No holiday, in my book, is complete unless I explore the area I am in and try to learn as much about my surroundings as possible. That’s why I joined the Lanzarote Uncovered tour and spent a day travelling around the island seeing as much as I possibly could. I saw a lot so I need to break the information into more than one post, here I focus on the beautiful Timanfaya National Park. In fact I liked it so much I returned a second time with Paul and the girls.
Timanfaya National Park
Timanfaya National Park is the centre of the volcanic activity that extended the island’s area during the eruptions that took place between 1730 and 1736. The Fire Mountains, a collection of more than 100 volcanoes, rose up and devastated the south west part of the island of Lanzarote, six villages were destroyed and the island was almost completely deserted by its inhabitants.
Because there is very little rainfall in Lanzarote the landscape appears much the same as it did just after the eruptions, it has been used for filming locations for Planet of the Apes and many more films and in 1968 it was declared a national park.
As we were travelling through the rocky landscape towards the entrance to the park I could see the extent of the eruptions running miles from the volcanoes down to the sea. Our guide pointed out the plant-life starting to take shape in the form of lichens and slowly other plants are starting to find some form of nutrients in the rock and surviving.
The tour of the park starts at the area where El Diablo restaurant is built and you are shown three mind-blowing experiments to show that the volcanoes are still very much alive today albeit ‘sleeping’.
The first experiment is to show you how hot the area is is, one of the park wardens takes a shovel of stones from a pile, he only digs about 15 – 20 cms deep and then offers a handful of stones to each visitor. Just one stone for the little people ;)
First Timanfaya experiment
He placed a handful of deep red stones in my hand and moved on to the next in line, the stones were hot enough to make me shuffle them from one hand to the other to avoid being burnt. I was amazed at how hot they were and listened to our guide tell us that by digging just a metre or two down the stones reached a temperature between 400°C and 600°C
Second Timanfaya experiment
The second experiment saw us all stand around a gaping hole in the ground, you could feel the heat coming out of it and around the edge were some dry bushes. This time a second park warden took a bunch of dried bush with a long pole and held it against the black rock towards the top of the hole. At first nothing but then we saw smoke coming from the bush, we waited a short while longer and the bush caught alight into huge flames.
Third Timanfaya experiment
The third experiment takes place outside the windows of El Diablo restaurant where metal cylinders are protruding from the ground. Our guide makes us all stand back and explains that the park warden will tip some water into one of the cylinders, he’ll wait a moment and then tip the rest of the bucket in.
We stood and watched as the warden carried out his experiment and every single one of us jumped as the cylinder shot out steam high into the air seconds later, a mini geyser. I caught it on video and you can see where I jump at the end :)
El Diablo is the symbol of Timanfaya National Park (see top picture), created by Cesar Manrique it is also the name given to the stunning restaurant at the top of the volcano, a restaurant with floor to ceiling glass windows that look out over the Fire Mountains and beyond. You can eat food cooked on the open pit which draws heat from the volcano, take in the spectacular views of craters and watch the sun go down in one of the most stunning sunsets you will ever see.
La Ruta de los Volcanos
If you thought the experiments were gobsmacking the next part of the Timanfaya tour is even more amazing; as it is not possible to wander freely around the volcanoes everyone is taken by coach for a tour along the road that has been carved out of the rock, a one way route that travels up and down the craters and volcanoes taking in some spectacular views and some awesome geological facts along the way. As you drive along the route you listen to an audio commentary including excerpts from the diary of a local priest who was witness to the devastating eruptions in the 1700’s. It also has some eerie music to match the moonlike landscape and our Alice thought it a bit too much and was a bit scared.
Another place to visit whilst in the south of Lanzarote is the fishing village of El Golfo or Charco de los Clicos as it’s also known. Here you can find a volcano crater next to the sea that over time has been half eroded and filled with sea water that has filtered through the black sand creating an emerald green lagoon, separated from the sea by a strip of black sand.
Here from high on the rock you get a fabulous view of the green lagoon coloured naturally by the algae living in the water. Bathing is forbidden both in the lagoon and the sea as it is dangerous and rough but you can watch the fishing boats leave the shore for their daily catch and I am told by Oliver our guide that there are some exceptionally good fish restaurants in the village.
We were also told that the green semi precious stone Olivine is found at this bay. The black sand is littered with this ‘poor man’s emerald’ and black lava rocks contain fragments of it too.
The last stop we visited was Los Hervideros, the name literally means the boiling waters and it is the area where the molten lava flowed down until it came into contact with the sea. A series of caves and blow holes have been eroded into the black rock by the sea making for a stunning coastline. The sea is also very rough and the area is frequently windy so it is common to see waves crashing spectacularly against the black smooth rock which has been softened by the waves over time. There is a pathway to follow around the cliff edge where you can peek down into holes and watch the sea crashing below.
Yes, vineyards grown from the volcanic soil, how could I not finish a post without at least one photo!
There are about 6 different wines grown in the volcanic soil of Lanzarote in a spot near to Yazia close to Timanfaya National Park, the vines are planted low down and to protect them from the winds walls are built in a semi circle around them. As there is very little rain in Lanzarote, the farmers use the black volcanic pebbles around the plants and over the earth as it attracts and holds the moisture therefore the plants have a constant water supply and can flourish well in the fertile soil beneath.
Each vine is looked after by hand and because of this the guides tell us there aren’t many young people who wish to continue working in this sector but the wine is delicious and I would truly recommend it.