Teide National Park is located in the heart of Tenerife, within the Canary Isles in Spain. It is named for the striking Mount Teide, the highest mountain in Spain and the Atlantic islands. The mountain itself stands at around 3,718 m (12,198 ft) and is the third largest volcano in the world when measured from its base. The park and was designated in 1954, making it one of Spain’s oldest national parks. At around 190 km2 (~73 mi2) in area, it is also the largest; and the most visited, with around 2.8 million tourists annually. It enjoys the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While the soils on the volcanic rock in the park are thin, typically of volcanic areas, they are rich in minerals and nutrients. The park therefore supports a significant diversity of flora, many of which are endemic to Tenerife. The environment also has a vibrant and diverse range of invertebrates, over 40% of which are endemic and 70 species are not found anywhere else in the world. By contrast, there are few vertebrate species: the only native inhabitants are bats, although other mammals such as cats, rabbits and hedgehogs have been introduced to the park.
The park’s weird and wonderful volcanic landscapes are considered by experts to be a useful reference point for studies related to Mars because the two share similar environmental conditions and geological formations and has been used for testing vehicles and instruments for use on Mars.
For those wishing to ascend the volcano, there’s a cable car which runs most of the way to the summit. Thereafter, for the last 200 m (~656 ft), there are several footpaths, but a free permit is required (only 200 of which are issued per day). The final climb can be strenuous and altitude sickness is a risk for the faint hearted.