Walking around Tenerife, there are many examples of the volcanic forces that formed the islands, but for a real inside view, Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind) takes you into an underground landscape where volcanic lava flows have bored their way through the rock to form one of the longest series of volcanic tubes in the World.
The 17,032 kms of tunnels are made up of three main levels that are linked by fissures, off shoots and the odd chasm. The lava came from Pico Viejo on the eastern slope of Mount Teide, started by an eruption 27,000 years ago and added to by later activity, inside the tubes, the different layers of lava can be clearly seen as well as smaller channels where water has followed the meandering of the caves.
Cueva del Viento is a steepÂ 10 minute drive above Icod de los Vinos in the north of Tenerife, it is well signposted and less than 5 euros by taxi from Icod. The visitors centre is in the heart of the small village and was added for the reopening of the tunnels to the publicÂ in mid June after a 15 year closure. For the opening few months the tour is free but that is to be reviewed, you are recommended to wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots, and take an extra coat or pullover, the north is often cooler and cloudy and inside the tunnels, there is a distinct chill.
A minibus takes parties of around 20 at 10 am and Noon each day, starting with a 10 minute drive up into the pine forest. From there a 30 minute walk leads through the trees and onto the historic Camino Real track up into the mountains. The scenery is stunning, with Mount Teide in the background and vast ranges of flowers and plants en route. the entrance point to the cave is a heavy metal grill that opens upward to reveal stone steps hewn into the rock, before leading onto more sturdy modern metal stairs.
Once inside, the light on your hard helmet, powered by a waist belt power pack, will illuminate a 20 foot high chamber where you can gather to hear the first of the informative talks by your guide, with the help of a wall chart in Spanish and English. Moving onwards and downwards, the chamber narrows to a tunnel, where the roof is only just above your head. Small galleries feed off the main route, and stacks of worn rock almost block the way at times. There is a wealth of insect and small animal life in the tunnels but in the selected 1,200 metre stretch of the tour, you will probably only see some spiders, most of the creatures live in the less disturbed sections.
Walking is a slow and careful process as the floor is very rough and rocky, and the minimal lighting of the helmet lights only clears a small area ahead of you. Clambering up into one of the galleries, you get some idea of how far some of the smaller tunnels wander and it’s good to know the tunnels are bone dry despite strands of pine tree roots poking through the roof. At the end of the selected stretch of tunnel is a large chasm, just before another small opening up to the surface. This is sealed closed with another metal gate but that doesn’t stop the sun light and warmth making a fleeting appearance.
The tour includes a good 90 minutes below ground and is a real treat for all the senses. Tours have to be booked in advance via the website www.cuevadelviento.net or on 922815339. Cueva del Viento is the biggest of the volcanic tubes and caves in the Canary Islands but there are many of them, some still remain uncharted and potentially dangerous. The contrast between the destructive history of the volcano and the lush flora and pine trees, recovering well from last years fires, is startling and helps to show what a cycle of natural growth Tenerife has gone through. This Icod council backed tour is the perfect way to see the underside of Tenerife and appreciate some of its powerful and turbulent history.