Roques de Garcia Tenerife
Visitors to Tenerife would be forgiven for thinking that holidays to this beautiful island is all about the beach, eating and shopping. The island's got much more to offer than that, though, and one of the best natural attractions is the Roques de Garcia, a group of remarkable and unique rock formations found in Teide National Park. Teide National Park, in the centre of Tenerife, is one of Spain's oldest parks, but more impressively, it's the biggest and oldest park in the whole of the Canary Islands. Home to Spain's highest mountain, Mount Teide rises to an impressive 3,718m. You'll find a landscape of volcanoes and craters as well as solidified and blackened lava fields. It's the perfect location for filming, and some epic Hollywood blockbusters like Clash of the Titans and Wrath of the Titans were filmed here, as was an episode of Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi. Just driving up to the park and the Roques de Garcia is an experience in itself. See how the landscape changes and becomes more lunar as you climb up the mountain's slopes. The park is easily accessible by car, and there are plenty of excursions you can book as well as several local bus routes that run during the week to the cable car base station. Once in the park, many visitors head straight for the Roques de Garcia. The rocks are formed from an ancient volcanic crater wall and can be found just south of the Teide peak. They're among some of the most popular things to see in Teide National Park, and it's definitely worth remembering to take your camera.
What are they?These weirdly shaped rocks, formed as a result of volcanic eruptions, are best known for their strange and unique shapes. The most photographed of these rocks is Roque Cinchado, also known as God's Finger. You'll find plenty of photos of this on postcards of Tenerife, with Teide in the background. The rock even used to be on Spanish banknotes before the country adopted Euros. You have to see Cinchado close up to appreciate its unusual and continually eroding formations. You'll see how it's disintegrating more at its base, so it looks like one day it might topple over. Cinchado is very popular with park visitors, and if you don't fancy just standing and staring at it, there's an easy 1.5km walk circling the rock.
Grab your cramponsThe tallest of this group of rocks is La Catedral, at 200 metres high, and a must for climbers. It's best viewed closer up rather than from the Roques de Garcia car park. Each rock has a name, including Roques Blancos (white rocks) and El Queso (the cheese). If you want to get the best views of these stones, there's a two-hour circular walk you can take.
Take the cable car to the topYou can't go to Teide National Park without taking the cable car to the highest point of Teide's peak, also known as Pico del Teide. It's only an eight-minute 1200 metre ride and the easiest way to get to the top and back down again. The views are magnificent, and on a clear day, you'll see across the Atlantic to the neighbouring islands of La Gomera, Gran Canaria, El Hierro, and La Palma. Just remember to wear sensible shoes, take a bottle of water, and something warm to wear. It's cold at the summit, and the weather has a habit of changing quite suddenly, so don't get caught out. If you're fit enough, once you're at the top, you can walk around, but the only way to actually get to the mouth of the volcano itself is to obtain a permit in advance. If it's all about views and relaxation for you, you can grab a sunset cable ride to the top. From here you'll enjoy one of the most amazing views in Europe. It's great for snapping some photos and looking up at the stars. It's even possible to wine and dine at the base station with a menu designed by a Michelin-starred chef. If you fancy a quieter time away from the crowds, take the cable car and head to Pico Viejo, or Old Peak volcano, which last erupted in 1798. It's the second highest peak in Spain. It's a lava-laden walk and best done with a guide so you can hear about the peak's history and Teide's heritage.
Stargazing in TenerifeIf you want to get even closer to the stars, including our very own sun, plan a visit to the Teide Observatory, the largest solar observatory in the world. The first telescope was set up in 1964, and one of the observatory's most important discoveries is that the sun has its own frequency and it beats every five minutes. During your guided tour you'll be able to view the sun through two different telescopes. Whatever type of Tenerife holiday you choose for you and your family, make sure you add the Roques de Garcia to your to do list.