The Mirador del Rio

The Mirador del Rio is one of the most spectacular viewpoints in the whole of the Canary Islands. Certainly, it’s a unique place that you won’t forget. The Mirador is situated almost at the top of the Risco de Famara escarpment. This runs from just outside the village of Teguise to Punta Fariones, Lanzarote’s most northerly point, a distance of about 22 kilometers. From the Mirador at the top of the escarpment, you can look out over the Chinijo Archipelago National Park.

History of the Mirador

The lookout point at the end of the Risco de Famara escarpment has been in use for hundreds of years. Shortly after the Spanish settlers arrived in the 16th Century, the spot was used as a lookout for marauding pirates. These were the scourge of the island for nearly two hundred years.

In 1898 a gun battery and small fortress were added to the site to deter any American naval incursions. At this time Spain was at war with America over ownership of the Island of Cuba. The Spanish thought that the Americans might anchor a fleet in the strait between the islands.

The site was enhanced further during the Second World War. The Spanish feared that there would be a British invasion of the Canary Islands in retaliation for assisting the Germans.

Design

The architect Eduardo Cáceres and artist Jesús Soto, collaborated in the creation of El Mirador. What adds to the wonder of the place, is that the terrain had to be dug and the completed building covered with volcanic rock with very limited means.

The structure was cleverly designed by Cesar Manrique so that neither the entrance nor the curvy white stone corridor gives any hint of what is to come. The corridor leads into a large, white-walled open plan area with a wooden floor and simple tables and chairs. The minimalist design ensures that visitors are not distracted from the incredible views in front of them. The windows were carefully designed to make the most of the panoramic vistas.

The Mirador del Rio is a really stunning piece of architecture. At the time it was built it was hailed as one of the most important new buildings in the world. Manrique’s strong ecological philosophy means the building effortlessly blends into its surroundings.

The design was so successful that Manrique used the techniques again when building a similar structure on La Gomera, the Mirador del Palmajero.

The View

The Mirador has a super wide-angle view through full-length windows. These perfectly frame the bright blue straits of El Rio. Then across to La Graciosa and beyond to the other islands of the Chinijo Archipelago. From this point, La Graciosa is just over a thousand meters away. The strait of El Rio (literally The River) is very narrow.

This view is absolutely stunning, it completely takes your breath away. It’s possible to go outside onto the balcony where you can absorb the amazing location better. You fully appreciate the fact that the building is set into the side of a cliff face. The sheer drop makes you giddy as you look 480 meters downwards to the sea.

Down on the shoreline below, you can see the sands of the remote and difficult to reach Playa El Risco. Nearby the reddish shades of the Salinas del Rio salt pans, which are the oldest in the Canaries. These have been used since Roman times.

Beyond La Graciosa, are Alegranza (home to a number of seabird colonies) and Montaña Clara, and the two small rocks; Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este. These islands collectively make up the Chinijo Archipelago.

The Mirador has a cafe where you can enjoy a snack or a coffee and savour the view some more. I never wanted to finish my cappuccino, so engrossing is the view.

Visiting the Mirador

The north of Lanzarote is sometimes misty, and the Famara is often covered in cloud. This is a bit problematic for somewhere that is all about its views. I would recommend checking a local weather forecast before planning a visit. The weather in the far north of Lanzarote can be different from the rest of the island.

The entrance fee is €4.75 at the time of writing. If you’re on a budget, you can enjoy pretty much the same views for free by walking a short way down the narrow road to the west of the car park.

There isn’t a public bus that will take you to the Mirador. The only way to visit is by cycling, car, or on a coach trip. I found car hire in Lanzarote is very good value for money.

The Mirador del Rio – Picture Gallery

El Rio and La Graciosa

La Graciosa is the only inhabited island in the Chinijo Archipelago. It is home to about 500 people. There are no roads or cars on the island.

Biosfera Express & Lineas Maritimas Romero operate a daily ferry service from Orzola to La Graciosa (Caleta del Sebo). Sailing time is about 25 minutes, and on windy days (that’s most days in Lanzarote!) the crossing can be quite rough.

La Graciosa has several amazing beaches and you’re pretty much guaranteed a secluded spot. The Playa de las Conchas is furthest away from the harbour. That and the Playa de la Cocina, with its near-white sand and aquamarine waters are probably the best two. The Playa de El Salado has a beach that is over a mile long. If you fancy staying overnight it is home to a campsite. Other accommodation is very limited as you might expect.

The only way around the island is by foot, rented bicycle, or old jeep taxi (clapped-out!!). There are a number of walking and cycling trails. These include a circular tour of the island that is 20 miles long and best completed on a mountain bike. Before leaving Caleta del Sebo make sure you have enough food and water for the day. There are no other shops on the island.

For sure you’ll have an amazing day out.

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