For rugged, dramatic and unusual landscapes, Lanzarote is hard to surpass, in my opinion. If you want to experience something rather unique and impressive then we would recommend heading for the northwest coast of this island where the lava crafted landscape will take your breath away.
Volcanic eruptions in the 1730s have left a legacy of multicoloured rocks, boulders and crags as well as copper-coloured sands and immense underground caverns created by the subterranean flow of molten lava.
Whenever I’m visiting I’m always struck by how it feels like a space odyssey above and below ground and by how ironic that so much dramatic beauty can come from so much violent destruction.
The area is rich in these experiences but there are a few that we deem unmissable for our clients who are holidaying here.
Timanfaya National Park
This park which surrounds the Montañas del Fuego (Fire Mountains) stretches for 20 square miles and was declared a protected monument in 1974. It is eerily beautiful: there is almost no bird-, animal- or plant-life – just a moonscape vista formed by the solidified magma and lava.
There are a few ways to visit the park but hiking solo is not one of them – visitors are not permitted to walk here. You can self-drive, book a seat on a coach tour, book a hump on a camel, or take in the panorama from the terrace of the El Diablo restaurant.
My personal recommendation is the coach tour. While the independence of your own vehicle is attractive, the hairpin turns and steep inclines are intimidating to the inexperienced. The coach drivers have years of experience negotiating the terrain and a deep knowledge of the park’s features so you’ll really get to see the best it has to offer in their capable hands.
The coaches pick up and drop off in the car park of the El Diablo restaurant so you should be back in time to take in the spectacular sunset with an aperitif in hand.
Of course there’s nothing to stop you trying out a camel tour too – these are also led by experienced guides but you won’t cover as much ground as you can in a vehicle.
Jameos del Agua
The National Park is definitely the best example of the above ground volcanic phenomena and of untouched nature on the island. However, for an example of below ground volcanic activity and of nature harnessed by man, my hands-down favourite is Jameos del Agua.
When Montaña La Corona erupted around 4,000 years ago a lava tube measuring 6km was forged deep below the ground. A jameo is formed when the pressure of the volcanic gases builds up to cause an explosion inside the tube that rips through the roof and leaves a large opening on the surface. This provides access to the magical subterranean world of the tube.
In the 1960s, the artist and architect César Manrique conceptualised and created a cultural attraction at Jameos del Agua which the Hollywood movie star Rita Heyworth described as ‘the eighth wonder of the world’.
Visitors descend a stone staircase into the first cave where you can stop at a bar that overlooks a natural lake. The pristine clear waters are home to a species of blind albino crab that is found nowhere else in the world.
However, the big surprise is yet to come. I will never forget the first time I emerged from the dark tunnel into an open-air cave laced with tropical plants and hosting the most exquisite crystal blue pool I have ever seen. Sadly, only the King of Spain has permission to swim in it but it’s a vision that is truly inspired by Paradise.
El Golfo & Lago Verde
Heading south along the coast from Timfanya National Park is El Golfo and the Lago Verde. If you thought the deserted lava peaks of the park and the underground caves of Jameos de Agua were weird then wait until you see this natural phenomenon.
The coastal winds have eroded a ring of cliffs to form weird and wonderful shapes that provide the perfect backdrop to the green lagoon in the centre. These rock formations are part of a half-submerged volcanic cone whose associated minerals have provided the perfect environment for the algae to develop that has left the lagoon a lurid green.
El Golfo is a fishing village with restaurants that serve some of the best fish on the island. Once you’ve had your fill then I highly recommend that you explore the black sand beaches on the shore of the lake.
Recommended Hotels in the Lava Land
If you are inspired to discover the what happens when water and molten rock mix over centuries and you want to go to Lanzarote on this journey of exploration, we have a few hotels that we are sure will enhance your trip. These are located within easy reach of some of the island’s most spectacular natural phenomena.
Seaside Los Jameos Playa: tucked away in a quiet location by Los Pocillos beach is the Seaside Los Jameos Playa hotel. To my mind what makes this property unique is the sympathetic architecture which has been designed to mirror the regional building styles and to integrate the hotel’s pool, gardens and restaurants into the natural landscape.
Casa de Hilario: for poetic romance in the shadow of the Fire Mountain, the Casa de Hilario is the obvious choice. Named after the legendary character Timanfaya Lanzaroteño Hilario – who returned from war with the Philippines to set himself up here as a hermit with only his camel for company – this finca is intimate and private.
La Casona de Yaiza: this hotel is also set in volcanic landscape near the National Park; the Spartan landscape contrasts dramatically with the intricate elegance of the property’s interior. Decorated with art that pays homage to the Italian and Spanish painters of the Renaissance Roman School, this ornately designed hotel is a feast for the eyes.