Dream routes: Tenerife
Omnibus Magazine

Dream routes: Tenerife

Fantastic views.

Due to its spectacular course through breathtaking mountain landscapes, the small TF 436 road in north-west Tenerife is one of the most scenic routes in Europe that can be driven by an omnibus – even if only with mini and midibuses.

The Mercedes-Benz Sprinter Travel driven by Orlando Santos González would not be able to be any longer or wider. Just the third hairpin bend is so tight that the experienced bus driver has to reverse the 19-seater in order not to scrape along the rock face. He and his colleague “Tito” Acosta Hernández in the luxury minibus driving directly behind us routinely circle through the bends on the narrow road and, whilst doing so, exude a calmness that is only found among bus drivers with decades of experience. We are travelling along one of the most spectacular routes that you can drive with a bus: the TF 436 from Santiago del Teide to the little village of Masca on the western end of the Canary Island of Tenerife.

Facts.

  • 5,3 km
  • 13 hairpins
  • 96 bends
  • Up to 20 % incline

“When I started as a bus driver 39 years ago, this road didn’t exist”, Orlando explains. Until 1960 the farming village of Masca, between the sea and the craggy peaks of the 1,300-metre-plus Teno mountains, was only connected to the outside world by a donkey track.

Today the route is 22 kilometres long and continues through the mountains as far as Buenavista del Norte on the north-western tip of the island.

Dream routes Tenerife Tourismo

The narrow road is just wide enough for the Sprinter Travel minibuses. After each bend, new, breathtaking views are revealed.

“No journey goes by without the passengers holding their breath.”

Orlando Santos González, bus driver

Yet the most beautiful and spectacular section can be found on the original village link between Santiago del Teide and Masca. This part measures just five kilometres – and nevertheless you can easily plan an hour to drive it. This section is so demanding for the drivers, so exciting, indeed breathtaking for the passengers, that it is now one of the most popular tourist destinations in Tenerife.

Nearly every day, Tito, Orlando and their bus driver colleagues from Pérez y Cairós, one of the leading bus companies in Tenerife, drive over the pass to Masca. Time and time again, the passengers – mostly tourist groups and day trippers – witness overwhelming views of bizarre rock formations, of the sea 1,000 metres below and of the road’s spectacular course, which closely hugs the steep lava slopes in 13 hairpins and almost another 100 bends. The longest stretch of straight road barely measures more than 50 metres. Mostly less than four metres wide, there are only a few passing points where buses can get past each other without any danger.

Dream routes Tenerife Tourismo

The tight section full of bends to the village of Masca causes drivers to sweat and passengers to gaze in wonder. Until 40 years ago there was only a donkey track here.

“No journey goes by without the passengers really holding their breath”, says Orlando grinning. Always in particular when a bus comes in the other direction and he has to manoeuvre his Sprinter Travel within a hair’s breadth of the rock face or the abyss. Although there is officially no speed limit on the TF 436, hardly anybody dares to drive faster than 30 km/h here. As a result, we too take one bend after the other at a rather sedate pace. We do not get above second gear, either when the 95 kW (129 HP) Euro VI four-cylinder engine is driving the Sprinter Travel up the inclines of up to 20 per cent, or going downhill, when Orlando skilfully varies the speed with the retarder lever.

Suddenly we witness another phenomenon, which gives the road to Masca its charm and at the same time poses a further challenge to the bus drivers: where the sun was just bathing the rocky landscape in searing light, within minutes thick clouds are concealing the view. “That won’t last long”, says Orlando in a calming voice. “There is always wind here on the island and it drives the clouds away just as quickly as it brought them.” And indeed: just a few minutes later we are enjoying the view of the snow-covered Teide volcano, at 3,179 metres the highest mountain in Spain, from the pass above Masca. For this view alone, the breathtaking journey along the TF 436 to Masca was worthwhile.

Dream routes Tenerife Tourismo
Dream routes Tenerife Map

Pérez y Cairós.

The family-run business founded in 1969 is today managed in its second generation by José Pérez (50) and, with 60 touring coaches, 50 minibuses and around 800,000 passengers a year, is one of the three largest bus companies in Tenerife. Pérez values quality, environmental friendliness and acting with social responsibility. This is expressed in the fleet, for example, which is made up largely of environmentally friendly Euro V and Euro VI vehicles. In addition, most of his vehicles are equipped with lifts and wheelchair spaces for transporting people with limited mobility. Besides operating numerous vehicles based on Mercedes-Benz, Pérez y Cairós is the only bus company in Spain to also have three Sprinter Travel minibuses from German production. Due to their efficiency, as Pérez says: “The cost-effectiveness of the Mercedes-Benz buses is so much better than those made by the Spanish constructors.” That is why Pérez soon intends to reinforce his fleet with more Mercedes-Benz Tourismo coaches.