Tenerife – Journey inside a lava tube

Post by dfm:

Tenerife is part of the Canarian archipelago. These islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean, not very far from the coast of Morocco. There are 7 islands, which are Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and finally El Hierro. All islands are of volcanic origin and the main hypothesis of formation refers to a magma hot spot leading to the formation of the islands. I have had the chance over time to visit several islands (Lanzarote, Gran Canaria and lastly Tenerife). Of course each island has its own charm and interest, but I must admit that Tenerife has left me with a stronger impression. 

The variety of landscapes, type of lavas, volcanic cones, lava fields is really impressive. Also the fact that, even in the national park, one can go roughly as he pleases is to be taken into account (In Lanzarote, for instance, you cannot take a walk on the lava fields in the national park).

So here is my account of a visit made to the Cueva de los Vientos.


The Cueva de los Vientos is located in the village of Icod de los Vinos, on the west side of the island. It has been proposed as a touristic attraction since only a few years (I think 2009). First there is a quick presentation by the guide of the volcanic origin of the island, and some explanations on how lava tubes form and of the different type of lavas produced by the Teide (A’a and Pahoehoe in this location). Then the tour continues with the visit itself and begins with a short trip by minibus to the cave area.

The guide shows different types of lava on the site and then we proceed with the visit of the cave using an old bridle path to get access to the cave.

Example of Pahoehoe lava – photo by author

The Cueva del Viento itself is a very large structure (the largest of its type in Europe) with a cumulative length of about 17 kilometers. Only 200 meters are open to visit.

Source : Information brochure from the website http://www.cuevadelviento.net/

The formation of the cave (or caves) dates back to a Pico Viejo eruptive episode about 27.000 years ago.


The visit allows to see many volcanic features related to lava tubes.

photo by author

Hard hats and spelunking type lights are supplied, there is no artificial lighting in the cave.

photo by author

Details from the tube’s ceiling with solidified drops of lava.

photo by author

Inside the tube – note the different heights of the floor showing different periods of the eruption with diminishing lava flowrates. The width of the canal is about 2,5 meters.

photo by author

A side tunnel – there are several lava tubes in this network. Note the texture of the floor, which is quite irregular and shows the lava flow when it cooled down and solidified.

photo by author

Two tubes converge.

photo by author

Here one can very clearly see different phases of the eruption with diminishing lava height.

photo by author

This is a fallen section of ceiling showing a Pahoehoe pattern. This shows the tunnel formation mechanism in which lava cools in surface and continues flowing underneath in the newly formed tunnel. Sometimes the ceiling falls after a time. In that case the event happened after the lava flow stopped in the tunnel. In the area there can be several layers of lava tubes all piled up a bit like tunnels for subway systems.

The visit finishes off with some time in the dark to feel the atmosphere of the cave (in which some specific fauna can be found). The visit finishes by a return to the visitor center by minibus looking at A’a type lava flows.

You can find all the information needed on the website. Some visits are in English, German, French or Spanish, depending on the day of the week.



As Inge B. mentioned, please note these posts about the Lanzarote lava tubes by ukviggen:

A Tube’s Tale: Part 1 – formation
A Tube’s Tale: Part 2 – strange creatures and the human touch

122 thoughts on “Tenerife – Journey inside a lava tube

      • I would guess that they do but it is not available on the public site. 😦

        But if anyone has the link … 😉

    • Erm, all I see is the remains of the last rise in tremor, check the date. Or are you getting a different picture to me. ??? a bit confused as for me that link hasn’t updated since the 7th march.

  1. @ Peter Cobbold.
    I’ve just perused the paper you linked on the last post…

    Click to access 1303.1845.pdf

    The authors are convinced aren’t they?
    But (IMHAO) they are “protesting too much” about the likely objections to thier conclusions…

    • They are convinced – but look at the last author – they would be!
      But only 3 out of 600 rocks submitted were (they claim) meteoritic, amongst bricks etc etc. And they collected samples on 29th January 2013 – and published in mid-March. That’s hasty to say the least.

      And its in a very poor quality journal with dubious refereeing – and judging by the speed of publication that was probably bypassed:
      “”Skeptical blogger and biologist PZ Myers said of the journal “… it isn’t a real science journal at all, but is the… website of a small group… obsessed with the idea of Hoyle and Wickramasinghe that life originated in outer space and simply rained down on Earth.”
      So it barely counts as science…

      Still, I hope independent studies are made. But doubt they will be – can’t be easy finding fresh meterorite samples in rice paddy.

    • Btw, no news of that mysterious Baltic Sea UDO (unidentified diving object)!?
      Doh, they are now busy hunting treasures in Panama. I guess that stone ship didn´t contain any precious metals or fancy alien technology to be exploited.

      • Haha, Love the ‘stone ship’. Just because a rock outcrop looked like a Star Trek ship they jump to incredible conclusions and waste loads of money. No wonder they are looking for new sponsors! 🙂 😀

  2. Nice post dfm! Lava tubes are really cool spaces and full of surprises. The only ones I have seen are on Lanzarote though there is meant to be a long one in Auckland as well, just it’s not open to the public. The one in Lanzarote that is open to the public (again, just a short stretch of it) was amazing and even had a stage and chairs set up for concerts:
    lava tube
    (kind of hard to see in the photo, as the photo’s pretty underexposed, but at least you get the atmosphere).

  3. While we’re on the topic of meteors and asteroids, has there been any further discussion about the relationship between large impact events and antipodal volcanism (most notably massive flood basalt eruptions)?

    I know it’s a major theory that the Deccan Traps in India were caused by the meteor that killed off the dinosaurs, and (they both occurred almost simultaneously and around the same age as the dinosaur extinction event, and at polar opposite ends of the earth). I’ve always subscribed to the belief that most extinction events are a product of a chain reaction of events that leaves the environment massively different in a geologically short time period, so it would make sense, although it certainly is not proof in any way.

    Also, one thing I recently learned about flood basalt events on continental margins is that they’re not entirely effusive even if their largest footprints are their basaltic lava flows. Any time you get that large of a heat source into constant contact with bedrock, you’ll be likely to get more violent eruptions as well as effusive eruptions.

      • There are papers that follow the track of these antipodal hotspots, over the millions of years, and many were formed by large collisions that left an eruption in both or either the impact site and the antipodal location.

        One paper I can’t remember now the name, recorded about 15 pairs of such impacts and antipodal hotspots.

        I am all into the model of antipodal hotspots and link to planetary impacts.

        • I guess the question then becomes, what are other ways in which flood basalt eruptions form?

          Most speculate the Columbia River Basalts were related to Yellowstone, so is yellowstone’s origin related to an impact event? Also, slightly OT, but I’ve always wondered why there would be flood basalt events from Yellowstone. Not counting the columbia river basalts, Yellowstone has had mostly explosive eruptions with some lava flows and dome building with mostly silica rich magma. The Columbia river basalts suggest something changed the yellowstone system dramatically as it moved further inland, but what would that be?

          • I think superplumes are the favored theory at the moment. Maybe Yellowstone is a baby superplume.. They burn their way through the crust or find a weak area of crust with an associated evolution from felsic to mafic magmas and then, as the hot stuff from deep in the earth actually makes its way to the surface, they just pour forth, flooding everything around… and they seem to take a couple of million years to do it (deccan traps anyone?) with multiple voluminous flood basalts erupting one on top of the other. At least that is how I have understood them so far. From what I can remember the antipodal meterorite theory falls down due to the chemical signatures of the flood basalts which indicate a really deep origin from the base of the mantle. (memory is not particularly good).

          • There is also a Large Igneous Provinces site that can be found here:


            Looks like better array of papers can be found at the larger mantleplumes site linked in my last though. I seem to remember Geolurking doing a post about antipodal impact sites and large igneous provinces some months ago. It should still be in the archives if I remember correctly. Cheers –

          • Finally as to your question about Chicxulub and its relationship to the Deccan Traps: that story may not be entirely over, as there is a large suspected impact structure off the west coast of India that some think to be contemporaneous with the Cretaceous impact. Do a search on Shiva impact structure or the Shiva crater. If true. the event may have been a multi-impact barrage not unlike 35 million years ago. One of several papers linked below. Cheers –

            Click to access chatterjee%20et%20al.%202006.pdf

  4. Good morning all… I had a Kindle for Christmas and was searching to see what books are available…. Amazing number of somewhat dubiously scientific ones available as well as a few good looking ones… This one , naughtily, made be giggle. I am not downloading it but it did remind me of those days when THE party was being discussed . Not that I am casting comment on anyone’s sexuality in here, or that I am at all bothered… It was just…. Well…. You Know….OK I will shut up.. : oops: before I go for coffee #2 (or is it 3?)

    Ahem! Now back to seriousness….
    dfm…… Thank you I really enjoyed your post. I would love to go down a Lava tube like that. Some fascinating features too. Aren’t they BIG?

    • Hi Diana. It is not a difficult walk, I would say anyone able to walk a little can do it. It is not very steep and the floor is about even albeit a bit rough. Good shoes needed (no sandals) and some jacket is welcome as the temperature is around 13°C.
      As for the width of the tube the floor is about 2,5 to 3 m wide in average and there are a few places where you need to bend a little but it is not spelunking, you walk all the time.

      The guide mentioned that volcanologists thought that the speed of lava could be as high as 20-30 km/h so it means that the lava flow could be in the range of 50 000 m3/h….for a half pipe [(2.5² * pi/8)*20000 m/h~50 000 m3/h ] – if my calculations are right….

    • Well sorry to disappoint you Chryphia there were only some spiders.. There are however some specific fauna (arthropods with no eyes) and some of the caves have been colonized by bats, dogs and the like. There found also some fossil of a giant lizard, bigger then the present one.

      on the picture the head is about 20 cm long, so I would not have liked to cross it in the cave….especially in the dark…
      Your link is quite cool by the way. I put it in my thesaurus….

        • No the dogs were “normal”, they just got there by accident and found a den. From memory there is something like 50 unique species of insects in the caves. Endemic of course.

    • Oops schteve, I should read the whole thread before I post!!! I just mentioned that Up above, ONLY one and a half hours after you!!!!!!! LOL

    • Oh NICE!. Now set as desktop background. many thanks. You also just reminded me that tonight is probably the best time for us in the UK to see it. IF it stays clear and cloudless.

      • I’d be sorely tempted to photoshop out that transmission tower, though.

        Spaceweather.com also has a nice gallery of user contributed aurora pictures that are sometimes big enough and clear enough for my favorite type of desktop background.

        • Couldn’t see Panstarrs yet in Iceland. Its often cloudy over the west horizon. But I have high hopes for the next few days, when the comet moves into darker skies.

        • It was very clear here.. and I have been spending sunsets driving into it, with it setting within the last few miles of my journey.

          Nary a PanStarrs… though I am seeing a pattern in the airliner traffic. Yesterday the stubby contrail was pointed off towards New Orleans. This evening it was pointed off towards Montgomery. Neither of them pointed in the correct direction to be the much hyped Pan Starrs.

        • Looked for PS for two hours last night from North Wales UK – clear, dark skies. Nothing visible. But three of Jupiter’s moons were clear, with 10x IS binocs.

    • I should have said this first: Thank you every one of you here for putting together all that knowledge in an understandable way, for all the fun and even entertainment – in general for always being here when I needed you.:)

  5. I was on Tenerife a couple of years ago for a week of “volcanising” followed by a week of SCUBAing. And an excellent holiday the wife and I had, despite her not being geological.
    We went on a trip organised by people who met through the Open University Geology Society (not actually an OUGS trip though), with the self explanatory title of “Volcanoes on A Shoestring” ; Google should find them for you. It’s not “commercial”, but the fees charged are very reasonable and cover the lecturer’s costs and organiser’s costs. Highly recommended. There are also “Suture on A Shoestring”, “Iapetus on A Shoestring” and other related themes. Recommended!

    • thanks i’ve had a look there are plenty if pictures. funnily enough the second picture is from a lava tube on the road from Chio going up to the natural park. I posted a pic of the same higher up in the thread….

  6. Hekla: there was one microquake exactly deep under Hekla some 30min ago. This could be something as earlier there were some changes in strain as pointed out by Diana.

    This could be business as usual (nothing at all) or preliminary signs to an eruption, anywhere within hours to a couple of weeks from now. Let’s wait and see.

  7. Good morning all. Especially welcome to Granyia and Cowboy Andre. ( hands Strong Colombian coffee to Cowboy andre to wake him up . I use this all the time. It’s good! When I win the lottery I will drink Jamaican Blue Mountain as it is best but far too expensive here!)
    Good morning irpsit too. I certainly am watching Hekla. The Hekla strain is still plummeting. Really we should see the strain steeply rising at Hekla and dropping rapidly at Burfell.. ( I think that is what Carl said ages ago). But normally Hekla stain has been rising compared to the up and down of Burfell and Sto. So for some reason at the moment Hekla is loosening her Knicker elastic, maybe just a case of belly ache. As Irpsit says, probably the usual minor indigestion rather than a prelude to vomiting.

    • That latest quake as well as the not quite so close one near Hekla the other day are both fairly deep ones I think. I do wonder if something is finally building there? Maybe the kettle is just simmering at the moment.

    • Hi Schtephanie,
      The link works, probably best for those with a decent computer, and a big screen…
      Nice selection of cams though 😀

      • Schteve, this page and the other five on that site have been made by a 60-year-old for a couple of 80-year-old parents, all with big glasses… and only published as a help when a webcam was needed quickly. Any help with making it more palatable for schmaller screens would be appreciated! There is an email address at the bottom… 😉

        • I think it’s fine as it is…
          No criticism intended…
          Even ifn I thought there was a problem; I am definatly not qualified to offer even a tentative solution…
          I do actually pass for an ninternet whizz in my local pub…
          My pal asked me today if he could post pictures ont web without them being easily traced back to him…
          (nothing weird) he was just paranoid bout the googleplex…
          I said; I’ve a few ideas…

  8. Hallo, love you love you love you alllll!!
    I’ve been coming to Erik’s, Jon’s, Volcano Cafe for a loooong time,
    I’m a lurker staying in the background and enjoying and gleaning from your feature posts and commenting. In fact, and I can hardly believe it, it’s been almost three years! (eruption of Eyjafjallajökull) Well I’m popping up to ask a juvenile question and would be thankful for even the simplest/shortest comment from anyone of you. Look at this pic. here;
    What’s up with Mount Fuji? or is this just something I’ve not noticed before, or maybe it’s just cloud? Thank-you in advance 🙂
    from a Volcano Cafe groupie. xo

    • Welcome 🙂

      Looks like low clouds close to the cam to me, but moving images would tell a better story in this case.

      Oh, and don’t forget to keep lurking all over the place, and especially here 😉 the more people, the more VolcanoCafe ‘knows’

  9. Oh thank-you El Nathan :*facepalm*
    Would you know, in general, does pre-eruption puffs of steaming/gassing (unlike post eruption) show any seismic monitor movement?

    • In the pre-eruptional phase, everything is under pressure and thus “puffs” normally result in some kind of measurable “stuff” like little quakes or tremor.

      • Thank-you GeoLoco! I feel embarrassed to ask such “elementary” question… but I just had to. Even after all this time since becoming a volcanophil (Redoubt’09) there are many basic things I still do not have a good grasp of. All you VC regulars sitting around the table are so knowdgeable and I am just one who’s pulled up a chair and is wide eyed and listening because I’m soooo fascinated by it all :).
        So would it be correct to say then that an episode of steaming (even a plume) alone does not mean an eruption is preparing to follow soon behind, or, that an inactive volcano necessarily is rousing? Okay that’s that!! Thank-you!! and long live the VolcanoCafe

        • It’s the very aim of this place to let everyone ask whatever the question, and it’s a special pleasure to help out for the basic ones. And look at how many comments are off topic, just for the fun of chatting with friends. So don’t stay in the dark, join the fun of active commenting.
          It really depends a lot on the context and which volcano we’re talking about. I loose my pants if you show me real steam coming out of Hekla, but I stay cool as ice if it’s I don’t know in which area where heat meets groundwater… Predictions are still tough, except maybe for some of the hills down there in Hawaii, where monitoring and knowledge are incredibly advanced. And it’s pretty cool to get excited. So when you see anything like a plume, use the excitement to dig for info and try to understand the context. Add seismic data, info from locals and the authorities and the prediction thriller can start…

        • I would like to caveat GeoLoco’s statement.

          Questions are fine. But running around thumping on some strange theory is a different story. That tends to invite a vociferous response, with charts and data and a beckoning of the claimant to show the proof in the data.

          Geoloco has the upper hand in things geologic. Me, I just plot stuff. (well, I used to just plot stuff… now days I just drive forever)

          • Forget everything about something like an upper hand in whatever.
            GeoLurking’s caveat is very correct.
            And right now I’m full of doubt – is it me that somehow made up some strange theory without even really noticing it? If yes I’m sorry, and if I understand what I should prove with data I could try. Although I don’t have a lot of presentable data for volcanic stuff. But I usually base any statement on something I once have found on “solid ground”, so that “ground elements” normally can be found and discussed.
            I have my academic education and work as a professional geologist, but in here I’m having fun and might act a bit “easy and light”, and am by far not as “scientifically clean” as guys like Lurking. I think that should be ok, but if this “easy and light” leads to spreading shit, then of course it’s not intended and I’m glad if someone sets things back on track.
            Please Lurking, just tell me if your comment was general or meant for me directly. In both cases your statement is correct. In the second I owe you an explanation, proof or apology.

          • Hello my friend,
            I’m very glad to read you again,
            I don’t for one second think that Geolurking’s comment was aimed at you 🙂
            The caveat is correct… I agree.
            The comment is aimed at the loons…
            Caveat: I may be wrong but I am confident in my conclusion. 🙂

          • The comment, with the exception of the “upper hand in geology” bit, is general. You are plugged into more related info than many of us.. meaning you have a wider range of experience to draw off of. This makes you a good candidate for sanity checking should one of our ideas skirts near the realm of stupid or implausible. Relating it to the fabled “sniff test”… you be the sniffer. If it doesn’t pass muster you tend to voice the problem, in which case I (or whoever) has to revisit how I (or they) came to that conclusion. I like the pressure of having to make sure that what I state isn’t fully bonkers.

            The general part refers to the occasional “moon caused the volcano” sort of thing that occasionally wanders in off of the street. In that instance I have gone as far and thrown gravitational data at the claimant. BTW, I still have that mondo huge spreadsheet of astronomical positions and earthquakes. Complete with failed correlation tests. I have been toying around with scraping it, but may toss it on a CD in case I need it in the future.

            • Thanks for answering.
              Phew. You know, I have build up a lot of respect for the crowd in here, and in general I respect intelligence as one of the pearls of humanity. And especially you are one shiny piece of an intelligent guy. So even if I call myself Loco in here, it would be a question of honor and self esteem to show you either my potential seriousness or the quality to admit it when I’m wrong if once I should tell something “weird”.

          • I have my own “loon” theories… but I usually don’t voice them unless I can bring some level of proof to justify the idea. If it gets shot down, I’m okay with that, as long as I can see why it’s a dubious idea.

  10. Overheard two patrolmen discussing the writing of an accident report today.

    The issue that they were trying to decide was why the report lacked a specification of the state statute that had been violated, and how to frame that in clear, logical language that made sense even to (presumably the most idiotic) lawyers. It seems that they couldn’t really cite the driver of the vehicle due to him being deceased, and they had no state statute that covered driving while dead. To me, that means that you can be dead and legally operate a motor vehicle… though that most likely will not facilitate your return to a non-dead status.. plus it may cause others to join you in your non-living status.

    (The driver had expired prior to leaving the roadway)

    This also probably means that Zombies can legally operate a motor vehicle.

  11. Good stuff here today-been running around like a chicken with my head cut off…
    Trying to keep from doing harm to a particular vendor of mine.. Bare hands strangulation
    come to mind….
    “You mean you wanted it TODAY?”
    That sort of thing…

    • I’m not driving. I welcome the relief, though I don’t want it to be a long term thing.

      What with the Dolphin Pods headed south and the oddball new set of quakes at the Queen Charlotte Islands, and the new hype article at the Daily Mail… I sort of want to be near my computer.

      Note for all, especially the transients. Make sure you recognize hype for what it is. Organizations such as the Daily Mail write their articles for the maximum scare they can generate. Scared people are attentive people. Page refreshes equal advertising revenue. Read and recognize articles for what they are.

      Is the Cascadia “overdue?” Only if Jackson Volcano is overdue… it’s been about 60 million years since it erupted. The Cascadia has an average return rate of about 400 years. Earthquakes, like volcanoes, don’t follow schedules. It goes when it goes and not a moment before, no matter how hard a reporter wishes for it.

  12. Hi all, I’ve been pondering Hekla, the strain count and how Diana commented on how they seem to be doing the opposite to those indications that an eruption could be on it’s way. I have a vague memory of Carl mentioning that the strain goes the opposite way (up at Burl, down Hek) when (and this is the fuzzy bit) it’s heading away from Hekla and (possbily) towards Torfajokull.

    Does anyone else remember this or can shed any light on exactly what is happening?

    • Not sure to remember every detail about what was discussed about that. But personally, when I’m interpreting stuff in a complex structure, I wait to see such a trend being confirmed about a longer period before I come to anything like a conclusion. I mean, stick strainmeters into porridge that contains oat-clusters and start interpreting the results… I’d say every trend has to be confirmed before I draw too wild pictures.
      Nevertheless, in the special case of Hekla, every slightest change in behavior could be a sign for something to come. Dammit! Know I’ll spend the entire weekend checking Hekla-stuff – again… 🙂

  13. For those of you who don’t know… Panama City is known for “Spring Break.” (as is most of Florida). What this entails, is that thousands of collage age students take time off from their studies and leisure activities and conduct an annual pilgrimage hear to celebrate, Aphrodite, and Apollo in a Dionysian haze. Well, If it were observed by an ancient Greek, that might be an interpretation.

    The first balcony fall of the season involved a guy from Tennessee trying to swat a SeaGull. That didn’t end well, though he was fortunate enough to live through the final phase of his three floor plunge to reality. I don’t think his beer made it. The seagull didn’t care too much to being swatted at, and using skills developed over thousands generations of scavenging, dodged the danger and left in search of other more convenient tidbits of tasty garbage or fish parts.

    A couple of hazards during this season, are the full on idiots out looking for a good time prowling the roadway in questionable levels of alertness, and in a true “predator-prey” relationship, traffic and law enforcement people. I was clocked at least five times in a 15 mile stretch of road yesterday. Like the good little road citizen that I claim to be, I was following the rules and not speeding or being an arse hat. I always try to stay close enough to the posted limit to where I can slip back to it quickly with no brake action in the oft chance that I get looked at. And mind my Ps and Qs especially closely in areas where I know they like to run their speed detection devices. Ideally, I don’t want to be in the line of fire of a radar gun if there is some bozo gaining on my much faster than the posted limit. LE is trained in proper usage of them, but from experience, I know that it is quite possible for the fast gaining idiots speed to be attributed to the closer target. Though I have 20+ years of experience in working with radar and knowing it’s vagaries, I don’t think I’m ready to try and stand up there in front of a Judge, arguing the issue. So, I watch my arse. If I’m lucky, I can see one of them obliviously drive into the speed trap and catch the light show. (Such a pretty shade of blue and red.)

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