Day 5 in Tenerife – An Amazing Visit to Teide Observatory

This whole trip to Tenerife has really proved what a diverse and amazing island it is. Of course if you want to you can enjoy the typical tourist pursuits of sunbathing by the pool or at the beach, and enjoy excellent shopping and dining out experiences. I really hope though, that with these blog posts, I can tempt you into trying something new. Variety is the spice of life after all!

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I had heard good things about Tenerife beforehand, but I didn’t realise quite how many amazing experiences you can have here. Today was no exception as John, Dennis and I had a guided Teide Observatory tour to look forward to with Volcano Life, S.L. Yesterday I had technically travelled into the Teide National Park during our Teide by Night excursion with Travel Tenerife, but I hadn’t been able to take in the full beauty of the surroundings. Today’s excursion was in the daytime though, and as we ascended the winding roads leading up Mount Teide, I was truly in awe. Don’t get me wrong I love beaches, sunbathing and swimming in the ocean, but Teide National Park has unrivalled natural beauty.

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The contrast from the beaches along the coast, to the Alpine-like forest is incredible, and the views across to La Gomera were sublime so of course we had to stop for some photos opportunities.Then further up when you reach the giant volcanic crater you feel like you could be on the moon. So many changes all in one drive.

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We had been booked onto the mid-day tour but hadn’t quite anticipated the number of buses winding their way round the narrow mountain roads. This was going to be tight! We made it, just! In fact just in time for the opening words of the tour by our friendly guide Carmelo. Luckily he was very understanding when we explained the bus situation. Carmelo explained everything in both Spanish and English, and started off with an interesting introduction about the observatory and Teide.

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There was a lot of information, so it would be a lie to say I took everything in. It was clear though that the Canary Islands observatories, in Tenerife and La Palma are some of the most important in the world, with only observatories in Chile and Hawaii holding more importance. This is because the air quality is exceptionally good in the Canary Islands; there are very few clouds where Teide observatory is stationed at an altitude of 2,390 metres, and almost no light pollution.

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Due to its geographical position, and the excellent clarity and quality of the sky, the Observatorio del Teide has an ideal location for studying the sun. Because of this it is home to the best solar telescopes in Europe. Following this introduction walked over to where some portable solar telescopes had been set up. From these we were able to look up at the sun, through specially filtered glass.

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As Carmelo explained, it might not look so impressive at first glance, but once you understand what you are looking at it becomes far more interesting. We were essentially able to observe spots on the sun which itself is a humongous ball of burning gas 150 million kilometres away from the earth. The distances are mind blowing. It would take 8 minutes at the speed of light to reach the Sun from Earth, and the speed of light is 299,792,458 metres per second!

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The clouds had begun to roll in and we headed inside one of the buildings for a video presentation. This lasted about 10 minutes and gave an overview of the study of astrology and what is happening within our solar system and the universe. It really makes you realise how vast space is, and how humans are definitely not the centre of the universe.

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Next we were shown inside a building that houses the third biggest telescope in after those in Chile and Hawaii. This is quite a claim to fame for Tenerife considering what a relatively small island it is! The telescope was also constructed in Tenerife and sends information to scientists in La Laguna or to other astrophysicists around the world. After seeing this telescope our tour had come to a close so we thanked Carmelo and set off.

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As we drove away from the Observatory I thought just how amazing this week had been, full of firsts and amazing experiences. It was a real privilege to visit one of the three most important observatories in the world! In front of us was the magical peak of Mount Teide, snow-tipped and resplendent in the dazzling sunlight. Its summit reaches 3,718-metre and is the highest point in Spain, and the highest point above sea-level in the islands of the Atlantic. It is without a doubt one of the defining features of Tenerife and the Canary Islands.

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On the descent through Teide National Park we stopped off at a traditional Canarian restaurant for some bocadillos and coffee. It really felt like we sitting at a restaurant in the Alps, with the winding mountain road, pine trees, and even a field with a pony grazing. It was unbelievably picturesque and a great place to stop for a snack.

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We decided to drive down the other side of Teide, so I was able to take in much more of Tenerife. The contrast was incredible, and as we reached the coast it looked like how I would expect Costa Rica or Hawaii to appear with tropical trees and jagged cliffs. The roads had been tunnelled through the landscape, and the drive back to Pearly Grey Resort was really impressive. Some of the tunnels had only recently been finished and looked very expensive and modern. It is clear that Tenerife is an up and coming island with a bright future.

This excursion with Volcano Life, S.L. (and all the others mentioned in my previous posts) can be booked through reception at Pearly Grey Ocean Club timeshare resort. If you are staying there make sure you take a visit to the Observatorio del Teide!

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