The Timanfaya National Park or Montanas del Fuego (Fire Mountains) is one of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. The Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Lava and all manner of volcanic features cover the 51 sq km of Timanfaya. The landscape has a striking resemblance to the surface of Mars and it is free of housing or any other urban developments. The black and red soils come from the recent series of eruptions. These took place about 300 years ago. The landscape has been featured in movies to represent other worlds and also prehistoric worlds. Most famously part of the classic One Million Years BC was filmed here.
Wherever you are staying on the island (Playa Blanca, Puerto del Carmen, Costa Teguise), you can probably find an excursion to Timanfaya and it is definitely the most popular thing to do in Lanzarote. Over a million people visit the Park every year. A trip just to Timanfaya is a half-day excursion. It is sometimes included within a day trip to other nearby places such as El Golfo and the Green Lagoon and the cliffs at Los Hervideros.
Driving to the Park
If you are driving to the Park, travel to Yaiza and then follow the LZ-67 in the direction of Mancha Blanca to the Park entrance. The volcanic landscapes, malpais or badlands, begin just south of Yaiza.
There are not many stopping places on the road as the lava comes right up to the edge of the road. Traffic on the road tends to be travelling quite fast as well. So, if you want some pictures, get your passenger to take some as you drive along.
Once you’re on the LZ-67, the entrance to the Park is easy to spot. Just look out for El Diablo, an impish Cesar Manrique designed devil statue on the left-hand side of the road.
Note it is forbidden to leave your vehicle and walk among the malpais. Unsupervised travel within the Park is not allowed by the authorities. The reason for this is the feeling that the landscape would lose some of its appeal if there were lots of people wandering around it. Also, the landscape is very fragile and footprints left in the volcanic sand can take years to disappear. Last but not least there is a safety consideration, in places the crust is very thin and there is a possibility that walkers could fall through.
Echadero de los Camellos (Camel Park)
The Camel Park is located about 2 km before the National Park entrance and is one of the few places you can officially stop. It is however a chaotic place with dozens of tour buses and hundreds of tourists all waiting for a ride up and down the nearby mountain on a camel’s back. There is also an information centre and a small museum at the site.
Restaurant and Gift Shop
Continue on the LZ-67 to reach the El Diablo statue and entrance. This takes you to the restaurant and gift shop where you can park. Caesar Manrique designed the restaurant.
The fee to enter the Park is 12 euros, with a 20% discount if you arrive after 3 pm. If you want to avoid the tour buses, visit early before 11 am or after 3 pm. The Park is open from 9 am until 6 pm. The last bus on the volcano tour leaves at about 5 pm. The entrance fee includes a ticket for the bus tour around the Ruta de Los Volcanes.
You can walk a little way around the restaurant and take in the views, but you are not allowed to stray far. The area in front of the restaurant was mostly created in the volcanic eruptions that took place between 1730 and 1731. The eruptions lasted six years altogether and devastated an area of about 200 sq km.
The restaurant enjoys panoramic views through large glass panels. The food is barbecued on a large grill above the heat of the volcano. The food is reasonable quality but the place itself is very busy with people from all the coach parties everywhere.
Just in front of the restaurant, a park ranger demonstrates that the volcanic activity beneath your feet is very much alive. A guide drops a bucket of water into a tube in the ground. Two seconds later it is transformed into a scalding hot geyser. A piece of dry bush is dropped into a pit and the heat of the ground instantly sets it alight. The temperature at ground level is around 100 – 120 degrees Centigrade. Just 13 m below the surface the temperature rises to over 600 degrees Centigrade. This heat comes from a magma chamber about 4 – 5 km below the surface.
Ruta de los Volcanes (Route of the Volcanos)
Coaches depart continuously for the Ruta de Los Volcanes (Route of the Volcanos) tour. This leaves from next to the gift shop. The tour is an unforgettable 35-minute trip taking in the highlights of the Park’s Center. These include a large photogenic hornito (a dome-shaped mound of lava known as the Widow’s Cowl, views inside giant collapsed cones, a stop inside a giant lava flow that has almost become a jameos, the beautiful valley de la Tranquilidad and Montana del Cuervo. This was the epicentre of the explosions and is probably the island’s most photographed volcano.
The tour travels along a continuous single lane road with a short commentary in Spanish, English and German. This plays throughout the tour, complete with mood music and special sound effects. The tour ends with the theme music to 2001: a Space Odyssey.
The coaches are clean and comfortable and expertly driven around the 14km route with stops in key places with enough time to admire the scenery. You are not allowed to leave the coach though. This means you have to take all your pictures through the bus window (hold your phone close to the window to minimise reflections).
Centro de Visitantes e Interpretacion de Mancha Blanca (Visitor Center)
Strangely the visitor centre is on a different site about 3km north of the El Diablo restaurant. It is however easy to find and free. Head back to the LZ-67 and turn left (north). The Mancha Blanca Visitor Center is about 3 km along the road and is open from 9 am until 5 pm.
The centre is nice and cool with several exhibits. See a scale representation of the park and its volcanoes. There are photos and an explanation of the geology of the area. You can also find out about the history of the eruptions and how plant life has recovered from the event.
Don’t miss the eruption simulation whilst you’re here, listen out for announcements as you’re walking around.
You can take a walking tour from the visitor centre which is led by park rangers. This follows the Ruta de Termesana which is close to where the tour buses go. You have to book this tour in advance.
If you go out on a walking tour remember to bring plenty of water to drink, a hat and sunscreen. The landscape has very little shade. Wear stout walking shoes or boots to protect your feet.
If you want a walk through the volcanic landscape and are visiting El Golfo, the Ruta de Litoral from the village is a walk you can take at your own pace. See my El Golfo post for details.
There are a few other places where you can walk on tracks across the landscape. On the LZ-56 you can walk towards Montana Cuervo and Montana Colorada. There is also the Ruta Volcan Caldereta Blanca which starts near Mancha Blanca.
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