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Road Trip Adventures 2: Volcanic Island of Tenerife

Roque Cinchado. Image by jmmpereda Roque Cinchado. Image by jmmpereda
Parque Nacional del Teide. Image by PCharlon Parque Nacional del Teide. Image by PCharlon
Teide on Tenerife seen from Gran Canaria. Image by Jarleon Teide on Tenerife seen from Gran Canaria. Image by Jarleon
Exploring Teide by car. Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/grubbenvorst/ Exploring Teide by car. Image by http://www.flickr.com/photos/grubbenvorst/
The Road to Los Gigantes by http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/ The Road to Los Gigantes by http://www.flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/

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The Road to Los Gigantes. Now doesn’t that look fun to explore? Image by Pedrosz

Road Trip Adventures 2: Driving in Tenerife

Kirstie Profile Small Road Trip Adventures 2: Volcanic Island of Tenerife

This is the second post in our series of Adventure Ideas for European family road trips, brought to you in conjunction with Avis Car Hire. If you’re looking for ideas for a mini road trip, how about exploring the explosive side of Tenerife?  No, not the night life, the volcanic National Park at the heart of the island…

A friendly volcano?

This mini road trip involves driving in Tenerife, the biggest of the seven Canary Islands, where there’s no escaping the volcano. Don’t panic though, it’s not live; that would be less of a road trip and more of a disaster movie! El Teide is a dormant, friendly giant that gives Tenerife its unique character, scenery, and opportunities for adventure. You can explore its amazing volcanic terrain from behind the wheel in a drive through the Parque Nacional de las Cañadas del Teide, a World Heritage Site.  This hyperlapse video gives you a taste of the mysterious lunar landscapes that anyone with access to a vehicle can experience.

Drive up to the moon

In fact a hire car is probably the best way to see Mount Teide as you can take things at your own pace and stop wherever you want. And why rush when there’s so much to see? As you drive up, sometimes through the clouds, you’ll notice the vegetation change and the area start to become more moon like as wild flowers disappear in favour of dust and rock. But hey, was there ever a better time for a family geology lesson?

Swap one car for another

You can only get so far by car, and if you want to reach the highest point you’ll need to either walk or swap onto the Teleferico cable car. The queues can be very long in mid summer, so best to pitch up at 8.30 before the crowds and coach parties get there. Better still stay in the Parador CañadasDel Teide, set in the crater of the extinct volcano and the only building in the Nature Reserve, it virtually guarantees you’ll get the crater to yourself overnight.

The cable car will take you 200 meters short of the 3,718-meter (12,198 ft) peak, the highest point in the whole of Spain. The kids or granny might huff and puff a bit to get to the top, as the weather and altitude take their toll. But it’s worth it. The views and landscapes are truly spectacular.

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Parque Nacional del Teide. Image by PCharlon

Moon rock

On your way back down, check out the wierd rock formations less than two kilometres south of the peak. And I mean wierd. The most famous (after having appeared on bank notes) is Roque Cinchado. The rocks attract big crowds, but not many people do the walk that links them all, so if you’re looking for a bit of piece and quiet then grab a backpack and go. Or better still explore by night. You may even get to see the Milky Way.

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Roque Cinchado. Image by Jose Miguel Martinez

Traditional Tenerife

Part of the fun of a road trip is stumbling across great towns and villages and you’ll find peace and quiet and a warm Canaries welcome in many of the unspoilt settlements dotted around the island. Not too far from the volcano, the village of La Orotava is a popular spot because of its quirky shops and traditional way of life. You’ll need to put more effort into to getting to the village of Masca, in a steep and attractive gorge. But it’s worth the drive on a steep and slightly scary road. It is considered by some to be Tenerife’s loveliest village, and provides the opportunity to park up and hike down the narrow gorge to the sea in about two hours. Some of you can jump on a boat to Los Gigantes while the others take on that narrow hillside road once again.

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Exploring Teide by car. Image by SanShoot

Coastal charms

The sea and the seaside is a big draw for families visiting Tenerife.  There are more than a hundred beaches on the island, although you may have to get your head around sunbathing on black volcanic sand on the beaches in the north. You could take a dip in Charco de La Laja instead; it’s a natural pool that was formed by lava. And it is said to be like taking a bath in the Atlantic.

Or you can head south, where the beaches have a more traditional appearance, and in at least one case sand imported from the Sahara. In 1973 more than a quarter of a million tonnes of white sand were imported from the nearby Sahara (yes we’re that far South here) to dress Playa de Las Teresitas, turning a black volcanic beach into a more marketable fantasy.

If you love the coast but like to keep active then you should definitely check out the stunning cliffs of Los Gigantes, the cliff of the giants. They are truly spectacular. As is the road that leads to them. If you go out of season you might be able to negotiate a good price on a whale watching tour while you are there.

If you’ve time for one last watery treat, then Tenerife has one of the best waterparks in Europe in the shape of Siam Park in Adeje. It would be a shame not to cool down, chill out and enjoy, before hitting the road once again.

What else?

Have you been to Tenerife? Got an idea or suggestion for a place to eat or visit, something interesting to see or do? Why not share it with us as a comment.

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Teide on Tenerife seen from Gran Canaria. Image by Jarleon

Disclosure Note: This post was brought to you thanks to the support of Avis Car Hire. All the research, ideas and opinions remain, as ever, entirely our own. 

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Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of the project, the misadventure magnet part of the partnership and a busy mum.

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