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Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote, Spain: A Travel and Cultural Guide

Updated: Apr 21



View of the Timanfaya National Park
View of the Timanfaya National Park | Image Credits: Unsplash


If in Lanzarote and willing to get really deep down to the soul of the island, the Timanfaya National Park is an irreplaceable experience and one that allows every visitor to fully grasp the reality of life on this Spanish-but-geographically-faraway island.


Almost a moonscape, the territories of the Timanfaya Park and those around it have defined Lanzarote and its history in the last three centuries, changing its fate and that of its inhabitants, who were forced to flee, resist, adapt.


Today, visiting Timanfaya Park is a one-of-a-kind adventure that you really cannot miss. Hopefully, here you will find a complete guide with everything you may need to enjoy it and all the reasons why you should definitely stop by!


 

In this article:


Timanfaya National Park: What and Why
Timanfaya National Park: Your Visit and What to See
Timanfaya National Park: Plan Your Visit
Timanfaya National Park: After Your Visit

 

Timanfaya National Park: What and Why



INTRODUCTION: A UNIQUE NATIONAL PARK


The Timanfaya National Park (Parque Nacional de Timanfaya) is a protected natural area located on the island of Lanzarote, Spain, in the municipalities of Yaiza and Tinajo in the Southwest.


This lunar-like place is the fruit of a series of volcanic eruptions that occurred over 6 years (1730-36) and were followed by additional episodes in 1824.


While the volcanic activity touched a total area of ca. 180 square kilometers/69,50 square miles, a specific zone (about 51 square kilometers/19,70 square miles) in 1974 was declared National Park and placed under high protection.


Moreover, in 1993 the Park - along with the entire Lanzarote - became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with free or partially limited access to the less fragile areas and restricted access where protection is needed at its highest degree. This is why shapes and conditions created by the 1730-36 eruptions are almost intact to this day.


Due to its unique conditions, Timanfaya is also the only National Park in Spain to be classified as a geological park.


The Eruptions

As narrated by our primary source - the parish priest of Yaiza Don Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo - on September 1st, 1730, between 9 and 10 at night, the Earth started to shake and opened up. It was the beginning of a long and wearing eruption that was to continue for 6 years (1730-1736).


The core of the eruption was Montaña del Fuego, today covered in ashes and lapilli and heart of the National Park.


The volcanic activity swallowed at least 9 villages and several fertile harvesting zones in the National Park area alone, destroying more than 30 settlements overall. The lava spread south, covering a quarter of Lanzarote, sometimes reaching the sea and shaping places such as Los Hervideros and El Golfo.


Timanfaya actually takes its name from Timanfaya town, one of the villages destroyed by the eruptions and buried by lava.


Between 1726 and 1730, in Lanzarote there have been some minor earthquakes that pushed many inhabitants to preemptively leave their homes, in the fear of what may happen. This helped cause fewer casualties, and luckily the number of victims was contained.


There is a popular story going that in 1736 people of Tinajo, worn-out by almost 6 years of volcanic activity, took a statue of the Virgin Mary in procession, hoping to stop the lava with her intercession. After their prayers were allegedly heard and the eruption eventually run out of stamina (April 16, 1736), they placed a wooden cross right where the lava stopped.


After years of preparatory earthquakes and minor episodes, on July 31, 1824, less than a century later, a new eruption caused additional damages and brought a terrible famine. Most of the remaining population was forced to flee and emigrate.

➊ READ NEXT: Are you fascinated by Lanzarote and its history and wish to know more? Here is a complete guide to the island's history and culture with tools for travelers!



What Is Inside Timanfaya National Park

The Timanfaya Park contains circa 25 volcanos, the most notable being:

  • Montaña del Fuego (Fire Mountain): heart of the park and of the visitors' tours.

  • Montaña Rajada: hosting a lava lake and offering a breathtaking view.

  • Caldera del Corazoncillo: biggest crater in Lanzarote, several meters/feet deep. The eruptive phases that led to its formation were extremely violent.


Because placed on an underground fault, if observed all together the 25 volcanos form a straight line.


Generally, the volcanos - which are of the Hawaiian type, erupting in the form of immense columns of ashes that later plummet on the ground - expelled ash, lapilli and porous lava drops (called picones). These latter, besides being iconic souvenirs taken home by many tourists and visitors of Lanzarote, retain humidity and are used to cultivate vines.


Even though the volcanos are technically extinct, there is still activity in the area, with peaks of 100-400 °C (212-752 °F) on the surface and 400-600 °C (752-1112 °F) at a depth of 13m/42ft.


Other characteristic spots are the lava seas: huge areas covered in grey lava. A way to call this terrain is Malpais (similar to Bad Place) because it cannot be crossed, built on, or harvested. The lava debris here is viscous and solidified, forming spikes.


Within the Park there are the Islets, small enclaves not touched by the 18th-century eruptions that therefore conserve part of the original natural habitat. The most important and popular is the Islote de Hilario, which hosts the Tourist Info Point and the El Diablo Restaurant. Here, temperatures can rise up to 400 °C at 2m/6,5 ft of depth and 600 °C (1112 °F) at 10m/32ft.


Curiously, the name Hilario might come, according to oral tradition, from a homonymous hermit who lived for 50 years on the islet with his dromedary. The legend goes that he would plant a fig tree that would not bear any fruit since the arid volcanic ground hardly allows any form of life.



AN EXAMPLE OF THE POWER OF LIFE


Timanfaya Park allows the study of natural processes and the colonization of the most elementary forms of life on a "newborn earth".


The eruptions irremediably transformed the landscape and people had to slowly adapt to extremely arid grounds and learn new agricultural techniques to capture the humidity brought by the winds (which are definitely a thing in Lanzarote!).


Vegetation is of course quite scarce, due to the inhospitable conditions created by the eruptions and the scarcity of rain precipitations. Lichens are the most common and present (with circa 71 species). In certain humid and shadowy areas, it is possible to find ferns and sea algae.


Extreme aridity also impedes the life of most animals, limiting them to mostly invertebrates (circa 100 out of 200 species found in Timanfaya) and insects.


As for vertebrates, these conditions determine a low number of presentations, limited to black rats, shrews, and rabbits for mammals; to lizards and salamanders for reptiles, and to 17 species of volatiles.


The islets, which include ancient surfaces that were not covered by recent lavas, have a much more spread vegetation cover and are able to shelter the best representations of the fauna that populate the Park.



Vegetation at Timanfaya National Park Lanzarote
Signs of life in a volcanic landscape


WHY VISIT: ONE PLACE TO DEFINE AN ISLAND


Eruptions such as those that hit Lanzarote in the years 1730-36 inevitably change the landscape and the course of history of a place.


If famous examples such as Pompeii in Italy may have determined the very concept of volcanoes and volcanic activity of many, the episodes of Lanzarote - although sometimes lesser known, especially for those who have never visited - played a crucial role for the island.


Today, the signs of the eruptions are a symbol of Lanzarote and their borders divide the island into two "zones": the south, dark and arid, with its wineries and scarce vegetation, in between being a canyon and resembling the moon; and the north, scattered by white buildings and green trees, beautifully surrounded by the powerful heap of blue that is the Ocean.


If you begin your journey from the south heading north, as I did, you might struggle to realize that another Lanzarote, not touched by the Timanfaya eruptions, actually exists!


Indeed, when you search for "Lanzarote" on Google all you see is a flow of black, red and blue - signs of the post-eruption landscape. Exploring the island you will go for trek tours on volcanic routes, drink good wine in volcanic wineries and drive your car on roads that run along seas of volcanic ashes. You will hear stories of how the inhabitants of this beautiful island learned to survive in an arid world, how to exploit the scarce humidity, how to use the strong winds to produce their wine.


Basically, you will soon realize how the pre-eruption Lanzarote is lost forever, buried under lava and rocks, and that the island that you are visiting today would have never existed without the years 1730-36.


Thus, visiting the Timanfaya National Park feels like being in the very spot where a war began or the first shot was fired - a turning point in history.


➊ DISCOVER MORE: Check out this complete guide to Lanzarote's history and culture!




The road to Timanfaya
The road to Timanfaya


Timanfaya National Park: Your Visit and What to See



TIMANFAYA BY BUS


As mentioned, Timanfaya Park cannot be visited freely and on foot because human presence would irremediably compromise the volcanic environment created by the 1730-36 eruptions.


Therefore, when you arrive with your car/by bus at the entrance of the National Park you will be asked to purchase a ticket that includes a guided ride on a bus provided by the Park.


You can hop on the bus right after parking your car in front of the bookshop and El Diable restaurant, or you may decide to first take a look around, stop at the café and watch the three demonstrations. Personally, I got on the bus first thing and I would suggest doing the same: you only get a real sense of the Park after seeing it with your own eyes during the tour.


This tour lasts for about 30 minutes and is a 14km journey through the main volcanic edifices formed during the historical 1730-36 eruptions. You will admire the different types of lava - "AA" (Malpaises, on which nothing can be built or harvested) and "Pahoehoe" (smooth and corded). You will also see volcanic tubes and pass through one of them, then cross the pyroclastic fields of the Valle de la Tranquilidad and finish the tour at the top of the Montaña del Fuego, admiring the impressive craters of Timanfaya.


Throughout the tour, it will be possible to spot signs of the colonization of lichens, thanks to the color given by them to the lava and the ashes.


The information provided during the tour is pretty basic: some facts about the Park, life that populates it and the 18th-century eruptions. They are narrated through a recorded audio track and are available in Spanish, German and English.


The drivers will most likely speak Spanish only and will stop a couple of times to let you take pictures (but NOT to get off the bus) and will show you a few unmissable spots on the way.



Guided Bus Tour at Timanfaya National Park
Picture taken during the guided bus tour - you can spot signs of vegetation!


TREKKING & EXCURSIONS


While opting for a walking tour within the Park instead of the guided bus is not a possibility, you may decide to go trekking on 2 different routes that do not cross the National Park itself but are still a great way to experience the volcanic landscape.


Personally, I have not done a trekking tour because I had too little time to spend at Timanfaya, but it is something I would definitely try on a second visit!


The two classic tours go through the Ruta de Tremesana and Ruta del Litoral, while several others are available and include a stop in one of the nearby towns or at a local winery -- few examples of where to book your guided trek tour can be checked here.


Ruta de Tremesana

  • Duration: 3 hours

  • Length: 3.5 km/2.20 miles

  • Requirements: Sportswear


This route is a comfortable walk of minimal difficulty, crossing an area that will allow you to see some recent volcanic structures, as well as the ongoing processes of colonization by lichens and human-made crops in the area.


If lucky, it may even be possible to spot the small animals living in between lava and ashes.


Ruta del Litoral

  • Duration: 3 to 6 hours

  • Length: 3 to 9 km/1.90 to 5.60 miles

  • Requirements: Sportswear and trekking shoes


This route can be walked in length or can be taken on the short side, and the duration/difficulty would change accordingly.


In case you opt for the shorter way, this will take you about 3 hours, have medium difficulty and let you walk for around 3km/1.90 miles. Should you wish to go through the complete route, make sure to dedicate an entire day to it, because this will take you approx. 6 hours and a 9km/5.60 miles walk.


The terrain along the way can be quite abrupt, consisting of lava and Malpais, this is why you will be required to wear trekking shoes and fitting sportswear.


This route runs along the coastline (Litoral) of Timanfaya Park, so you will be able to observe the process of formation of beaches, as well as a variety of geomorphological structures, and spot some vegetation and fauna.


Camel Rides at Echadero de los Camellos

Before reaching the Park coming from Yaiza you will find the Echadero de los Camellos, where you may decide to book a ride on a dromedary.


This experience will cost you around 10€ (see here) and last for about 20/30 minutes, taking place outside the borders of the National Park itself, as for any other excursion.


The tour is short-lasting and does not feel very characteristic - haven't seen a single camel or dromedary in all Lanzarote except at the Echadero. I did not do it myself and would not recommend it, as I normally avoid any pointless experience involving animals.



DEMONSTRATIONS


After or before taking your guided bus ride around the National Park you will notice small crowds of people gathered in front of El Diablo Restaurant - they are most likely watching the demonstrations of the volcanic activity within the Park!


These three demonstrations take place several times throughout the day and are included in the entrance ticket - once in the Park you just won't be able to miss them.


  1. Steam Gyser: this demonstration consists of pouring some water into a hole in the ground. Due to the heat, in a matter of seconds the water will come out with a loud boom in the form of a geyser.

  2. Spontaneous Fire: in this case, the staff of Timanfaya will place some dry grass in another, larger hole in the ground. This will immediately catch fire because of the extreme heat.

  3. Burning Pebbles: for the last demonstration, the staff will place a few pebbles taken from the ground in your hand - you will instinctively drop them because too hot to be touched!


Evidence of the uniqueness of this amazing place, the demonstrations will not take you more than 15/20 minutes to enjoy them all!


Demonstrations at Timanfaya National Park
Dry grass catching fire during a demonstration | Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons


CESAR MANRIQUE'S TOUCH


If you have spent a few days in Lanzarote you probably know that artist César Manrique (1919-1992) is considered an institution on the island and one of the most representative figures that Lanzarote has ever known.


Deeply enamoured of his native island, for several years he struggled to preserve it from the changes brought by mass tourism and was committed to enhancing its peculiar landscape by designing places that could entice tourists but safeguard Lanzarote's soul. These places can be found around the entire isla and today they form the CACT (Centros de Arte, Cultura y Turismo).


At Timanfaya Park, part of CACT, you will find signs of Manrique's touch, all designed by him and thought to match the peculiarities of this moonscape and the extraordinary colors of this volcanic paradise.

Centro de Visitantes e Interpretaciòn de Mancha Blanca (Visitors Center)

If coming from Tinajo, the Visitors Center will pop up on your way before reaching the National Park, while from Yaiza you will first have to pass over Timanfaya.

Lanzarote, Timanfaya Visitors Center
Visitors Center | Image Credits: lanzaroteinformation.co.uk

The Center is pretty much aligned with the other museums in Lanzarote and focuses on educating the public and narrating a piece of the island's story rather than showcasing artworks and finds. It comprises large rooms that host panels and projections, as well as other spaces such as a library, conference rooms and more.


Designed by Manrique, it is a beautiful example of harmony between human-made structures and the natural environment, recommended if you are a complete novice in volcanology and wish to understand the whats and whys that led to the formation of Timanfaya National Park.


Entrance is free, you can check opening hours here.


Tourist Point & Restaurante El Diablo

After entering Timanfaya Park you will leave your car right in front of two edifices, the Tourist Point and the restaurant El Diablo.


Both these places were designed by Manrique in a way that would not disrupt the volcanic landscape but rather dialogue with it.

Chicken at El Diablo Restaurant, Timanfaya, Lanzarote
The iconic chicken at El Diablo Restaurant

Stop at the Tourist Point if you are looking for some souvenirs (they are pretty much the same in all CACT centers) and, if you can, do not miss the chance to dine at El Diablo - their iconic chicken is cooked with the heat of the volcano, with an oven designed by Manrique himself and thought to exploit the overly-hot temperatures reached in the immediate underground.


El Diablo is located right on the Islote de Hilario, one of the hottest spots in the Park!


I have tried their cuisine myself and would recommend it even for the experience itself - everything in Lanzarote seems to be coming right from the 80's so do not expect avant-garde here!


Check here for the opening hours.


"El Diablo" Statue

Last but not least, on your arrival at the Park, you won't be able to miss the funny mascot of Timanfaya, the so-called "El Diablo" (The Devil) statue.


A clear reference to the burning hot temperatures of this area and of the hell impressions given by a volcanic/lavic landscape, the statue was designed by Manrique and placed at the entrance of the Park, then used on the Park's merchandise and becoming its official symbol.


Actually, there is a tale going on around this little, nasty devil, and it is linked to the 1730-36 eruptions. According to it, this devil would be a desperate groom who lost his wife during the terrible explosions caused by the volcanic activities. His wedding falling right on September 1st, 1730, the groom would have been allegedly mistaken for a devil by locals, who saw him holding a huge fork he tried to use to save his wife, submerged by ashes and lapilli.


This tale is most likely a pure and very recent invention (few to no casualties were registered during the eruptions), but still a nice example of how people never stop fantasizing, adding some thrills even to catastrophes!



El Diablo statue in the Timanfaya National Park
Goodbye from El Diablo!


Timanfaya National Park: Plan Your Visit



HOW TO REACH




The Timanfaya National Park can be accessed through the two nearest towns: Yaiza and Tinajo.


From Yaiza


Arriving by car, follow the road LZ-67 towards Montañas del Fuego and Tinajo - you will soon find yourself on a road immersed in the volcanic landscape. Go straight ahead.


Following the road you will proceed on the Echadero de los Camellos (where you can stop to book your ride on a camel) and 2.5km/1,55mi from there you will finally find the entrance to the "Montañas del Fuego" - the National Park.


In case you decide to follow the road a bit further, you will encounter the Visitors and Interpretation Center, which is located just outside the limits of the National Park.


From Tinajo


To access the National Park from Tinajo you can again use the LZ-67 road in the direction of Mancha Blanca and Yaiza.


By proceeding in this direction, you will first find the Visitors Center, then, after 4,5km/2,80mi you will see the entrance to the Park.


Both accesses to the National Park include signs with the logo for the Timanfaya Park, "El Diablo" designed by César Manrique and made with the wood of scrapped ships.


Free access is not allowed within the territories of the National Park to preserve its environment.


Visitors can still roam freely along the coast, through a path that runs along the coastline of the Park (Ruta de Litoral).


USEFUL INFORMATION


⚪When in Lanzarote, remember that every tourist spot is likely to be crowded and packed with buses coming from resorts and hotels. If you do not want to wait a long time in your car to enter or to start your bus tour, book your tickets in advance here! Lanzarote can be extremely windy - I was there during Fall and the wind never left our side over 10 days. At times it can be quite strong and may hamper your visit, and the weather may change quickly and unexpectedly. Make sure to bring sportswear and a scarf or a hood, that will help!


I visited the National Park on a cloudy day and that was totally fine - a greyish sky actually emphasizes the volcanic landscape and lets you enjoy the view outside the bus.


Should you add Timanfaya Park to your Lanzarote tour? Definitely yes! No tour of Lanzarote is complete if it does not include this National Park. Visiting Timanfaya is not only one of the most suggestive experiences when on the island, but is also crucial to understand its culture and soul.


How much time are you likely to spend at Timanfaya Park? Visiting the entire complex, including going on the tour bus, seeing the demonstrations, and checking out the restaurant and the Centro de Visitantes will take you one morning/afternoon. Add more time (so one full day) in case you are planning to go trekking or visiting nearby beaches - it is totally worth it!


Vertical signs on the way to Timanfaya National Park
Very few signs will obstruct your view on the way to Timanfaya


TICKETS & TIMETABLES


Tickets

Upon arriving with your car or by bus at the road entrance of the National Park, you will be asked to buy your entrance ticket to enter the Park and have access to all available services.


Here is an overview of the prices for this entrance ticket (updated January 2024):

Adults

20,00€

Children 7-12 years

10,00€

Children 0-6

Free

You can buy them in advance here. Tariffs may vary in case you are a person with reduced mobility or a resident of the Canaries.


You can also choose to purchase a combined ticket for 4 CACT locations here.


This entrance ticket includes the 30-minute bus tour, the demonstrations and access to El Diablo Restaurant and the Tourist Office.


In case you wish to go for a 20-minute tour on a camel, the price for this service is:

Per Person

11,00€

Children 0-3

Free

You can purchase your ticket here.


If interested in one of the trekking tours, you can book one from local guides or tourist agencies, in this latter case prices are in the range of 30-50€ per person and can be bought directly from their websites.


Here a few examples that you may check: Central de Reservas Natural, Canary Trekking, Civitatis, GetYourGuide.


The Visitors Center is accessible with no entry fee.


Opening Hours

The National Park is open every day from 9:30AM to 5PM, with last access at 3:45PM.


I suggest to double-check the opening hours by calling the Park directly (+34901200300) if planning to visit close to the opening or closing times or on bank holidays.


➊ El Diablo Restaurant is open every day for lunch service and cafeteria, from 12PM to 4PM.


The Visitors Center (Centro de Visitantes e Interpretación de Timanfaya) is open every day from 9AM to 4PM.


El Diablo statue at Timanfaya National Park
El Diablo mascot greeting visitors of the Park | Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons


Timanfaya National Park: After Your Visit



THE OTHER CACT SITES IN LANZAROTE


Now that you are done with Timanfaya Park, you may be wondering where to go next and find the best cultural spots on the island! As we mentioned in this guide, a great job was done by César Manrique in the 70s-80s to make tourism in Lanzarote more sustainable and give visitors centers where to get to know and enjoy the island without disrupting its environment and natural landscape.


These centers are all grouped under the CACT (Centros de Arte, Cultura y Turismo) and if visited in their entirety can provide a comprehensive understanding of the culture and traditions in Lanzarote.


Here below is a quick recap of all sites with position and basic info, so that you may easily choose where to start. The Timanfaya Park is the only center located in South Lanzarote, but the island is small and everything is absolutely reachable in no more than 1-2 hours!


Central Lanzarote:
  • Casa Museo del Campesino (17km / 11mi from Timanfaya Park, 1 hour to visit): this museum, located right in the central inland, is a celebration of Lanzarote's farmers, thought by Manrique to convey the centuries-old traditions of cultivating the land and exploiting its peculiar conditions. An ode to popular culture. Here the official webpage.

  • Castillo de San José & MIAC (Museo Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo) (30km / 19mi from Timanfaya Park, 1h30 to visit): this place located on the central coast combines the historical past of Lanzarote and the present and future of its art: hosted in an 18th-century fortress built for defensive purposes, the Museum of Contemporary Art offers a glance of Canarian and local artistic production, definitely worth a visit! Here the official webpage.


North Lanzarote:
  • Jardìn de Cactus (35km / 22mi from Timanfaya Park, 1 hour to visit): literally Cactus Garden, this center is the last of Manrique's creations on the island and is a full celebration of Lanzarote's natural resources and ecosystem, with hundreds of specimens and built on what was originally a huge cactus plantation. Here the official webpage.

  • Jameos del Agua (55km / 34mi from Timanfaya Park, 2 hours to visit): we have now almost reached the very upper side of Lanzarote. The Jameos, together with Cueva de los Verdes, were thought by Manrique to enjoy and understand the natural consequences of volcanic activities other than the Timanfaya eruptions - a beautiful place shaped by Manrique to represent the positive combination of human- and nature-made art. Here the official webpage.

  • Cueva de los Verdes (55km / 34mi from Timanfaya, 1 hour to visit): located on the other side of the street from Jameos del Agua's entrance, Cueva de los Verdes is the natural continuation of your visit if coming from there and can be easily visited on the same day! Adapted and made accessible to visitors under the supervision of Manrique, this complex of tunnels and grottoes is again the right place to enjoy nature and volcanic power at its fullest! Here the official webpage.

  • Mirador del Rio (60km / 37mi from Timanfaya Park, 1 hour to visit): at the very top of a cliff and of Lanzarote itself is Mirador del Rio, a viewpoint designed by Manrique to dialogue with the environment and offers visitors a unique and breathtaking view of the island - worth a visit but definitely to avoid on foggy days! Here the official webpage.



READ NEXT: In case you wish to discover and understand more about Lanzarote's peculiar history and culture, you can check out this complete guide here, which includes a few useful tools for travelers!




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