Mount Teide Facts (and Some Less Known Things)
The peak of Mount Teide is 3,718 metres (12,198 feet) above sea level.
Therewith the Teide holds the following superlatives:
- The highest mountain in Tenerife.
- The highest mountain in the Canary Islands.
- The highest mountain in Spain (yes, it’s higher than anything in Sierra Nevada and the Pyrenees).
- The highest mountain in the European Union outside the Alps.
- The highest volcano in the European Union (the second highest is Etna in Sicily, Italy – 3,329 m)
- The highest point in the Atlantic Ocean.
- The third highest volcano in the world (some 7,500 metres) when measured from its base on Atlantic Ocean floor. The only two bigger volcanoes are Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii.
- Mount Teide’s height makes Tenerife the tenth highest island in the world (after New Guinea, Hawaii, Borneo, Taiwan, Sumatra, Ross Island in Antarctica, Honshu in Japan, Lombok in Indonesia and South Island in New Zealand – the latter with Mt Cook is only 6 metres higher).
Is the Teide Dormant or Active? Actually, Both
Mount Teide is still an active volcano. It is often stated that Mount Teide is dormant (which is true), but do not misunderstand this term. “Dormant” does not mean the opposite of “active” (that would be “extinct”, which the Teide definitely isn’t). A dormant volcano is an active volcano (= has erupted since last “ice age” / less than approximately 10,000 years ago) which is not currently erupting, but is expected to erupt again. To further complicate things, the definitions of active, dormant and extinct are not entirely consistent across the scientific community – the above is probably the most common understanding.
While no eruptions are taking place at the moment, volcanic activity is going on continuously. Although it’s hard to see signs of this activity at the first glance, the Teide (and other places around it) does emit gases like hydrogen sulfide or carbon dioxide. When you visit the Teide (the crater or the panoramic walk from the cable car’s upper station), you can actually feel a little heat in small holes in the ground and smell the sulphur in numerous places.
Last Eruptions of Mount Teide
The last notable eruption (with lava flowing onto the surface) occurred in 1909 – not from the peak itself, but from a side vent, named El Chinyero and located to the north-west from the peak.
This website has a very detailed record of the events of 1909. It is only in Spanish, but you can use Google Translate.
You can visit El Chinyero – it is just 1-2km off the road TF-38 (the one from the Teide towards Santiago del Teide / Los Gigantes) and there are numerous trails, including a 6km circular trail named Chinyero Circular. It is easy walk and easy to follow, although not necessarily easy to find from the road.
In fact, most notable recent eruptions occurred in this north-western side of the Teide in the so called Santiago Ridge. They were:
- In 1492 from Boca Cangrejo. Apparently Christopher Columbus could have seen this, or a related eruption, as he noted “a great fire” in his diary. He stopped in La Gomera (not Tenerife as many people believe) on his first voyage to America.
- In 1706 from Montañas Negras. This powerful eruption destroyed the town of Garachico on the north coast, which is a popular day trip destination today. The black lava rocks are still visible there.
- In 1798 from Narices del Teide / Chahorra – the Pico Viejo area (more about Pico Viejo follows shortly).
- In 1909 from the already mentioned El Chinyero.
Besides these, there were eruptions on the north-eastern side of the Teide (Cordillera Dorsal) in 1704 and 1705. Together with Montañas Negras in 1706, those must have been quite active years.
The last explosive eruption of the central Teide is believed to have occurred some 2,000 years ago from Montaña Blanca (see more about this place a few paragraphs below). There was also a (non-explosive) eruption from near the peak of Teide around 850 CE. It produced the dark lava flows which are still clearly visible on the slopes of the Teide today.
Last Periods of Increased Activity
In 2004 and 2005 there were periods when a series of smaller (magnitude 1-3) earthquakes were observed around Mount Teide, as well as increased volcanic activity such as gas emissions. These are often signs of instability or more serious activity ahead, but nothing serious followed at this time. You can read more details about these events here.
Will Mount Teide Erupt Again?
It certainly will. Particularly non-explosive eruptions like that in 1909 can easily happen in our lifetime and may even put some of Tenerife’s towns at risk, like Garachico in 1706. That said, the Teide and all of Canary Islands are being continuously monitored for any signs of even minor activity or unusual developments (like those in 2004-2005 above) and chance is there will be advance warning if risk becomes imminent.
More disastrous or even explosive eruptions or collapses will eventually also occur, althouth those are far less likely in our lifetime. Geologists believe that in the past before Mount Teide started growing, there were older generations of volcanoes in the same place or nearby, with heights similar to today’s Teide. They always collapsed at some point, allowing the cycle to restart and repeat itself. Mount Teide is the latest of these cycles. Its predecessor probably collapsed around 160-220 thousand years ago.
Pico Viejo and Montaña Blanca
Pico del Teide is the highest of three notable peaks which form the central Teide range. The other two are Pico Viejo (3,135m) in the west and Montaña Blanca (2,748m) in the east. These are the second and third highest peaks in Tenerife, although they are sometimes considered being part of the Teide and in such cases Mount Guajara (2,715m) is listed as Tenerife’s second highest mountain. That is the highest point of the range which you can see opposite to Mount Teide (south / cable car side), above the Parador hotel.
Pico Viejo means Old Peak, but it is a little bit younger than Pico del Teide. Anyway, it is a lovely volcano, with a well-preserved round crater, which has about 720 metres in diameter. The best thing: You can see it from above if you take the short walk from Teide cable car upper station to the viewpoint in the west (it takes like 10 minutes). You can actually get all the way to the edge of Pico Viejo crater, but that is a much longer and more difficult hike.
Montaña Blanca means White Mountain (like Mont Blanc in the Alps), but it is actually kind of orange/pinkish/brownish… well not white, except sometimes in winter. Unlike the Teide or Pico Viejo, Montaña Blanca doesn’t have a crater. Its peak is relatively flat and wide (and windy!), covered with little round stones. There is a circular path around the summit, which you can visit as a detour on the climb to the Teide from the east (via Refugio Altavista).
Mount Teide is of course how an English speaker may call it, not the locals.
Pico del Teide = The official name of the highest point; in Spanish it literally means “the peak of the Teide”.
El Teide = This is what you often find on road signs in Tenerife; it literally means “the Teide” (el is the masculine “the” in Spanish – yes, the Teide is a he, like el volcan = volcano or el pico = peak).
The word Teide is a modern version of how the native inhabitants of Tenerife (the Guanches) called the volcano before the Spanish came – Echeyde. They believed there was a powerful evil creature living inside the volcano, named Guayota, and the Teide was a gateway to the underworld … – the kind of story that almost all the world’s volcanoes have.
Las Cañadas del Teide = This name refers to the wider area around Mount Teide. In Spanish a cañada means something like a gorge, canyon, ravine or narrow valley. So it’s like “the gorges/canyons of the Teide”. Las Cañadas is also the name used for earlier volcanoes which were in this location and eventually collapsed and allowed today’s Teide to grow. The mountain ranges you can see around Mount Teide, or the area they surround, are often called Las Cañadas caldera – they are what’s left from the earlier Las Cañadas volcano(es).
Parque nacional del Teide = This is of course the official name of the national park which includes the Teide, basically all of Las Cañadas and some surrounding areas.
Teleférico del Teide = This is not the Teide itself, but the cable car which takes you (almost) to the peak. Teleférico means cable car in Spanish – useful to know.
Visiting Mount Teide
For more information about the cable car, Teide permit, climbing trails and tips see this page: Visiting the Teide.