For hobby astronomers, lovers of romance and simply for everyone who doesn’t want to miss out on a unique starry sky: The sky above the Teide opens up an unforgettable starry spectacle with constellations that you have probably never seen before on this scale.
The road to Izaña
We are in Izaña, in the Teide National Park, just a few kilometres from the summit of the Teide volcano and from the astronomical observatory of the Canary Astrophysical Institute – in one of the world’s most privileged locations for observing the sun and astronomy. There is nothing but absolute silence around you. The lava rock formations have almost disappeared in the darkness and the silhouette of Spain’s highest mountain shimmers through the light of the stars and the moon.
However, it is a bit of a journey to get here – no matter from which point on the island you start, because the Teide Observatory is right in the centre of the largest of the Canary Islands. From San Miguel it is only 55km, but the serpentines wind through Vila Flor and through the entire Teide National Park, along the Montaña Blanca and the crater walls Las Cañadas del Teide. You will drive for about 1 hour and 20 minutes, but as you will probably stop here and there to take some souvenir pictures, we advise you to allow enough time so that you don’t miss the sunset over the clouds.
The Teide Observatory
Along with Chile and Hawaii, the Canary Islands are one of the three best places in the world to view the sky and the most famous star constructions. Tenerife’s observatory, the Teide Observatory, is even the largest solar observatory in the world. The latitude of the archipelago, the height that the islands’ mountains reach above the sea of clouds and a sky that is always clear thanks to the trade winds explain why this is one of the top three places in the world for stargazing.
Up here, at over 2,300 metres, we find a sky that could hardly be more transparent. Far from urban centres, close to the crater walls of the huge volcano, the sky is almost free of artificial light sources, air pollution and light contamination. Therefore, the Teide Observatory is so interesting not only for enthusiastic stargazers, amateur astronomers, and romantics, but also for numerous scientists who have been conducting their observations up here for years. The 50-hectare site of the Teide Observatory houses solar and night telescopes from more than 60 institutes from more than 15 different countries.
If you want to see the observatory from the inside, you can book a very interesting, guided tour by an astronomer online.
When the sun sinks into the sea of clouds
The air is cold and gradually the sky and the entire surroundings turn a mixture of red tones. If you thought the Teide National Park with all its mountains and volcanic rock formations reminded you of a scene from Star Wars, then at the moment of the setting sun you will really start to look out for Luke and Rey. Because when the sun disappears behind Teide, projecting a huge shadow of the volcano on the underlying bed of clouds, the Teide volcanic landscape transforms into a spectacular moonscape.
But that’s not all. After the sun has sunk into the sea of clouds, there is not much time left before the sky turns black and you experience what you usually only remember from childhood: a starry sky so clear that the stars seem within reach, like the glow stickers on the wall above your bed.
A visit to Europe’s Starlight Destination
The knowledge that our beloved starry sky is an asset worth protecting is not that old. It is only since the 1980s that more and more areas have been declared so-called light protection areas and protected accordingly, in order to prevent regions such as the Teide National Park on Tenerife, where you still have a clear and unobstructed view of the sky, from suffering from light and air pollution.
The light protection areas are divided by responsible institutions and UNESCO into different categories, depending on who and what purpose the respective area is interesting for. For us and for you, the category “Starlight Tourist Destination” is particularly interesting in this case. These are places that are particularly suitable for, let’s say, us amateurs for sky and star observation. Since 2014, Teide National Park has been one of these special areas. The quiet and particularly well-protected landscape around the 3,719-metre-high volcano “Pico del Teide” is ideal for observing the fascinatingly luminous celestial bodies.
Pico is not only the highest peak in Spain, but also the third highest island volcano in the world. So, if you want to experience something very special on your holiday, there is hardly a better place to experience a spectacular starry sky at night.
Experience a shower of shooting stars in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean
In fact, any time of year is a good time to head up to Mount Teide at night to see a uniquely clear starry sky. Only a very few days a year are marred by bad weather.
There are a total of eight stargazing viewpoints in the Teide National Park, which you pass on a well-prepared night hike. If you have planned your surfing holiday for the summer, you should definitely not miss a visit up here, because from 17 July to 24 August, you can experience the Perseids, the annual shower of shooting stars that can never be seen so well in Central Europe – you are at an altitude of 2,300 metres, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – there is hardly a better vantage point for this annual star spectacle. But if you missed the fascinating gold and silver rain in summer and enjoy Tenerife’s warm weather in the winter months, you’ll get another chance to see the annual Leonid rain between 6 and 30 November, which will show you the fascination of our universe in equal measure.
What you should keep in mind
You are going up from sea level to over 2,300 metres. It should be clear to everyone that this is no piece of cake for our bodies in a time of less than one and a half hours. So please remember to bring not only enough water, but also enough provisions and energy-rich snacks, as well as warm tea if necessary.
This tour takes place at night, which means that temperatures drop significantly. On average, temperatures up here are around zero at night. Winds and humidity can, of course, make this even worse. It is better to leave the filpflops you were wearing a few hours ago in the car, instead we advise you to wear solid and warm footwear, ideally hiking boots or winter boots. In addition, warm, long trousers, possibly even ski or thermal trousers, a thick winter jacket, gloves, and a warm hat – in fact, you can dress as if you were about to jump into deep snow.
Note that you may not move around too much during stargazing, so pack an extra layer under your jacket and, if possible, warm drinks.