Monday, October 5, 2009

Exploring Volcanic Lanzarote (Spain)

Guest post by Nick Ball

The Canary Island of Lanzarote has long had a reputation as a bucket and spade beach holiday destination. Justifiably so in fact, as around 1.5 million foreign tourists visit every year.

But this small speck of Spain, located just 80 miles off the coast of Morocco, offers much more than just sunshine and sun loungers alone. As Lanzarote boasts some awe-inspiring scenery – forged by a massive series of volcanic eruptions. Along with some truly unique and highly imaginative man made tourist attractions, created by a famous local artist called César Manrique.

During the 1730´s Lanzarote was rocked by one of the modern world’s longest lasting volcanic eruptions. Which lasted for six years, destroying most of the best farmland on the island and covering much of the south in a carpet of lava.

These seismic shocks forced many Lanzaroteños to flee the island. But today this whole region is one of Spain´s most popular National Parks – welcoming close to 900,000 tourists every year. The scenery here is extremely surreal and has often been likened to the surface of the moon. So much so that it has in fact been used as backdrop for a number of science-fiction films such as One Million Years BC and Krull.

Elsewhere an island born artist called César Manrique has worked with Lanzarote´s twisted terrain to create a series of unique visitor attractions. During the 1970´s Manrique fought for the controlled evolution of tourist development on the island. As he feared that Lanzarote could become buried beneath a sea of concrete – as had already happened to large swathes of land in southern Spain and on some of the larger Canary Islands.

At the same time he sought to create ecologically friendly tourist attractions as an alternative to the golf courses and water parks that were springing up in other sunspots.

His best known project on the island is the breathtaking Jameos del Agua. Where he used a massive lava tunnel as a backdrop for an underground grotto, concert auditorium and tropical gardens. Creating a site that was described by visiting VIP Rita Heyworth as “The Eighth Wonder of the World”.

The Jameos del Agua project really helped to put Lanzarote on the map as a tourist destination in the 1970´s. As it gained international plaudits and helped to attract lots of famous guests – such as Peter Sellers and Omar Sharif. All keen to find out more about this unusual new holiday island.

Manrique went on to create a further six similar sites. In the process helping to gain Lanzarote the privileged status of a UNESCO protected biosphere.

Nick Ball is the editor of the Lanzarote Guidebook that includes an in-depth island guide to sightseeing, attractions, accommodation and excursions on this easternmost of the Canary Islands. Download the excellent free 96-page guide to this volcanic island paradise.


ashsmi said...

thanks for thi spiece, i am heading that way next year and was looking for womewhere off th beaten track for a few days

BarbaraW said...

Wonderful guest post. I hadn't really ever considered visiting the Canary Islands, but this made me want to go. I love the surreal feel of volcanic fields.

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