We love sunsets and sunrises. We often plan our days around seeing the different shades of red, pink, violet, orange, and yellow. We now both agree that the sunrises and sunsets in Santa Cruz, Tenerife were among the most beautiful we have seen anywhere in the world.
Tenerife is the largest of the Canary Islands and has its own microclimate- you can wear a tank top in the morning and need a sweatshirt later in the day. Tenerife has 340 sunny days a year, no snakes, no major predators, and the only native mammal is the big-eared bat. Because of the changes in elevation, professional cyclists train there in the spring. The island is closer to Africa than Europe, even though it’s part of Spain.
The highlight of our day was the visit to Teide National Park. Mt. Teide is the highest point in Spain, the highest point in the Atlantic reaching 12,200 feet, the third highest volcano in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our bus took winding roads so that we could climb to 7200 feet to Los Roques de Garcia, which is actually in the interior of Teide’s crater (it’s been dormant for hundreds of years).
During the hour-long drive, we saw black obsidian, yellow, red, brown, and black lava rocks, the Esperanza Forest with pine trees and eucalyptus, and spectacular views of the island. In fact, according to our guide, the pine trees don’t burn because they have adapted to life on a volcano and thus were used to build some of the colonial homes in Tenerife.
Picture a combination of a drive on the Pacific Coast Highway in California, the Amalfi Coast in Italy, the Appalachian Mountains in Kentucky, and the Grand Canyon. It’s that diverse and that breathtaking. In fact, the fresh mountain air and stunning views even distracted us during a 30-minute bus breakdown on the side of a narrow road thousands of feet up. The crew handled it professionally and without alarming us unnecessarily.
What we saw at our final destination blew me away. I’m not a big science fiction fan, but I’ve seen enough movies to recognize that Mt. Teide could serve as the perfect backdrop. In fact, the 2010 film Clash of the Titans features some of its landscape. Parts of the park look like Mars, and it’s no surprise the NASA has tested some of its rovers here.
I asked my friend Troy Bernier, a geoscientist, about why Tenerife and Mt Teide, in particular, are so special. Here’s an excerpt from our interview:
When and why did you visit Tenerife? What makes it so special?
At the time, I was living in Spain. I founded an IT company and was its CTO. We got a contract to travel to the Canary Islands for two vital installations. It was a place I only heard of, so I had no idea what to expect. So far I’ve only taken one trip, but once I am complete with my doctorate studies, I would love to do a few projects there. The first thing that was unusual was the duration of the flight. It was over 4 hours from Madrid. It’s a large island, with a vast mountain in the middle, so travel to the other end of the island requires a 50+ mile drive from the northern airport to the south side of the island. Visually the place is exotic. It’s a desert island with many plants and animals which have evolved on Tenerife and nowhere else.
What makes it so important to scientists?
As mentioned earlier, isolated regions are essential to study, especially if they have extremes climatically in temperature or precipitation. The reason it is important is due to the observations may be more pronounced than in places where there are few climactic extremes. It is the case in many studies either ecological, hydrological or geological. If I am right, my current experiment will reveal itself right here in Florida. Yes, Florida is a place of extremes. I will be happy to discuss why in a later blog.
What have you researched when you’ve visited (in layman’s terms)?
My next time there will be to evaluate the hydrologic system in each microclimate area of the island. I will want to observe if there are similarities with the more significant weather system that drives our Florida hurricane season. Yes, the hurricanes come from West Africa.
How would you describe Mt. Teide to someone who has never seen it?
Mount Teide I have seen from the local highway, it did not have any snow at the time. The place was going thru a major drought. Mostly it looks like a mountain, but it is not the result of deformed tectonic plates, it is a huge volcano that if blows we would blow away with it. So if you do travel to the Canaries, make the trip and see the volcano while it is still there.
What do most tourists miss when they only spend a few hours on the island?
Well, that is a tough one. For one item, you miss the wonder of walking and exploring the locality. Only cruises that are 14 days or longer offer overnight destination stays where one could take the day to explore and get an extended trip. They are different recreational systems. Cruises are relaxation systems. Eat, spa, sleep, repeat.
What do you wish they could see?
I call it full strength. Sign up for tours, and better yet, the “geotours” run by research scientists. You want to stay at least three or four days and then travel to one or two other islands. Expect 10 to 14 days. It takes a while to get there, but it is worth it. My great-grandfather is from the neighboring island Madeira so one way or the other I will return to the region.
I didn’t know what to expect, but Tenerife exceeded my expectations, and I only saw one part. Next time, I’ll follow Troy’s advice and spend a few days here. Perhaps I will zip line through the Esperanza Forest, visit some of the fishing villages, and I will definitely take a geotour.