Lanzarote – the island of volcanoes

If you read my 10 reasons for visiting the Canary islands, you should already have a growing desire to visit this amazing archipelago. But – which islands to start with?

Being a fan of frequent, but shorter vacations for me the best option seems to visit the Canary islands two by two, for a total of 8-10 days. You spend 3-4 days on each island (+you need 2 days for transfers) which is pretty insufficient but still a good time frame to get a taste of the island.

So, my first couple was Lanzarote and Fuerteventura Canary islands. They are close to each other (30 mins by ferry), well-connected to Europe (especially Madrid and Milano) and there’s pretty much to be done there.

I’m starting in this post with


If you scroll down to the pics from Lanzarote, you might be pretty amazed that for the most of it, this island looks pretty much like a blackish desert with white buildings on it. Not knowing the reason behind this all, we were truly impressed by the stone fences done by the locals to protect the few plants they are growing. We saw hardly any trees except for the palms in the touristic areas, cactus here and there and no other vegetation at all.

The mystery behind this was revealed a few days later when we visited Timanfaya national park. On a one-hour bus tour across the endless lava fields of the park we learned that between years 1730 and 1736 over 20% of Lanzarote surface went beneath floods of lava and showers of ash, following the eruption of a volcano in the Fire Mountains on the island.

Timanfaya National Park – the entry is just amid the lava and ash fields

The eruption continued for 6 years and is considered one of the most catastrophic events in the history of modern world. In addition, it’s a very well documented catastrophe, since a priest from the nearby town of Yaiza documented in his diary every single day from the eruptions, with great detail. Eventually though, like most people, he fled to the island of Gran Canaria.

Since the eruptions in 1730 the island is fairly peaceful, with only one smaller sequence of eruptions in 1824. But, the impact of those events 3 centuries ago is still there and it’s impressive. A visit to Timanfaya national park is therefore a must for a start of your visit on the island. The park is pretty big and there’s the free bus tour included with your park entrance, plus there are guided walks around. Free wandering across the park territory is not allowed.

One of the volcano craters you can see during the park tour

Remains from another volcano crater

Three very impressive demonstrations in Timanfaya proved that the earth beneath us was actually pretty much still boiling. Dry grass thrown into a 1-meter hole got burning within seconds and water poured into a 40-centimeter hole instantly got evaporated.

Lanzarote Timanfaya national park dry grass demo

Dry grass thrown in a 1-meter hole starts burning within seconds

Cold water poured into 40 centimeter holes evaporates with a powerful burst

In the third case we saw how earth’s heat could actually be used to save energy – the restaurant on-site was grilling meat on lava heat!

Lava grill

Another important landmark of Lanzarote are the white houses with green windows and doors. Most of us have seen the dominating white and blue colors in Greece too, for example, but here it’s not only the colors, it’s the look and feel of the buildings that’s also consistent everywhere across the island. As we understood, this architecture was the work of Cesar Manrique – a Spanish architect born on Lanzarote. Cesar saw the tourist potential of the island and lobbied for the creation of a unique atmosphere on it, part of which are the lack of high rise hotels on the island and the use of traditional white and green colors.

Residential buildings on Lanzarote

When you head to the far north of the island, you will see one of the most famous spots on the islands – Jameos del Agua. It is a sequence of holes which are part of the Atlantida lava tunnel. This 8-km tunnel formed 5000 years ago during the eruption of Monte Corona volcano. The streams of lava were flowing into the sea and cooled up on the surface, while the lava beneath the top layers was still liquid. When the eruption finished and there was no more liquid lava, an empty tunnel was shaped below the surface. At certain places this tunnel is broken and shapes well-hidden galleries and caves.

Jameos del Agua is made up of 2 such holes, which until late 1960s were used to deposit refuge by the locals. Cesar Manrique found and cleaned the caves, turning them into a mere oasis – with tropical plants, terraced restaurant, a salt-water lake where cute little crabs reside and turquoise water pool. In a next lava tube there’s a hall with great acoustic which frequently hosts concerts.

Jameos del Agua – exotic plants along the stair entry to the holes, view to the restaurant beneath

Jameos del Agua – the turquoise pool

A final landmark we managed to visit was the Green Lagoon. The lagoon is a green lake which shaped up in a half submerged cone of a volcano. The green color is caused by minerals left over from the volcano’s active days. The water flows into the lake from the ocean via an underground channel and then interacts with the minerals to produce the emerald green color.

The Green Lagoon and the black sand separating it from the ocean

The lagoon is separated from the sea with a narrow stripe of black sand beach, where you can see small grains of olivine – a semi precious green-colored stone. The final landscape you get is impressive, to say the least.

Lanzarote has so many sights to see, even though at first it looks like barren land. I doubt we visited even a tenth of those and hope to return again.

Taking the 30-minute ferry, on we were to a much different Fuerteventura island. More on it in my next blog post.

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