Cave of the Wind
The municipality of Icod de Los Vinos in the north-western face of Tenerife is home to one of the world’s largest volcanic tubes. The complex covering over 17 km is formed of a gigantic labyrinthine network of underground passageways of remarkable geomorphological value. The remains found in its interior attest to the fact that the native Guanche people were well acquainted with it.
What is a volcanic tube?
A volcanic tube is a cavity formed in the inside of lava flows, which are normally basaltic fluid lava flows known as “pahoehoe”. While lava flows move forward, their margins cool down at a faster rate, so that the surface of the flow solidifies while lava continues to flow underneath. At last, lava ceases to erupt, the flow disappears, and thus a volcanic tube is formed. Cueva del Viento cave originated from lava flows from eruptive processes in Las Cañadas del Teide and its name refers to the strong airstreams occurring in the inside.
From the geomorphological perspective, it is noted that the cave is laid out in three overlapping layers resulting from successive eruptive stages, as well as a full range of primary source structures such as lava stalactites, lava cascades, side terraces and lava lakes, among others, and exogenous concretions composed of different materials.
The greatest wealth from the biological point of view lays on its underground fauna, which is a constant source of new findings. Given the cave’s particular conditions -humidity, lack of light, little food sources-, the chance of survival of a certain species is closely linked to its adaptive capacity, nad most species will have to undergo major changes such as discolouration of the body or lack of eyes. The cave is also an important palaeontological site, the subfossil bones of extinct vertebrates such as rats and the giant Canarian lizard (Canariomys Bravoi and Gallotia Goliath) having been found in its interior, along with other skeletal remains of species now extinct in Tenerife -the rook and the houbara bustard, among others-.
In terms of vegetation, it occurs in three sectors: the outside area, showing some vascular plants, ferns, and lichens; the entrance area, which starts at the spot not directly affected by the rain but still bathed by the sunlight, where visitors will find mosses and lichens, primarily; and the transition zone, subject to indirect sunlight, where cyanobacteria and lichens have been found.
Currently, the only way to visit the cave is on a guided tour; advance reservation and payment are required. Tours offer the advantage of obtaining much more comprehensive information. The stretch available for visits is rich in geomorphological phenomena showing whimsical shapes, which are one of the main attractions. Inside the cave there is no artificial lighting, therefore, visitors must wear helmets with a light to access the inside.
The site can be accessed via the TF-5 motorway towards Icod de Los Vinos. Having arrived at the village, visitors will easily find the cave following the many signposts found on the way.