National Parks in the Canary Islands, Spain's natural volcanic paradise
One of the best ways of discovering all the natural biodiversity of the Canary Islands is to explore its protected areas. The Canary Islands archipelago is home to four of Spain's National Parks.
Teide National Park
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Imagine for a moment a unique setting of volcanic islands with subtropical forest, native animal and plant species, one of the world's largest craters, and warm weather all year round… If this sounds good, then you're in luck, because you can see all this with your own eyes at Spain's four National Parks in the Canary Islands. A real natural wonder within your reach.
A visit to the Canary Islands means discovering a privileged destination, whether on the coast or in the mountains. And if you like walking in unique and beautiful landscapes then this is the place for you, because the Canary Islands are home to 546 endemic species of plants and 141 protected nature areas, four of which are National Parks. All the islands are close together and have good communications between them, so if you want you can visit them all in no time at all.
You could start your trip on the island of La Palma, the site of the Caldera de Taburiente National Park. There you can walk in a huge crater almost 1,500 metres deep, or visit a spectacular pine forest. You'll also be amazed by gorges over 1,000 metres deep, the setting for waterfalls such as La Desfondada. Sounds fascinating, doesn't it? You can also camp in the specially adapted camping area and go on other hiking routes leading to spectacular places like the Cascada de Colores waterfall and Hoya Verde... You can visit towering peaks like the Roque de los Muchachos, or discover the rare La Palma violet. If you'd prefer to tackle the GR 131 long-distance hiking route which runs along part of its summits, you can spend the night in the Punta de los Roques, a mountain refuge that's always open and is equipped with the basic necessities.
The La Caldera de Taburiente National Park also has a modern visitor centre equipped with an exhibition and audiovisual room with information on its flora, fauna, history and geology.
Another of the National Parks to be found in the Canary Islands is Garajonay, on the island of Gomera. There you'll have a perfect opportunity to see its amazing laurisilva forest. It's practically unique in the world, and is one of the last remnants of the ancient subtropical forests. Feel the pleasure of peacefully exploring this park, which has the UNESCO World Heritage designation. Enjoy the beauty of its tracks and trails, animals such as the Canary big-eared bat or the long-eared owl, and take photos of stunning landscapes from the viewpoints in the area.
Three kilometres away you'll find the park's visitor centre, featuring a number of exhibition rooms and an Ethnographical Museum, where you can learn all about the island's traditional culture and see the inside of a farm-worker's house, wine cellars, historic buildings...
Fancy a few more options? On the island of Tenerife you'll find the Teide National Park. It's the largest in the Canary Islands and has the UNESCO World Heritage designation. This is the perfect place to discover unusual animals, but especially to see Spain's highest peak: the Teide. Feel all the wonder of this volcano that soars 3,718 metres above sea level. Would you like to go up it? Then your wish is granted, because the park allows visitors to climb up as far as 3,550 metres. To get to the very summit you must apply for a special permit.
The possibilities of this park are enormous. Besides the wonderful landscapes to be had from a range of viewing points, you can also visit the botanical gardens and the Juan Évora Museum, named after the last inhabitant to live in this region in the time-honoured traditional way.
Finally, head for the island of Lanzarote to see the Timanfaya National Park. When you get there you'll think you've landed on the moon. It has a weird and wonderful landscape of volcanic terrain, along with the "malpaises" (fields of solidified lava) created by recent eruptions. Guides will often show visitors how sea water turns to steam as it comes into contact with the volcanic tubes. You can enjoy this spectacle from various viewing points and from three routes that offer a good vantage point. The Volcanoes route is an attractive walk where you can even go through a volcanic tube and see the impressive Timanfaya craters. Another interesting route is the Coastal Route, the ideal way to see cliffs where lava once flowed into the sea. Would you like to explore them?
To have even more fun, this National Park offers the chance to take a camel trek across the southern slopes of a mountain.
Sport in the heart of the countryside
If you not only like looking at stunning scenery but are also a sports lover –either to relax or for thrills– then the Canary Islands National Parks are ideal. Take suitable footwear, because as well as the guided routes, the four parks are also ideal places for hiking. You'll be able to experience total oneness with nature. For example, the Caldera de Taburiente is known for its charming footpaths leading to attractive spots within the park itself.
The volcanic landscape of the archipelago also makes it perfect for mountaineering enthusiasts. The Caldera de Taburiente and Teide National Parks have mountains with various levels of difficulty for this sport. You'll be accompanied by volcanic chimneys and spectacular views of the Teide. Or do you prefer water sports? When the heat sets in, Caldera de Taburiente is perfect. You can swim in the Taburiente River and play in its waterfalls. Other options available in Garajonay include diving centres and boat cruises. You'll love the wonderful marine beds of these islands.
Any time of year is good to visit these four parks, with their amazing colours and landscapes, and wonderful temperatures. Don't forget, besides sun and sand, in the Canary Islands you'll find idyllic spots with volcanoes and laurisilva forests as a backdrop. Come and discover one of the most unusual and beautiful places in Spain.
If you liked this article, you can find more information at: -Canary Islands –guaranteed to please -Canary Islands for year-round adventure -Canary Islands: European sunshine capital -Garajonay: a forest with millions of years of history