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Lanzarote is the most easterly of the Canary Islands and is not a large island by any stretch of the imagination so if you hire a car within a week you should see most of what the island has to offer.
Lanzarote was almost wiped out by a series of volcanic eruptions which lasted over six years from 1730. Amazingly eleven villages were buried in molten lava but incredibly, no one was killed. In 1974 the area was declared a national park which today provides tourists with an opportunity to see the effects of these years of volcanic activity.
One day we went to visit this famous Timanfaya National Park. This is almost like visiting the dark side of the moon. The landscape is black there is very little vegetation just miles of black rock and sand in various shapes. It cannot really be compared with anywhere else I have seen and is a must see if you are visiting Lanzarote.
A quick factfile for planning a visit:
How to get there: From both Playa Blanca and Puerto del Carmen, take the LZ2 to Yaiza. Follow signposts for Timanfya and the LZ67.
Opening Times: Daily: 10.00 - 18.00
Admission: Euro8 and Parking: Free
The park has a visitor centre further along the main road after the entrance gate to the park and this is well worth a visit as it explains about volcanic activity generally and more specifically about the eruptions in Lanzarote. It is well laid out and a very interesting and educational visit both geographically and historically.
You pay for the car at the entrance to the park and then you follow the road in the park until you reach the parking area near the Diablo restaurant. To reach this car park it is quite a distance from the gate and I would imagine that the queues really build up in summer as we were in a long line and the car park was very full. A word of warning for wheelchair users, pushchairs and eldery people - the carpark is very steep indeed and gets very full at times so our car was way down the road and parked up at a very jaunty angle at the edge of the road up onto the volcano - we were not alone here either. Handbrake on and firmly in gear!.
The entrance fee includes the bus tour round the most dramatic and unspoilt area of the park, The road has been very cleverly built so that the area has kept as unspoiled by human interference as possible.
The only way through the National park is to have this bus tour which is okay but the windows do not open so photo opportunities are a bit limited and all photos have to be taken through glass which is a shame. The buses are packed full and they do not leave until they are full. You get on these buses from the reception area near the Diablo restaurant.
Atmospheric music is played on the bus as you wind your way round some very tight corners on the very narrow twisty road. The commentary includes someone reading the emotional and quite dramatic account of the eruptions from Father Lorenzo Curbelo's personal account at the time.
After the bus trip you can go and see a demonstration of the heat just below the surface as a pile of grass is stuffed into a pit and quickly catches alight. Health and safety regulations do not seem to apply to Lanzarote and hole doesn't have any safety barriers around it and it wouldn't be hard for an unsupervised child or indeed anyperson not being aware to accidently fall in.
Another man pours water down a hole and seconds later a small geyser erupts nearby this is greeted with everyone jumping back and squeals of delight or surprise. This volcano is not extinct only dormant so volcanologists constantly study any changes that take place.
In the Diablo restaurant which was designed by Cesar Manrique you can also enjoy a steak (at a price) cooked on a BBQ pit heated by the volcano below where temperatures of 600 degrees Centigrade are recorded only 10 metres below the surface. Having seen the price of the steak we opted for 4 bowls of very expensive soup instead! We did go and investigate the BBQ and had a look down the huge and quite hot hole.
WE RODE A CAMEL TOO:
After you leave the actual park on the way out on the road back to Yaiza we passed the camels that we had seen on the way in and as our daughter was very keen to ride one and no-one else would go with her I agreed so we had a ride up the side of a volcano on a the camel.
The camels are led in a line. We sat two to a camel on sort of chairs strapped across their backs. They have a most ungainly walk, as they move the front and back leg on the same side of their body at the same time -it is a rolling gait and we wobbled from side to side. This is probably why the camel's nickname of the ship of the desert.
Our camel kept insisting on getting so close to the one in front that my leg was almost under its bottom which I wasn't too thrilled about. The camel behind also seemed to want to whisper in my ear too so it was a very close and personal experience. Our camel also seemed to be more wobbly in its gait than others and we swung up and down as if we were at sea.
You have to pay extra for the camel ride. I think it was not too bad about the usual 8 Euros as was everything in Lanzarote but that was for both of us.
This is a landscape that it is difficult to imagine unless you have experienced it. Everywhere is black and there are huge areas of flat black wilderness but this is interspersed with dramatic volcanic sculptures from time to time. The lava flowed down towards the sea and cooled at it hit the sea and this produced some very impressive shapes and sculptures.
I would certainly recommend a visit to this National Park if you go to Lanzarote as I don't think there are many other such recent volcanic parks that you can visit.
Thanks for reading.
This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name,
The Montanas del Fuego can be found on the island of Lanzarote. Also known as the "fire mountains".
They were created in the 1730's when over a 100 volcanoes rose up from beneath the ground. These devastated most of the island.
In 1824 they erupted again and due to lack of erosion this part of the island is still the same.
In 1968 Lanzarote declared this part of the island a national park, called Parque Nacional de Timanfaya.
The scenery in this part of the island is truly fantastic and most unusual. It can only be described as "space like" and almost looks like another planet.
The park is one of Lanzarote's biggest tourist attractions and a fantastic to visit.
On entering the park you pay 8 euros each to enter.
You drive round some long winding roads to a large busy car park. If you arrive when there are many coach trips you may find yourself with a bit of a wait!
You cannot drive around the park yourself, you must go on the coach tour that does this for you.
If its quiet you shouldn't queue long for the comfortable clean coaches.
If you are scared of heights or narrow roads this may not be the trip for you.
The drivers are very experienced in driving around, but some of the gaps they fit down and the winding bends are quiet scary. (some of the coaches have some very big scratches) you can see why lol!
The tour lasts about 45 - 50 minutes depending on what driver you have.
There is a commentary over the speakers which is done in Spanish, English then German. This tells you the full story of how the volcanoes erupted etc and is very interesting.
Some of the sights you will see are truly spectacular and a camera is a must!
You see how the lava has cooled and it still appears almost exactly how it was originally. This is due to the lack of rainfall on the island which means the cooled lava has not eroded.
Once the tour is over there are some demonstrations from other staff, which include setting hay on fire from the heat of the volcano, and pouring water down a hole (i wont ruin the surprises)!
Wear good shoes (i had some cheap asda trainers and lets just say they MELTED!) The ground is so hot its amazing!
There is also a gift shop which sell reasonable priced goods.
Also there is the famous El Diablo restaurant which serves authentic Canarian food which is all good from the heat of the volcano (geothermal heat). There is a large cast iron grill placed over a large hole. You can see about 50 whole chickens cooking on the heat, the smell is fantastic!
We did not eat in the restaurant but i was told by some friends that the food was lovely but expensive.
When leaving the car park if you turn right, further down the road there is a camel ride service, which is not included in the entry fee. We did not use this option but i am told it is very good. (camels scare me)
It is not the kind of trip we would do again because once you have seen it once that's kind of it.. but it truly is fantastic and an amazing sight to see. The land is so unusual and its very interesting.
Thomson were offering this as an excursion and i cant believe the price they were charging, its so much cheaper to hire a car for a day and see a few different places because the price of the car and entry fees were still half of the price Thomson were charging! Or shop around because there are other excursion companies on the island that will do it a lot cheaper.
Timanfaya National Park is set on the most easterly Canary Island, Lanzarote. It can be found to the west of the island, nearby the town of Yaiza.
Lanzarote originally rose from the sea in the form of a mass of volcanoes so it's understandable that to this day the island is still home to a lot of volcanoes - more than 300 infact. Some of these volcanoes have blown and some of them are still very much alive. Timanfaya National Park gives an up close insight into both.
I have been to Timanfaya National Park numerous times, sadly - I have a 'thing' for volcanos, I just find them really interesting (although I think this was originally sparked by the Timanfaya experience). However I will be basing this review on the last time I visited in May 2009.
The island is small (only 37 miles long and 12 miles wide) so it is easy to find Timanfaya National Park. It is also signposted up well once you get within a few miles away. We visited by car as I like to do things in my own time and have my own space but if you don't fancy driving there you can always take an excersion. You can pick up leaflets for excersions from pretty much anywhere but no doubt you'll be handed a ton of leaflets for excersions on your travels.
Timanfaya is also known as the fire mountains and has it's own logo which is El Diablo, translated as the devil for obvious reasons. The fire mountains were created between 1730 and 1736. Over 100 volcanoes rose in the area and devastated the island. The last eruption occured in 1827. In 1968 it was decided that the fire mountains should be made into a national park. Due to year round heat and lack of rainfall and therefore erosion the fire mountains have remained almost identical to what they were all those years ago. The fire mountains are closed to the public except for the camel rides and Timanfaya coach tour, as to unspoil the area.
To get to the park you need to drive down a long, straight road. You will be stunned at the site of what looks like miles of black molten rock surrounded by volcanoes. It's almost like a choppy sea of black rocks. If it weren't so mind-blowingly surreal then it might feel a little eerie. Infact I have heard that scenes from the film 'Planet of the Apes' were shot here, I'm not sure how true this is but is totally believable. It is most certainly a sight you will have not seen in any other part of the island.
Along the way there are camel rides. Rather than sit on the camels back, the camel has a seat either side of its humps. It costs 6 euros per person and young children can sit on an adults lap (and don't need to be paid for). The camel ride lasts around 10 minutes in which time the camels will take you up a volcano and back down again. These animals are so big but in comparrison to the vast volcanic surroundings they just look so small and insignificant, it were funny really. It's a unique experience and most people that I saw seemed to be having a whale of a time but as a huge animal lover I couldn't help but feel sadness. I was repeatedly reassured that these animals were strong, but were they really created for numerous trips up and down a volcano all day long, carrying up to 3 fatties at a time!? And is Lanzarote even aware of animal welfare? They just looked like prisoners to me - all chained up together in a line, muzzled, with their wobbly little legs struggling to keep them upright. Each to their own I suppose.
A couple of minutes down the road from this is the entrance to Timanfaya National Park. There were a couple of cars queing to get in, signaling the entrance. The tickets have to be purchased from a booth and as their are no phone lines (it really is in the middle of nowhere) you cannot use cards as payment. It costs 8 euros per adult which isn't too bad, although seems like a lot if you visit in a group. You then drive up to the top of a volcano. The road is a little windey and there are plenty of sheer drops, this can be a little terrifying especially sinse there are no safety barriers or warning signs. Once you reach the top of the volcano there is a carpark. The carpark was full up but had stewards directing people to spaces.
A word of warning for wheelchair users, pushchairs and eldery people - the carpark is very steep indeed. The weather also differs dramatically to that of the rest of the island. Because the park is situated up in the mountains it is colder and windier so I'd recommend taking along a jacket. The sun was still out but it was a little chilly.
At the top of the carpark there are a number of different demonstrations which are designed to show you just how hot the fire mountains still are. Temperatures just feet below the surface range from 400°C to 600°C. If you take your shoes off you can feel the heat on your bare feet.
For the first demonstration a man pours a bucket of water into a small hole in the ground. Visitors gather around just feet away and suddenly (about 4 seconds later) the water shoots out of the ground and metres into the air. The sheer force makes the water come out with a huge 'bang' which is likely to make everybody jump, if you have young children it might be worth putting your hands over their ears. It's almost like a mini geiser to watch.
The second demonstration is a big hole in the ground where the man then gets a piece of dry bush on the end of a long stick and pokes it into the hole. Within seconds the bush unbelievably sets on fire. If you stand in the direction the wind is blowing you will get a face full of ash and heat so check the wind before the demonstration begins. Also be warned that the hole doesn't have any safety barriers around it and it wouldn't be hard for somebody to accidently fall in!
The third demonstration is another hole but smaller and inside a wall made naturally of molten rock. The hole has a wire rack on top and in the past I have seen people bring their own food to toast and cook on it. However when I last visited people just seemed happy sticking their hands and attempting to stick their heads in to feel the heat.
We all got a little bit chilly whilst we were up in the mountains and decided to take shelter in a small volcanic cove. The walls were made of molten rock and to our suprise when we leant against the wall it was warm! We also stuck our hands inbetween the holes in the wall and there were some really hot spots. Just unreal.
The last demonstration led us inside a small outdoors room. When we went inside there was a huge hole in the middle with a huge grill over the top with generous amounts of meat cooking on it (chicken etc) like a volcanic barbeque. For some reason the floor was made of metal and was very hot. Again there were no barriers that could stop people from burning themselves or causing themselves an injury. I think it's fair to say that they aren't overly hot (no pun intended) on their health and safety regulations! I stuck my head over the hole to have a look inside, I could only do it for a second or two as I was blasted with heat. I don't know what I expected to see (fire I think?) but what I saw was just a hole full of nothing, just rocks at the bottom and around the sides. It was very bizarre indeed.
Next to the volcanic barbeque is the El Diablo restuarant which serves up canarian food that has been cooked over the volcanic heat! I have never eaten in the restaurant so can't comment on the food or the prices but I don't suppose it's every day that you can say you have eaten food cooked by volcano, so it's probably worth a visit.
A coach tour is also included. There are a number of coaches which go around the park which means you shouldn't have to wait too long for one. We qued up for about 5 or 10 minutes before a coach came along. There aren't certain times which you need to stick to and can pick up a coach at your own leisure. The coach trip lasts around 20 minutes and takes you round the heart of the fire mountains. The views are absolutely breathtaking and the driver will stop for a minute or so when you pass a particularly interesting view (during this time everybody seems to shift to one side of the coach with their cameras clicking!). You'll see huge crators, blown volcanoes and molten rock which looks like it's still melting to name a few - it could pass for another planet. The tour has audio commentary in spanish, english and german, along with some rather epic music (a little cheesy at times). The commentary is really interesting and has excerpts of writing from a preiest that was on the island when the volcanoes erupted. Once again there aren't any safety barriers and at some points you feel as though you are going to fall off the side of the mountains!
To end is all there is a souvenir shop (of course) which sells all the essentials. Timanfaya National Park is open everyday from 10am to 6pm, but the El Diablo restuarant is only open until 3pm. It's a total must do if you are visiting Lanzarote.
Playing in a Volcano
Over 300 years ago the earth opened and showered a small island in volcanic ash, red hot, bubbling, flowing lava and toxic fumes. Huge mountains rose from the ground and formed the area we now know as 'Montanas del Fuego' (The Fire Moutains). The lava devastated the villages in its path. The eruptions lasted 6 long years were one of the longest volcanic activity recorded in history.
The area has been well protected and due to low rainfall has not suffered erosion or damage. The views we can see today are as they were 300 years ago.
In 1968 the area was declared a 'National Park' (Parque de Nacional) and is protected by local laws. The 100 volcanoes that erupted covered more than 50km square of the island, this area is known as the national Park of Timanfaya.
The Park can be recognised by the 'Devil' who is stood on the name 'Timanfaya' holding up a sign with the words 'Parque Nacional'.
The lunar landscape is a really awesome sight. When I first saw the landscape in 1994 my jaw dropped to the ground. I was only 9 and had never seen something as amazing as miles of lava rock. I still visit Lanzarote today and find myself looking for miles at the barren landscape where nothing grows or survives. This part of the island is a must for any visitor because of its 'Martian' landscape and rare plant species that have evolved to exist.
The park is open between 10am and 6pm everyday. It can get a little busy later in the day so for less queues and more chance of hearing and seeing the display you may want to plan for an early visit. I would aim to get there at opening 10am for the best opportunities.
Car: Many holidaymakers decide to hire a car. Timanfaya is well signposted and represented on a map. The obvious benefits of taking a car is that you will not have to wait for the 'slow person' who has got lost, you can time your trip to suit you and you can obviously stop along the way for the amazing photo opportunities. The National Park is situated North of the town of Yaiza.
Coach: If you decide to go by coach you will need to book yourself onto a specialist excursion. The excursions are usually organised by 'Last Minute Excursions' and will provide transport to the National Park and entry to the park and its displays. Some excursions include a camel ride across the rocky terrain.
On entry to Timanfaya the queues are usually stretching up the road so a short wait is required. The entrance to the park is via a small lava rock booth. Here you pay for your ticket and proceed up the hill towards the visitor centre.
The drive up to the visitor centre is a windy one. The roads are snake-like in form and are very narrow. It is for this reason that a coach that has been designed for the terrain is available to take visitors out into the depths of the volcanoes and mountains.
At the top a car park assistant will usually show you to your space, and will then usher you up the hill to get on a coach.
A special coach will take you around the amazing volcanoes. This is included in the entry fee. The tour features an audio commentary as the coach twists and turns around the narrow road. The lava overhangs the road adding to that special experience. The patterns and direction of flowing lava can still be seen. The permanent effects of that fateful night when the earth opened can still be experienced today. The excerpts from the diary of an eyewitness, the local priest can be heard.
It is easy to sense the fear and doom felt by the priest as the ash and dust was scattered over the island. The coach will stop hanging over the depth of a volcano. A mountain's side was blown off and the few plants that have adapted to grow in the rough, barren terrain.
Up the top of the visitors car park you will probably see a crowd of people followed by a puff of smoke then gasps of 'ahhh' or 'oooooh' or 'woooow. If this is not enough to get you all excited or amazed then I am not sure what will.
You have the chance to witness several demonstrations of 'how hot' the area really is. The temperatures can range from anything between 400°C and 600°C only a few meters below the ground. Its hard to believe until you witness in amazement the first of the mighty demonstrations.
A man stands eagerly waiting for a crowd to build up then will tip a small amount of water down a hole. The crowd gasps in amazement getting ready to walk onto the next one, the man then pours a whole bucket into another hole and a jet stream of steam/water vapour is thrusted up through the ground. The mini geyser is a sight to behold and a real bugger to film/photograph. Luckily for me the man was seeing my frustration and helped me take an amazing photo that will take pride of place in my album.
The second demonstration amazingly shocked me, despite knowing what would happen I nearly lost my camera in the abyss. A piece of dry gorge/brush is lowered into the ground igniting immediately. The searing heat was enough to knock you out with shock. The puffs of smoke and gasps of horror were certainly an experience I could never forget.
The El Diablo Restaurant was designed by the islands famous artist/architect Ceasar Manrique. It is situated on the top of the volcanic mount and provides an amazing volcanic backdrop. The restaurant sells a variety of food including the famous Canarian potatoes. The food is cooked using geothermal heat...over the top of a volcano.
The restaurant is a great look out and is a beautiful place to eat. The prices are reasonable and the quality of food is great. The restaurant closes quite early (about 2pm-3pm) so if you are hoping to sample some of the great food its best to arrive early.
So what will this little lot cost me I hear you ask? Well this whole experience mentioned above will set you back 8 Euros. Not a lot really when you consider the experience you will get. The coach trip, demonstrations and parking for as long as you wish. In pounds this is about £5.50. Further down the mountainside you can have a ride on a camel for a further 8 Euros another experience you can't miss.
You cannot go to Lanzarote without visiting the Fire Moutains (Timanfaya). The experience of standing on a volcano or the encounter of being perched overlooking a enormous crater is awesome. The rugged, barren landscape that has been used as a backdrop for many lunar films is to me one of the most wonderful sites I have ever seen. I would strongly recommend a visit to this part of the world for a precious experience and amazing holiday.
Timanfaya - Fire Mountains - these were created during eruptions occuring between 1730 and 1736 where the landscape was changed forever.
This is one of the must do excursians in my opinion when travelling to Lanzarote.
I am really lucky as my in-laws have a villa in Puerto Del Carmen so have been to this beautiful island many times. If asked what the best trip is for first timers I would say Timanfaya national park is up there with the best.
On route to the park you will pass the Camel Park where for a small fee you can take a 20minute ride on them. Personally speaking I didnt like the look of it - the Camels all looked exhausted and heavily laden and as an animal lover it seemed cruel but each to their own.
If you have a hire car its not far away from any part of the island which is very small, alternatively you can go for a day trip with a coach company - you will be given umpteen leaflets when you walk anywhere in Lanzarote which show all day tours available but I can add this information if requested.
The drive through the park to the entrance gives absolutely breathtaking views. At first it seems like the most barren place on the earth - almost like you have arrived on the moon with just black lava stretching out for miles and miles, but then you see the fire mountains - there are so many shades of red and different textures it really is so beautiful. Upon paying your entrance fee of 8 euros you are directed to a very steep car park. When i say steep I really mean steep - sensible footware is essential for this trip as its almost vertical at the entrance so hold on to those buggys!
Included in your entrance fee is a coach trip - this is not for the faint hearted as the coach winds its way through the volcanic landscape and if you have a window seat you do feel at times like the coach is going to disappear into one of the volcanic craters! The journey takes around 40minutes and is about a 5mile round trip. It stops at various places along the way so pictures can be taken of the volcanic cones, lava spills, dunes and much more, there is commentary throughout the journey in Spanish, German and English.
Once off the coach you go to the side of the restaurant where you watch a man put some cold water in the earth, i nearly had a heart attack when this same water came up as steam through a different hole quite near me! - you then see how hot it is just under the surface as someone sticks some straw in a hole which catches fire after a few seconds.
The safety aspect here is not up to much so please keep back as my brother in law ended up with a burn after getting a little too close to this particular demonstration.
The food in the large restaurant is cooked using the heat of the volcano and there is a grill beside the restaurant to show you how it works. The floor here is very hot and you can see trainer imprints on the metal floor where the plastic has slightly melted!
We did stop for a meal here and i have to say it was delicious - the best chicken I think i have tasted, and the service is impeccable.
One word of caution tho - in the majority of Lanzarote Restaurants the waiters bring you warm bread at the start of the meal. This is not a freebie and will be charged to your bill at the end - a simple shake of the head and the bread is taken back.
There is a gift shop to look through at the end with the usual tat but I usually pick up a keyring and postcard when visiting new places and these are plentiful.
The Park opens at 10.00 and closes at 6.00 - when you have finished turn left at the exit and you can go to the museum which well worth it from a historical point of view - I will do a seperate review shortly.
It is very commercial and fairly cheesy in parts but for the views alone it is stunning and well worth the money.
Lanzarote can get quite cloudy, so if you can do it on the spur of the moment I would strongly advise going on one of the clear days to make the most of the views.
Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain. Spanish national park.