Monday, 3 November 2014

Lanzarote – Timanfaya National Park

While in most of the national parks people go to see strange and unique flowers, plants, precious landscapes or endangered species, here in Timanfaya you only see one thing: volcanoes. But what volcanoes! The whole of its 51 square kilometre surface is made up entirely of volcanic soil, there’s not a single blade of grass here (although you'd be hard pressed to find one anywhere else in the island, if I want to be honest). As I’m obsessed with volcanoes at the moment I was getting ready to feel in paradise while walking around them.

The National Park was born between 1730 and 1736 when a series of volcanic eruptions shook up Lanzarote, literally speaking. This is when most of the volcanoes appeared however the eruptions didn’t stop then. The last one recorded was in 1824! As a result the topography of the island was altered completely as quarter of Lanzarote got covered under thick black lava. The last eruption of this volcanic activity is quite close in time, if you think about it, so nature hasn’t had a chance to start to take over. Let’s face it, the plants have to struggle seriously to push their roots into the hard lava rock.

Nowadays the only active volcano remaining is Timanfaya itself, the one that gave its name to the National Park. Where else would be the best place to build a visitor centre than right on top of that? It might seem crazy (in my opinion you can’t get any crazier than that!) but that’s exactly what happened here. Together with the Park’s devil symbol, which was designed by Lanzarote’s celebrity local artist, Cézar Manrique.

Volcanic activity is still very much present, in fact just a few meters under the surface it is already between 100 – 600 degrees. This is demonstrated to the curious visitor in a number of ways. An attendant pours water into the ground which in a few seconds shoots out as a geyser of steam.

Some dry scrub is dumped into a hole and in seconds it all goes up in flames.

In the restaurant you can buy chicken barbecued over the heat of the volcano.

And everybody goes on about their business like nothing is amiss. Crazy people, these Spanish.

Unfortunately the visits around the National Park itself is strictly limited and you are not allowed to drive around or set foot on it. The only way to see a fraction of the area is to being dumped together with hordes of other pasty skinned sweaty tourists on an old, hot bus and listen to the commentary in three different languages. We found the whole experience rather disappointing as we really don’t like being treated like cattle. Still, the park itself is absolutely stunning.

There is one way to hike in the park and it is to book a place with a guide. This activity is offered free by the Park however it has to be reserved in advance on this site (set the language at the top right corner). As only 8 people can attend one time and the earliest you can book is two months is advance it is quite a challenge to find free spaces therefore so far we haven’t had any luck. I’ll keep trying though.

If you’d like to visit the park there’s all the information you might need on this website.

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