as Korea's Jeju Island
. This sparked a debate if there weren't enough volcanoes on the list already ("including several properties whose inscription was justified on the basis of arguments that are considered by a number of experts to be rather narrow"). The Committee requested IUCN to do a Thematic Study
. The results were publicized in 2009: although most types of volcanic features were considered well-represented, some gaps were still identified.
Since 2009 several new volcanic sites have been added to the List (Pitons of Réunion
, Ogasawara Islands
, Mt. Etna
and Mt. Fuji
for example) - not the ones that would fill any lacunes. And although the IUCN study does criticize the "haphazard process of site selection and nomination of World Heritage properties by State Parties", it doesn't dare to say which of the already inscribed ones are superfluous. No doubt has ever been casted about El Teide: its height, age (over 3.5 million years) and gigantic caldera (a term that originated here
) justify its inscription.