Have you ever wanted a chance to visit the Moon? We got one sooner than we ever thought we would, at El Teide National Park in Tenerife.

Desert mountains and landscape in el Teide National Park in Tenerife Spain  Purple desert volcanic mountains rise from tan desert slopes in El Teide National Park

After several days in Tenerife, we had seen several colonial towns and a few beach towns, and it was time to switch it up completely.

El Teide is a volcanic national park on Tenerife. It is home to the El Teide volcano, which is the highest point in Spain and all its islands! According to our guidebook, four million people visit El Teide National Park per year. El Teide has not erupted since the late 1700s, which makes it a pretty safe place to visit even though the volcano is considered active. The landscape is absolutely unique.

Desert hiking path in El Teide National Park in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, Spain

How the national park works

El Teide is located in the center of the island of Tenerife, which makes sense, because Tenerife itself is a volcanic island. To get to El Teide, you can take a private tour through various operators, drive your own rented car or take the public bus.

We chose to take the public bus. The national park itself is so relatively high up that it’s above both the cloud line and the tree line. The park surrounding the peak on all sides is considered to look lunar because it’s devoid of trees, totally dry and has lava rocks.

Desert landscape of mountains, rock and desert plantlife at El Teide National Park in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, Spain
Green spiky desert plantlife at El Teide National Park in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, Spain

We started the morning by heading off to the bus station in town for the one daily bus to El Teide. The public buses go up once and down once per day, so… you had better not miss the one going down! We took the 348 bus from La Orotava. It comes daily at 9:45A a.m. and departs from the El Teide visitors center at 4 p.m. again for going down.

To hike, or to go up?

When we got off the bus at the main visitors center (the last stop on the bus), lots of people were waiting in line for the gondola up to the higher points. The tourist gondola ride costs 26 EUR ($30) per person, and takes you to a part of the mountain where you can see the ocean and more islands.

If you want to summit, well…only 150 people per day are allowed up past the gondola level, and permits are given out ahead of time and have to be reserved online. That means that, despite the weather, you have to know well in advance that you’re going if you want to get to the top, where it can be pretty cold!

Small park ranger house on a desert mountain in El Teide National Park in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, Spain  Hiking signage for teleferico and hiking trails in El Teide National Park in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, Spain  Volcanic desert flowers on hiking paths in El Teide National Park in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, Spain

Starting our hike in the desert

According to what we saw, it seems that not so many people are opting to walk down to the trails for some lunar scenery. Without much prior research, we chose to take a trail called Montaña Blanca, a total 3.6 km (2.23 miles).

Green national park signs and map route in El Teide National Park in Tenerife, the Canary Islands, Spain  Green desert plantlife on a hiking trail

When we started, the sky was still clear and blue and we could see colors in the landscape. Also, we were some of the only people around. That was pretty cool - a private national park.

This rocks!

The desert scenery went from shrubbery to rockier, and by the end we were walking over very porous volcanic rocks that felt crunchy.

Desert landscape of mountains and rocks at El Teide National Park  Desert mountains, desert rocks and desert shrubbery at El Teide National Park in Spain

We started at 11:25 a.m., and stopped a lot for photos. It was a good thing, too, because on our way back, the sun was at its highest in the sky, making everything look kind of colorless and shadow-less and flat, and that was when dust started rolling in and the sky got kind of gray and heavy-looking.

Desert mountain and small desert bushes along a hiking path at  El Teide National Park in Spain  Girl with a backpack and camera hiking on a desert trail in  El Teide National Park in Spain

The trail ended at the road and it was clear that the route didn’t end at the Montaña Blanca itself, but a lookout point for Montaña Blanca, and a continued hiking trail with a different name. This was a bit disillusioning for us, but we were glad that the first half of the hike had been interesting.

Small purple flowers in a desert ecosystem  Dry plant roots from desert shrubbery in a volcanic desert  Small purple flowers with yellow centers in a desert climate

We turned back to go to the visitors center to cool off and wait for the bus back!

Girl with a Camelbak backpack hiking on a desert path in  El Teide National Park in Spain  Man jumping mid-air on a desert hiking trail in  El Teide National Park in Spain

What to bring on your El Teide hike

Helpful Tip

Bring two water bottles, per person. The stifling heat combined with the sun, the dust and the three hours we spent hiking caused us to ration water, and we wish we had more so that we were not so parched by the end. Bring snacks, too! There is nowhere to buy anything once you leave the visitors center.

We also suggest bringing sunscreen. We usually don’t bring it with us, but we are thankful that we had sunscreen for this hike, as there was no shade and nowhere to rest that was out of the sun.

Girl hiking on a wide desert hiking trail with red desert rocks in  El Teide National Park in Spain

Lastly, hiking boots are helpful, as the trails are dry and rocky and slipping can happen.

Last updated on January 16th, 2021