During April 2014 I was on a family holiday in Tenerife and had the opportunity to visit Cueva del Viento, the longest lava cave in the European Union with some 18.5 km of passages The Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind) is a volcanic cavity located in the district of Icod de los Vinos bearing the same name. Formed 27,000 years ago in basaltic lavas from the Pico Viejo volcano during its first eruptive phase, it is located in the foothills of Mount Teide. It is also the longest lava cave outside Hawaii and fifth longest in the world. The cave has a multi-language website with full details of how to book a trip and is open every day from 9:00 hrs to 16:00 hrs from Tuesday to Saturday. A section of the cave is open to the public as an unlit section of showcave. Lamps and helmets are provided by the management did a bit of research before I went and discovered that the only days the English language tour takes place is on a Tuesday and Wednesday. We were only there for a week starting on a Tuesday so we would have to visit on a Wednesday. I emailed the cave and got a reply in English to confirm us booked on a tour starting at 1:00 pm. We were staying in an apartment on Puerto de la Cruz about 10 miles to the east along the coast from the cave. The cave is located on the volcanic slopes above the town of Icod de los Vinos on the north coast of the island. (See location map Fig. 1.)
The original intention had been for all four of us to go on the visit to the cave but as it was only the day after we arrived and rather a rush to get organised it would be just be Elliot, my eldest son, and I. The first issue was how to get from our apartment to the cave. From a walking guide I had on Tenerife I found out that there were buses from Puerto to Icod every hour so. On arriving the previous evening I found out the walking route to the bus station and bought two travel passes for the journey next day (only 5 Euros each return). The 354 bus takes an hour to get to Icod so next morning we caught the 10:30 bus and asked the driver to drop us off at Plaza El Cavario rather than at the terminus in Icod to shorten the walk. The bus journey was certainly value for money as it went a long way round through all sorts of mountain villages and tight hairpin bends over big drops. What I had not bargained for was the very steep walk uphill to the cave visitor’s centre from the Plaza. This took us just over an hour and is about 2miles on a very warm and sunny day. We got there very hot and bothered and a few minutes late at 12:35. On arrival we found out that a taxi ride is the preferred option from the centre of Icod and only costs 4 Euros!
The normal charge for the visit is 16 Euros but I got talking to the guide Dragan Milenkovic, a Serbian, and he said as we were “International speleologists” he would charge us only 10 Euros each. (Looking good so far I had saved 20 Euros). The visitors’ centre is just off the road up a short cul-de-sac and contains an interpretation centre with toilets and a cloakroom to leave your extra gear, no rucksacks etc in the cave. There is a taberna named after the cave opposite for light refreshments. We were first shown a video about the formation of lava caves, which was quite informative, even to me with my geological knowledge. I was surprised to find that there are over 250 known lava caves on Tenerife and over 80 of these have been explored and mapped so far. The cave contains four species of insects only found in caves on Tenerife.
After the introductory talk we were equipped with lights and helmets and taken to the minibus as the cave is some way from the visitors centre up a steep hill and dirt track to a parking area. There are seven entrances to the system spread out along the mountainside and they are all skylight entrances where the roof has collapsed in to the passage below. The cave is no more than a couple of metres below the surface throughout its length. The walk from the car park took a while as Dragan pointed out various surface features relating to the local igneous geology and plant life. The walk will took us through an area of foothills, farms and canary pine forests and along an ancient bridle path. Eventually we came to an entrance covered with a large steel grill. This was the original entrance where an old woman herding goats had fall some 10 metres down a hole into the cave about 100 years ago. A short distance on is the main entrance with a set of steps leading down to the first of the levels in the cave. The cave has three layers with connecting shafts, the lower level containing the largest passage up to 15 meters high. The underground part of the tour lasts about an hour and Elliot but I managed to wander off into several side passages and along the main way on beyond the show section of the cave, which extended our tour! The guide did not seem too bothered. This portion was selected to open to the public as being that which would suffer the least environmental impact, in accordance with the environmental studies performed, whilst presenting various geomorphological formations representative of the cavern as a whole. We were equipped with camera, flashguns and slave units, as I had already established that we would be able to take photographs. Numerous photographs were taken, some of which appear here. A lot of work had been carried out to make the show cave section safe for tourists to use. The state of the roof has been inspected and in some places security underpinnings have been made with the placement of the 79 anchor rods that secure the roof. He pointed these out to me.
Near the entrance Near the end
Dragan explained in some detail how the passages had been formed and how secondary mineralization had taken place with deposits of calcite and lava stalactites formed in places. From a geomorphological perspective, the Cueva del Viento features a wide variety of structures such as lava stalactites, lava cascades, side terraces, oxbow passages and lava lakes among others, as well as exogenous concretions of different composition (calcium carbonate, cristobalite, and other silica compounds).
Longer exploration trips are available on a Saturday when exploration of some 4 km of passage is possible. Might try that next time.
An added bonus after the trip was that Dragan finished work at 4:00 pm and offered us a lift back to the Puerto junction on the motorway. He assured us that it was only a 1 Km walk downhill back to our apartment. This proved to be the case. By the time we had our packed lunch, bought a drink and ice-cream for the taberna it was time to go. I would certainly recommend the trip if you want a different day out while in Tenerife.
If you are in Tenerife and fancy a visit bare the following in mind: