Roads to Ride: Mount Teide

A road made famous as a training destination, this is a giant climb with variety on its flanks and surprise at the top.

The Route: there are three main roads up Mount Teide, let’s take the southern approach from the Costa Adeje and the tourist resorts of Los Americanos and Los Cristianos. It’s a 33km climb from sea level to 2,200m, an average gradient 6.5%.

The Feel: approach the island of Tenerife by flight or ferry and chances are you’ll see the volcanic peak from afar, at 3,715m above sea level Teide is Spain’s highest mountain. It’s not the picture-perfect shape of Mount Fuji and we’ll get to why this is better for cycling in a minute.

Start riding and if you’re still hungry or thirsty there’s a parade of English breakfasts and Irish pubs on offer in the resorts, but also plenty of shops offering road bike rentals. Pass the autopista highway and the tourist development gives way to volcanic rocks and dust with sparse vegetation, as if the lava flow only cooled recently. The road is busy with traffic to the town of Arona but surprisingly few cyclists. Even if several pro teams were training on the island at the same time you might not see them all day as the climb is so long.

Some say Teide is the longest climb in Europe. I think there might be longer climbs but something like Nice to Isola 2000 and the Col de la Lombarde can involve long valley sections with only the slightest of rises for kilometres. Flip it around as the longest descent and Teide probably wins because you can freewheel from summit to sea. Either way it’s long: start climbing and road signs say Teide is a daunting 47km away. Fortunately the climb is “only” 33km long and progress is ok as the slope is never vicious, it’s often 5-6% and quality Spanish tarmac helps things roll by.

Pass the town of Vilaflor and it feels like Mont Ventoux from Malaucène now, a mix of rocks and pine forest and some big views of the land below. The road is lined by a wooden balustrade, just like Ventoux too. It can often by windy as well, just like… Ventoux.

Where the big difference to Mont Ventoux comes is that once you reach the top there’s no small mountain pass with the road plunging back down the other side. There’s no fumbling for a jacket before a long descent, instead you reach the vast caldera of Las Cañadas and can ride in and around the vast craters, often sheltered from the wind, a plateau at 2,000m to cruise around, as well as a few places to stop for a drink or lunch. You could spend all day training here if you needed a day above 2,000m. You feel the altitude, sprint and you’ll feel it. It can be cold but the sun is strong, it’s the same latitude as Florida, and the volcanic rocks radiate back heat.

The Verdict: majestic but spartan. Teide is a giant climb with excellent tarmac and breathtaking views. Once at the top there are a long sections to ride rather than dropping straight back down. The relentless steady slope combined with the often barren terrain make it feel like a workplace, a gymnasium to hone fitness. This is a place to work on your FTP rather than to freewheel. You can still enjoy the long climb, take in the views and soak up the sunshine but Teide brings a stripped-back, hardcore feel but it’s still dramatic, scenic and photogenic.

Ride more: there are four main routes to the top but each of these can have variety with their own side roads, you could ride to the top every day for a month and still find some variety. The classic route seems to be from Arona though. The route up from Chio on the west is the quietest, a steady slog up on a wide road and an ideal training choice.

The eastern climb via Esperanza is worth trying because it’s so long and different, the scene changes along the way. This climbs up the spine of the island but you’ll have to persevere, as whether you start in Tacoronte, La Laguna or Santa Cruz, it’s steep from the start, semi-urban and frankly drab in parts. Plus it’s often wet and under the shadow of Teide’s clouds. You can start out under grey skies, ride through damp clouds and emerge into dazzling sunshine. And it goes on and on, there are Strava segments held by the likes of Thibaut Pinot and Jai Hindley that are over two hours long, but it’s irregular rather than a giant ramp test. There’s more variety here though with the Eucalyptus forest, then pines and finally a long section flanked by black volcanic rocks and ash.

The History: Teide’s not been used in pro racing. The Vuelta a España has visited the Canary Islands including Tenereife in 1988 and hasn’t been back since, there have been local pro races too. It’s a logistical challenge for the Vuelta but feasible. There are constant plans to return, but always plans rather than deals. Anyway, do the islands even need the Vuelta? They’re already on the cycling map.

Somewhere along the way Teide acquired a link to doping. Riders could cite altitude training in response to any curious changes in their blood values, while the island location meant that the Spanish authorities were unlikely to fly out anti-doping agents to collect out-of-competition samples, and if they did it was said that their approaching vehicles could be spotted from afar (although how to spot agents from anyone else is another matter). In the end the tables were turned with police surveillance, Michele Ferrari’s Opel Astra rental was tailed, his Swiss phone tapped. So Teide had a shady moment, as did the Madone but there’s nothing about these climbs that’s inherently shady.

More recently financial firepower played a part with Team Sky block-booking the hotel at the top which was great for them but excluded rivals; although at times Sky found others had booked the hotel and they couldn’t stay high up too. Today bookings are up more than ever. As Julian Alaphilippe quipped to L’Equipe recently, “half the peloton spends the season at altitude“. What was once used for training prior to major season objectives like a grand tour is now base camp throughout the year to hone fitness, even for season-opening events.

Travel and Access: the island of Tenerife has plenty of flights from Madrid and across Europe, plus a ferry ride from Huelva that takes about 36 hours.

Once on the island there’s a range of accommodation. The tautological Hotel Parador is atop the mountain and has been used by pro teams. You can book too and get the hypoxic effect of sleeping at altitude; or rather not sleeping for several days because of the altitude. It also means a colder start and a descent to begin each ride and there’s little else going on. So go for the hypoxia and you won’t get much else.

Cycling is an integral part of the Canary Islands tourist economy and there are several places offering rental bikes on Tenerife. There are not many places in the world with such a big rental market, think Bourg d’Oisans for Alpe d’Huez and Bédoin for the Ventoux.

When to visit: it’s got a year-round mild climate and it rains very little. For Europeans it works best as a winter sun destination but for the pro cyclist the summer months are when the hard work goes in here as it’s very much a mountain training camp, nearby islands like Lanzarote and Gran Canaria offer flatter roads.

More roads to ride at

52 thoughts on “Roads to Ride: Mount Teide”

  1. Gran Canaria offers flatter roads? Although the highest point there isn’t as high as the Teide, very little is flat, even the “flat” southern coastal road isn’t. Go to Gran Canaria, Inner Ring, and do a Roads to Ride about The Valley of the Tears.
    Love your work!

    • Ha, maybe that needs reworking. Gran Canaria is still very mountainous but not on the same scale, the Pico de las Nieves is not so high compared to Teide and the Valley of Tears tops out at <1,500m I think. Those wanting really flat roads (and almost guaranteed crosswinds) in the Canaries can enjoy Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.

      • I think you’d be a little surprised about Lanzarote – there’s plenty of rolling terrain, a few decent climbs and some sharp, steep stuff. Add in the wind (and it can blow at 25-30mpn with gusts even stronger) and a 4% gradient suddenly becomes 10%. Definitely not got the altitude of Tenerife or Gran Canaria, though.

        • Yes, still some climbing around there and plenty of cyclists as well, they’re all reliable destinations for training camps. I remember seeing two team mates training there before they went to their pro team’s camp in Gran Canaria, riders having to train hard for training camps.

          But Teide is just on a bigger scale compared to anything else in Spain and mainland Europe, it just goes on and on. The Sierra Nevada on the mainland is close.

        • Only time I’ve ever been frightened on a bike due to wind was in Lanzarote.
          Def worth a bike rental though if you’re holidays take you there… if nothin else to relive the beach boredom 🙂

  2. I’d say that the climb though La Esperanza side is *way less urban* than starting from Los Cristianos or other coastal areas in the South – unless, of course, you start from Santa Cruz itself, which I wouldn’t deem a good idea.

    Even on the main road from La Laguna, the TF-24, you’ll get sparse buildings along the road (partly because of the airport and other military zones) for the first 5 kms, than you only must endure some 3 kms crossing the town of La Esperanza (neither traffic lights nor roundabouts, anyway, just houses, stores and restaurants along the road). Then, from km 8 on, you’re already in a natural protected area, which means you’ll just spot a lonely bar near km 10, and barely any other sign of human presence – barring the road itself with signs, cars and that sort of things – for 25 kms at least.
    To me, way less urban and mostly quite more spectacular than the Vilaflor option; you’ll get a good amount of Miradores which are scenic to say the least, for example:
    – Ortuño ( )
    – La Crucita, where you’ll spot the ocean some 2,000 mts below you
    (×576.jpg )
    – La Tarta, from where you’ll see the sci-fi like observatory of Izaña – even better views of it later and higher on ( )

    If you fancy a wild start from any POV, just take the TF-274 from El Chorrillo or Machado. You will barely be bothered by any urban landscape while you climb directly to the protected area of TF-24. But you’ll probably won’t notice much, either, given that the 7 kms which will lift you from 250m above sea level to about 1,000m will draw much of your attention, especially the frequent ~20% ramps.
    However, as you can imagine, there are lots of options to make the climb from La Laguna or Tacoronte even more rural and not necessarily as hard as the above.

    I also find this side more interesting from a technical POV, since it’s more varied. It includes easier 4-5% section and even flattish ones (later on, a descent to El Portillo, too – which becomes a nasty little climb if you want to go “down” back on the same road), but the hard sections – pretty much never above 9%, anyway, are slightly more challenging.

    What can’t be denied is that the weather must help, which it doesn’t as often as in the South.

    I’d also highlight the Güimar side (“Los Loros”, TF-523), which connects to TF-24 between km 23 and 24. Avoid it on weekends because of motorbikes, but if you begin it from the bar La Encrucijada near La Hidalga (TF-245), you’ll tackle a serious Alpine defy TdF-style: 21,5 kms at an average 7% gradient with few options to get some rest. And then you must finish it off climbing up the last tens of kms to Izaña and the Cañadas. A decent way to get a better weather and some Miradores, too, although all in all I still prefer gong from La Laguna if it doesn’t rain.

    Finally, I think you missed the fourth main side, the Northern one from La Orotava, through El Portillo, long regarded as *the classic one*. I suppose that it might depend on tourism being based in Puerto de la Cruz: imagine that until the late 70s (1978) the South didn’t even have an airport and it could take literally hours and hours to get “down there” without a highway, on the old spaghetti-like TF-28 (now an interesting road to ride for an easy day, wind aside). The highway got to the airport only in 1987.
    However, I find it slightly boring ^__^ and, yes, too urban for too much.

  3. Reading this was one of those “be careful what you wish for” moments when I thought of pros spending extended periods in places like these. Seems like it must be mind-numbingly boring but sadly ever-more part of the job of a pro cyclist – riding up and down a volcano on a tiny island day after day after day. Wonder what they think of people who PAY to go there and do that?

      • While someone might also think the boys thought: “Great! Someone else to talk to during this mind-numbingly boring exile on a tiny island that we can’t wait to get off of!”
        Same for Mr. INRNG, my point wasn’t that this isn’t a great place for a sunny cycling vacation but being stuck there for weeks on end is very different. Since I used to be in the cycling vacation biz I wonder about places like these, formerly known as a doper’s haven or as the scene of a horrific plane crash, probably before you were even born.

        • I could be completely wrong, but my impression is that most pro cyclists become pro cyclists because they love riding and like spending time with mates, especially in nice weather with uncrowded roads. I guess some pros might rather have the life that the rest of us have, that is squeezing in long rides, usually alone, in crap weather, with unfriendly drivers and the same hometown scenery day after day, or doing off-season riding in the basement on Zwift, watching movies and TV to distract from the monotony.

          • A story for another day (or actually covered last year: but yes some love riding outdoors and the thrill of racing… but the more people go up the ranks, the more it becomes like another job and there’s a share of the bunch riding because they can make more money racing than they could on the family farm, in a factory. Even the ones who really like riding can find things harder because a lot of training rides are structured with X watts to do for N minutes and the file has to be uploaded.

          • Yeah, that makes total sense. I already had a sense of that, hence why I mentioned the contrast between training on a beautiful island with training on Zwift (or rollers back in the day) or locally in bad weather. Even if you training rides are drudgery, it seems like changing up the location for a couple of weeks might make it somewhat more tolerable.

    • I’m not here to sell the place so if people think it’s boring, then avoid. But for riders, pro or amateur, under grey skies or snow in Europe it’s warm and sunny with shorts and short sleeves weather, you can climb a big mountain beyond 2,000m when in Europe it’s usually reserved for late May to October, but still dependent on weather. I’d gladly pay for that, and did. The volcanic landscapes are spectacular too.

      • And how long would it take for you to become bored with it? A cycling vacation in the sun is one thing and I suppose you’d run out of money first, something pros “marooned” there for weeks on end don’t have to be concerned with.

    • But is it a full climb? The passage through L’Hospitalet is flat, try to freewheel down all the way and you’d probably come to a stop by the railway and roundabouts here. Still, for Andorra-based riders its a similar effort, can push all the way up.

      • Full climb. By following N320 you won’t have to cross the railway and the incline (from what I can gather) never goes below 2 %, it’s just too steady for that (, I have also mapped it on openrunner for higher fidelity). But in the end it’s an empirical question, and I’m sure you still have some roads in Andorra left for Roads to Ride. Now to be fair, other routes of Teide are longer, and after that all contenders are borderline with their low minimum gradient.

  4. I went to Tenerife first time in 2011 before new years, immediately after picking up rental car and checking in to apartment we drove around the island and up and down Teide south to north. 3 wt teams spotted, all of them by the sea, sleep altitude, train sea level was what I heard, I’m not so interested in training, I race for fun. Great place to be and cyclists are very much respected on the road which can be very narrow on the back roads. Stay out of the British areas with night clubs and bars if you want to get some sleep.

    • Ha, that’s about right.
      My parents used to have a timeshare there, so was an annual visitor for a few years.
      I’ve driven up Teide but not cycled it.
      Apart from the pros, I can’t believe that anyone but middle aged tourists would go to the Canaries to cycle 😎🍺

      • Check out the various Elvis impersonators in the British bars, a fantastic tradition 🤣
        Inner Ring might be good but what’s he like in a diamond-encrusted white jump suit belting out “Suspicious Minds”?

  5. Great place to ride. Strangest thing is how all the riders seem to be tourists, it was hard to meet a local and get insider advice. Are there any professionals from Tenerife / Canaries ?

    • I saw some locals but you’re right, a lot of people out riding if not almost all seem to be visitors. There used to be the Fuerteventura-Canarias team in 2007 and they had Dailos Manuel Díaz Armas from Tenerife but that’s all I can find. It’s harder to become a pro from the Canaries, they’d have to visit the mainland to take part in all the races as a junior or U23 but this can happen.

    • Most of local population lives in the Northern part of the island, which also has a better terrain for riding. Since when the TF-28 got new asphalt, you’ll find most cyclists there, especially during weekends. The TF-12 “El Bailadero” climb is another favourite. Apparently, many local cyclists also tend to love flattish terrain, which isn’t easily available, so you’ll see them training in circuits near Guamasa or between Tenerife and Las Teresitas. Horrible terrain, indeed, but I guess that if you’re doing all your yearly training here – being a local – you also need a lot of flat mileage. “Luckily”, I haven’t time to train seriously, so I just skip the flat part and now climb all the precious little time I get, which the island is perfect for.
      Locals living in the South are mainly “working poors”, for whom cycling is too expensive a sport. Arona got headlines for being among the top municipalities in Spain in terms of GDP, while at the same time household incomes were right at the bottom of the table.
      Finally, what inrng observed about the pro is surely true. A couple of them are now racing in lesser categories but they had to move to Portugal or France. The effort is huge and the lack of serious local competitions here makes it hard to know if you really have options to succeed or to just raise your level. Which is a pity because the island had decent grassroots decades ago, but than it all slowly faded.

  6. Went to Tenerife a few years ago. Stayed on the western side of the island. I can echo what Inrng says, lots of variety, but not just on the Tiede. Masca deserves mention, beautiful road. Busy with traffic but it’s all there for sight seeing so it moves slow. When I did Masca, I did a loop anti-clockwise and climbed up to Masca from the North on a quiet and scenic road. It was a great day on the bike.

    Watch out for some of the savage gradients on the little roads around the island 🙂

  7. @Larry T
    I suspect you frankly have no idea… the feeling which comes through is pretty much similar to what you get listening to some people from the USA speaking of Sicily – or even Italy! – without much real hint about it. An effect somewhere halfway between eyebrow-raising and WTF.

    You’ll find quite more easily someone else to talk in Tenerife than in Hawaii’s big island, given that the former has a population 4x bigger. There are also a couple of decent cities (actually, sort of a metropolitan area as a whole) each of them separately more populated than any city in Sardinia – where, by the way, you’ll find yourself struggling to find someone to talk with while cycling around the island… much more than in Tenerife, again.
    What is more, as a road cyclist you might actually be more interested in road density than in sheer extension of the place. Not to speak of the simple fact that a rugged geography might make the area “larger” when you go through it, what’s especially but not exclusively true about the Northeastern side of the island (Masca is also a good example, as is the old TF-28 North-South road). Just check the quantity of hairpins.
    Huge variety of microclimates and natural habitats also helps a lot to make it as far from boredom as it could get. The pros, indeed, long stopped to just spend their time “above” in masochistic 2-week sessions: lots of them now sleep high and train low, taking advantage of the spectacular terrain of Anaga or the long steady ramps of Los Loros.
    Feel assured that you’d get more easily bored living in some (beautiful) Italian neck of the woods than in Tenerife.

    Of course, most of the above also has notable downsides. The island is clearly suffering from a population overload which mass tourism doesn’t make any better and the income from the latter doesn’t even drip down to local population, an impressive percentage of which lives in absolute poverty.

    • I’m amazed at how a comment directed at IMHO the sad state of pro cycling, where riders have to live like monks in places like these ends up instead being a debate about the merits of their monastery.
      Somehow, everyone and his brother who has gone to to Tenerife to ride their bike in the sun seems compelled to defend the place as if I’m attacking it rather lamenting a situation where riders have to go to places like these, whether they’re remote islands known for being dope-havens or somewhere else where they also live like monks. That’s not new but seems more prevalent than in what I imagine were the “good old days.” And I’ll concede that could be just in my imagination.
      Perhaps I’ve missed them all but I don’t remember ever reading quotes from pros about how much they’re looking forward to altitude training camps – it seems mostly the reverse and how they endure them as part of the job rather than a “cycling vacation” the punters dream about.
      Finally, spare me the lectures about where I’d be bored, OK? I think I visited enough places in 6 decades to know the best place for me to live and I moved there permanently in 2018.

      • I’ve been referring to specific commentaries you made which come through as totally misinformed. And probably pros can get better times with a training camp in Tenerife than in Sestriere or Livigno, from any POV.
        AVV posted interesting materials on the subject as did Froome.

        So, what’s your definition of “places LIKE THESE”, as you write here, and when compared to what other sort of places?

        Curiously enough, a mind-boggling number of Italians are moving to Tenerife (and Fuerteventura or Lanzarote): in Tenerife they already were at least 5% of the stable resident population, and fast growing. I guess they find it compatible with “Italian way of life”, or what?

        At the end of the day, if the problem it’s not where the pros stay but how they do live and train there, every comment regarding the supposed nature of the island (the huge majority of what you wrote above) is irrelevant or out of place – besides being most of the times plain wrong.

        Lastly, it’s not about defending anything in particular: it’s more about how misrepresentations feels especially grotesque when you happen to know the reality which is being tackled, hence the desire to amend them.
        In that sense, let me stress that in most of what you write it’s quite apparent that you’re speaking of the subject as related to generic other people, not just yourself only, and namely the supposed experience of the pros and some implications about people going there on holiday and *their* risk of getting bored (by the way, for good or ill Tenerife was a well-known holiday destination since late 19th century, hence people were finding something interesting there well before altitude campes were a thing).

        PS All in all, I’d agree that perhaps Tenerife wouldn’t be good for the sort of business you ran, for a variety of factors (none of those you happened to name above). Gran Canaria was more of a favourite for some big fishes in your pond (which I really struggle to understand, but some commenters above also contribute interesting takes on this). But I’m not a specialist, so I won’t delve deeper into the subject.

  8. “I’ve been referring to specific commentaries you made which come through as totally misinformed.” What specific commentaries? I remember plenty of interviews with pros who lamented the mind-numbing boredom of altitude training camps in places like these….places with high-elevation lodging so the “sleep high, train low” training rides can be done for days on end.
    It had nothing to do with how boring (or not) the island of Tenerife is or isn’t or how many Italians might be moving there….like I care where Italians move.
    Tenerife might well be the greatest place on earth for a winter cycling vacation but I don’t know…or care, so unless you want to discuss what I think is the sadness of the mind-numbing days of altitude training seemingly necessary in modern cycling, no matter where they take place – I’m done.

    • Larry T “Wonder what they think of people who PAY to go there and do that?”

      Larry T “While someone might also think the boys thought: “Great! Someone else to talk to during this mind-numbingly boring exile on a tiny island that we can’t wait to get off of!”
      Same for Mr. INRNG, my point wasn’t that this isn’t a great place for a sunny cycling vacation but being stuck there for weeks on end is very different. Since I used to be in the cycling vacation biz I wonder about places like these, formerly known as a doper’s haven or as the scene of a horrific plane crash, probably before you were even born”.

      inrng “…I’d gladly pay for that, and did. The volcanic landscapes are spectacular too”.
      Larry T “And how long would it take for you to become bored with it?”.

      Enough for me, too.

  9. I spotted Zubeldia twice in one week on Tenerife, which was amazing as I could go through an entire 3 weeks in France without seeing hide nor hair of him.

  10. Man, it really is “winter” on this site…

    I enjoyed reading about what sounds like a great place to ride, as for the time being I am dealing with riding a studded fat bike at -12C, and staring at Trainer Road on my Ipad. A “dull”, “tiny” island is sounding pretty decent right about now.

  11. Just to derailleur a bit further, how is it not boring to be altitude training in Seiser Alm? If you’re a pro, that’s your job. Its just silly Larry.

    Be it as it may, I did cycle over Teide, it took me a whole day and a half, we camped in one hillside on the way up at ca 1800m. Had a campfire and looked at the glorious night sky with telescopes. It was organized trip, most of them had driven there in the evening, we started on bikes in the morning covering half the north side, stopping for a glass of local wine or coffee. Might be boring for pros, but not for the average Nordic tourist.

  12. Surely, measuring the length of a climb in horizontal (tangential if you want to be more exact) meters is silly? Only vertical meters count for me when measuring a climb. To me, the horizontal meters are only there to give an idea of the grade, which is also an important factor.
    I know there are hiking trails that go to the actual top of the mountain, the highest road is only just over half way up. Apart from feasibility, is it allowed to bring a mountain bike up there?

      • Well, of course, as inrng made clear enough it’s about “decent” gradients (whose definition, again, would be open to debate). That said, length might matter also because with lower gradients VAM tends to be lower, too, hence the duration of the continuous effort you’re required can be quite different, to the point of changing the characteristics of the whole performance. It’s all about how you tackle the climb, of course, and high gradients do imply their own challenges, obviously enough, although nowadays most of the times it’s about picking the right gear ratio.
        To me, when lone riding is concerned, the main difference with 1% is that a climb “with a decent gradient” won’t allow much free-wheeling if any at all, and the speed drop needed to recover while still pedalling would be too relevant. Clearly, it’s relative to the athletic level of each person…
        And, anyway, here we’re speaking of climbs whose total altitude gain is quite much impressive, no less than 2,000 m generally speaking, depending on the chosen starting point, and often easily above 2,200 m. In a single climb.

  13. Sounds really interesting. How’s the traffic on the climb? 47k – wow! (These days, I usually head to the Parc Mercantour region, north of Nice)

  14. Inrng – great article, perfect to jump into on a Monday morning coffee break – very quick way to escape from my spreadsheets today.

    Great to hear about Egan Bernal – no pressure to return to the pinnacle of the sport, but very happy he is walking out of the hospital under his own steam with his parents. They would have been so worried.

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