National Parks of The Canary Island
The extraordinary beauty of the Canary Islands, with spectacular geological formations and a rich biodiversity -favoured by the occurrence of numerous indigenous or exclusive species of both plants and animals- have gained the archipelago the recognition of boasting the broader number of national parks among all regions in the country. This is the highest category of nature preservation. They are namely Mount Teide in Tenerife, La Caldera de Taburiente in La Palma, Timanfaya in Lanzarote and Garajonay in La Gomera. In addition to allowing preservation of nature, these spaces are home to landscapes of great, unique beauty worth exploring. They are ideal for hiking, carrying out environmental education activities, enjoying ecotourism, etc.
Mount Teide was declared a national park in 1954 and occupies a broad mountainous area of Tenerife. This is the largest and oldest national park in the islands. UNESCO made it a World Heritage Site in 2007. It is home to the spectacular Mount Teide, the highest peak in the country thanks to its 3,718 metres of altitude. Its surroundings show remarkable geological formations, such as really ancient and more recent lava flows, high crests that remain from the surrounding crater, etc., all of which adds to the surprising, amazing landscape. It also boasts very specific vegetation characteristic to high peaks which has adjusted to drastic changes in temperature, with numerous endemic species such as the red tower of jewels, the broom, and the Teide Violet, among others. After a necessary winter lethargy due to the low temperatures and several snowfalls, vegetation experiences rapid growth during the month of May and the national park is filled with colours from the blossoming flowers. A multi-coloured sight to behold under the usually bright sky in this time of the year that is however short lived.
Caldera de Taburiente, on the island of La Palma, was also declared a national park in 1954, and it stands out for being a deeply eroded ancient volcanic crater, an impressive landscape with steep walls. The depression forming the crater is located from 600 to 900 meters above sea level, while the crests that form the rocky walls surrounding it reach 2,426 metres of altitude at its highest point, the so-called Roque de los Muchachos rock formation, home of the Roque de los Muchachos Astrophysical Observatory. The crater drains water down through one of the biggest ravines of the Canary Islands, located on the coast of Tazacorte. Water is one of its natural beauties: numerous sources of water springing out and joining in the form of flows, streams and whimsical waterfalls. The national park is inhabited by a diverse vegetation dominated by extensive Canarian pine forests, but the peaks also show vegetation characteristic of high altitudes, well-adjusted to harsh weather conditions.
Timanfaya, in Lanzarote, was declared a national park in 1974. This is a stunning volcanic area, with numerous beautiful cones and historical lava flows, which even covered surrounding villages in lava; the most recent lava flows occurred in the 1824 eruption. Vegetation is little developed since the living conditions are extremely harsh, and lava flows are young and in the early stages of colonization, dominated by lichens. The reddish and black shades of lapilli and sand and the dark tones of the basaltic lavas dominate the scenery, sprinkled with specks of different colours belonging to the numerous lichen species. It is one of the most visited parks in the Canarias, only second to Mount Teide. The subsoil retains a high temperature due to geothermal energy, which allows visitors to take part in different activities, such as seeing steam jets generated by pouring water into the cracks, or observing locals roast food without a fire in a volcano grill.
Garajonay, on the island of La Gomera, was declared a national park in 1981 and it is most valuable for being home of the best preserved example of laurel forest, the remnants of a humid forest dating back to the tertiary period that used to cover virtually all of Europe. This forest shelters a great plant diversity, including large ferns, and most importantly trees belonging to the laurel group that give its name to this subtropical moist broadleaf forest. It is also wealthy in animal species, with numerous bird and insect species, among which we can find pigeons indigenous to the western islands. Rock formations are deeply eroded ancient volcanic cones that stand out of the forest and are covered in fog generated by the trade winds. The scenery that can be seen walking along the many walking trails is equally spectacular, especially the landscape surrounding the El Cedro creek that permanently flows along the deepest areas of the park. Following this stream, visitors will reach a hermitage surrounded by a clearing where, on sunny days, they can take a little breather and enjoy the fresh air, the birds singing and the sound of the leaves moving to the gentle breeze and fill up with the brightness of the area to have, in short, a pleasant and edifying visit.