I saw a €23 roundtrip flight from Barcelona to the island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Having been to the islands now 3 times: Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, and the north of Tenerife, I have become a big fan of the archipelago. Every island seems to be different.
Lanzarote is known as the volcanic island. Since all the other islands seem to have volcanoes, I did not know exactly what this meant.
My friend Adarsh (who previously traveled to Sevilla with me) decided to join me on the 2 day/2 night trip.
June 9, 2021: The Legacy of Manrique
Our flight for Lanzarote left Barcelona at 6:00 on RyanAir, which is probably the reason it was so cheap. The flight took just under 3 hours, and we arrived at 8:00 due to the 1-hour time change. From the airport, we rented a car and set off on our way.
The island can be explored in 2 days with two fairly distinct halves of the island: north and south. We decided to start with the north.
The north part of the island contains numerous installations by local artist Cesar Manrique (born 1919).
Our first stop was the Jardin de Cactus. This cactus garden is in a pit that was originally a sand quarry. The cacti on the black volcanic landscape made for an otherworldly look.
Next, we drove to Manrique´s most famous installation on the island: Jameos de Agua. This is a lava tube that was turned into a restaurant and concert venue. The installation is part of the Tunnel of Atlantis, the world´s longest known lava tube.
Right near the Jameos de Agua is the Cueva de los Verdes. This is a more natural section of the Tunnel of Atlantis lava tube and was untouched by Manrique. The interior can be visited on a cave tour. The lower level of the cave contains a concert venue.
Adarsh and I then drove to the extreme north of the island to the town of Orzola for lunch. We got Canarian style potatoes and fresh fish.
Orzola is also the town where ferries sail to La Graciosa, which just a few days earlier was designated the official 8th Canary Island.
We did not have enough time to visit La Graciosa but instead drove to a stunning viewpoint overlooking the island. Cesar Manrique built a viewpoint here, but it cost money and there was an equally good free viewpoint right nearby.
Next, we visited the tiny village of Ye. After stopping to taste cactus liquor at a bodega, we proceeded to climb the volcano towering over the town. The volcano was ironically known as Monte Corona.
Once at the top, we were pleasantly surprised to see a deep crater!
Now driving south, we passed by several historic towns in the interior until we reached Teguise. Teguise was the second Spanish capital of the Canary Islands (after Betancuria on Fuerteventura). Built completely out of volcanic rock mostly painted white, the town is a popular destination for its weekly Sunday market. This was not a Sunday, but it was still nice to wander around the beautiful and eerie town.
It was now getting late in the day, so we headed to our hotel in Arrecife, the capital and largest city of the island. Arrecife is also one of the oldest cities on the island, but it doesn´t appear that way when driving through. In fact, it reminds me a lot more of Latin America than Spain.
The city center surrounds a lagoon with the main commercial walking street is just off the lagoon. Arrecife does have a coastline Malecon, but it is not very nice.
The coast does have one interesting feature: the 16th century Castillo de San Gabriel. This is a small fort flanked by some cannons. It is open during the day and contains a history museum.
We ate dinner at a contemporary tapas place before heading to bed.
We covered a lot of ground today, especially considering we had to make a 6am flight.
June 10, 2021: Mountains of Fire
After a good night´s sleep, it was time to explore the southern half of the island.
Our first stop was Lanzarote´s undisputed top highlight: Timanfaya National Park.
This national park contains a staggering 36 volcanoes in just 51 square kilometers. The area is volcanically active, the last major eruptions occurred between 1730 and 1736. The eruption was so violent that nearly the entire southern half of the island was covered in lava. That lava has now dried and makes up the bulk of the park.
The lava field is stark and otherworldly. I have seen lava fields in other places such as Flagstaff Arizona, but the scale of this flow is unparalleled.
The main part of the national park can only be visited via a bus tour, which leaves from the visitor center. The bus tour takes about 45 minutes and travels through a region known as the Mountains of Fire.
The multicolored volcanoes and endless lava fields are stunning. I am honestly shocked this is not a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Once we returned from the bus tour, a guide demonstrated that the park is still volcanically active. He pointed to a hole in the ground and threw hay into it. Within seconds, the hay combusted!
The man then threw water into a hole in the ground. Within seconds, it sprouted out like a geyser. I have never seen anything like it!
It was only 11am, but we had to eat at the park´s famous restaurant, El Diablo. There, we ordered a half-chicken cooked by the volcano. The “oven” can be viewed on the side of the restaurant. The chicken tasted just like a normal chicken, but the novelty was worth it.
Just off the entry road into the park is a curious sight: camels! Despite being located next to the Sahara Desert in Africa, camels are not indigenous to the Canary Islands. They were introduced by the Spanish in the early 15th century during the early conquest of the islands. Today, there are approximately 1,200-1,500 around. They are no longer used for farming or for meat, which kind of makes them useless for humans.
On Lanzarote, the camels can be ridden through the volcanic landscape. A 20-minute camel ride cost €12. The saddle used seats two people. A plaque in the nearby camel museum called it an English saddle.
We rode up the slope of a volcano and back. Camel rides are not as smooth as a horse, but the novelty makes it worth it.
Our next stop was on the coast in the town of El Golfo. There, we visited a most strange sight: a green lake known as Charco de los Clicos. The lake is strangely perched next to the ocean and is surrounded by dark volcanic mountains.
Also in El Golfo, we stopped for a second lunch. This time we got seafood.
Even further down the coast is a spot known as Los Hervideros. This is where the lava flow reached the ocean. The authorities built a walkway to see this incredible sight. In some places, there are sea caves.
Our final stop on the south side of the island was a beach called Papagayo. This beautiful beach can only be accessed by a 20-minute ride on a dirt road. But that didn´t stop the crowds. The place was packed and beautiful.
We then headed back to Arrecife for our final dinner. There, we happened to sit next to a couple who have been traveling on the road for 6 years. We ended up talking for hours. I have the utmost respect for true travelers like these people.
The next morning, we caught our early flight back to Barcelona.
Lanzarote is incredible. Truly one of the most interesting places I have ever visited. The volcanic activity on the south side of the island paired with Manrique´s art on the north makes this one of the coolest places I have ever been.
Although Arrecife is not the prettiest town, it is a good base to explore and has a decent food scene. Alternatively, there are many resort towns on the south of the island which have good surfing and beaches.