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LANZAROTE, CANARY ISLANDS - WINE, VOLCANOES AND CESAR MANRIQUE'S HOME

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As the most eastern of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote is located closer to Africa (125 kilometers) than it is to Spain (1,000 kilometers away).

Volcano Route through the Mountains of Fire
Volcano Route through the Mountains of Fire
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The fourth largest island in the Canary Archipelago, Lanzarote covers an area of 846 square kilometers. Cliffs and golden beaches punctuate its 140 kilometers of Atlantic coastline.

UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

We enjoyed a tour of Lanzarote after our Canary Islands cruise ship docked in Marina Rubicon at Playa Blanca. In 1993, UNESCO made the entire island a World Biosphere Reserve. Forty-one per cent of Lanzarote is protected.

It's easy to imagine what Lanzarote looked like 300 years ago when it experienced 700 volcanic eruptions. Most took place between 1730 and 1736, covering a dozen villages.

Earthquakes began 10 years before, giving residents time to move out. A few more eruptions occurred in 1824.

Volcano Route

Eruptions covered more than one-third of the island. The Volcano Route, an excellent paved 10-kilometer road, travels through a desolate moonscape of craters and multicolored lava flows from the Mountains of Fire (Montañas del Fuego).

Lichens grow below hornito where volcanic gases escape
Lichens grow below hornito where volcanic gases escape
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Iron tinted some of the lava in ocher hues. Phosphate colored other tortured swirls yellow. The remainder of the starkly beautiful lavascape is black.

Timanfaya National Park

To prevent littering and theft of volcanic rock, private cars are not allowed in the park. As we drove through on a small bus, our guide Angel pointed out small yellowish-white lichens and green bushes growing on the lava.

We viewed massive craters and a large hornito that looked like a big rock on one side. The other side was a large cavity through which gases and lava escape.

Lava tunnels

The bus driver stopped so we could observe lava tunnels and horizontal stalagmites colored rust-red and chocolate. Some of Lanzarote's lava tunnels are as high as 10 meters.

Black lava bombs rest below ripples of ocher pellets in the Valley of Tranquility
Black lava bombs rest below ripples of ocher pellets
in the Valley of Tranquility
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Valley of Tranquility resembles a desert, with wind-blown ripples of ocher lava pellets instead of sand. Three hundred years ago, a volcano spit out jagged black lava bombs. The grooves that they made in the ash as they slid down the slope still remain today.

Grilling meat with lava heat

El Diablo restaurant is located on the summit of the Islote de Hilario volcano. Cooks grill meat over heat emanating from a black lava rock pit. "The volcanoes are still dormant," said Angel. "The heat comes from trapped lava bubbles."

National park rangers demonstrated the geothermal energy of the residual heat. One dropped a handful of ocher lava pellets (picón) into our outstretched palms. They were so hot that we could only hold the pellets for a few seconds.

Handful of hot ocher lava pellets
Handful of hot ocher lava pellets

Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

A crowd gathered around a pit into which a ranger dropped clumps of dried bushes. Within seconds, they started to smoke and burst into flame.

A third ranger poured water down a pipe into a fissure. Super-heated steam rocketed out as a geyser three times his height.

Timanfaya National Park ranger watches lava-heated water geyser by El Diablo restaurant
Timanfaya National Park ranger watches lava-heated water geyser by El Diablo restaurant
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

César Manrique Foundation

The circular glass-walled restaurant blends in perfectly with the lunar landscape. It was designed by César Manrique (1919-1992), Lanzarote's visionary artist and architect. Like all his works, it promotes the harmony between architecture and nature.

In Tahiche, we visited Manrique's home, which is now a museum. The two-story whitewashed building, built over five large volcanic bubbles or lava caves, is traditional Lanzarote architecture. By combining light, natural materials and art, César created the appearance of bringing the outside indoors.

Lava appears to flow through the window of Cesar Manrique’s home
Lava appears to flow through the window of Cesar Manrique’s home
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Manrique's art enhances the museum, from a large multicolored Wind Toys mobile outside to paintings and sketches indoors. Windows frame nature as art. In one room, lava appears to flow through the window.

Prime Ministers and artists visited César Manrique's home when he lived there from 1968 to 1990. We followed their footsteps through the indoor spaces to an outdoor pool in a collapsed lava tube surrounded by cacti.

Lush green plants sprouted from corners. A palm tree grew through the ceiling of one of the lava rock grottoes.

A white couch and marble table, created by César, enhanced one lava cave. A built-in red sofa, with a Manrique-designed wooden coffee table and ceramic lamps furnished another lava bubble.

Grape vines grow in semi-circular rock shelters
Grape vines grow in semi-circular rock shelters
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Wine tasting

In La Geria, Lanzarote vintners built semi-circular lava rock wind shelters around pits filled with up to two meters of black volcanic ash, which attracts dew to feed the vines. Each one, the size of a child's wading pool, contains a single grapevine.

The grape harvest is in June and July before heat from the Sahara Desert damages the vineyards in August.

The Lanzarote Wine Route features a dozen wine cellars, some dating back to the 18th century. We visited Bodegas Rubicon to taste the local red, white and rosé wines.

Pouring Malvasia wine samples at Bodegas Rubicon
Pouring Malvasia wine samples at Bodegas Rubicon
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

We sampled Malvasia Seco, Semi Dulce, Rosado, Tinto and Moscatel Dulce. The latter, a sweet white dessert wine, was our favorite.

Canarian food specialties

To accompany the wine, we enjoyed some of Lanzarote's fresh goat cheese and gofio. The pieces of roasted wheat and corn flour mixed with sweetened milk tasted like shortbread.

The tour normally includes a lunch stop at a traditional restaurant near César Manrique's Monumento al Campesino (Monument to the Peasant) in San Bartolome.

Canary Island food specialties include papas arrugadas — tiny potatoes boiled in salt water until their skins become wrinkled. Spicy red mojo picón, made from oil, garlic, vinegar, cumin and coriander sauces the potatoes.

Bodegas Rubicon and local supermarkets sell jars of the mojo, which makes a tasty Lanzarote souvenir.

Jar of spicy red mojo picon
Jar of spicy red mojo picon
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Lanzarote weather

When is the best time to go to Lanzarote? Located at the same latitude as Florida, the island's average summer temperature is 25 degrees C, while the average winter temperature is 17 degrees C.

The island receives rain only a couple times per year. Ironically, it rained during our February visit. A desalination plant provides water, because the island has no rivers or lakes.

Playa Blanca resort

Lanzarote's population of 150,000 people live primarily in the capital city, Arrecife. Their low, white homes have flat roofs and patios to collect rainwater.

Lanzarote also has three resorts, one near the north, one in the middle and Playa Blanca, the newest resort, in the south.


TRAVEL INFORMATION

Contact GLP Worldwide for brochures, bookings and information about Variety Cruises Canary Islands trips.

More things to see & do in the Canary Islands:

Fuerteventura, Canary Islands - Beaches, Surf, Dunes and Aloe Vera

Las Palmas Gran Canaria Tour to Teror and Santa Brigida

Valle Gran Rey Walking Tour - La Gomera, Canary Islands

Santa Cruz de Tenerife Walking Tour - Cruise Shore Excursion

La Laguna, Tenerife - Shore Excursion Walking Tour