Cueva del Viento: Tenerife’s Underworld in Icod de los Vinos

Fri, March 16th, 2012 - By Linda

Okay, turn your lights back on now,” came our instruction, and suddenly I could see again. It had been a strange experience, sitting for two minutes in utter dark and silence. I was in Cueva del Viento in Icod de los Vinos, the world’s fourth largest lava tube. Since the first three are in Hawaii, that makes it the largest in Europe.

This visit was something I’d wanted to do for a long time, and it had begun in the Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind) Visitors’ Centre that morning with a short talk and video about what we were going to see. The tube is the result of lava flows from Pico Viejo, which is the mountain you see next to Mt Teide in the National Park, and as you can imagine, exploration continues. However, a portion is open to the public, and it’s a fascinating tour.

A mini bus took us the short distance from the Centre, and alighting, we were handed helmets with head torches and comfy caps to wear under them, and thus the tour began, not underground but above, with our very knowledgeable and personable guide pointing out different types of lava flow and plants along a short walk through the pine forest. This wasn’t to be useless information, as we would find out later, it was relevant to what we would see underground, a real lesson in how inter-linked our environment is.

Our first glimpse of the cave came, unexpectedly, along the way, as we gathered around a grating to hear the tale of how a careless fall had lead to the discovery of this natural phenomenon, all the while marvelling at the chasm which fell away under the grate.

A few minutes later we were descending under the earth and switched on our headlights. This was the only light around as we carefully walked over the spiky lava bed beneath our feet (strong shoes are essential for this visit!). As little as possible has been done to interfere with nature so there is no additional lighting, which leads to a much greater sense of just where one is. Only essential work has been done for safety and information so that nothing unnatural intrudes on your visit.

The tour included information about how the cave formed, about volcanic activity in general, and what animal life can survive in those conditions (44 species which have adapted to life without sunlight, 5 of which are found exclusively here), all delivered with passion and humour by our guide.

Tours are conducted four times a day, and groups are limited to 16 people for safety, so it is a good idea to book in advance. They are conducted in English and German as well as Spanish. Since Icod de los Vinos is also home to the famous dragon tree, a day’s sightseeing could include the two.

It took us around an hour slow driving from the end of TF1 above Costa Adeje, winding along the mountain roads above Los Gigantes and through Santiago del Teide to descend to the northern coast, but from Puerto de la Cruz it would be a much shorter trip.

It was an incredible experience, proving to me, yet again that I still have much to discover in the rich variety of Tenerife.

Posted : Friday, March 16th, 2012 at 11:19 am
Category : days out
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