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Visiting Europe’s Largest Lava Cave in Tenerife

Visiting Europe’s Largest Lava Cave in Tenerife

DESTINATIONS, SITES TO SEE, SPAIN, TOURS

Having recently climbed to the top of a volcano (Mount Teide in Tenerife, Canary Islands), I was curious about lava flows. So when I heard that Tenerife had tours of the longest lava tube cave outside of Hawaii, I signed up immediately. The lava cave on the island of Tenerife is called Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind). It has over 17 km of passages mapped and there’s more to explore!

Lava tubes are an exceptional earth formation. They are the caves and tunnels in which lava once flowed. It seems that volcanic eruptions not only create the big crater on top of the volcano that is the typical image, they also explode out to the side of mountains.  This forms outlets to the side that can eventually cool off, dry out, and empty out and become lava caves.

Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind) lies just outside Icod de los Vinos, the same town which has the famous Dragon Tree (Drago) that is 1000 years old.

Cueva del Viento, is the fifth largest lava tube in the world and the largest lava tube in the Europe, the first four are all located in the Hawaiian Islands. The lava cave is comprised of a three layered system of galleries with a total length of 17 km.

We booked the 12:30 p.m tour.  Access to the volcanic tube is restricted to four tours per day and limited to 16 people to protect the ecosystem. They don’t allow you to take backpacks or purses into the cave so we left them behind.  I stuffed my pockets with my camera and a bottle of water.

Before we set off we listened to brief talk and watch a video. Each person was given a helmet with head lights, and a bright yellow cap.   The lava tube was sculpted by the eruption of the Pico Viejo, which is the volcanic peak which rises close to El Teide in the Teide National Park.

Our group climb aboard a mini bus and after a short 10 minute drive we were dropped off at the beginning of a clearing on the forest road.

 

Our guide from Volcano Life Experience explaining about the eruptions and lava flow of Pico Viejo
Our guide from Volcano Life Experience explaining about the eruptions and lava flow of Pico Viejo

 

We started our 30 minute walk through a wooded area of Canary Pines, and learned to identify different types of lava, and our guide talked about the plant life around us.

 

Our group bout to set off into the woods, my friend Jill, cousin Juanjo (photographer: exposingthemoment)
Our group about to set off into the woods, my friend Jill, cousin Juanjo (photographer: exposingthemoment)
Hiking to the lava cave through the woods
Hiking to the lava cave through the woods
Canary Pines all around us on our way to the lava cave
Canary Pines all around us on our way to the lava cave
Pahoehoe lava formations from the last eruption of Pico Viejo
Pahoehoe lava formations from the last eruption of Pico Viejo
Another type of lava formed by the eruption of Pico Viejo
Another type of lava formed by the eruption of Pico Viejo
Another type of lava formed by the eruption of Pico Viejo
Another type of lava formed by the eruption of Pico Viejo
Cactus flowers growing on lava rocks from Pico Viejo eruption
Cactus flowers growing on lava rocks from Pico Viejo eruption

 

The guild told us the story of how the cave was first discovered, a lady fell through the hole.  We gather around a grating in the middle of the woods, which protects the entrance to a chasm which we lean over to see falling away into the bowels of the earth. This isn’t the entrance though.

 

The grating in the middle of the woods in Icod de Vino
The grating in the middle of the woods in Icod de Vino

 

The entrance, when we arrive, was surprising and not your typical showy, touristy place I thought it might be. We descended through a gap opening in the earth, down steps and into the yawning space beneath. We were told to be careful when we walked and follow the path as the lava rocks can be prickly.  I walked carefully and felt the lava rocks jabbing at my feet on occasions.  I was wearing a pair of converse sneakers and they certainly weren’t the right shoes to wear. Just the thought of shuffling on a rock and falling flat on my face on the prickly floor was enough to keep me alert.  The other thing you had to be aware of was not touching the sides of the cave.

 

The entrance of the lava cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Los Vinos
The entrance of the lava cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Los Vinos
The entrance and steps to Europe's largest lava cave in Icod de Vino
The entrance and steps to Europe’s largest lava cave in Icod de Vino.
Down the opening to the lava cave (Cueva del Viento)
Down the opening to the lava cave (Cueva del Viento)

 

The caves are completely dark with neither natural nor artificial light, hence the head lamps.  In some areas handrails and steps have been installed only where it is essential for safety, and other than that the only sign of man is the information boards at various points to illustrate and explain what we are seeing.

 

Inside Europe's largest lava cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Vinos
Inside Europe’s largest lava cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Vinos
Inside Europe's largest lava cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Vinos
Inside Europe’s largest lava cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Vinos
Complete darkness except for my helmet light, Lava Cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Vinos
Complete darkness except for my helmet light, lava cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Vinos

 

We stopped at various points as our guide explained how the passageways were formed. It seems that lava cools so quickly that thirty minutes after it has flowed, it’s cooled enough for people to walk through the cave.  Do you believe it? I wouldn’t like to try it.

 

Our guide from Volcano Life Experience inside the lava cave (Cueva del Viento), Tenerife
Our guide from Volcano Life Experience inside the lava cave (Cueva del Viento), Tenerife
Selfie inside the lava cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Los Vinos
Selfie inside the lava cave (Cueva del Viento) in Icod de Los Vinos

 

At one point he instructs us to turn off our lights to experience what it’s like be be underground in pitch darkness.  After a minute or so, the other senses begin to stir.

 

Our guide from Volcano Life Experience explaining the different rock formation in the lava cave
Our guide from Volcano Life Experience explaining the different rock formation in the lava cave

 

Towards the end of our walk is the chasm which we had seen from above, where the lady is said to have fallen in the hole.  We got as close as we could and looked up the shaft of light and the bracken trailing over its edge.

 

The chasm opening at the lava cave (Cueva del Viento)
The chasm opening at the lava cave (Cueva del Viento)

 

We walked back through the lava cave to the opening where we started off.  Then continued down the forest path to where our mini bus was waiting for us to take us back to the visitors center.

 

The path back to the minibus from the lava cave (Cueva de Viento) in Icod de Los Vinos
The path back to the minibus from the lava cave (Cueva de Viento) in Icod de Los Vinos

 

Back at the visitors center, our guide explained the fossils and skeletons of the Canarian Megafauna, the Canariomys Bravoi (rat), and the Lacerta Goliath which is an extinct giant lizard.  No one knows how these animals wandered in and lost themselves in the tunnels. The animals which do live here have adapted, as cave-dwellers do, losing pigmentation, growing antennae to compensate for the lack of sight, and learning to survive for long periods when there is no food.

 

Lacerta Goliath which is an extinct giant lizard found in the lava cave (Cueva del Viento)
Lacerta Goliath which is an extinct giant lizard found in the lava cave (Cueva del Viento)

 

Visiting Europe’s largest lava cave is a unique experience, and it helps you appreciate the landscape of Tenerife. Our guide said that we would look at the land in a different way after spending time with him and we all did. I cannot recommend this highly enough, a great experience and great value.

To book a tour check out Volanco Life Experience website .

Tour: 2 Hours

How to dress:

  • Wear long pants
  • Bring a jacket or sweater
  • Hiking boots or hard rubber shoes

Restrictions:

  • Children younger than 5 years old should not be brought on this tour.
  • People who suffer from claustrophobia or who have bone, knee or ankle mobility problems should refrain from this activity.

Disclosure – I would like to thank Turisme de Tenerife and Volcano Life Experience for providing us with a free tour. These are solely my personal opinions/experiences and I was not financially compensated for this post. 

About the author

Carmen Edelson is the Founder and Senior Editor of Carmen's Luxury Travel. Carmen has been traveling the world for over a decade. Our travels allows her the opportunity to pursuit her itch to travel to the best luxury destinations, and experience those first class tastes from around the world.

10 Comments

  1. Alyssa
    May 31, 2015 at 2:49 pm
    Reply

    Great post, this is awesome! I was in Tenerife in March but didn’t get a chance to do this. Such a unique island. Next time!

    • Carmen
      June 1, 2015 at 9:11 pm

      Thanks Alyssa! I’ve been to Tenerife several times and was unable of this lave cave. It was quite an experience to see how large these caves are and how they found it. I hope you get to visit next time.

  2. Penny
    May 31, 2015 at 6:00 pm
    Reply

    This looks absolutely fascinating – though I think there’s something quite unsettling about walking somewhere that was created by such a destructive force as lava. My brain would know it was safe, but my instinct would be calculating how long it would take me to leg it back outside if I needed to make a quick escape, hehe.

    Great photo’s! 🙂

    • Carmen
      June 1, 2015 at 9:15 pm

      That thought went through my mind as well as I was walking on top of the volcano a few days earlier. Being inside the tunnel and seeing how far the lava traveled from the last eruption was impressive. I’m not sure you would make it out in time if it did erupt.

  3. Lauren | Justin Plus Lauren
    May 31, 2015 at 9:11 pm
    Reply

    What a cool tour! I love caves. If I’m visiting some place and I see there’s a cave…I’m there! You might have noticed that from our blog as we’ve reviewed a couple of cave sites so far! This looks so neat. I’d love to go there! Great photos – it’s hard to take pictures inside a cave!

    • Carmen
      June 1, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      It’s very hard to take pictures when your inside a cave using only flash. I’m surprised that I was able to capture a few good shots. If you’re inside caves, you guys would really enjoy this tour. We learned a lot about the lava rocks and the lava flow.

  4. Luca
    August 15, 2015 at 12:14 pm
    Reply

    Wow, that’s really cool, a friend of mine talked about it a while ago, but never saw pictures and we never went to this cave, as we got a podenco puppy and we basically ended up in house arrest (but that’s another story). Surely a place to go to – thanks for the great photos and article!

    PS: The cactus plant is called echeveria, and they are protected here on the island, a.k.a. you can’t pick them up.

    • Carmen
      August 15, 2015 at 1:35 pm

      I took my cousin with me who lives in Tenerife. It was his first time going and he loved it. It was interesting for us to see the inside of a lava cave after spending the day on top of El Teide. It certainly gave us a perspective of how the lava flowed. They are still working on excavating more of the tunnel. Thanks for letting me know the name of the cactus plant.

  5. LiveYourAloha
    April 30, 2017 at 1:04 am
    Reply

    Beautiful! I would like to visit this cave soon! This should be a wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing!

    • Carmen Edelson
      May 1, 2017 at 8:36 am

      You’re very welcome! It’s a beautiful part of the world.

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