Road Trip Spain

Driving in Tenerife: Volcanic Island Road Trip

Parque Nacional del Teide. Image by PCharlon
Written by Kirstie Pelling

Volcano Island: Driving in Tenerife

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. In this post from our series of adventure ideas for European family road trips, brought to you in conjunction with Avis Car Hire, we offer a great itinerary for volcanic themed driving in Tenerife.  

The Road to Los Gigantes by Pedrosz - driving in Tenerife

The Road to Los Gigantes; one of several Tenerife scenic drives. Image by Pedrosz

Tenerife by car; where to go

This mini road trip involves a road tour of Tenerife by car. Tenerife is the biggest of the seven Canary Islands, and there’s no escaping the volcano. Don’t panic though, they’re 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, as well as its 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 of one of Tenerife’s scenic drives gives you a taste of the mysterious lunar landscapes that anyone with access to a vehicle can experience.

Explore Teide and the moon

In fact hiring a car in Tenerife 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 go upwards from there 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. But it’s worth it. The views and landscapes are truly spectacular. Go at sunset on one of the Sunset and Stars tours for the best photographs. It was one of the best late evenings I have ever spent. Wear suitable shoes and warm clothes though as the path is rocky and sharp and the temperature can suddenly drop. As the sun goes down, the islands seem to swim before you in an ocean of cloud. But the best is yet to come. A short detour and transport hop takes you to a row of telescopes where you can view the stars. I was blown away by the moon, looking like a mass of icy crystals through the lens. It was so bright my eyes hurt.

Parque Nacional del Teide. Image by PCharlon

Parque Nacional del Teide, seen in our tour of Tenerife by car. Image by PCharlon

Stop by Roque Cinchado

On your way back down, check out the strange rock formations less than two kilometres south of the peak. And I mean strange. 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.

Roque Cinchado. Image by jmmpereda

Roque Cinchado. Image by Jose Miguel Martinez

Explore the villages of traditional Tenerife

Part of the fun of a Tenerife driving holiday 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 deep 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.

Exploring Teide by car. Image by

Exploring Teide by car. Image by SanShoot

Coastal charms

The sea and the seaside is a big draw for families and doing Tenerife by car enables you to visit some of the more out of the way beaches. 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 on your scenic drive of Tenerife, where the beaches have a more traditional appearance, and in at least one case sand imported from the desert. 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. We loved the wave pool but it’s hard to beat some of the water slides. It would be a shame not to cool down, chill out and enjoy, before hitting the road once again.

Tips for hiring a car in Tenerife

Unless you are there out of school holidays you should reserve a car or pick up at Tenerife north or south airports. Check for special offers online, especially at weekends. There are comparison sites that can help you get the best price.

If you fancy a family road trip but aren’t hooked on the Canaries. how about a blast around Crete by car? Read about it in this sister post on driving holidays to sunshine islands.

Teide on Tenerife seen from Gran Canaria. Image by Jarleon

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. 



About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, 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 Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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