The volcanic south of Lanzarote extends as part of the municipality of Yaiza, a town of 16,000 inhabitants that has beautiful, surreal landscapes and a rich history, which must be learnt to fully understand the island. To the south of Yaiza, on the Costa del Rubicón, the first European settlement on the Canary Islands was established in 1402, and it would be from here that the conquest of the entire archipelago would be undertaken. Few remember that the first to settle in this region were not Spanish; it was a Norman expedition led by the French nobles Jean de Bethencourt and Gadifer de la Salle. Over time, however, the nobility and later the Castilian Crown would secure the islands for their kingdoms.
The landscape of Yaiza has changed drastically over time. “On 1st September 1730, between nine and ten o’clock at night, the earth in Timanfaya opened, two leagues from Yaiza … and a huge mountain rose from the bosom of the earth,” wrote Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo, the then parish priest of the municipality. During the next six years, a series of brutal volcanic eruptions would bury a quarter of the island and a sea of lava and ash would flow: nine villages were buried, and terrible famines were unleashed. We would never have known about these events and in such detail, if it were not for the chronicles of the eruptions written by the priest of Yaiza, who lived on the edge of the devastated area.
That tragedy, however, has given Yaiza many landscapes that are often described as ‘Martian’ and from another planet. We recommend you take a bus tour (or guagua, as they call them here) through the Montañas del Fuego in the Timanfaya National Park. Starting from Islote de Hilario, where you can participate in geothermal experiments and see artificial geysers, the route takes us into the chain of volcanoes that produced the most devastating eruptions. An experience that Lord of the Rings fans will appreciate, this is probably the closest thing to walking around Mordor.
The south of Yaiza also hides treasures such as the Costa del Papagayo, a volcanic landscape that has the most spectacular virgin beaches in Lanzarote and no construction on it whatsoever, from where you can easily access the nearby tourist resort of Playa Blanca. The contrast between the turquoise waters and the reddish volcanic massif, belonging to the Ajaches Natural Park, leaves every visitor in awe.
The ‘extraterrestrial’ charm of Yaiza manifests itself in many other places too. You can also find it in Lago Verde de El Golfo, a small fishing village located to the west of the municipality, that hosts a wide variety of geological rarities, the most peculiar of which is a lagoon that emerges from a crater which is semi-covered by the sea, whose waters are an emerald green due to the high concentration of algae. Not far from here we can also find the cliffs and volcanic caves of Los Hervideros, and a little further south, the Salinas de Janubio salt flats, whose white tide-pools, dating from the 19th century contrast with the black of the surrounding lands.
Wine lovers will find to the east of Yaiza, on the edge of the Timanfaya National Park, a place they will not want to leave. The Valley of La Geria produces excellent wines using a method of vine cultivation that is unique in the world and volcanic malvasia—a grape variety that is typical of the Canary archipelago.
The rugged textures and the palette of colours of the landscape in Lanzarote’s Timanfaya National Park increase the temptation to explore, either on foot or on a camel.
This volcanic valley, the legacy of the lava eruptions of Timanfaya, shelters the most important wine-growing region of Lanzarote, with production based mainly on the malvasia variety.
This salt enclave, formed by the eruptions of Timanfaya in 1730, is not only home to one of the island’s century-old businesses, but is also a scenic and ethnographic treasure well worth visiting.