Cueva del Viento, delving into the heart of Tenerife

It’s pitch black, i’m sat on a cold solid lava ledge that was formed 27.000 years ago, i’m deep underground below Icod de los Vinos, and there’s not a sound to be heard. After what seems like an eternity, the Cueva del Viento guide, switches his torch back on, the signal for the 20 or so explorers in this volcanic tunnel, to switch their helmet lights back on as well. Suddenly we all re-appear in the eerie half light, just a minutes example of the islolation felt down in the Cave of the Wind.


The three levels of volcanic tubes bored through the rock have been closed to the public for the last 15 years but this week the public were at last allowed in again, and I was chomping at the bit to be among the first. Plans were well advanced to re-open before 6 people died from inhaling volcanic gas in water filled galleries in nearby Los Silos in Febrauary 2007. They were part of an unguided party, since then safety has been tightened around the many caves that are a legacy of Tenerife’s volcanic nature.

Going inThe tubes were produced when Pico Viejo on the east slope of Mount Teide disgorged its red hot lava 27,000 years ago, and other eruptions since have added to the 17 kms of tunnels, one of the biggest collections in the world. From end to end they drop some 470 metres and reach nearly as far as the sea at Playa San Marcos, and the three layers are inter connected by wells, fissures and at one point a 17 metre deep chasm.

My day started with a 460 bus to Icod de Los Vinos, just 3 euros with a Bono ticket, and a one and a half hour journey from Los Cristianos. Once there I met up with explorer, naturalist and writer, Steve Andrews, better known as the green bearded Bard of Ely, a genuine Welsh Druid. A taxi to the village of Cueva Del Viento took just 10 minutes and cost nearly 5 euros, it’s all a steep uphill drive, definately not for walking. The new visitors centre is just opposite a small bar/restaurant and the mid day sun was hot and glorious, be warned, it’s usually a little cooler up north and can be cloudy with some rain. The website advises wearing hiking boots but as I don’t have any I hoped my sturdy trainers would be ok, as it turned out many others in the group had similar foot wear, several were in shorts and even sandals, but that is really risky.

Putting on our hard helmets complete with front light connected to a power pack belt, we piled into a mini bus for the 10 minute drive uphill, then we had a steep 30 minute hike up through the pine forest with teasing views of Mount Teide through the foliage and fire blackened trees from last summers big outbreak. Our entrance to the caves was down below a metal grid, first on carved stone steps and then onto a metal staircase. A delicious chill greeted us, I was in shirt sleeves but it didn’t feel cold, we fanned out in a circle in the first chamber as our guide gave us some relevant facts, using one of several charts posted in the tunnels in Spanish and English. Moving on and down, the floor became very uneven and rocky and we barely had headroom above us. Trying to take photos whilst co-ordinating the helmet light and keeping feet well anchored was a challenge but a welcome one.


There are thousands of rare species of insects living in the caves but we only saw a few spiders, but then we only explored a set 1,200 metre stretch. At various points, other small tunnels shot off at tangents above and around us, and our lights could only disturb the dark for a limited distance. I had always thought of caves as moist, but these tunnels were dry, even though in places, strands of pine roots poked through the rough ceiling.

 At the end of our route, we found a deep chasm with another small upward entry/exit beyond it, sealed with a strong iron grid. The contrast of the bright sun and the meeting of the warm and chilled air gave a strange feel to the surroundings. That marked our turning point, and we retraced our steps, this time in an upward manner. Before long we were back at the stairs, and clambered up to wince at the sunlight and remove the irritating but vital helmets. Walking back to the minibus, we realised we had been down the tunnels for over 90 minutes, although we had barely made a dent on the labyrinth of tubes.

Ive seen the light

This was definatley well worth the wait, the trip was FREE, but will be reviewed at the end of July to maybe set a regular charge. There are 2 trips a day at 10 am and Noon and you need to book first via the website or by calling 922815339. Groups are set for around 20 people and their rating of medium difficulty is about right.