With its volcanoes and lava fields Timanfaya National Park is the island of Lanzarote’s stunning top natural attraction. In this post we show you how to make the most of your first time visit.
Timanfaya National Park, with it volcanoes and lava fields is Lanzarote’s top natural attraction and is surely a must see for every visitor to the island. The colours in the land are subtle with blacks browns reds, green and yellows all present. When combined with the hard and soft shapes of the lava and the calderas the scenery becomes not just dramatic but also extremely beautiful.
Based on our previous visits, we have pulled together useful information and tips that will help you, as a first time visitor, get the most out of your visit.
History of Timanfaya
The volcanic landscape of Timanfaya takes up around a quarter of the islands land mass and is the result of six years of volcanic activity. The scale of the eruptions between 1730 and 1736 was enormous with the lava erupting from more than 100 volcanoes down onto villages and farmland.
At the time of the eruptions Yaiza’s parish priest recorded the destruction of villages and the terrifying earthquakes. He described mountains rising up overnight and hot ash raining from the sky. Unbelievably, there appears to have been no deaths as a result of the eruptions. The effect on the island however was significant with a little less than half the island’s population emigrating during this time. A lot of the Lanzarote’s farmland was lost under the lava. Along with the poisonous gases from the volcanoes this forced many residents to leave the island. Today, Lanzarote’s dry climate means that the volcanic landscape has changed very little in the 300 years since the eruptions took place. This gives visitors today the chance to appreciate it as it was then.
Getting to Timanfaya National Park
Sitting in the south west of the island, Timanfaya National Park is easily reachable if you have a hired car. Because it is a major attraction you’ll find it is shown on local road maps. The roads are generally in good condition and well sign posted. From most major resorts you’ll be there in less than an hours drive. Alternatively, if you don’t want to drive yourself then book an excursion which depart from all the main resorts. You’ll find you will be offered a choice of half day or full day tours. The full day tours will take in other highlights of Lanzarote as well as Timanfaya National Park.
The Park is open from 9am to 5pm. If driving yourself, it is wise to avoid between 11am and 3pm when most of the tour buses arrive. The best hours to visit are between 3 and 5pm when the number of visitors drops. The entrance fee is reduced from €10 to €8 per person at this time. This still leaves enough time to see the main attractions on site.
Touring Timanfaya National Park
To protect the environment there is no access to Timanfaya beyond the visitor centre other than by National Park operated coach. The 30-40 minute bus tour through the lava fields (Ruta de los Volcanes) is included in your entrance ticket. On board there is a pre-recorded multi-lingual commentry. The driver also stops at highlights such as some of the calderas and lava flows. Tours leave regularly from the area in front of the El Diablo restaurant, close to the car park. If you travel on a coach with an excursion, then you will probably stay on the coach you arrive with.
Protecting the enviroment is important in Timanfaya which can make photography a bit frustrating. The coaches that tour the centre of the Park are closed in so your opportunities enroute are limited to the stops the driver makes. You are not allowed off the bus so you need to make the most of it and deal with the reflections from the tinted windows. If you arrived by car, you will have some opportunities to take photographs on the drive between the pay booth and the car park. This is a fair distance and some of the landscape is still pretty spectacular, so make the most of it. Again there are viewpoints at the car park and retaurant. One alternative is to check out a walking tour in the Park. However, these are few and far between and need to be booked well in advance.
A Walking Tour
Walking on your own in the National Park isn’t an option in order to protect both the environment and visitors. The existance of lava tunnels with fragile lava on top is too big a risk. There are a small number of free walks organised by the park rangers (numbers limited to 8 per group). Check the website: reservasparquesnacionales.es
Don’t miss the geothermal demonstrations that take place in front of the restaurant. They show you the extent of the heat that lies just below the surface. Apparently temperatures of up to 277°C have been recorded at just 10cm deep. Even the gravel under your feet can be hot enough to burn your hand. Yes, depending on the type of shoes you are wearing you can feel the heat rising.
You’ll witness dry bracken being ignited by the geothermal heat when placed in a shallow pit and see water turn to steam immediately after being poured into a pipe inserted into the gound. Its a pretty impressive demonstration of the power of nature.
Just make sure you follow the instructions of the Rangers and keep well back. I’ve seen hot ash blow onto someone’s clothing and burn a hole in it. So there is a real risk to be aware of. Pay attention to what way the wind is blowing.
The Restaurant and Gift Shop
At the restaurant, you will find a souvenir shop and toilet facilities. If you are there at lunch time you may be able to view meat being cooked on a grill using nothing more than the geothermal heat from the earth. The restaurant building is the design of César Manrique, the renowned local architect. He has had a significant effect on how modern Lanzarote looks today. He is largely responsible for the laws against advertising hoardings, high rise flats and also painting your house any colour except white. So you can literally see and feel his presence across the island. You can read more on Cesar Manrique’s influence in our post on Top Sights You Must Visit in Lanzarote.
Los Volcanes Natural Park
Slightly outwith the National Park boundary, Los Volcanes Natural Park lies to the north on the LZ-67 road. Its a left turn as you come out of Timanfaya National Park. It is worth making a stop here as the scenery is wonderful. Unsurprisingly, it is covered with more volcanoes although the scenery can look quite different. The advantage here is that you have access to walks that have been set up for visitors. Parking is not plentiful however and if you choose to stop on the main road be careful.
Timanfaya Visitor Center
If you are looking for a greater insight into the history and geology of Timanfaya then you should stop at the visitors centre. This also sits outwith the Park boundary. You’ll pass it on the right hand side of the LZ-67 if you are approaching from the north. If you are coming from the south you need to carry on past the entrance to the National Park and you’ll find it on the left hand side after a few minutes drive. Its a modern white low rise building. There is also a viewing platform at the back of the building which gives you a view of the lava flow.
Your Visit to Timanfaya
If you set aside up to 3 hours to see Timanfaya and explore the surrounding area that should be suffient for most folk. Other attractions in the area include a camel ride, not mentioned in detail here because its not our cup of tea. But if it is of interest then parking is on the left on the LZ-67 if approacing from the south. There will be an additional cost.
Looking for More?
If you are looking for some further reading then below you’ll find more of our articles on the Canary Islands. For related reading check out the Tag links as well at the bottom of the page.
More Reading on the Canary Islands
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