We emerged from the forest of las Lagunetas into the vast caldera known as las Cañadas, and our automotive tour went from “gorgeous” to “stunning”. This was a landscape unlike any we’d seen before, and we took our time making our way through it.

Paragliders and el Teide
Paragliders and el Teide

The word “caldera” means “cauldron” in Spanish, but it’s been adopted into English to describe massive depressed craters formed by the collapse of an exhausted magma chamber. Why have we adopted a Spanish word for this geological phenomenon? Simple. It was first used in this way back in 1815 by geologist Leopold von Buch, during his visit to Tenerife.

But why is it called the caldera of Las Cañadas, and not of the Teide? Well, although it’s currently the most prominent, the Teide is not Tenerife’s original volcano. Millions of years before it sprouted from the ground, there were other similar-sized volcanoes in the center of the island, known as Las Cañadas I, II and III. Each one eventually collapsed, forming the caldera we see today. The Teide grew in the crater of its departed brethren… and one day will be joining them (the volcano is occasionally referred to as Las Cañadas IV).

So, the landscape here is old. Well, partially old, and partially new. The are rock formations that date back to the Miocene era, while other landscapes are formed by relatively recent eruptions. (Let’s not forget that the Teide is an active volcano! The latest explosion was in 1909, on the Santiago ridge.) One of the coolest among the many viewpoints we’d stop at today was opposite a sloping rock face, where the ages are laid bare. You can see in colorful detail which layers were formed by which volcanic eruptions.

There are so many viewpoints in this park! We paused at Mirador de el Valle, and La Tarta, and Montaña Limón… all before even reaching the welcome center of the park, at El Portillo. We couldn’t resist spending time here, as well, to learn about the area’s formation, and watch a short video that described the geological processes with informative animations.

If in a hurry, you could get from the welcome center to the Parador de Cañadas in twenty minutes, easy. But it took us a couple hours… every time we rounded some curve, there’d be an amazing new landscape to take in. Crazy rock formations, pitch black sand, and views stretching out toward the other Canary Islands. I’ll stop writing now, and let our images explain the weird beauty of this place. It’s an area we’d be returning to repeatedly, during our 91 days on Tenerife.

From our Tenerife Travel Blog