Timanfaya National Park is one of the most sought after destinations in the southwestern part of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands. Popularly known as the Fire Mountains or Montanas del Fuego, its rocky, lunar surface is home to diverse, and sometimes out of this world attractions.
With 51 square kilometers of volcanic land, lava fields, and lapilli (black volcanic sands and rocks), to say that it’s interesting is an understatement. Here, guests are sure to experience way more than just a peek into the island’s volcanic past.
A Geologic Beauty Born Out of Lava
Out of this world. Moon-like. Volcanic Paradise. These words sum up Timanfaya National Park at first glance. The sea of lava formations, black volcanic sand, and mountains in colors of fire are all reminiscent of the place’s history.
Between the years 1730 and 1736, around 30 volcanoes continuously erupted and spewed lava and ash that engulfed eleven villages in the island. As villagers were forced to move out of the region and even out of the island, what remained were sparse vegetation and a few animals which were tough enough to withstand the sudden change in temperature and environment.
The violent eruptions left a mysterious and breathtaking landscape of multi-colored rock formations, dry and copper-colored sand on the southwestern part of the island. This barren and arid land stretches for 20 square miles through the western coast, framed by the towns of Tinajo in the north, Masdache in the east and Yaiza in the south.
With a quarter of the island extensively covered by magma and ash, the surrounding terrain started to resemble the rough surface of the moon. “The Island of Fire” was what became of Lanzarote. Today, underneath all the aridity, the magma in Timanfaya is still active 4-6 feet beneath the surface, and the smell of sulfur still wafts in the air.
Declared as a National Park in 1968, the area has been off-limits to wandering tourists, preventing erosion and preserving the area’s almost original, post-eruption state. Now hailed as the most popular attraction on the island, the stunning geologic lava fields, and the living furnace is accessible only through Coach Trips or Camel rides.
How to Get There
Those who want to move around at their own pace can rent a car at the cruise port dock or from any of the various car hire services in Lanzarote. From the capital city of Arrecife, just drive through LZ-2 southward going to Yaiza and then make a right turn at LZ-67. If coming from Playa Blanca and Puerto del Carmen, take the LZ-2 to Yaiza and follow the signage for Timanfaya. Once at the entrance, there is a 10 Euro fee which includes a bus tour of the site.
For a hassle-free trip, tourists often choose to visit through various coach tours. As part of a larger tour of the island, coach buses go from the Timanfaya National Park routes to the El Diablo restaurant and finally to the nearby wineries.
Alternatively, and for a more adventurous exploration, make sure to join one of the camel tours that also follow specific paths, showing the complexity of the scenery. All these tours may be booked in advanced. One tour you may check out is the Short South Tour by First Minute Travels.
Tours Around Timanfaya National Park
Tours of Timanfaya National Park are classified into three, each one as educational and entertaining as the other. Guests may choose to explore through a coach tour, camel tour, or by foot through the walking tours.
The Coach Tour
Commencing at the Visitor’s Center, these tours last for about 40 minutes each and runs for 10-14 kilometers along the “Ruta de Los Volcanoes”. Plenty of stops make way for some photo opportunities, be it selfies or groupies. The only downside is, everyone does not leave the bus. Nonetheless, the coach bus driver is exceedingly skilled at maneuvering the bus around the hairpin turns and bends of the rocky terrain.
The driver shows passengers all the Martian landscapes characterized by red and ochre hues of the surrounding arid hills and troughs. Moreover, guests admire the Islote de Hilario – the “Black Volcano”, which at 510 meters is the highest point in the Fire Mountains. They also playback excerpts of priest Don Agustin Cabrera’s account of the disaster that birthed the park.
Schedule of the last trip: 17:00
Fees (paid at the entrance): Adults 10 Euros; Children (7-12 years old) 4 Euros
The Camel Tour
Not too far from the Park’s Visitors Center on the road to Yaiza is another visitor’s center on the right-hand side of the road. This is where people flock to ride camels with 2 English chairs on their backs. The gentle creatures cover the path that shows most of the stunning volcanic landscapes of the park.
Nearby, the Echadero de las Camellos is home to a museum or information center where visitors see remnants of the island’s farming past. This also highlights the importance of the hunched animals to the village people’s lives.
Schedule: Daily 09:00 – 16:30 (16:00 if winter)
Fees: 12 Euros per camel with two English seats
The Walking Tour
There are two options for the guided walk. Tourists may inquire in the Mancha Blanca’s Visitors and Interpretative Center about the 2 available hiking trips. Guests may choose from the Termanesana Route and the Coastal Route.
Termanasa Route offers a mere 3km walk that brings travelers closer to the volcanoes. It takes 3 hours to complete the trek which can accommodate 8 adults.
This route brings tourists to the coast where parts of the magma and lava from the volcano eruptions clashed with the sea and formed stunning seascapes. The 6-hour trek is challenging, but for thrill-seekers, it won’t be too hard with proper hiking or trekking boots and ample water throughout the hike.
Each walking tours must be booked in advance.
Dining at El Diablo Restaurant
Finally, the coach tour ends at the El Diablo Restaurant on top of the highest point of Timanfaya National Park called “mirador” or look-out point (“mira” in Spanish means “to gaze”). This is the perfect place to take in a breath stopping, 360-degree view of Lanzarote.
Inside the restaurant, a lava stove which is basically a hole in the ground with a cast-iron grille on top greets visitors. An ingenious idea by legendary Canarian artist Cesar Manrique, this gives patrons the rare chance of tasting “volcano-broiled” dishes using the geothermal heat of about 600°C.
Aside from the unique food, the place boasts of quirky demonstrations fully enjoyed by guests through the glass windows. Watch a guy pour a pot of water inside a long tube inserted into the ground. Connected to the broiling heat 10 meters below, the water gushes back upwards through the tube as a boiling geyser. It’s definitely a rare sight to behold.
Although the lovely weather in Lanzarote means anyone can visit the place any time of the year, the best times to visit are the summer months of Europe, which should be around July to September.
Wearing comfortable walking or trekking shoes, preferably closed ones, would keep dust and grit away from the feet. On windy days, a scarf and sunglasses are ideal protection for the eyes and face against dust carried by the wind.
Journey through Lanzarote’s Volcanic Past
A trip to Timanfaya National Park is an absolute one-of-a-kind experience in Europe. Tagged by travelers as the top among the various things to do in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, it’s an adventure that truly indulges the senses.
Through different tours, guests could appreciate the bizarre beauty of its sea of volcanic sand, vast lava fields, and fascinating volcanoes. People marvel at the power of the energy beneath the earth through the unique restaurant on top of a hill. But more importantly, visitors learn to appreciate nature’s strength and the people’s resilience as they adapt even after devastations.