Like most of the islands in the archipelago, Lanzarote is of volcanic origin. The islands were formed over 15 million years ago when the Eurasian plate and the North American plate split. It is also called the “Island of 100 volcanoes” although these actually number over 300. The largest volcanic eruption occurred several hundred years ago. It was described by witnesses in detail. The Timanfaya volcano (after which the national park where it is located was named) erupted between 9:00 pm and 10:00 pm on September 1, 1730.
The eruption continued for 19 days and intensive volcanic activity continued for six (!) years, from 1730 to 1736. This produced 32 volcanoes that stretch along all of 18 km. This is the territory of the present Timanfaya National Park covering a total of 50 km2, also known as the “Route of the Volcanoes”. Lava covers one-fourth of the island’s surface, including most of the fertile land and 11 villages. Many of the islanders emigrated to Cuba and the two Americas. The last volcanic activity, although less intense and destructive, was recorded in 1824.
Although two centuries have passed Timanfaya remains dormant and reminding of itself – the temperature measured just several centimeters beneath the surface is about 100° С, reaching 600° С at a depth of 30 m. The locals entertain tourists with several experiments.
It proves impossible to hold the hot volcanic soil dug out from under just a couple of centimeters
Dry scrub turns into a burning pyre in just a minute
Cold water poured into a shallow hole quickly becomes a geyser
The restaurant where skewered meat and baked potatoes are prepared using the geothermal heat of volcano rocks is yet another attraction at the National Park designed by Cesar Manrique.
The symbol of the park, a stylized devil (El Diablo), is also his creation. In the Middle Ages, the Church ascribed the volcanic activity to the Devil is a response to the sins of the congregation.
Access to the National Park is limited. Tourists can see the volcanoes only from the buses that pass through the 30 km route. Regrettably, photos are allowed only from the bus, not individual expeditions. That is not only because one can easily get lost in the rocky desert but also to preserve the existing park in its authentic form.
A 20-minute camel ride is another option to see the park. We see several groups of about a dozen camels each and their owners awaiting tourists of whom there is quite a number. Today about 300 camels raised on the island, mainly to serve the tourists. Once they were used in agriculture. They came to the island from the northern parts of Africa.
The landscape is like from another planet, with fields of harder lava that now forms strange rock figures alternating with a softer one that once flowed over everything on its way. The colours change into different nuances of black, red, brown and yellow depending on the light.
The volcanoes here do not erupt without warning. That is why they are not considered dangerous. Volcanic activity is preceded by a trembling of the earth which allows prompt evacuation when necessary.
Because there is almost no rain and hence there is little erosion, the landscape has been preserved nearly the same as it was after the eruption of the volcanoes. That is why the research of the nature and the volcanoes here is important to scientists across the world.