A Journey Through César Manrique’s Masterpieces in the Canary Islands

César Manrique, a visionary Canarian artist, left a lasting impact on the Canary Islands through his unique architectural and artistic creations. His works, scattered throughout the islands, are a true testament to his passion for preserving the region’s natural beauty and traditional culture. From Tenerife to El Hierro, Manrique’s designs seamlessly blend modern and traditional elements, creating a harmonious relationship between man and nature. Join us as we explore some of Manrique’s most iconic creations in the Canary Islands, highlighting the unique features and stories behind each one.

Who is Cesar Manrique?

César Manrique was a man born of the land, and his art was a reflection of his deep connection to the island of Lanzarote. Born in Arrecife in 1919, Manrique’s path was forever intertwined with the rugged beauty of his homeland. After completing his studies at the San Fernando Fine Arts Academy in Madrid, he began to exhibit his work both in Spain and abroad. His early works were heavily influenced by the contemporary “informalist” movement, where he delved into non-figurative art and studied the properties of matter.

But it was Lanzarote’s volcanic landscape that truly ignited Manrique’s artistic passion. He transformed the island’s rugged terrain into a sort of non-realist naturalism, an emotional translation of its significance. “I try to be the free hand that forms geology,” he wrote.

In 1964, Manrique ventured to New York, where he was exposed to the vibrant art scene of the time, from abstract expressionism to pop art and kinetic art. The experience proved to be a turning point in his creative development.

Upon his return to Lanzarote, Manrique embarked on a series of ambitious projects aimed at turning the island’s natural attractions into valuable assets and generating a new international image for Lanzarote. His new aesthetic ideal, called art-nature/nature-art, was evident in his landmark projects such as the Jameos del Agua, El Río Lookout, and Cactus Garden. Manrique believed in integrating different modes of artistic expression, and his works were imbued with his artistic principles: a respectful dialogue between art and nature, as well as local architectural values and modern conceits.

César Manrique’s life was cut short in 1992 in a tragic car accident near his beloved home in the heart of Teguise, Lanzarote. Despite his untimely passing at the age of 73, his legacy lives on through his breathtaking artworks scattered throughout the Canary Islands, a testament to his enduring vision and unwavering commitment to preserving the beauty and culture of his beloved island.

César Manrique’s Iconic Creations in Lanzarote

Lanzarote, a volcanic island located in the Canary Islands, is home to some of the most spectacular and unique architectural creations by César Manrique. His work seamlessly blends traditional Canarian architecture with the island’s unique volcanic landscape, creating a harmonious fusion of art and nature. From museums to restaurants and gardens to viewpoints, join us as we explore the various masterpieces created by Manrique on the island.

Should you decide to explore the works of César Manrique in Lanzarote after reading this article, be sure to check the updated opening hours and ticket details on the Lanzarote’s Centres for Art, Culture and Tourism (CACT) website before making your visit. With the latest information at your fingertips, you can fully immerse yourself in the artistic legacy of this renowned Canarian architect.

Jameos del Agua

Los Jameos del Agua is a true masterpiece, a natural wonder crafted by the masterful hands of César Manrique. Inaugurated in 1968, this unique space, located inside a volcanic tunnel, represents the epitome of Manrique’s ideology: artistic creation in perfect harmony with nature and the environment.

Born from the eruption of the La Corona volcano, the word “jameo” is of Guanche origin and refers to the hole created by the collapse of the top of a volcanic tube. Manrique saw the potential of this raw and rugged environment and, with his vivid imagination and artistic vision, transformed it into a breathtaking work of art.

The Jameos del Agua is formed by three openings, each with its own unique character. The Jameo Chico, where you can access the interior and find a restaurant, as well as a hidden entrance to the famous Tunnel of La Atlántida. The Jameo Grande, where a swimming pool is located, and the Jameo de la Cazuela, behind the auditorium stage. This natural auditorium, with a capacity of 550 people, is made of basalt stone, offering magnificent and extraordinary acoustics.

Jameos del Agua Lanzarote
Only the King of Spain can take a dip in the Jameos del Agua pool – @dziewul

The subway aquatic habitat of the Jameos del Agua is of great richness, presenting a crystalline lagoon of about 7 meters deep. The origin is produced by seawater filtration, being below sea level. This curious volcanic ecosystem is home to some 77 endemic species of great scientific interest, among which the Munidopsis Polymorpha stands out: it is the famous Blind Crab, the symbol of the center. But it’s important to remember that the Blind Crab is in danger of extinction, and metals are highly dangerous for these small and beautiful animals. Therefore, throwing coins or other objects into the lagoon is strictly forbidden.

Fundacion César Manrique (El Taro de Tahíche)

The Cesar Manrique Foundation, located in the former home of the artist, known as “El Taro de Tahíche”, is a treasure trove of his brilliant works. It sits on a sprawling 30,000 m² estate, surrounded by stunning lava flows from the volcanic eruptions that shaped the island. The house, built in 1968, is a masterpiece of design, seamlessly blending traditional Canarian architecture with modern elements, such as wide windows and generous spaces.

As you explore the Foundation, you’ll find yourself transported to a different world, where the underground floors, and built-in natural volcanic bubbles, offer a unique and immersive experience. Each bubble is decorated according to their names, from the fountain room to the white, red, black and yellow rooms, and features an eight-meter diameter and five-meter high opening. The highlight of the underground floor is the jameo, a smaller version of Los Jameos del Agua, complete with a pool.

On the upper floor, you’ll find the museum rooms, where Manrique’s own works are on display, as well as other pieces from his private collection, including works by Picasso, Miró, Chillida, Guerrero, Chirino, and Sempere.

Jardín de Cactus (Cactus Garden)

The Jardín de Cactus, also known as the Cactus Garden, is a true oasis on the desert island, where over 400 different species of cactus from all over the world thrive in harmony with the island’s volcanic landscape. The space is also an inspired fusion of architecture and nature, making the most of Lanzarote’s volcanic desert geography and using local traditions to create a beautiful artistic complex.

The garden is home to over 10,000 cacti, some of which have grown to an impressive 8 metres in height. It creates a striking contrast of green tones against the blue sky and dark volcanic soil. The garden’s centerpiece is a 19th-century windmill that stands tall and proud, offering panoramic views of the cacti.

As you wander through the garden, be sure to stop by the snack bar nestled beneath the windmill for a unique culinary experience. Indulge in a cactus burger, deliciously crafted with the prickly plants that thrive in the garden. No need to fret! The thorns have been expertly removed, leaving only a succulent treat for your taste buds to savor.

Mirador del Rio

El Mirador del Río, or the Viewpoint of the River, is a true architectural marvel that offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Lanzarote and the Chinijo Archipelago. It was inaugurated in the 70s and is one of the most representative works of César Manrique.

As you approach the viewpoint, you’ll be greeted by a sculpture by Manrique representing a bird and a fish, a metaphor for water and air, the elements that have the greatest presence in the environment. As you step inside, you’ll find two impressive vaulted windows, the eyes of the viewpoint, through which Manrique conceived an extraordinary panoramic view.

You’ll be able to see the slopes of the Risco de Famara and the narrow strip of sea that separates Lanzarote from La Graciosa, the eighth Canary Island. In the background, you’ll see the mountains Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Alegranza, which together with Roque del Este, form the Chinijo Archipelago, a small group unique in the world for its volcanic landscapes and its rich marine reserve currently the largest in Europe.

Inside the viewpoint, you’ll find two large sculptures by Manrique and other decorative details typical of the artist, as well as a spiral staircase, a bar-cafeteria area, a spectacular upper terrace and a souvenir store.

Cueva de Los Verdes

Cueva de Los Verdes, also known as The Green Caves, is a must-see natural wonder on the island of Lanzarote. Formed several thousand years ago as a result of the eruption of the Monte Corona volcano, the cave is part of a 6-kilometre-long volcanic tube that connects the volcano to the Atlantic Ocean. The cave has played an important role in the island’s history, serving as a refuge for the Indigenous Guanche people during times of invasion.

Volcano cave Cueva de los Verdes in Lanzarote
Only the King of SVolcano cave Cueva de los Verdes in Lanzarote – @Tetyana Kochneva

In the 1960s, artists Jesús Soto and César Manrique recognized the natural beauty and potential of Cueva de Los Verdes and transformed it into a work of art. They carefully illuminated the unique rock formations and highlighted the cave’s rainbow of colors, creating an immersive and awe-inspiring experience for visitors.

The 50-minute guided tour takes sightseers deep into the underground network of tunnels and cavernous galleries, where they can marvel at the reddish tones of the basalt rock and different shades of ochre caused by light reflecting on salt deposits in the cave walls. The tour culminates in an auditorium with spectacular natural acoustics, where visitors can enjoy musical performances in an unparalleled setting.

San José Castle International Museum of Contemporary Art

The San José Castle, an 18th-century fortress located in the picturesque bay of Arrecife, has been beautifully transformed into the International Museum of Contemporary Art (MIAC) by César Manrique. The fortress, also known as the “Fortress of Hunger,” was originally built for defensive purposes under the reign of Charles III, but Manrique saw its potential as a space for contemporary art. In 1975, he began the renovation of the castle to create the first contemporary art museum in the Canary Islands.

The permanent collection is constantly changing, with works by artists such as Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, Jackson Pollock, and many others. The temporary exhibitions, organized throughout the year, showcase works by emerging and established artists, providing a fresh and dynamic perspective on contemporary art.

The castle’s location on the coast, with views of the sea, also makes it a perfect place to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery while taking in some of the finest artworks. Visitors can also take a stroll around the castle’s walls, which offer panoramic views of the island, and enjoy a meal or a drink at the restaurant, which serves Mediterranean cuisine with a contemporary twist.

Palm Grove House (César Manrique House Museum)

The César Manrique Museum and Home in Haría, which was once a rural manor, is spread in an extraordinary palm grove. It offers a personal and intimate view of the artist, showcasing his furniture, objects, paintings, and domestic articles that were an extension of his lifestyle and creative personality.

The museum’s interiors are a true delight, with unexpected construction and decorating details, as well as the dense plant life that characterizes all of Manrique’s homes. Visitors will be transported to the artist’s domestic environment, where they can immerse themselves in the original atmosphere of the house, surrounded by works of art and sundry objects.

The studio, located on the edge of the estate, is where Manrique painted and kept just as it was on the day of his death in 1992. Visitors will have the opportunity to see his easels, pigments, tables with drawings, and other materials that he used in his creative process.

Casa-Museo del Campesino (House Museum of the Peasant Farmer)

Manrique’s vision to pay homage to the island’s hardworking farmers is evident in every aspect of Casa-Museo del Campesino. Visitors will be transported back in time as they explore the traditional dwelling and tool room, and marvel at the intricate farming tools and camel saddles on display.

One of the museum’s highlights is the Monumento a la Fecundidad, a 15-meter-tall construction created by Manrique and artist Jesús Soto using old water tanks from ships, iron and concrete objects. This avant-garde work symbolises the island’s resilience and creativity and is a testament to Manrique’s artistic vision.

The Casa-Museo del Campesino also features a winery, reservoir and vineyard, as well as a traditional Canarian garden with mulberry trees and palm trees. The museum’s location in the heart of San Bartolomé allows visitors to appreciate how the house blends into the countryside and how the farmers of Lanzarote have adapted to their harsh environment.

Another museum highlight is the Plaza de Los Artesanos, which showcases the skills of the island’s master craftsmen. Visitors can learn about traditional techniques and see them in action as the artisans demonstrate their craft.

El Diablo Restaurant

The El Diablo Restaurant is a true masterpiece of design, where architecture, art and culinary delights come together to create an unforgettable experience. The restaurant is a perfect blend of the traditional and the modern, where the surrounding area’s natural beauty is seamlessly integrated with the minimalist and artistic style of César Manrique.

The use of geothermal heat to cook the food adds an extra touch of magic to the experience, making it truly one-of-a-kind. The restaurant’s location on top of the Islote de Hilario mountain provides an unparalleled view of Timanfaya National Park‘s Montañas del Fuego (Fire Mountains), making it the ideal spot to enjoy a delicious meal while taking in the natural beauty of Lanzarote.

Landscape of Timanfaya National Park
The Out-of-this-World Landscape of Timanfaya National Park – ©stolenpencil

Discovering Manrique’s Creations in Other Canary Islands

The masterful creations of César Manrique on the Canary Islands go beyond his home island of Lanzarote. Here, you will discover a diverse array of architectural and artistic gems that showcase this renowned Canarian artist’s unique talents and vision. From scenic viewpoint platforms offering panoramic views to cultural centers and museums, each creation is a testament to Manrique’s dedication to preserving and celebrating the natural beauty and traditional culture of the Canary Islands. Get ready to be enchanted by the creative genius of César Manrique as we explore his breathtaking creations in Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro.

Playa Jardín, Tenerife

Step into a world of wonder and beauty at the picturesque Playa Jardín in Tenerife, the masterful creation of Canarian artist César Manrique. As its name implies, Playa Jardín is a true garden paradise, with vibrant flowers and lush vegetation that create a serene and peaceful atmosphere. The sound of a waterfall cascading over volcanic rocks and the sight of little pools filled with marine life only add to the tranquility of the place.

The dark-colored sand is soft and inviting, and the warm waters are perfect for swimming, with one section designated for swimmers and another for surfers. The beach is also the perfect spot to relax and take in the stunning views of Tenerife’s volcano, Mount Teide. For those who crave adventure, Playa Jardín offers a variety of water sports, including paddle boats and snorkeling.

Parque Marítimo, Tenerife

The Parque Marítimo is a true masterpiece of design, a harmonious blend of nature and art. As you enter the park, you’ll be greeted by the soothing sound of falling water cascading over volcanic rocks and into the shimmering seawater pools. The lush palm gardens, dotted with Manrique’s iconic “Wind Toy” sculptures, provide a serene atmosphere, perfect for escaping the bustle of Santa Cruz de Tenerife.

With its panoramic views of the sea and the Auditorium, the Parque Marítimo is the perfect place to relax and soak up the sun. The facilities include three seawater pools, restaurants, terraces, and changing rooms with hot water, making it the perfect destination for a day of family fun and relaxation.

The park, a popular spot for locals and visitors alike, is easily accessible by car and public transport. It also has ample parking. If you’d like to experience the magic of Manrique’s final creation, check out Parque Marítimo’s hours and rates page here.

Lago Martiánez, Tenerife

Lago Martiánez, a leisure complex in Puerto de la Cruz, is a true masterpiece of design. It boasts an artificial lake surrounded by lush gardens, terraces and restaurants, all with breathtaking views of the sea and the majestic Mount Teide.

Endless Pool Fun at Lago Martianez in Puerto de la Cruz
Endless Pool Fun at Lago Martianez in Puerto de la Cruz – © nito500

One of the highlights of Lago Martiánez is the unique sculptures created by Manrique, which are scattered throughout the complex. The “Los Alisios” sculpture is a mobile piece made of heavy laminated iron plates that rotate around a steel shaft supported by large volcanic stones, while “Barlovento” features metallic cones that move with the breeze. Another notable sculpture is “La Jibia,” a playful octopus-shaped sculpture that doubles as a playground for children. The “Homenaje al Mar” sculpture is a tribute to the sea, depicting the movement of Atlantic waves and “Raíces al Cielo” and “Homenaje a Wilhelm Reich” are sculptures of upside-down tree trunks, showcasing the artist’s conceptual approach to materials.

You can visit Lago Martiánez every day from 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM and buy the tickets here.

Mirador del Palmarejo (Palmarejo Viewpoint), La Gomera

Perched high above the picturesque Valle Gran Rey, the Palmarejo Viewpoint offers a breathtaking bird’s eye view of the valley’s natural beauty. Designed by the renowned Canarian architect César Manrique, the viewpoint seamlessly blends into its surroundings, camouflaged among the rocky terrain.

As you take in the stunning vistas of vertical rock walls, terraced hillsides, and lush palm groves, you’ll also have the opportunity to learn about the area’s rich history and ecology. The valley is classified as a Rural Park and a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, and the viewpoint’s gardens showcase a variety of native plants, including the Canary palm tree from which the delicious palm syrup is harvested. The viewpoint also includes a restaurant, parking and a tourist information desk, making it the perfect spot to take in all Valle Gran Rey offers.

Despite its closure, the Palmarejo Viewpoint remains a worthwhile stop for its breathtaking views of the stunning Valle Gran Rey. And though the date of its return remains uncertain, the cordoned-off viewing area and signs of potential building work only add to the anticipation of its eventual reopening.

La Peña Viewpoint, El Hierro

Located high above the El Golfo Valley, the La Peña Viewpoint seamlessly blends into the surrounding natural beauty, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the breathtaking views.

A Masterpiece to Showcase the Real Masterpiece
A Masterpiece to Showcase the Real Masterpiece – @Arocas

As you gaze out over the valley, the enormity of the ancient landslide that created it becomes clear. The cliffs tower high above, covered in lush endemic vegetation, while the volcanic plain below is dotted with vineyards and orchards that stretch all the way to the Atlantic. The Salmor rocks, home to the island’s giant lizards, can also be seen in all their unspoiled glory.

The viewpoint building itself is a work of art, designed with natural elements such as plants and masonry ceilings to create a serene and cool atmosphere. Inside, the Mirador de la Peña restaurant awaits, serving up delicious Canarian dishes made with fresh local ingredients.

As a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the island of El Hierro is truly a treasure trove of natural wonders and the La Peña Viewpoint, open every day from 9:00 AM to 10:30 PM, is the perfect place to take it all in.

Exploring the Masterpieces of César Manrique

César Manrique’s artworks in the Canary Islands are not only a testament to his artistic vision but also a tribute to the beauty and history of the islands. His masterpieces, such as the Jameos del Agua, the Mirador del Río, and the Lago Martiánez, are not only architectural marvels but also offer a unique and immersive experience for visitors. The combination of traditional Canarian elements with modern design creates a harmony that is both striking and harmonious. Manrique’s artworks in the Canary Islands are a must-see for anyone visiting the archipelago and a testament to his enduring legacy.

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