Offshore Sailor

Volcanoes in Lanzarote

Volcanoes in Lanzarote

Shindig spent the late summer and then the winter of 2014/2015 in Puerto Calero, an exceedingly well run and comfortable marina on the Canary Island of Lanzarote. Chele and I of course, returned to the UK to attend to business and family matters, but still managed to squeeze a few weeks of delight on board. And what a fascinating place Lanzarote is. Smart and clean, with  comfortable year-round climate it's the antithesis of the popular image of such places. And its landscape is extraordinarily dramatic.

Call me peculiar but I really do like volcanoes. An earlier blog had me scampering up Vulcano in in the Aeolian Islands and there have been numerous unrecorded incidents of being drawn upwards by the whiff of sulphur. So when Chele suggested we squander the last full day of our hire car visiting the Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote I was rather shocked to find myself shaking my head. Of course I had forgotten that shaking one’s head doesn’t always wash with Chele when she’s in determined mood, so I wasn’t in the least bit astonished an hour later to find myself behind the wheel of a bright yellow Opel Corsa bound for the aforementioned National Park.

Now this isn’t the sort of place where you can wander around as the spirit moves you. For starters the terrain is extremely rugged – enough to destroy the suspension of a Chieftain tank, let alone a Corsa. The procedure works like this: you join a queue of cars that inches its way along a narrow road until it arrives at a reception centre, predictably complete with restaurant and souvenir shop. This is where you quit your car and board a bus which then embarks on a 30 minute circuit along a narrow and sometimes tortuous – some might find scary – track. There are pauses at places of special interest so passengers can take photos through the windows. The bus fare is included in the entry price of €9 per person.

The car queues took us over an hour (it varies with time of day) which gave us enough time to learn that Timanfaya’s various eruptions occurred between the years 1730 to 1736 – with a much briefer encore in the 1820s. There were about 100 volcanoes in all, with the lava covering some 25% of the island – most of which remains in place until today.

Chele had been right. This is one of the most awesome landscapes I’ve ever seen. Varying from terrifying to downright beautiful, superficially it looks raw and cruel but actually harbours some unexpected bonuses. Lanzarote shares its climate with the Sahara, some 70 miles to the east. This means almost zero rainfall, which you would think is not exactly ideal for growing crops. However, beneath Timanfaya’s lava lies the fertile soil of the 18th Century. And if this is exposed and the plants then mulched with lightweight volcanic gravel known locally as ‘picon’, both weed growth and the evaporation of what little moisture exists are greatly reduced.

So, if you find yourself in Lanzarote, take yourself to Timanfaya. It’s good value and very well presented. You’ll not regret it.


Andrew Simpson

Andrew is a writer, illustrator and editor - mainly in the field of recreational boating. In addition to several books he has been a monthly contributor to Britain's most popular boating magazine for over twenty years. Andrew and his wife Chele spend about six months of every year sailing. After some years in the Mediterranean, they are now in the Caribbean. If you enjoy his blogs please share them with your friends. Comments or questions are also welcomed.

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