Lanzarote is effectively a giant canvas and therefore when it was painted by the artist Cesar Manrique it became a nation that was also an artwork and it has an unusual and amazing heritage that you’d struggle to find anywhere else. This isn’t like some Mayan civilisation, nor is it a museum this is simply a living breathing island that has been developed around a beautiful idea of nature and man living in harmony. Set against the drama of the exploding volcanoes you can see how Lanzarote has evolved to become the beauty it is today.
The GingaNinja and I decided that ASK should at least attempt to soak up some of this extraordinary culture and so for a mere €30 we gained entry to all of the CACT managed Lanzarote treasures. Our money allowed us entry to six of the museums and parks and we decided quickly that we would visit
Cuervo los Verdes
- Jameos del Agua
- Cuervo de los Verdes
- Jardin de Cactus
- Mirador del Rio
The one that we really wanted to try was the underwater museum with the collection of sculptures dropped to the seabed but with ASK too young to either dive or snorkel we decided to give this one a miss. Each of the attractions we visited had a level of spectacular unique to itself.
Jardin de Cactus
We started at Jardin de Cactus (The Cactus Garden) a sprawling maze of hundreds of cactus plants. The garden is well manicured and everything is bedded into the thick walls of volcanic rock which give it a warmth even greater than the rest of the island. The cactus range from the giants that sprawl high and wide to the smallest that sit quietly awaiting discovery. In November when we arrived we saw many of the plants flowering and with an added trip up the windmill to take in our surrounds this was a beautiful and tranquil place to visit. The cafe was pleasant and unpretentious and the the gardens were suitably accessible for a visitors using a wheelchair or mobility scooter. ASK enjoyed bounding round the gardens and listening to the bird life that occupied the more secluded cactus. Mostly though she loved being in the Windmill, climbing steps and looking out over all she surveyed.
Jameos del Agua and Cuervo de los Verdes
As accessibility was an issue for us on this trip we discovered that Jameos del Agua and Cuervo los Verdes were not suited to a person in a wheelchair so It was just three for these two attractions. Jameos del Agua was first up. It’s a difficult place to describe in that it’s a home to silent water, great swathes of volcanic rock and a music hall ground out of nature. There is a small and insightful museum about the island and some interesting exhibits of art. But it is the spectacular lake in a cave that you come here to pay homage to. And as you look across the cave and into the water all the sound of world simply disappears. Even when it’s busy this is a tranquil place.
Cuervo de los Verdes or the Green Caves are a guided tour through a lava formed tunnel of delight. Tight, cramped and dark in sections and big cast expanses in others meant this a journey into the deep – I felt a little like Doug McClure journeying to the centre of the earth. ASK could have been terrified by all this but we wrapped it up around her favourite book ‘we’re going on a bear hunt’. Around every section we’d look for the bear, examine the lava formations and the beautiful colours. These caves are an experience not to be missed but be warned you need dexterity on your feet and if going with a young child be prepared to support them. ASK was brilliant in the caves but some children may struggle or be a little scared.
Perhaps the best of the experiences from an accessibility point of view and also a complete family experience was Timanfaya – the fire mountains.
Because we had hired a car we had no need for a tour up to the mountains but the national park insist you stop at the main centre and restaurant and take one of their coaches – a sensible precaution when you consider how precarious the whole region is. We arrived in good time and when the parking attendants saw we had a disabled visitor they immediately ushered our vehicle to the top of the hill. Brilliant. This meant I had a short hop up to the main Timanfaya centre pushing the chair. We ambled around the centre for a while, had a Milka muffin and some coffee to warm up and also to ward our fellow windswept tourists climbing aboard the coaches. ASK though was keen to get cracking and so we took in the main fire pit, went to watch the geyser demonstrations (which she was fascinated by) and grab some obligatory tourist pictures.
With coffee drunk we ambled to the tour coaches, because we’re British we joined the queue but because of the wheelchair we were moved forward to the front and all allowed on board. The transition from ground to a comfy perch on the coach was swift and effortless. And then we began the gentle tour around some amazing volcanic views and accompanied by a 17th century account of how the island formed its huge lava fields and distinctive look. ASK delighted in the views but more importantly delighted in keeping Gran company. It was a 35 minute tour that passed quickly.
The lava fields stretched for as far as the eye can see and the drama only hints at what happened here in centuries gone. The colours were of equal grandeur and as we swung around tight corners and bends we bore witness to what it must be like to land on Mars or the moon. We all gaped out into the wilderness, admiring nature at its most raw. A true spectacle.
Our arrival back meant we could grab a bite to eat at the restaurant and while it wasn’t the best food we ate in Lanzarote it was very nice – we all had something different which meant we could share things round a little. Rabbit, Wreckfish and Chicken for the adults while ASK shared with us mostly but also managed a portion of rather tasty chicken nuggets.
Lunch and drinks were ate at a leisurely pace with a view to die for out across the lava and all the way to the coast. By the time we were ready to leave we were on Spanish time and all feeling the need for a siesta. But there was still time for a bit of retail therapy and a few items to take home.
Before we managed our siesta though we stopped at the visitor centre a few kilometres down the road and took in some of the history of Timanfaya with its interactive displays and viewing platforms. All in all a very cultural and rewarding experience for everyone.
MIAC (Museum of Modern Art)
If Timanfaya was the most hyped then MIAC is the most underrated – yes it’s no more than an hours visit but it is a stunning collection of modern art and sculpture housed in an old fort in the sea front.
We arrived when it was shrouded in darkness but it was easy to see given it was lit up like a Christmas tree. The entrance was a drawbridge over the old moat and when you ambled inside it was a large open space with some truly beautiful pieces of artwork, many inspiring, some weird and others beautiful. As an artist myself I hope that ASK will develop a love of the visual and she showed interest in some of the sculptures and the more vibrant of the pictures but she’s at that age where running around the fort is more interesting and so we bounded around, finding all the secret places – it was empty as it was late in the day and eventually we wound our way upstairs to the top of the fortress!
Atop the fort we found more sculptures and hidey holes plus the along drawbridge raising but the most interesting thing were the horseback riding sculptures in the water below us which we could see from about halfway up the horse, these were truly spectacular and made us sorry we wouldn’t be able to visit the underwater museum in this trip.
However MIAC was brilliant and worthy of the small admission price (€4.50 or part of the CACT card).
Mirador del Rio
Our final CACT adventure we saved for the last day so as not to tire ourselves out too much as there was much packing and preparation to do for our journey home. However, Mirador del Rio had been described as a must see and so we set off in search of one final piece of stunning landscape.
We had been advised that Mirador del Rio was mostly accessible save for the upper levels and while this was true it’s fair to say that it was still hard going (even with the mobility scooter). Regardless we entered was what was to all intents and purposes a cave dug into the landscape, sculpted beautifully and then covered in volcanic rock. Inside there was a simply but pleasant cafe and then views out into the Atlantic and the islands beyond. We had a clear and beautiful day and could see far and wide. The drama of the drop before us as we ambled around was intense and Mirador del Rio proved to be a fine resolution to our cultural trip around Lanzarote.
Did ASK enjoy it? You’d think that a toddler would be bored by rocks, caves and what effectively amount to ‘brown sign’ locations but such is the brilliance of most of these places that actually ASK came away from them having enjoyed herself. Yes it’s true we danced on the polished floor of Jameos del Agua and we went on a bear hunt round the caves to make it more ‘child friendly’ but had we done this she would still have enjoyed them. The culture of Lanzarote and impact of one man, Cesar Manrique cannot be underestimated in forming a nations mindset about itself. If you visit the island and take a more cultural path you won’t regret it, we certainly didn’t.