This is a hard but magical loop of Mount Teide; cycling doesn't get much better than this. Not only does the circuit take in the famous ascent from Granadilla and Vilaflor, it takes you through Teide's lava fields and then through the little ridden Eastern coast of Tenerife. You're on excellent roads and the views are staggering.
If we could only do one ride on Tenerife, this would be it.
Route map and profile
Distance: 142 km
Elevation Gain: 3,360 m
Max Grade: 14 %
All metrics in this guide are approximate
The steady climb of the lower section of the TF-21 from Granadilla (650m) to Vilaflor, the highest village of Tenerife at 1,400m. It's less steep and there's more oxygen than the more famous, busier section of the road above Vilaflor. As you wind up the hillside, the hairpins give mesmerising views of the southern tip of Tenerife.
Descent of the TF-523 into Arafo. An incredible, quiet, perfect road of endless hairpins over 20km. Starting in pine forests, it opens up into sweeping views of the coast.
1. Granadilla to Teide cable car station: 0-39.5 km
- You head out of Granadilla on the TF-21. After Cruz de Tea the road enters the forest on a winding climb to Vilaflor and this is where you get those sweeping views we mentioned in the Highlights, of the southern tip of the Island.
After Vilaflor, the air gets thinner and the road gets steeper, with average gradients of 6-7%. A favourite of Bradley Wiggins, the road rises steeply and relentlessly around the west of the mountain. The crest of the climb is anonymous, but the forest landscape transforms to lava fields as you coast down to Boca Tauce and the junction of the TF-38.
The section of the TF-21 between Boca Tauce and El Portillo is an epic blast through the lunar lava fields, within the crater of the volcano, with Mount Teide towering beside you. If you’re unlucky, the fierce winds will stall you to a fast walking pace. Beware the crosswinds - a blustery day on Mt Teide is not the place for your 80mm carbon rims!
You pass the Parador Cañadas del Teide Hotel, widely used by a range of professional riders and teams, including Sky. The road peaks about 4 km further on at around 2,300m at the Mount Teide cable car station.
2. Teide Cable Car Station to Güímar: 39.5-92 km
- At the visitor centre at El Portillo, take a right on the TF-24. If you thought the climbing was over, think again! The road rises between straight in front of you, and onwards up to Teide Observatory.
- After this, the long and welcome descent commences.
On your left, sweeping vistas appear of the north coast around Puerto de la Cruz and Orotava.
You descend on a magical, peaceful forest road, before reaching the nondescript turning to Arafo/Güímar.
The TF-523 is unforgettable. Over 20km of grin-inducing, sinuous, endless descent. As you tuck in, shift your weight through the turns and delicately feather the brakes, the south east coast comes into full view and you pass Arafo and into Güímar. If you want to stretch your back and rest, Güímar has plenty of options.
3. Guimar to Granadilla: 92-142 km
Now the home straight - but it’s a long one!
The navigation is easy - you follow the TF-28 all the way back to Granadilla. While it’s hard to beat the majestic, rugged, high altitude landscape of Mount Teide, this road is a cyclist's dream. Never rising too long or too steeply, this 40 km stretch provides endless vertigo-inducing turns into rocky valleys and through hillside villages. The thigh-high tombstones lining the ravine add to the thrill, perfectly configured to punish any reckless riding or poor handling with a catapult into the ravine...
You can take your time and enjoy the views along the south east coastline knowing that there is no serious climbing to come, before cruising into Granadilla to complete your loop.
Granadilla and Vilaflor both have restaurants and are attractive little villages.
There are also several places you can get food and drink along the road between Boca Tauce and El Portillo - and you are likely to need something after that climb! The options include the famous haunt of pro cycling teams, the Parador Cañadas del Teide, and the cable car station.
Once you're cruising back on the TF-28, you skirt in and out of lots of small towns and villages with places you could stop. Güímar has some good options (and there's also the famous Pyramids of Güímar if you've got any energy for a tourist stop). Arico Viejo is another attractive option.
We stayed at Be Live Playa La Arena, which is a 45 minute drive to Granadilla.
Alternatively, our best towns for cyclists article should help you narrow down the area of Tenerife that's best for you.
The temperature at the top of Mount Teide is often significantly colder than at sea level. At the very least, take arm warmers, thin gloves and a windproof jacket. Take more layers if the weather is uncertain.
The crater can also be windy: leave the deep sections at home.
Be prepared for the fact there's less oxygen: you may find that the thinner air disrupts your usual breathing pattern.
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