Holiday Geology - Lanzarote

Lanzarote is the furthest east of the Islands known as the Grand Canaries and lies some 60 miles off the coast of North Africa and is part of the modern Spanish provence of La Palmas.

I travelled with my nephew’s family, so not much hill walking was done. On the first day we drove from Puerto del Carmen to the National Park of Timanfaya, passing through the town of Yaiza where we glimpsed a dromedary train which takes tourists up and down a gritty steep mountain slope for a 25 minute ride.

My first impressions of the landscape of the Timanfaya National Park were of barrenness and the striking resemblance to the volcanic outflows in the Cascades of Oregon State in the USA. I am sure the experts among your members of the MGA will say the two lava flows are completely different but I was constantly reminded by the same jagged black lava skyline pushing right up to the manmade road which enables one to see the landscape without the struggle of actually walking on the sharp basalt outcrops.

John and Margaret Goulding give this description in their Windrush Island Guides:

“Lanzarote’s unique landscape was created by a series of geologically recent volcanic eruptions leaving a first impression of a moonlike surface. There is a stern and silent grandeur where the light plays over the volcanic fields in unexpected colours and tinctures, punctuated by grotesquely contorted lumps of lava. In 1730 eruptions began which lasted over 6 years and devastated one of the most fertile regions on the island. Ten villages and some 420 houses were engulfed. When the lava final cooled it covered an area of about 200 square kilometres. The once fertile cereal fields were transformed into a sea of ash and clinker, and 32 new craters were thrust up forming a new mountain range known as the Montanas del Fuego de Timanfaya.”

We ate lunch of grilled chicken in a restaurant on top of an outcrop on the Timanfaya volcano called Isolate del Hilario. The meat is grilled directly over the heat from a deep volcanic vent. The temperature inside the volcano is 600 C and just below the surface is a cool 100 C. I have a short video of one of the guides pushing dried grass into a crater on a long stick, and watching it burn: it’s like supping with the devil! The other trick is to place a metal can over a vent, pour in water and wait the odd 20 seconds for it to swoosh into the air as it rapidly boils away ~ rather like a geyser erupting.

It was not as warm as I hoped in Lanzarote but we did manage to take in the Volcanic Park at Timanfaya, and went to El Golfo, where the sea has cut into a volcanic crater and exposes layer upon layer of ash and lava. The lake is bright green with algae!

Ann Phillips