Established as a National Park in 1974 to protect the beauty of this fascinating volcanic landscape, Timanfaya should be on every Lanzarote holidaymaker's list! The park's permiter stretches 30km and consists of an area of 51 km, and the park is extremely accessible to visitors, either by hire car or a highly recommended Grand Tour excursion taking in Timanfaya. Grand Tour excursions by coach to Timanfaya are definitely a good idea in the peak summer season as Timanfaya gets pretty crowded and the organised coach tours get preferential treatment, including jumping the queue at the entrance past the hire cars and taking the Ruta de los Volcanes starting at Islote de Hilario on your own coach rather than the organised yellow ones! meaning you can get up close to Lanzarote's Montanas del Fuego (Mountains of Fire).
Visitors can get really up close to Lanzarote's Montanas del Fuego (Mountains of Fire). Expect to be wowed by a luna like landscape with dramatic volcanic cones, extensive remains of lava flow or Malpais (bad lands) and little evidence of plant or wild life here, except a few struggling and hardy lichens, the Timanfaya seed endemic to Lanzarote and the park and just a few other species of hardy flora. Likewise on fauna you're only likely to see terrestrial vertebrates at Timanfaya including the Atlantic Lizard and Canary Island Wall Gecko. Birds you may spot include Egyptian Vultures, Cory's Shearwater and the Rock Dove. It's well worth visiting the Mancha Blanca Visitors Centre prior to entering the park for comprehensive information in all languages on how the park was formed and more detailed information on flora and forna you're likely to see.
Once at Islote de Hilario and adjacent Cesar Manrique designed Restaurant del Diablo you'll discover there's still some activity going on not that far under the ground as you'll gather from the fun demonstrations at Islote de Hilario such as burning brush thrown into holes just a few feet deep, and water thrown in and explosing upwards like an exploding champagne cork - it's a well run show indeed. High surface temperatures still remain up here, and temperatures as high as 610 degrees centigrade are still recorded underground at around 4-5km. Part of the show involves a few small pebbles being placed in your hand, and you won't be holding onto them for too long!
Timanfaya is the result of two violent volcanic upheavals which took place relatively recently, firstly in 1730 - this one lasted six years until 1736, and later in 1824 which resulted in the formation of several new cones including Tao, Tinguaton and the New Fire Volcano otherwise known as El Chinero. Prior to the 1730 erruptions a mass evacuation occured from neighbouring villages such as Yaiza, except of course the renowned priest Andres Lorenzo Curbelo who lived in Yaiza and refused to move from his home - fortunately he left an eye witness account, and the remains of his house can still be seen in Yaiza (usually pointed out on organised excursions by coach to Timanfaya). Yaiza by some fluke of nature survived the six years of eruptions but other villages in the area were ruined.
Museum Information Centre, Echadero de los Camellos, Ctra. LZ 67, km 4, 35570, Yaiza, Lanzarote. Park Offices, C/La Laguneta, 85, 35560 Tinajo, Lanzarote. Tel 928 84 02 38.
National Park Timanfaya, Mancha Blanca Visitors Centre, Ctra. De Yaiza a Tinajo (LZ 67), km 11.5, 35560, Tinajo, Lanzarote. Tel. 928 84 08 39.
If you hook into only one excursion whilst on holiday in Lanzarote then Timanfaya is certainly the one to choose, although excursion wise Lanzarote tops the Canary Island charts for interesting day trips, including other favourites such as the Manrique Foundacion (Manrique's former lava cave home), the Manrique designed Cactus Garden or a day trip to the northern island of La Graciosa leaving from Orzola. Visitors to Timanfaya can choose between making it their independently in a hire car or, highly recommended in the peak summer season (although Timanfaya is always busy) is to book yourself on a guided tour.
One of the best tours to take in Timanfaya in the Grand Tour coach excursion of the island. Highly well organised by Lutons Travel (book via your Hotel Beds Representative), the Grand Tour includes a comprehensive guide in several languages. In peak season long queues from at the entrance to Timanfaya, but organised tours such as the Grand Tour usually hop to the front of the queue and you can now stay in your own coach for the Ruta de los Volcanes. As well as the Timanfaya visit the Grand Tour takes in the whole of the island in one day - it doesn't visit all possible attractions available in Lanzarote but it comes close. The one we hooked into took in Timanfaya and the Mountains of Fire, El Golfo and the Salinas de Janubio salt pans, wine tasting at Campesino, views from the coach of Yaiza, Haria and Manrique's last house, the Camel Station at Timanfaya, a visit to the spectacular Manrique designed Jameos del Agua and finally the Mirador de Haria. If you want a real flavour of the island, with excellent and knowledgeable guidance and information then the Grand Tour is for you!
Alternatively you can access the park in your hire car and take one of the yellow/tan coloured buses which run hourly around the Volcano route. This approximately 40 minute journey is simply spectacular.
Montanas del Fuego (Mountains of Fire) visiting hours are from 9am to 17.45pm, with the last guide bus tour at 17.00pm. The Manrique designed restaurant is open from 12 noon to 15.50pm, and the bar is open from 9am to 16.45pm. The restaurant offers spectacular views of the Timanfaya volcano route - a real treat. Also on-site is a natural oven (see photos left), a souvenir sop and parking. Retaurant Tel: 928 17 31 05, General enquiries Tel: 928 84 00 57.
Many of the Grand Tour (or half day tour excursions) on Lanzarote take in El Golfo views on the western side of Lanzarote. This side of the Lanzarote coast is dramatic and rocky indeed, with volcanic rock formations and features that are truly astounding - this is the area closest to the erupting volcanoes of Timanfaya between 1730 and 1736. El Golfo itself has a naturally formed amphitheatre which opens out into the sea - it's a sight to behold and unmissible!
A lagoon fills the base of the natural amphitheatre's crator and has a haunting green colour, brought about by the algae that populate it. No bathing allowed in the lake - it's an official nature reserve now, but their is a beautiful adjacent black sand beach. Near to this spectacular natural feature is the pretty village of El Golfo - all well worth a visit either with hire car Lanzarote or on one of the Lanzarote exursions/tours. (see the tours section for details).
Just south of El Golfo are the Salinas del Janubio salt mines - still in use. There's an adjacent cafŽ which affords good views of these historic saltmines on Lanzarote - a good source of income for local residents through the years, although less used now than in the past. Some of the Lanzarote coach tours visit this cafe as their first stop before heading off to the Volcano route and Timanfaya, as well as taking in the El Golfo natural amphitheatre and lagoon.
There are a number of Miradors or lookout points on Lanzarote offering visitors excellent opportunities for stunning views of this Canary Island. One of the best is the 1973 Manrique designed Mirador del Rio. You're 480 metres above sea level here, and this Mirador sits a-top of the Famara massif, offering stunning views across to La Graciosa island and beyond.
As well as a stunning lookout point, Mirador Del Rio is a cultural centre for art, designed by Cesar Manrique. Originally it was an old military artillery base called Bateria del Rio. Lanzarote's invasion days are over now, so it serves as a lookout point and cultural centre for tourists. Phoenician and Roman ships once saild through the inlet between Lanzarote and La Graciosa - they stopped to get drinking water from the natural springs of Gusa at the foot of Famara's cliffs.
Mirador del Rio has a semi-circular amphitheatre which is built out of natural material - lava blocks (Manrique used these a lot in his designs). Here he tried to create the element of surprise, hiding the spectacular views until the last moment. It works, but you can get the same views if you you walk down from the Mirador too (for free!). Manrique sculptures and designs abound at the Mirador, both inside and out. Mirador del Rio is another Manrique highlight in Lanzarote - another unmissible Lanzarote attraction.
Mirador del Rio in the north of Lanzarote is open from 10am to 17.45pm. Facilities include a bar, cafeteria, a souvenir shop and parking is on-site. Tel: 928 17 35 36.
If you're not a cactus expert (which few of us are), you won't believe how many cactus species actually exist - but you'll have a good idea after visiting the fascinating Cesar Manrique designed Cactus Garden near Guatiza, easily accessed off the LZ10 main road. The cactus garden is situated in an area of Lanzarote which was a popular breeding ground for the cochineal - a parasitic beetle which feeds off cactus (especially prickly pear cactus) and was once a major source of income for Lanzarote and the Canary Islands. The cohcineal beetle was crushed to produce a natural red dye for clothing. Manmade dyes forced a decline in demand, resulting in another period of extreme hardship for Lanzarote farmers - some of whom emigrated to locations such as Cuba and Puerto Rico to escape the hardship.
The cactus gardens sits on an old 'rofero' - bascially an old hollow wherer farmers had extracted rofe or lapilli (volcanic ashes) to cover their harvests with - it absorbs the much needed dew as there isn't a lot of rain on Lanzarote! Once inside expect to see an enormous range of Cactus species - fascinating. Manrique liked his phallic cactus for sure - they appear in many of his cultural centres and Miradors, not just on Lanzarote but in Tenerife, El Hierro and La Gomera.
Outside the Cactus garden is also an endearing giant reconstruction of a cactus. There are 1420 different species of cacti in the garden, not just from the Canary Islands but from Africa and America too. Also onsite is a tastefully deisnged dome shaped shop, a bar and cafe with good views over the garden, an artificial freshwater lake and Manrique touches such as his toilet indicator designs which usually raise a smile (see photo left). Also in the cactus garden is the Guatiza windmill - you can climb to the top of this for great views across the cactus garden.
Visiting hours at Jardin de Cactus are from 10.00am to 18.00 pm, with the last entrance time being 17.45pm. The Bar-Cafeteria is open from 10am to 17.45pm. Parking and a souvenir shop are on-site. Tel: 928 52 93 97.
Falling in with Lanzarote's general excellent trend of focusing on the stories of 'little' people and their history on the island, the Casa Monumento al Campesino in the San Bartolome region is a reminder of the hardships and difficult labour conditions experienced by farmers and Lanzarote's rural community over the years. Lanzarote is one of the most arid of all the Canary Islands, and to extract a living by farming on this island has always been tough!
The monument is, you've guessed it, designed by Manrique again - a little difficult to comprehend perhaps? It's dedicated to fertility and he used an old fishing boat to construct it - all cubic and elevated on a bed of rocks. Actually, it's one of his most interesting sculptures on the island.
The Casa Museum is set within an old farm house, and was restored by Manrique. Inside you'll view a collection of various farming utensils and equpment as well as craft workshops where you can see ceramics, embroidery and weaving. There's also a very good Monument Restaurant on-site - Lanzarote cooking is on the menu with fresh fish, sancocho/a fish stew and desserts.
Opening hours daily are from 10am to 18.00pm. The restaurant is open from 12noon to 16.30pm, and the bar/with tapas from 10am to 17.45pm. Typical Canarian food is served and a souvenir shop and parking are on-site. Events can also be organised here. Tel: 928 52 01 36.
There are a few good walking tour guide companies based in Lanzarote, offering routes around Timanfaya and the volcanoes, around Famara, and on stunning La Graciosa.
Take a look at Canary Trekking's website to the right for details of their tours offered. They'll pick you up too, and walks are accompanied by a nature guide in English, German or Spanish. Also offered are caving trips in lava tunnels.
Canary Trekking, C/ La Laguna, 8 - casa 1, 35509 Costa Teguise, Mobile +34 609.537.684.
Tamaran Jeep Safari, C/ Roque Nublo, 2, C.C. La Hoya, Local 18, Puerto del Carmen 35510 T’as, Tel: +34 928 51 24 75. Their weblink is to the right for details!