The mountain shelter known as El Refugio de Alta Montaña Altavista del Teide originated as lodging for researchers and scientists. The astronomers George Glas and Robert Edward Alison left evidence of their interest in Altavista but it was the Scottish astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth who built the first hut there in the summer of 1856. In 1891 the English natural scientist and photographer George Graham Toler decided to improve the shelter in view of the harsh overnight conditions. It has been a benchmark for natural science and cosmological research and observation ever since.
The excellent conditions of the island of Tenerife for astronomical and atmospheric studies were already evident in the 18th century, when it was considered an ideal spot for scientific research due to the quality of the night sky and the possibility of making observations at high altitude under favourable climatic conditions. The clarity of the sky in Tenerife and the Canary Islands in general was highlighted especially by foreign scientists who, during scientific expeditions or in transit through the islands, took advantage of their stay to ascend Teide and make all kinds of measurements and observations.
One of these scientists was the Scottish astronomer Charles Piazzi Smyth. In 1856 he established his base in the area to carry out observations during an entire fortnight. For this reason he ordered a small shelter with two metre-high stone walls, divided into four rooms. His instruments and other campaign facilities were installed inside.
Years later in the autumn of 1891 George Graham Toler, drawn by his interest in natural science and photography, climbed to the summit of Teide on various occasions. After experiencing the harsh conditions of spending the night at the summit he decided to improve the precarious construction of Piazzi Smith's hut. He added masonry foundations, paved floors and a new roof. The shelter then consisted of a small living room with an iron stove and an independent building with three dormitories: one for the ladies, one for the gentlemen and another for the animals and guides. The roof was made of masonry and the bathroom, separated from the rest by around ten metres, was a in a small outbuilding. On 30 May 1926 Graham Toler offered the shelter to the Orotava Town Council, which accepted the donation in a plenary session on 4 July 1927. Thanks to the first building at Altavista, tourists ascending Tenerife have a place to take shelter and relax.
The Island Council (Cabildo) of Tenerife took over the premises in 1970 and carried out the most recent major refurbishing works in 2007.