Even if you don’t usually like gardens this is a stunning place to visit and quite unlike anywhere else. The famous Jardin de Cactus was one of the last works Cesar Manrique completed on Lanzarote and apparently was one of his favorites. It is situated towards the north of the island, near the village of Guatiza, in a former quarry site. This unusual park was created in 1970 and finished in 1990, two years before Manrique tragically died in a car accident.
Visiting the Jardin
The Jardin is open all year round but is at its best in August and September when a lot of the Cacti flower. Some flower for several weeks, others for only a day.
It is free to park and the entrance fee is about €6. On-site there is a restaurant/snack bar, a well-stocked gift shop, toilets, and free WiFi.
If you don’t have a car it’s possible to get to the Jardin by bus. Numbers 7, 9, and 21 stop here. Visit IntercityBus Lanzarote for more information and timetables.
Be careful as you walk around, many of the stairs don’t have guards, the paths are uneven and the cactus spines and sharp rocks are both very unforgiving!
In the car park, a giant eight-meter high, green metallic cactus sculpture with spines, stands over the main entrance. This does make the site impossible to miss!
Inside Manrique kept the original circular structure of the quarry and designed a series of layered steps around the circumference of the garden.
The Jardin is a celebration of all things cactus and has one of the best collections in the world. The plants are all displayed in a beautiful amphitheater with steep terraces that echo the stone wall patterns of the local fields.
This amazing landscape of the Jardin has 7,000 cacti from over 1400 varieties from all around the world. The selection of the plants and the layout was the work of botanist, Estanislao Gonzales Ferrer. The variety of different shapes and sizes is astounding. There are plants that look like totem poles, giant cucumbers, starfishes, snakes, and fire hydrants. The gardens have been established now for nearly 30 years, so there are some quite big specimens.
The plants are a joy for the photographer with the green colours of the plants contrasting vividly with the blue sky and the dark volcanic stone.
The garden can be busy at times, especially in the middle of the day. Visit early morning or late afternoon and enjoy the peace and tranquility. At these times the only sounds you’ll hear are singing birds, trickling water, and humming insects. If you are touring the north of the island the location of the Jardin makes it the perfect starting/finishing place.
The Jardin is sheltered from the wind so it can become very hot in the middle of the day. The only shade is provided by the sails of the cafe.
El Molino – The Windmill
Given the windy climate of Lanzarote, it is no surprise that the wind was harnessed by windmills to grind gofio flour. This Canarian flour is made from roasted wheat or maize and the root of a fern with a little added salt. The windmill at the Cactus Garden is one of the best-preserved in Lanzarote.
Jardin de Cactus – Picture Gallery
Building the Jardin
The design of the Jardin was the work of Cesar Manrique. A native of Lanzarote, the famous architect helped to shape a lot of the development in Lanzarote in the 1970s and ’80s. Manrique saw the potential of the run-down old quarry, which is surrounded by the largest cactus plantation on Lanzarote.
Like many of Manrique’s designs, the garden was designed for dramatic effect. It sets out to deliberately surprise visitors. The entrance to the site bends around a central sculpture. This has been placed in a position that obscures the view of the garden until the last possible moment. Once you’ve got through the entrance, you are presented with a dramatic, panoramic view of the garden. From this point, steps lead down into the garden itself.
Inside the amphitheater, there are two domed structures that house the cafeteria and the garden shop. This sells traditional gift items and is also well stocked with cactus plants.
Manrique designed a special cactus motif which you’ll see throughout the site. It’s on door handles, in the large wrought iron gates at the front, and in a variety of abstract forms elsewhere on the site.
Various water features were also added complete with goldfish. These make the garden seem a bit like an oasis. There is even a small volcanic beach.
Located underneath the restored windmill and set into the far wall of the quarry are the bar and restaurant. Inside the bar, there is a beautiful spiral staircase with a central sculpture leading out to a terrace area. Outside the giant sails on the terrace provide shelter from the sun whilst you enjoy a snack or drink and enjoy the views over the cactus gardens.
If you are feeling adventurous the cafe actually serves a cactus burger. The tasty burger is made with tunera cactus, potato, maize, and onion. Eaten in South America for hundreds of years, cactus is very healthy as it’s full of anti-oxidants. It also contains taurine which is the active ingredient in a number of energy drinks.
The Jardin is in the heart of an agricultural landscape, characterised by plantations of the Prickly Pear Cactus (Tunera). These are used in the cultivation of cochineal. This is a natural dye that is still used in certain foodstuffs.
The Tunera cacti is very attractive to cochineal beetles. The larvae of these beetles are harvested and crushed to produce cochineal dye which was a very important product in the 19th Century. Today however, the invention of artificial colourants has reduced the demand for this natural dye.
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