Lanzarote in the Canary Islands of the eastern Atlantic Ocean may be over two million years old, but its last volcanic eruption was less than 300 years ago. Over a six-year period starting in 1730 a quarter of the island was covered in ash, with some of the over 300 volcanoes on Lanzarote active. Another major eruption occurred in 1824, resulting in more lava covering the island. The landscape today on Lanzarote retains a desolate look, but the results of the volcanic activity have given it a hauntingly beautiful look, with interesting minerals and rocks.
Surprisingly, Lanzarote has fertile lava-rich soil that is perfect for growing vegetables and wines. The Malmsey and Malvasia wines grown on Lanzarote are sweet and delicious. The citizens of Lanzarote are ecologically aware, and have maintained the natural beauty of the land.
Although the first outside visitors to Lanzarote came from Africa in the first century AD to obtain a plant containing a rich purple dye, today's visitors come to see the volcanoes in Timanfaya National Park and sit on the beach. The island's primary source of foreign currency since the 1970's has come from tourism. With only one short day on Lanzarote, it is difficult to decide which direction to go away from the ship.
I visited Lanzarote on the Silversea Silver Whisper, as part of a cruise from Barcelona to Lisbon via some of the Atlantic Islands and Morocco. The Silver Whisper offered two shore excursion choices--west to the Fire Mountains or north to the caves of Jameos del Agua and Cueva los Verdes.
Other cruise ships have similar shore excursion options. I visited the island again on a Silver Spirit cruise of the Canary Islands and enjoyed a driving tour around the island..
Lanzarote Fire Mountains and Dromedaries
The desert dryness of Lanzarote makes it a perfect home for dromedary camels. One of the best ways to trek through Timanfaya National Park in the Fire Mountains is on one of these dromedaries. My head told me that a camel ride is bound to be uncomfortable and smelly, and that camels are known to spit. However, my adventuresome heart said to go for this one! It was great fun, even though the camel in front of ours in the caravan "peed" on my sandal-clad foot! That's a story I'll have to tell another day--if ever.
A bus takes guests from Arrecife through the village of Yaiza to Timanfaya. This mountain range emerged during the 1730's eruptions, and even today the ground is hundreds of degrees hot in some places. After a tour of the park and a ride on the dromedaries, the tour goes on to the Janubio Salt Flats and one of the Lanzarote wineries before returning to Arrecife.
Discover Northern Lanzarote
This tour drives along the northern coast from Arrecife, stopping at vistas along the way. The primary destination is the volcanic grottoes at Jameos del Agua formed when the lava flow reached the Atlantic Ocean. Guests explore some of the caves' interiors and might even see some blind crabs that have inhabited the caves since prehistoric times.
On Your Own on Lanzarote
The capital of Arrecife is home to the Canary Island's largest fishing fleet, due to its close proximity to mainland Africa. Cruise ships dock at Los Marmoles Port about 2.5 miles from Arrecife. Shopping opportunities for souvenirs include local embroideries, baskets, and native Guanche pottery. Arrecife has three beaches: Playa Blanca, El Reducto and Guacineta. Playa El Reducto, just south of Arrecife, is said to be the best beach.