This summer I made my inaugural trip to the Canary Islands, basing myself on the volcanic island of Lanzarote. Much as I would have loved to stay for longer, exploring the surrounding islands, this visit was only an extended weekend, but that wouldn’t hold me back from chasing down the best that this surprisingly barren isle had to offer. In order to fit as much as possible into a mere 12 hours, I booked onto First Minute Travel’s ‘Grand Tour’ to check out some of the recommended highlights.
It was an early start as we set off out of our accommodation in Costa Teguise and journeyed on along the coast towards the tourist resort of Puerto del Carmen and out along the highway towards a peculiar but pretty green lagoon…
El Golfo is a black sand shoreline on the western coast of the island, near Yaiza. It is here that you curve around the rocky cliffs to catch a glimpse of Charco de los Clicos, aka. the green lagoon, which sits within the stark crater of an extinct volcano, submerged in the Atlantic ocean. The area has been declared a natural reserve and gains its green colour from the algae found at the bottom of the water, providing a stark contrast in hues. The viewpoint by El Golfo is best enjoyed in the quieter evening period, where it is also known to be a great spot for catching the sunset.
Travelling inland from the coast we passed by the Janubio Salt Flats, which are the biggest in operation across the Canary Islands. Their pastel tones are quite beautiful from a birds-eye view. The salt industry used to be very important across the islands, but today Lanzarote only produces a third of what it used to, with a golden age buried beneath the aging landscape. It is thought by some that this area used to comprise of cultivated land, linked to a port, before Timanfaya’s devastating eruptions altered the landscape.
Timanfaya National Park is the jewel in the island’s crown. with the spectacular volcanic landscape covering a quarter of the island. The landscape was formed over six years of continuing volcanic eruptions between 1730 and 1736. The scale was unprecedented, with more than 100 volcanoes wrecking havoc on the once fertile land, whilst reclaiming some of the sea. Although almost 300 years have passed, the landscape remained relatively unchanged, with visitors able to witness the geothermal energy still present beneath the surface of the dormant heat Montañas del Fuego (Fire Mountains) , where temperatures of up to 277°C have been recorded 10cm down (less than an average small ruler).
We then took a scenic drive round the Ruta de los Volcanes, which allowed us to witness the striking natural beauty of this barren but environment, winding round narrow bends and steep inclines otherwise inaccessible on foot.
We passed through the wine growing region of La Geria and stopped for a buffet lunch and some wine tasting. The technique used to produce wine here is unique to the region and was recently given World Heritage Status by UNESCO, with the land now a protected area’. The vineyards have an other-worldly feel, set amongst the black volcanic ash of the badlands and are populated by the indigenous Malvasía grape. Using indigenous cultivation methods, the grapes are said to produce are great variety of both sweet and dry wine, once praised by Shakespeare many years ago.
After a long luncheon we journeyed on through Haria, known as the palm-filled oasis of the island, with its green and verdant vegetation offering a stunning contrast to the vast volcanic plains of the South. Throughout the 17th and 18th centuries local villagers celebrated the birth of a new-born by planting palms, one for a girl and two for a boy, which along with geography, may account towards the striking environment visible today. The village is nestled in the neatly named Valley of a Thousand Palms and surrounded by Lanzarote’s tallest mountains Risco de Famara, where we stopped for a brief rest break to take in the sweeping vista.
The last stop on our tour was a quick exploration through the Jameos del Aqua, first site to be created by César Manrique (artist, sculptor, architect) on the island. It was built as a cultural centre back 1966 and is part of a volcanic tunnel formed from the eruption of Volcán de la Corona. The Túnel de la Atlántida stretches from 6km from La Corona to the ocean and is known to be one of the longest tunnels of its kind in the world. The site is also home to a species of blind albino crabs which are native only to Lanzarote and a pool of crystal-like water in the landscaped garden, which can only be appreciated by the eye, with swimming strictly prohibited.
As evening began to break, our coach departed for the highway once more and we wound on through the ever-changing environs back towards our hotel in Costa Teguise. I would highly recommended the trip, which was unquestionably the best was to see the sights in limited time without access to a car or motor vehicle. Though it is a long day the stops are neatly staggered, meaning you never have to spend too long on the coach at any one time. Our tour guide was approachable and thorough in his information, making for a great all-round experience. I admittedly enjoyed my visit to Lanzarote more than I expected and am now keen to make a return visit to the Canaries in future.