Calle Lanzarote

Timanfaya National Park

Timanfaya National ParkIt is perhaps a bit unusual that I had been coming to Lanzarote for 10 years before I finally took the tour of Timanfaya National Park, and for many tourists it is probably one of the first places that they take an excursion to.

But for whatever reason, I had only driven past the entrance until now, which does not mean that I had not seen photos and films of what to expect.

The day of our visit must have been a popular choice, because the cars were queued back onto the road (LZ-67) when we arrived. An efficient member of staff was going along the queue, handing out leaflets and enquiring as to the number and age of people in the car. This allowed him to have our tickets ready for us by the time we reached the front of the queue.

Timanfaya National ParkBut the queuing was not over here. We then had to wait on the next piece of road to continue up to the car park.

At the car park there were at least three people directing the traffic and making sure that everyone found a parking space as soon as possible. Once we stepped out of the car, one of them immediately asked us which language we spoke and directed us to one of the faded orange coaches that was going to take us around the park.

I’m not quite sure why he asked, because the commentary was in Spanish, English and German anyway.

Hay burning demonstration in Timanfaya National ParkThe coach tour took us around the volcanic landscape of the park, with many of the corners just passable for the coach, or so it seemed. With sights on both sides of the coach, there is no right or wrong side to sit – just a wrong window if you want to take photos without smudges and fingerprints on it! Since you cannot get out of the coach, you obviously have to take your photos through the windows.

Steam shooting out of the ground at Timanfaya National ParkOnce the coach has returned to the car park, you proceed to a demonstration of the thermal energy. First, some straw or hay is pushed into a well at which point it starts burning on its own. Then comes probably the most famous of the demonstrations – water is poured down a spout, only for it to shoot back up into the air again thanks to the 350°C heat underground. Finally, inside the building, food for the restaurant is being cooked over a large pit, purely by heat coming up out of the earth.

After this and a trip round the souvenir shop we proceeded back to the main road and turned left to head to Mancha Blanca where the Canary Islands Government has a visitors’ centre.

The lava field walkway at Timanfaya Visitors' CentreThe centre, which is free to enter, contains exhibits showing how volcanoes work and even has an eruption “simulation” in the basement, although this is apparently only 1/20 the volume of the eruptions on Lanzarote in 1730. There is also a film about the geology of the island which lasts almost an hour.

Timanfaya Visitors' Centre in Mancha BlancaOne of the highlights here is the long gangway that take you out over the lava, until you are almost surrounded by it on all sides. Whilst the coach tour had the breathtaking views, this is an experience that the first location could not offer, and after years of learning that you cannot safely cross the lava fields, it is unusual to be standing in the middle of one.

And judging by the number of visitors, many of those who took the coach tour then continued elsewhere but did not go on to the visitors’ centre which is a shame, as it compliments the coach tour, adding the “how” and “why” to the experience.


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