Monday, 27 October 2014

Lanzarote – Caldera Blanca volcano

Another weekend, another volcano. As we were in the vicinity visiting the Timanfaya National Park where you are not allowed to climb the volcanoes, Caldera Blanca seemed like an ideal option to satisfy our crater-watching needs.

Even though it looked close on the map it actually took us some time to get there as we had to go around it. From the village of Mancha Blanca we took a road towards it that soon turned into a dirt road. Our hired little Fiat 500 did not cope very well! When we found the path leading left we parked our little car on the side and continued our journey on foot. 

Caldera Blanca or ‘White Crater’ (458m) has the widest crater amongst all the volcanoes on the island (1200m across) therefore it’s a very imposing sight. It has two shorter neighbours flanking it from the sides, Montaña Calderata and Risco Quebrado. The three of them make up a so called island as during the eruptions of the Timanfaya volcano at the beginning of the 18th century lava flowed around them. 

The rocks that Caldera Blanca is made of are much older than the lava and it seems white in the sea of black, hence the name. In the vicinity there are some more, smaller areas that avoided the lava flow which, according to the information board we found, are ‘full of life’. Well…

After about half an hour walking we got to the foot of the volcano. The route leads up to the crater diagonally therefore it’s a nice, gentle climb, although you have to look where you put your feet.

When you get up to the rim the path is not that obvious although thoughtful people have placed a few cairns to guide you. At the end we just took the trail that seemed easier to climb. It gets a bit steeper as you advance towards the short pole marking the highest point.

Looking down into the crater of Caldera Blanca will take your breath away. It’s enormous! Its wall is very steep and thanks to this everything inside looks undisturbed by human activities. In the middle there’s a small patch where some plants seemed to eke out a living by gathering the rain that makes its way down the crater.

Due to the height you’re standing at you can take in the whiteness of the volcano, the blackness of the surrounding lava, the blue of the sea and the white of the small villages dotted around in the distance. Not to mention the volcanoes of Timanfaya National Park on the other side! From here you get an unobstructed, 360 degrees view of the island.

It is possible to walk around the rim however we were there late in the afternoon so we made our way down cautiously. Even though the ascent is not much and the climb is mostly manageable I would rate this walk to be moderate due to the trail leading down. It is full of small loose rocks and you have to be very careful not to slip. It took us much longer to get down than go up.

Make sure you bring your ‘volcano climbing kit’ which should consist of plenty of water and sun cream plus hiking shoes with good grip.

This walk can be done from many directions, most websites suggest walking from Mancha Blanca, from the North. We drove a bit closer and approached it from the West. It’s a great little hike as it doesn’t take long to do, rewards you with great views and you don’t have to go too far out of the tourist zone. Having said that no need to be worried about meeting many people up here, the majority of Lanzarote’s tourists prefer the beach.   

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Lanzarote - Mirador del Guinate

Part of the ‘Off the beaten track Lanzarote' series.

We are famous for loving looking out from good viewpoints and considering how flat Lanzarote is (except the randomly popping out volcanoes, of course) there aren’t many here to choose from. Mirador del Río seems to be THE mirador on the island but as we were in the vicinity of the one in Guinate we decided to watch the sunset from there.

On the North side of the island not far North of Haría there’s a tiny village called Máguez, that’s where the road to the mirador starts from. There are no signs to follow at all so it’s good to have a SatNav or a good, detailed map with you. Once you find the path you are sorted, all you have to do is follow it to the end. After a while it will become a dirt road.

You will see a few information boards around the area and the views on the side, feel free to get out and have a read, it’s always nice to know a bit about your surroundings.

After about 15 min of driving we finally arrived to the viewpoint just in time to see the sunset.

We vowed to come back here and have a look at the volcano we passed on the way. I will make sure to bring a picnic and have it right here at this spot staring out to the beach of Famara, the cliffs, the island of La Graciosa and the circling seagulls.  

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Off the beaten track Lanzarote

I’ve decided to start an ‘off the beaten track’ series about Lanzarote as most people who come to visit this amazing island receive information about only a fraction of the sites worth visint. I do have to warn everybody though that these places are truly ‘off the beaten track’ meaning that most of them are difficult to get to, not signposted and there aren’t always refreshments available in a 5 minute radius. I do hope however this collection will help those who want to see behind the usual attractions offered by tourist resorts and tour buses.

I am going to start it off with my next blog and will continuously add places to it as we visit more and more of the island so keep checking back for more info.

Mirador de Guinate

- Caletón Blanco

- Caldera Blanca

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Lanzarote – El Mirador del Río

If you make the journey up to the North of the Island, make sure to stop by here as this is the most famous viewpoint in Lanzarote and for a good reason. The road that leads you through this part of the island is lovely so be ready to pop out for a few photos. There are plenty of road signs to guide you. You will drive through the tiny village of Yé which officially gets the medal for the shortest name in Spain.

It is located just under 500m above sea level on the cliffs of el Risco de Famara which would already be enough of an attraction considering that apart from the numerous volcanoes that pop up everywhere the island is rather flat. The feature that makes it even better is the fact that it overlooks the neighbouring island La Graciosa and the Río straight (hence the name) that runs between.

The viewpoint was designed and created by Lanzarote´s celebrity local artist, César Manrique who´s work can be spotted all over the island. From outside only a fraction of the building can be seen as it is camouflaged in the volcanic rock (in the top right of the photo). Inside it's quite spacious, it houses a viewing platform, a balustrade café and a souvenir shop. Apparently this is Manrique's ‘most representative architectural creation’.

Does the place seem familiar? Are you a Doctor Who fan? Not a coincidence then as some of the scenes from the Planet of Fire serial were shot here.

If you don´t feel like paying the £4.50 euro entry fee just do what we did which was to follow the road to the left a bit. From here you will get the same, unobstructed panoramic view.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Lanzarote – Montaña Roja

Another weekend, another volcano. After the Raven’s Volcano we chose to climb Montaña Roja or Red Mountain which towers over the town of Playa Blanca on the Southern most point of the island. This time we didn’t have a car so we used public transport instead, a ‘guagua’ which is the name of the local bus here in the Canary Islands. From the Bus Station we walked over to the Montaña Baja neighbourhood right in front of the volcano.

You will pick up the dirt path at sign painted on a rock. From here on the route is well-worn and easy to pick out. In fact it’s so easy that we wore our flip-flops and we didn’t have any problems on the way.

The path gets slightly steeper while it leads you to the top of the rim it only takes about 10 min to get there from the stone sign. From here on it’s a gentle walk as this volcano blew an almost perfect crater. You can start off in any direction.

As you look down into the crater you will notice how many people laid out stones to spell out their names. Quite an interesting sight!

You can walk around the rim or go across it following the path.

Don’t forget to look out as the island of Fuerteventura can be clearly seen from the highest point of the crater.

Further on you will see Playa Blanca and its lovely beach, Playa Flamenco.

If you look North the horizon is taken over by the numerous volcanoes of Timanfaya National Park.

After our traditional weekend volcano stroll we went to find the inviting-looking Playa Flamingo and had a dip in the sea. A lovely ending to a lovely weekend.

The walk is only about 3km long and took us about 45 min (including the 434 photo stops). It’s a nice family walk with impressive views around. Don’t forget to take sun cream with you as there’s no shelter and the sun can get quite harsh here! Also take plenty of water with you as there are no refreshment opportunities around however there will be plenty down by the beach after!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Lanzarote – Diving the Cathedral

Together with the Blue Hole the Cathedral dive site is also amongst the most popular dives from Playa Chica in Puerto del Carmen. During the briefing we looked at the map of the dive but the magic of the site still took us by surprise.

We started off with a short surface swim to the end of the bay then after descending we followed the sandy slope. Whilst we made our way to the Cathedral we took advantage of the slow current and let it gently push us along the seabed.

At about 16m we got to the reef wall. Keep an eye out for the moray eel hiding in the rocks and groupers who like to take shelter at the bottom!

After we skirted along it we finally arrived to the site, the Cathedral. This is actually a huge opening in the rock, like a cavern with its entrance down on 30m. Its wall is full of small alcoves where many interesting creatures live. It’s worth taking a torch to help you with your inspection. Our dive instructor lent me his and I discovered a long legged arrow crab at the back.

After we got out of the cave we started to make our way back on the top of it where a lovely sight was waiting for us. All the bubbles we had made inside the cave were slipping through the rocks and floated up to the surface creating a magical bubble garden. It was an amazing experience swimming through the bubble columns. Have a look at this short video that Paul took (I would turn down the volume if I were you).

Such a lovely dive! I would definitely recommend it to anybody who has the advanced qualification to jump in a wetsuit and take a look. We dived with Manta Diving Lanzarote and found their fuss-free and straight-to-the-point attitude refreshing. However there are many other dive shops around and due to the competition in the area it's always worth shopping around for the best price. Enjoy!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Lanzarote – Diving the Blue Hole

As we’re going to stay in Lanzarote for the next 9 months we were keen to see its secret, side which only a few can get a glimpse of. The unique volcanic appearance of the island does not end on the surface but continues under the sea, too, as the strangely shaped volcanic rocks lend an interesting underwater scenery. The island is fortunately surrounded by shallow seabed which makes it ideal to dive in, not to mention the crystal clear water where the visibility is 30+m most of the time. And I haven’t even touched on the affordability of this normally rather pricey hobby!

In Puerto del Carmen there are many dive sites that are easily accessible from the shore, mostly form Play Chica. After looking through the available dive sites we asked to visit the two most famous ones, the Blue Hole and the Cathedral.

The Blue Hole (Ajugero Azul)
Like most of the dives in this area, this one also started from Playa Chica, where we just simply walked into the sea by the stairs. Then we slowly made our way toward the dive site. On the way there we found some interesting sea creatures to take photos of.

Around 20m we came across a big area covered with garden eels. These small eels with their heads sticking out from the sand always make me smile.

There are quite a few sea horses here. I love them, they are so cute!

At around 23m you will swim along a small canyon that will take you to the dive site. The hole that the site got its name from is a remnant of a lava flow. It starts at 24m and ends at 32. It is a nice, wide swimthrough that can easily be tackled even by the less experience divers. The walls are often occupied by colourful nudibrancs and apparently the bottom is often favoured by huge groupers and stingrays.

We took a different route on our way back and there was lots to see here too.

As the angle of the seabed is so gentle here, you can enjoy the dives up to the last minute and just swim around during your safety stop.

We dived with Manta Diving Lanzarote and found their fuss-free and straight-to-the-point attitude refreshing. However there are many other dive shops around and due to the competition in the area it's always worth shopping around for the best price. Enjoy!