What is Tenerife’s Mar de Nubes?

Wed, November 9th, 2011 - By Linda

Mar de Nubes – sounds romantic, doesn’t it? You’ve probably read the phrase in a guide book to the Canary Islands. It’s not quite so evocative in English though. It means Sea of Clouds, and if you live in UK you’ll probably think, “See quite enough of those, thank you!”

Tenerife’s Sea of Clouds, though, is far from the grim stuff which obscures the skies of the United Kingdom, and it’s very photogenic. It’s a type of cloud called stratocumulous, which is not uncommon in sub-tropical regions like the Canary Islands. The other good news is that it rarely disrupts the sunbathers of the resort areas. People coming to the area between El Médano and Los Gigantes don’t need to worry about the threat to their tans.

You can fry on the beaches of Playa de las Americas or Los Cristianos in the morning, and then take an afternoon drive to just above Vilaflor, or take the road through Guia de Isora and turn right at Chio. You’ll often find yourself  driving through mist which will remind you of  the Hound of the Baskervilles, only to emerge, soaring through the blanket of clouds, into the sunshine once more, and looking down on a landscape where the tips of mountains in La Gomera and La Palma materialize through the sort of scene you usually only see from the window seat of your airplane. I confess that the first time I unexpectedly came across this phenomenon it took my breath away.

Stratocumulous is chunky and forms clumps, it often looks like balls of cotton wool, but the drier air above stops it from rising further, which is why you can see those island peaks, and if you are on some of the other islands you can see Spain’s highest mountain, Mt Teide on Tenerife, peeking through the clouds too. From some places on the southern coast you can look up and see a circlet of cloud around the lower elevations, like a necklace around El Teide.

A good trip to see the full extent of the Mar de Nubes is to wind up the road from La Laguna, past Los Rodeos airport and into the Teide National Park. You will catch stunning vistas, perhaps glimpsing Puerto de la Cruz as clouds shift, and as you near the Observatory you may find those clouds snaking across the road in front of you. Descend via either of the routes mentioned before, and you will see the scene from the other side.

If you don’t mind driving on twisting mountain roads after dark, then taking a trip to see the sunset is a spectacular experience, especially if you’re a photography nut. Up there it seems to last longer, and the changing colours through pink and scarlet to purple are reflected on the clouds. If you linger, sometimes, as the lights come on in resorts below their brilliance colours the clouds from underneath, creating odd patterns. I was doing this once, concentrating trying to capture the beauty of the scene, and I turned round, only to draw a sharp breath. The sky behind me was brilliant with the sort of star-scape I’d only ever seen in movies, but that’s a whole other experience.

Posted : Wednesday, November 9th, 2011 at 9:05 am
Category : about tenerife
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