Best Places to Visit in Lanzarote
The Canary Islands off the north-western coast of Africa are a volcanic chain stemming, many geologists believe, from a so-called hot spot. This is basically a crack in the Earth’s crust, allowing magma to billow upwards to the surface.
Perhaps the finest place in the Canaries to appreciate this fiery heritage is the island of Lanzarote, the most north-easterly island in the archipelago and one that boasts the most recent volcanic activity.
From home grown wine to geysers and lava tubes, Lanzarote is one of the world’s most distinctive travel destinations—a dreamlike island not to be missed.
If you planning a break to Lanzarote here are some essential places to add to your itinerary.
1. Timanfaya National Park
Visitors to Timanfaya National Park in the west can intimately experience a surreally beautiful, lava-blasted landscape stemming from huge eruptions in the mid-1700s—the biggest in the Canaries during the historical era. Landforms include numerous cones and craters as well as vast raw plains (called malpais) representing the magma sheets that spilled westward toward the coastline. Timanfaya is a stunning place, but don’t neglect a visit to the older volcanic countryside of northern Lanzarote.
2. Monumento Natural del Malpais de la Corona
The Monumento Natural del Malpais de la Corona is a preserve equally renowned for its own unique topography.
Eruptions from the broad, now-extinct Monte Corona volcano several millennia ago created extensive lava flows, the petrified remains of which now harbour one of the world’s grandest lava tubes: the Cueva de los Verdes. This six-kilometre tunnel formed as the surface layers of a lava flow cooled and crusted around a molten interior. At nearly two dozen points along the tube, the crust collapsed, forming cavities—called ‘jameos’ here—which afford access to the subterranean channel.
Some of the jameos have been developed into unique tourist attractions. The Jameos del Agua, for example, has its own nightclub, while another section of the tunnel sports a concert hall—unforgettable destinations on Lanzarote holidays.
Remarkably, the Cueva de los Verdes continues under the coastal waters in the form of the 1.5-kilometer Tunnel of Atlantis. This mysterious extension of the Monte Corona lava conduit is the longest of the planet’s submarine lava tubes, and plays home to little-known organisms such as unusual annelid worms. The terrestrial reaches of the lava tube are also notable for their specialized fauna, which includes a blind, ghostly white endemic species of squat lobster.
Natural wonders anchor any visit to Lanzarote, but the human face of the island is also fascinating. The capital is the mid-sized city of Arrecife, which has an international airport.
Escpaing the tourist hotspots and renting a car is a one of the best ways to get off the beaten track and experience life in rural Lanzarote. Agriculture and viticulture proceed here in a seemingly harsh landscape via ingenuity and long-honed practical traditions. One of Lanzarote’s defining sights is the vineyard studded with little arced rock walls, used to promote grapevine growth.
You can revel in the mesmerizing vistas of Lanzarote while reflecting on its volatile past—one emblematic of the Canary Islands as a whole. Roads wind through rough lava flats and rolling volcanic hills, with elegant Canary Island date palms or wild olives scattered on the horizon.
Peer down at a dark boulder pile and you might spot one of the island’s endemic wall lizards – a lucky and sharp-eyed traveller could glimpse a high-soaring Egyptian vulture, which exists here in the form of a unique subspecies.
By Melissa Nash
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