When driving across the Teide mountain range on Tenerife, visitors will mostly see nature, beautiful views, and a tiny building here and there. This almost monotonous nature and beauty are interrupted about two-thirds along the way from the south to the north, where suddenly the horizon fills up with strange, futuristic-looking white structures. These buildings are part of Teide Observatory.
Inaugurated in 1964, this was the place to study if you were an astronomer on the Canaries. However, the site became less and less useful for astronomers as time progressed, as the towns and cities around the mountain expanded and grew. This new growth also brought along so much light pollution that the observatory was almost useless during nighttime work. Astronomers moved to the Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory in La Palma instead, all but abandoning this excellent site.
In the 1980s it was decided that the old observatory was too valuable to abandon. To combat light pollution, the observatory was used almost exclusively during the daytime. The first solar telescope was completed in 1989 and was known as the Vacuum Tower Telescope (VTT) and others soon followed.
Today, the site hosts dozens of solar telescopes of various sizes. Some are old and abandoned, others equipt with hyper-modern instruments used for cutting-edge research. Recently, smaller night-time telescopes have returned to the observatory focusing on research not impacted by light pollution.
Know Before You Go
The site is not openly accessible, but tours are organized from time to time. Check the options here. If you know any of the astronomers at the mountain, then they can also help you get in.
If you are just driving by, feel free to stop at the parking right in front of the gate and marvel at the telescopes from a slight distance.