Having been born from volcanic activities, the Canary Islands is a lava cave-rich land. These natural forms, though, were never seen as something of any beauty or use. Well, not until Cesar Manrique merged art and nature’s handiwork to create masterpieces. Amongst his works of art is Jameos del Agua in Haria. Hailed as the eighth wonder of the world by the legendary Hollywood actress Rita Heyworth herself, it’s an architectural marvel inside Mother Earth’s sweet embrace.
The Life of a Lava Tunnel
About 3,000 years ago, an incredible amount of molten lava flowed from the mouth of Montaña La Corona. The seemingly endless spew of blazing discharge spilled until it reached the Atlantic. What became of the ravage after it fully hardened was a 6km long tube that extends all the way to the ocean.
Due to pressure caused by volcanic gases, some parts of the tube’s roof collapsed in time. Cesar Manrique then found these open-air sections and transformed them into unique attractions.
In 1966, the architect-cum-artist unveiled Jameos del Agua, his very first project. It was an architecture like no other, and it was the start of a blossoming relationship between art and nature.
What to See in Jameos del Agua
Jameos del Agua is an architectural feat. It is a portion of a giant lava tunnel that Manrique turned into a magnificent volcanic Arcadia. Within its rugged walls are bars, two dancefloors, a restaurant, a large auditorium, and a swimming pool with clear turquoise water. All these are open to visitors, but they can’t plunge into the basin. Unfortunately, unless one is the King of Spain, even taking a quick dip is not permitted.
Going down a stone staircase brings guests to the lava pipe cave Jameo Chico. First to receive them is a mezzanine restaurant that doubles as a bar-cafe with views of the small lake. Descending further leads guest past the marble dance floor and meet the tiny cave residents.
The natural seawater lake is home to blind albino crabs called ‘Jameitos.’ Endemic to Lanzarote, the beautiful but bizarre cave dwellers have become the symbol of the island. In fact, the first to greet excited visitors is the crab sculpture at the entrance. Many other art pieces of crabs and lobsters, big and small, are scattered all around the site. There are lobster pots for the giant ferns and even lobster-shaped door handles.
It’s hard to imagine that a volcanic eruption can give birth to such a magnificent place. Cathedral-like with a gap where the sunlight peeks, it lights the tunnel and shows just how clear the water of the lake is. To get to the other end, visitors must traverse a narrow walkway. Here, a landscaped wall serving as a restaurant and bar-cafe awaits.
From the bar-cafe, the serpentine staircase leads to ‘Jameo Grande,’ an oasis that looks more like a lagoon than a cave. It’s an enormous 100-meter-long by 30-meter-wide open-air space with a lot of sun and floras. Also in it is a spectacular swimming pool which is ‘the face’ of the whole attraction. This stunner is shown in almost all postcards and writings about Jameos del Agua. Sadly, though, only the King of Spain is allowed to bathe in it. For the rest of the world’s population, they can only admire and take photos.
At the far end of the garden oasis is the grand 800-seat auditorium. Like Jameo Chico, it too has an opening that provides subtle light to the dome cave. It also makes the unique web-like ceiling sculpture look even more ethereal. For a couple of years, it was closed to the public as it had to undergo major reconstruction. Re-opened in 2009, it has since regularly hosted classical concerts, theatrical performances, and film screenings.
La Casa de Los Volcanes
From Jameo Grande, the very noticeable white stairway leads to La Casa de Los Volcanes. As expected, it houses panels of facts about Lanzarote and, of course, volcanoes. What makes this interpretation center rare and indeed fascinating are the instruments and computers that show the planet’s real-time temperature and movements.
Entrance Fee and Opening Hours
Jameos del Agua is open daily from 10:00 to 18:30. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, they extend up to 00:30. The latter is also applicable on Wednesdays during summer. Their rates are as follows:
- €9.50 for adults
- €4.75 for children
- €7.60 for Canarian adult residents
- €3.80 Canarian children residents
- €2.00 for Lanzarote residents
Please note that they currently have discounts for non-Canarian/Lanzarote residents (20% off from 15:00 and 20% off from 15:00 to 19:00).
Most of Jameos del Agua’s sections are only accessible through staircases. Because the floors are mainly of volcanic rock, wearing comfortable shoes is highly recommended.
At the moment, the whole place is not accessible to those with limited mobility. There are plans to modify and give access to the physically disabled guest. However, they have yet to provide any specifics.
Furry friends or any types of pets are not allowed, except guide dogs.
Aside from pleasuring the eyes, Jameos del Agua aims to satisfy the palate as well. The volcanic paradise houses three bar-cafes in different locations. One is right at the entrance (also a restaurant), another is after the narrow footpath by the lake, and the last is beside La Casa de Los Volcanes. No matter which section guests find themselves in, there will be a nearby bar-cafe ready to offer seats, drinks, and food.
The dishes on their rather small menu taste lovely and are fairly priced. Their must-trys include bean soup, sirloin steak carpaccio, sandwiched grouper in Iberian ham served on beans, tomato and vegetable, king prawn with guacamole salad, tapas, and beef with port.
Visiting on Tuesday and Saturday nights is a must. Not only does the cave look extra dramatic by sundown, but there’s also a four-piece group that performs traditional folk music too.
How to Get to Jameos del Agua
From the capital Arrecife, take bus line 09 which stops at Jameos del Agua. During regular working days, the bus departs at 7:20, 10:15, 11:30, 15:30, and 17:00. On weekends and holidays, it follows the same schedule but without the 11:30 trip.
Those who prefer to go by car only need follow LZ-1. This road connects Arrecife directly to the north and passes by Jameo del Agua.
A Lava-ffair with Art and Nature
Jameos del Agua imparts valuable lessons to all its guests. It shows that art and nature can co-exist. At the same time. At the same place. Big cities do not have the monopoly of art and architecture. Nature’s beauty isn’t only green, on the surface, or high above. It can be dark, deep under the ground, inside a lava bubble, and could spring from natural disasters. And, last but not the least, a lava-ffair with art and nature is never the wrong kind of affair.