Our First Stop in the Canary Islands Was On Lanzarote
We got our first introduction to the volcanic islands of the Atlantic Ocean on our day in Cape Verde. Three days in the Canary Islands let us get another range of impressions for this volcanic archipelago. The first stop gave us a stunning view of the colours of Lanzarote. The houses were all white, the volcanic earth was black and the coral reef waters around the island were so blue. This was just a small part of our delight with this first of the Canary Islands.
A few facts about the Canary Islands …
The Canary Islands are an archipelago of volcano islands. There are still active volcanos on the islands with the 5th most active volcano in the world on Tenerife (Teide Peak).
The Romans learned of the islands and called them The Fortunate Isles (even though they never visited). In 999 the Arabs landed and traded on Grand Canaria. The original Guanche inhabitants are now extinct. In 1479 Portugal recognized Spanish ownership of these islands. Today they belong to Spain but manage themselves politically.
The 7 Canary Islands are named after canes (dogs) for the multitude of prairie dogs that were found on the islands. The Canary dog is a one owner dog. It can be more aggressive than pit bulls. It was a favourite companion of the Conquistadors.
See what did we find on Lanzarote Island …
Driving Around Lanzerote
It was a long day touring to see the colours of Lanzarote. We had several specific stops planned but the entire drive gave us so much to see.
The first thing that was immediately apparent was the white houses. Historically, houses were painted white because there was lots of chalk produced on the island. Many of the houses were created in the original style, starting with a cube with a pyramid on top. The house expanded from there. White was one of the colours of Lanzarote that stood out! Chimneys typically determined the wealth of the owners. There is no native wood on the island and only those who could afford to import wood would have a large chimney. The chimneys often were creative and distinctive.
The black volcanic earth was everywhere in the gardens. This was a great base for creating Malvasia white wine. Lanzarote was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1993, the same year it was accorded wine status. As we moved through the valley we could see vineyards on both sides of the road. Vines were planted in semi-circular stone alcoves. The alcoves were situated to protect the plants from the steady trade winds.
The next interesting thing that was pointed out was the large camel attractions. We had our first experience with camels when we were in Dubai for New Years. As we passed the camel attractions early in the morning, we could see that the parking lot was already full. People lined up to ride a camel around a small circle. We were glad this was not on our tour!
Entering Timanfaya National Park
We knew we were approaching the national park when we saw the monkey signs. Entry to the park is gated. A one-way narrow road runs through the park. People were allowed to enter as others left. We arrived quite early so our wait was pretty short.
The road twisted and turned through the national park. On all sides we could see the lava fields stretching as far as the eye could see.
We could see sharp lava deposits and the smooth magma flows . Black and red were definitely the colours of Lanzarote! We saw great examples of lava flows again when we visited Pico Island in the Azores later in this trip.
In places we could see some colourful hearty plants taking root in the lava. These were apparently imported from the Sahara Dessert but were now spreading like weeds.
The road wound its way around many volcanic attractions for us to see. There were caverns, ridges of volcanos and large calderas.
In many places we got the most amazing panoramic views. The colours of the earth went from black to green to red. The variation in the colour reminded me very much of views of the Grand Canyon.
A Volcanic Display
Our first stop in the Timanfaya National Park was at the UFO-looking building. Cars, buses and little tour cars were lined up to get in or parked where they stopped. This stop provided a demonstration of the heat still in the volcanic field. The greatest eruptions happened in the 1730’s but core temperatures still range from 100 to 600°C (212 to 1,112 °F) at the depth of only 13 metres (43 ft),
We got a chance to get a vast panoramic view. Far on the horizon we could see the sea. The red and black colours of Lanzarote were seen in the lava fields.
We then rotated through a series of demonstrations. At the first stop, we were provided with some small stones from the earth. We were amazed at how hot they were. We bounced them from hand to hand to keep from getting burned.
At the second stop, the heat in the earth was demonstrated with fire. Dry bush was put in a deep hole. This immediately burst into flame.
At the final stop, we got a simulation of a geyser. Around the area there were deep holes dug into the ground. A bucket of water was thrown down the hole and a geyser immediately spouted.
The Timanfaya Visitor Centre
Before we left the park we stopped at the Timanfaya Visitor Centre. There were a number of educational displays talking about the volcanic fields.
We were taken down into a bubble in the cooled lava. In this cavern we could see the lava on the side. A light display was provided while we listened to an audio clip of the sound of a volcano erupting. It would have been quite effective when they used to also shake the floor. We saw a much more impressive volcano museum display later in our trip when we visited Faial Island in the Azores!
We had some time to walk around the display and take more pictures close up of the lava.
Art and Lunch
Throughout our tour, the guide continued to point out examples of the art of César Manrique. Manrique had been a major force in the development practices on Lanzarote before his death. He lobbied for development of “sympathetic tourism” – no high rise hotels. His art was everywhere.
We were lucky to have lunch at a place that had a major piece of Manrique’s work. The 15 metre sculpture of ‘Fecundidad’ or ‘Fertility’ dominated the scenery. It was constructed in 1968 by Jésus Soto from old water tanks following Manrique’s design. The sculpture sits on top of rocks left by the last volcanic activity. It looked different as you moved about and saw it from different sides.
Casa Meseo Al Campesino is both a museum and a restaurant. It is a celebration of Lanzarote’s rural past. As we entered the grounds for our lunch break, we stopped continually to take in the beauty of this property.
Lunch was served in a massive below-ground facility. We got a good taste of local volcanic Malvasia white wine. The lunch started with a great antipasto platter that included the islands’ award winning goat cheese. The lunch was plentiful and flavourful. We had been enjoying great food onboard our cruise, so this group was discerning. But everyone left the table with empty plates.
Walking through the grotto and up a circular staircase up we found a vast set of gardens. There was an interesting display of cactus mixed with flowering plants. Green was one of the colours of Lanzarote at this stop!
We spent over 2 hours at this interesting property. We were so late leaving that we had to pass on a visit to a winery. It was a good thing that we had tasted good wine with lunch. But many were disappointed that they would not have a wine shopping experience.
Panoramic Views From Mirador Del Rio
We headed to the north end of the island. Some people took the opportunity to nap. Our very energetic guide continued his lessons on history and geology as we went. The volcanos we saw on the north end of the island had pushed up through the vast plains.
We drove up and up on a gentle slope. But once we hit the top, we needed to come back down. We have travelled on some interesting switchback roads but this will need to be added to the list of awesome roads. The road down really was only wide enough for one vehicle. If a few spots you could pull over if a vehicle came in the other direction. Our big bus left little room for passing.
When we hit the bottom we saw the picturesque town of Haria. The bus again had to navigate narrow roads to pass through the town. Soon after the town we turned into the Mirador Del Rio.
At the Mirador Del Rio, we entered through the restaurant and got our first glimpse of the panoramic view through the windows. If you looked back in at the restaurant when you went outside, it looked like the windows were eyes looking out at the view. Artistic design was everywhere in Lanzarote.
Moving to the walkway, we could see the bays far below. The water was a stunning blue colour. Deep blue was definitely one of the colours of Lanzarote! Looking in the other direction we could catch the lava creating a colourful contrast.
Grottos at Jameos Del Aqua
Travelling along the coast we arrived at Jameos Del Aqua. The artwork welcomed us.
The guide set expectations before we left the bus. There were a large number of uneven lava steps to get down to the grotto. And then a great number of steps to walk back up after you walked through two caverns. It was not the right thing for all of the people on our bus. He did not prepare us for the fact that the tide was up and we needed to take off our shoes and roll up our pants as we walked through the grotto.
We were not missing this stop. We slowly made our way down and caught our first view of the grotto area. “Jameos” refers to the large opening created in a lava tube when it collapses. Jameos Del Aqua is part of a lava tube about 7km long formed by the Malpais De La Corona volcano. This was the grotto area we walked through.
David kept his eyes peeled on the water but never did see the albino crabs that are in the water. We never even saw someone pointing out crabs. We took off our shoes and waded through the calf-high water to the other side. At points the sharp and slippery lava path made walking tricky. It was probably a good thing I didn’t see the crabs!
There were several levels as we climbed out. At each point you could look down. On one level there was a large blue pool. We were not sure if this was a swimming pool. The ground was terraced and filled with plants. Truly a peaceful spot to end the day.
On the way out, there was a small area that provided more information about the volcanic formation of this grotto. You could not leave without passing through the gift shop. We were tempted to buy the local finishing salt. But with 8 more weeks of travel, we really did not want to be carrying extra things.
A Great View of The Colours Of Lanzarote
We were so pleasantly surprised by our visit to Lanzarote. The tour sites were much more stunning than we expected. The colours of Lanzarote were displayed everywhere we went. The day on Lanzarote just increased our anticipation for the next Canary Island stops. La Palma was so different from Lanzarote. And then Tenerife was a distinct contrast in experience!
While we saw a lot on our tour, the guide pointed out a number of other things that should be done on a return visit. A visit to the César Manrique museum will definitely be on our list. While we saw some of Manrique’s art as we travelled, there was so much more to see. His Cactus Gardens were also supposed to be a whimsical delight.
Have you seen the colours of Lanzarote? What was your favourite thing to do? What colour stands out in your mind from your visit to Lanzarote?