Visiting Mount Teide: Cable Car, Climbing, Permit & Tips
I am one of those people for whom a holiday in Tenerife would not be complete without a visit to the peak of Teide. Its colourful volcanic landscape and particularly the views continue to amaze me even on repeated visits. On this page I have tried to summarise all useful information for planning a visit to the Teide.
Visiting Mount Teide: The Options
Planning a visit to the peak of Teide involves three key questions:
- Take the cable car or climb? Cable car is what 99% visitors choose, mostly because the climb is very physically demanding – but also so much more exciting.
- Visit the actual peak (crater) or stop 160 metres below? You need a permit for the peak and you must get it (often long) in advance.
- One day or overnight? Stargazing or sunset and sunrise at the peak are some of the most intense experiences that Tenerife can offer.
I’ve done all the different options and each has its merits. Let’s look at them in detail. Regardless of your eventual selection, your visit to the Teide will be much more enjoyable and comfortable with just a bit of advance knowledge and planning.
Climbing or Cable Car?
How hard is the climb to the Teide, really? Very hard. Not in terms of climbing skills – you basically walk all the time without ever having to use your hands, except perhaps the last few metres just below the crater. It’s hard in terms of physical fitness that is required. The peak is 3,718 metres above sea level. The highest point where you can park your car (or get off a bus) is about 2,350 metres. This means at least 1,370 metres of ascent. Add the weather which can be really anything from intense heat to freezing and strong wind. That said, there is no reason a fit (and well equipped) person couldn’t do it. If you are used to hiking or walking in the mountains, you’ll be fine.
However, even if you choose not to climb and you’ll get there using the cable car, there is a relatively short walk from the upper station to two viewpoints (La Fortaleza and Pico Viejo), one on each side of the mountain. This path is more or less horizontal and easy enough that you will meet some tourists walking in flip-flops and similar beach footwear (don’t). You will still see a lot if you take the cable car.
What to Bring When Visiting the Teide
Whether you walk or take the cable car, make sure to bring particularly the following items:
- Good shoes. Worth repeating.
- Protection from the sun. The lower temperature and wind might mislead you, but the sun at Mount Teide is not as strong as down on the beach – it is even stronger due to the altitude. Make sure to bring (and use) sunscreen, sunglasses and something to wear on your head (choose your headwear wisely – the wind can be very strong).
- Some more water. You will probably want to drink much more than when lying on the beach. There are also far fewer places to get it here.
- Some warmer clothes. Often you won’t need to wear more than down in the seaside resorts (that is, shorts and T-shirt), but sometimes the weather on the Teide can be totally different and unpredictable.
Additional items if you don’t take the cable car and walk all the way up:
- More warm clothes.
- Food. There is no place to buy it and the walk is very long.
Teide Cable Car Times, Tickets and Tips
The cable car normally operates from 9:00 to 17:00. However, last possible ascent is at 16:00. Last possible descent is at 16:50 (don’t miss it or you’ll have to walk a very long way down).
The trip to Mount Teide is probably the most popular tourist attraction of Tenerife and the numbers of people wanting to take the cable car often reflect that. Long queues can form at the lower station, sometimes for an hour or more. It is best to come as early as possible (sometimes there is already a queue formed when you come at 9:00 sharp). Another benefit of coming in the morning is that there will also be fewer people around the upper station, on the panoramic trail and at the viewpoints, which can all get quite crowded during the day.
Prices and Reservations
Currently (2016) the basic adult two-way ticket costs EUR 27, children half price. There are substantial discounts for residents. These prices, as well as operating times can change – it is best to check the official website before you visit (you can also book the tickets there).
There is an official parking place directly next to the lower station. Its opening hours are limited to 8:00 – 18:00 though. If you want to park outside these hours, you can leave the car at one of the other car parks nearby. There are plenty and they are all very easy to find – just follow the main road to either side.
Teide Permit – Visiting the Actual Peak
The cable car’s upper station is at 3,555m altitude – some 160 metres below the actual peak. The path to the peak is clear and moderately hard; it takes most people about 20 minutes one way. However, access to this section and the peak is restricted to protect the unique environment. The number of people allowed here is limited and you need a permit for that. This permit is free of charge, but must be obtained in advance, which is best done online. Many people are surprised and disappointed when they arrive to the cable car’s upper station and find a permit is required and it can’t be obtained here.
How to Get the Teide Permit
It is done on the official website of the national park authority. The exact page for the Teide permit is here.
You can start the application by clicking “Bookings” in the top horizontal menu on that page. But first it is worth reading the terms and conditions listed on that website. They are particularly:
- The permit is issued in your name (or names) and all participants will be requested to present some identification when entering the trail, like a passport or national ID.
- One permit can cover multiple persons, but the person making the application (the leader of the group) has a special position and must be present for the entire permit to be valid. If you make an application for yourself and your friends and for some reason (e.g. health) can’t make it to the Teide with them, their permits will be invalid. If leader doesn’t show up, noone goes.
- The permits are available for different 2-hour windows, namely 9-11, 11-13, 13-15 and 15-17. You must choose one and then show up within that time window, otherwise you will not be allowed to enter the trail. So choose the time carefully and consider the logistics of getting there (e.g. allow a reserve for a possible queue for the cable car).
Officially the website states that you can apply for the permit until 2pm the day before the desired date of visit, but in reality it doesn’t work like that. Usually the demand is much higher than the number of available permits, so it’s fully booked many days, and often weeks, in advance. For example, as I am writing this and checking the permits, the first available spot is 6 weeks ahead. Book early.
No Permit Vacancies? There Is a Way
If you try to apply too late and no more permits are available for the dates of your stay in Tenerife, there is still a way to get to the peak. A permit to access the peak is automatic if you stay a night at Refugio Altavista – see more details below.
Staying Overnight: Sunset and Sunrise at the Teide
If you have the time to dedicate two days to a visit to the Teide and don’t mind spending one night in a less than 5-star comfort, do it. It will be an unforgettable experience. The place to stay (and the only option for that) is Refugio Altavista, a refuge operated by the national park authority and situated on the eastern slope of Mount Teide at 3,260m altitude (460 vertical metres below the peak).
- You can visit the peak of Teide in the evening when the crowds are gone (they magically disappear as soon as the cable car stops operating at 5pm).
- You can see the sunset and watch the shade of the Teide progressing over the island and the ocean, lying there below your feet. See some photos of the shade on Google image search – it’s called “sombra del Teide” (yes, like sombrero).
- You can watch the night sky at the place which is regarded one of the best in the world for stargazing.
- In the early morning, you can climb to the peak of Teide to watch the sunrise there. The staff at Refugio will tell you what time to leave to get to the summit in time (and virtually everybody else will be getting up and going to the peak at that time). Note: It is very cold (and windy) at the peak in the morning before the sun becomes stronger, and chance is you’ll spend some time there. Take warm clothes. Take gloves, seriously – you will regret it if you don’t. Also bring a torch, as you’ll be starting the ascent in darkness.
Refugio Altavista Info and Booking
Refugio Altavista provides very simple, but clean accommodation in three dorms for total capacity of 54 people. It was completely renovated in 2007 (it first opened in 1892). A few things to know:
- You can only stay one night.
- You don’t need to bring a sleeping bag. You will get bedding when you come. The beds are very good with sheets, pillows and guilts.
- You do need to bring your own food. There is no restaurant (you’re high up on a volcano after all). You can only buy some hot and cold drinks (bring some coins for the vending machines). There is also a kitchen where you can heat your food if needed.
- There are no showers. Toilets and sinks – yes.
- The Refugio is usually closed during the day. Staff arrives in the evening after the cable car closes, usually around 5-6pm.
- It is open all year round, although it can be closed in case of extremely bad conditions/weather.
The price for one night is usually in the low to mid 20’s (depends on season, day of week etc). Like the Teide permit, it is subject to availability – when 54 people book before you, it’s gone (although you usually don’t need to book as long in advance as for the permit). You can book on the official website, which is the same website as for the cable car (make sure to also read their rules and recommendations).
Other Places to Stay near Mount Teide
If accommodation Refugio style does not suit you and you want to spend a night (or more) up in the national park, there is a hotel not far (3km) from the cable car’s lower station – this is also the starting point for the western ascent trail to the Teide, as well as numerous other trails. The hotel’s name is Parador de las Cañadas del Teide and it is basically the only standard accommodation (with showers and stuff) reasonably close to the Teide. You can find more information, photos, reviews, prices and book it here.