A World of Volcanoes at El Portillo Visitor Centre, Teide National Park

Mon, March 31st, 2014 - By Andrea Montgomery

I wonder how many people who travel into Teide National Park from the southern resorts of Los Cristianos, Playa de Las Americas and Costa Adeje ever bother to continue beyond the cable car station to the Portillo Visitor Centre? I wouldn’t mind betting that not many do.


El Portillo Visitor Centre, Teide National Park


But for those who are interested in exactly what it is that they are seeing in this extraordinary landscape and what animals and plants survive in such a harsh environment, you’re missing out on a world of information in interactive displays and giant models which making learning fun. And for those who enjoy exploring the park on foot, there are some excellent walking routes which start from here including the climb to La Fortaleza, the only remaining northern section of the crater wall.


El Portillo Visitor Centre, Teide National Park


The whole volcanic experience begins the minute you pick up your information leaflet and head into the centre. Constructed as a mock-up of a volcanic tube, complete with burning river of molten lava beneath your feet, the entrance is a dark cave lit only by the fiery red beneath your feet. With a video of ‘the real thing’ playing in front of you, walking along the glass floor in the dark is a weird sensation and a very effective introduction to the world of volcanoes.


El Portillo Visitor Centre, Teide National Park


On the lower level, interactive displays demonstrate through illuminated panels how different types of volcanoes erupt. The display also apparently doubles as a disco light show as one young visitor next to me demonstrated. A large relief map of the whole park fills the centre of the room. Around the walls you can find out how Mount Teide was formed, compare Tenerife to its geological nearest cousin Hawaii, and test the different weights of the various fallout rocks that are typically thrown during an eruption, from the ‘wow, that’s heavy’ of basalt lava to the featherweight of ultra light pumice which is the rock you can use to replay scenes from early Star Trek episodes when you go exploring outside.


El Portillo Visitor Centre, Teide National Park


A small cinema has regular screening of volcanic eruptions for those who like to get up-close and personal to their burning lava while upstairs, walls are covered in amazing photographs of the various elements that make Teide National Park such an incredible environment; the mar de nubes clouds, the tajinaste flowers and the incredible night sky.


El Portillo Visitor Centre, Teide National Park


A giant lizard presides over the final room with its colourful information charts showing the flora and fauna that can be found in the park and its three dimensional model of Tenerife which illustrates two things – firstly the scale of the park in relation to the island and secondly that they need to update the population centres which still depict much of the south and south west as it must have been when the model was constructed.

The Portillo Visitor centre is on the TF21 at the northern edge of the park and anyone travelling from La Laguna, Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz will pass it on their way to the cable car station.

Open every day from 9am to 4.15pm; entrance free; displays in English, Spanish and German; toilets alongside the car park at the entrance, overspill parking across the road.

Posted : Monday, March 31st, 2014 at 11:55 am
Category : about tenerife
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