Thursday, 23 April 2020

Lanzarote: Timanfaya Guided Tours

Lanzarote's Timanfaya National Park covers an area of just under twenty square miles on the western side of the island. The Montañas del Fuego (trans. Fire Mountains) lie at its heart and these were at the centre of the six-year long series of eruptions from 1730 to 1736 that altered the course of Lanzarote's history. Huge swathes of fertile agricultural land and nine villages were destroyed, the economy was devastated, and subsequently a large number of the island's inhabitants were forced to emigrate, many of them travelling to Cuba and other parts of the Americas. Incredibly, given the scale and the duration of this cataclysmic event, nobody was killed by these eruptions.


Today the national park is recognised as a unique landscape, its geology and ecology existing in a delicate balance - for that reason public access is strictly regulated. It's possible to walk in the park on a ranger-guided tour, however, and also to take a coach tour that usually includes the visitor centre and (in our case) a short but memorable camel ride. The ranger walk is free, the coach tours are priced according to duration and operating company.

The aim of this blog is to provide some photos from each of the tours to give the reader an idea of what they can expect to see if they choose to sign up. I'll keep any written sections minimal - itineraries change and to be honest I can only half-remember all the fascinating information supplied by the guides on the day.

Montaña Tremesana - or is it Termesana?


This is a puzzler - the name of the mountain you visit on the ranger-guided walk appears in both spellings on websites, in blogs and on maps; in some articles it's even written "Tremesana/Termesana" and I have no idea why!

Either way, this walk is probably the best way to learn about the national park. The maximum number of people on the tour is eight, which means that everyone gets to interact with the ranger. You get a lot more detailed information on the flora, fauna and geology of the park on this walk than you do on the coach tours; questions and discussion as you go around the route are welcomed.

A word of warning though - these free ranger-guided walks fill up quickly - very quickly! The places become available to book exactly one month in advance, at the stroke of midnight. 

BUT the Spanish National Parks website follows the timezone of mainland Spain so booking actually opens at 23:00 hours in the UK or on Lanzarote itself.

The first year we went to Lanzarote we missed out as we didn't access the site until the morning. For our most recent trip, we were waiting to book at midnight when it suddenly occurred to us that the site probably wasn't following local time - when we logged in at 23:30, four of the eight places were already filled. 

In total, the walk is around three kilometres or two miles. There is some slight ascent towards the end of the circuit but it's very gentle and the pace is slow throughout, with frequent stops to examine and learn about plants and shrubs or different types of volcanic rock.


We were lucky enough to see both a rabbit and a Barbary Falcon on our walk - fortunately, the falcon didn't see the rabbit! It was interesting to learn that some farmers still had the right to tend crops within the park boundary and we passed several ancient fig trees as well as several invasive, non-native plants.





Towards the end of the walk you pass by Montaña Termesana's crater entrance, although you don't go inside it, and there are further examples of the traditional methods of farming here, with circular dry stone walls built on the mountainside to prevent erosion and to maximise moisture retention.




The duration of the excursion is around three hours in total, including transfer from and back to Yaiza. There were several couples waiting in Yaiza without booked places in the hope someone might have dropped out on the day - but I don't know how the rangers allocate spare places or whether it's even allowed. 

The booking page for this ranger-guided walk can found here: Termersana Ranger Walk.


Timanfaya Coach Tour

We booked a coach tour of Timanfaya on our first visit to Lanzarote - at the time we didn't know we'd be returning to the island and we didn't want to miss out on seeing the national park. Although it was our back-up option, it's far from being second best - we thoroughly enjoyed both tours.


You certainly see a lot more of the landscape from the coach than you do on the guided walk and the trip around the central Fire Mountains provides some spectacular views. On our tour we stopped at the visitor centre where they put on a couple of displays using underground geothermal activity. We booked a half-day tour that concentrated on Timanfaya; there was an option to do a full-day tour as well that visited various areas outside the park.

Unfortunately, due to past incidents of tourists throwing litter into the park from the coach (really - what is wrong with people?), the windows on the buses don't open and if you want to take photos it has to be through the glass. That said, the vehicle we were on was spotlessly clean inside and out and it was still possible to get some decent photos for the holiday album. I've posted a few below, to give you an idea of the tour and of the quality of picture you can get. They were all taken with just my phone camera as we travelled around the volcanoes.






If you want to know who we booked with, the tour company we used was First Minute Travel and we were really happy with the experience. There are, of course, other options and there are reviews on Trip Advisor to help you make up your mind (including one written by me).

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CLICK HERE  for more walks on Lanzarote and other useful information.

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