Post written by Hugo Perea
Visiting Tenerife, Canary Islands, includes much more than beach and party. In the north of Tenerife Island there is a hidden gem called "La Cueva del Viento", a natural, volcanic attraction close to Icod de los Vinos town.
La Cueva del Viento (“The Cave of the Winds”) is the perfect day trip from Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz de Tenerife or from any location in the South of Tenerife. Whether you’re a hiker or outdoor lover, or if you want to explore the natural and geological history of Tenerife, you just can’t skip this attraction.
Make sure to reserve your spot in advance and book your tour to the Cave of Winds here.
|How to get there?||The best way to get there is by car or by public transport. Take the TF-5 northern motorway to Icod de los Vinos. Once you reach the municipality of Icod, take the TF-366 road towards El Amparo and follow the signs for the Visitors Centre reading 'Centro de Visitantes – Cueva del Viento'. At the El Refugio restaurant, turn left and carry on for about 1 km (⅔ of a mile) until you reach the Visitors Centre.|
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: from 9:00 to 19:00
Tuesday, Saturday and Sunday: from 9:00 to 16:30
Winter Opening Hours (from October to March):
Everyday (except Thursday): until 17.00
Thursday: until 18.00
|What to wear?||
Visitors must wear long trousers and hiking boots or trainers.
Need to be booked in advance, you can buy them here.
What is the Cave of the Winds?
The first written reference to Cueva del Viento (literally Wind Cave or Cave of the Winds because of the noise of the wind) dates back to 1690, by Bernardo de Valois, a local terrateniente who gave the name to the site.
However this is not a cave, but a gallery of lava-shaped tunnels spanning across the entire island of Tenerife. With a total estimated length of 75km, it could be the biggest lava-tunnel-system in the world.
The volcanoes of Tenerife
Let me get briefly into a few facts about Tenerife and its volcanic activity.
Tenerife’s Mount Teide is not only the highest peak of Spain but it’s also a volcano. But it’s not the only volcano on the Island. Teide is just the highest of the 321 volcanoes shaping Tenerife. One of the most important volcanoes in Tenerife is Pico Viejo and it expulsed lava for the last time 27.000 years ago. This last expulsion formed the tunnels we can now explore in the Cave of the Winds, Tenerife.
A volcano can erupt in two ways, effusively like Tenerife Volcanoes do, or explosively like Vesuvius Volcano did. The dangerous ones are the explosives, also called prinianos. Don’t worry when visiting Tenerife, as priniano eruptions in Tenerife ended 500.000 years ago!
As a matter of fact, there is a historical link between explosive Volcano Vesuvius and effusive volcanoes in Tenerife: the Roman historian Pliny the Old died at the Vesuvius eruption which erased Pompeii. He also commanded an expedition from Mauritania by which he ended up discovering Canary Islands. They called the archipelago the “lucky islands” and Tenerife volcano was named Nivaria (snow peak in latin).
Other important volcanic locations of Tenerife are Punta de Teno, Anaga and Roque del Conde.
Those peaks were three independent volcanic islands (respectively 8M year old, 7M years old and 12M years old), combined into a single one, Tenerife, thanks to the apparition of Teide Volcano between them.
If you want to know more about volcanic activity in Tenerife you can read more here.
What is a lava-tunnel?
The effusive eruptions which created the lava-tunnels of the Cave of the Winds consist of a constant expulsion of lava.
When the 1200ºC hot lava gets in contact with the air, it gets cold in just 5 minutes and solidifies creating the "roof" of the Tunnel. The lava keeps running below “the roof” until it reaches the sea, leaving an empty hollow behind: the tunnels of Cueva del Viento. The lava expulsed from Pico Viejo volcano reached the coast where now lies the town of San Marcos. The holes we can see at the cliffs of San Marcos were created by the lava from Pico Viejo, as they are the end of some tunnels.
In Tenerife, the lava expelled by volcano Pico Viejo is called Pahoehoe. This name is internationally valid for this type of lava and it comes from Hawaiian for “nude feet” as this lava flows fast and it creates a smooth surface on which you could walk with bare feet. The pahoehoe lava shape is rounded when it gets cold so it is called Lava Cordada in Tenerife.
On the opposite, when the lava flows slowly it creates a rough surface internationally called A'A' or Malpaís in Tenerife.
A few fun facts about lava: lava solidifies in smooth black basalt. Pine trees cannot grow on this material, so evade them to find an entry to the tunnels. And the lighter the color of the lava, the older it is, as the air oxidizes the lava making it to lose its black color.
Research & ecological importance of Cave of the Winds
La Cave of the Winds in Tenerife has been scientifically researched by speleologists and explores like Alfredo from (link get your guide) since the 60's.
Today up to 18 km of tunnels are confirmed, thus the Wind Cave ranks as the lava-tunnel number 5 in the world by its length. However the total length discovered so far is only 3km, which is due to the multiple, intricate ramifications and levels created by the lava inside the gallery tunnels of Cueva del Viento.
As the Cave of the Winds hides several levels or tunnels on top of each other and the roofs on top of each other within the ramifications are not stable, a safe access to the tunnels can not be guaranteed to continue the explorations. A line of nails in the floor helps explorers follow the route, size its length and measure the magnetic deviation of the tunnels.
The Cave of the Winds in Tenerife hosts an attractive ecosystem, with endemic species living in the lava-tunnels. A total of 107 species live there, but bats are not within them, which makes Cave of the Winds particularly unique as all cave-like habitats host bats. That is one of the reasons NASA is among the researchers of this tunnel system.
But the tunnels were discovered a long time ago by Tenerife's aborigines: the "guanches". Even an aboriginal (Guanche) funeral site was found here.
The floor of the tunnels was cleaned and emptied of debris, hence the funeral rests were transported to a Guanche museum you can visit in the nearby town of Icod de los Vinos, named after the aboriginal word Icod (Burnt).
Best time to visit Cave of the Winds
The Cueva del Viento got its name because of the noisy wind inside. However this happens only in summer due to the temperature difference between interior and exterior of the tunnels. So to experience the windy side of the attraction, I recommend to visit during summer.
However visiting during winter will allow you to see the tunnels with water drops which create a beautiful experience too!
The last eruption in Tenerife goes back to 1909, but this eruption expulsed no lava linked to the Cueva del Viento tunnel system. However, the eruptions in the Canary Islands are cyclical, and being the most recent one in El Hierro, 2011, the next one is predicted to happen in Tenerife in 2051.
Have you been in Tenerife? Have you visited Cueva del Viento? I would love to read more about your experience in the comment form!