The landscape of Timanfaya National Park is absolutely unreal. In fact it is so alien that it could well be on another planet. The Park occupies the southwestern portion of the island of Lanzarote (one of Spain’s Canary Islands). It is a harsh and barren region formed by volcanic activity. In that harsh alienness lies its magic and beauty.
Timanfaya National Park covers some 51 square kilometres (20 square miles) and the soil is entirely volcanic. As late as 300 years ago the island was treated to some very large eruptions. That activity continues till today as geysers of steam still spout occasionally from volcanic tubes, sometimes aided by park attendants pouring into them for the benefit of tourists and their cameras.
Timanfaya volcano is still an active one and is the highlight of some amazing volcanic features. The blue-black lava fields (known as the malpais – meaning badlands), craters, lava tunnels, lava lakes and multi-coloured volcanic cones make for spectacular viewing.
This bleak and awesome landscape is however, thanks to Mother Nature, showing signs of life. There are some rare plants growing among the volcanic rock. There are over 200 lichen species and some very ancient fig trees growing, incredibly, among the volcanic cones. So valuable and rare is the environment of Lanzarote that in 1993, UNESCO designated the entire island a Biosphere Reserve. The heart of the reserve is Timanfaya National Park.
To protect and preserve the delicate ecology and rare flora and fauna, getting into Timanfaya National Park is very tightly regulated. Private vehicles are not allowed into the park and one can tour it by coaches. The care for the region extends to treks and walks too. You can only take a trek in the company of authorised guides and even that is via one or two footpaths. There are also camel safaris through the park.
One of the highlights of a visit to the park is having a meal at the El Diablo restaurant near the Timanfaya crater. It has a natural oven where food is cooked on a grill by the heat arising out of a vent. It can be quite a sight to watch chicken legs and potatoes being cooked by the underground heat. The heat comes from superheated magna some 4 kilometres below the surface!
A trek or a coach ride through the amazing and awesome Timanfaya National Park will leave you with a lasting memory and experience that is like no other you have had or will have.