Friday, December 30, 2011

Walking In Lanzarote

I'll be away for the next few days doing some walking in the island of La Palma, my first time there. So I leave with an account of last year's trip to Lanzarote, done at the same time of year. Lanzarote may not be as famous for trekking as islands with higher peaks or forests like Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Palma, but we thoroughly enjoyed our time there and did much better walks than we had expected.

Day 1 began with not much walking going on. In the national park of Timanfaya you have to leave your car in the parking area and then get on a bus to be taken on a route around the area of the extensive volcanic eruptions that took place in the 18th Century. It's still a volcanic desert, but a spectacular sight. 

A short distance down the road from the Timanfaya interpretation centre there is an area of the park where you can do some walking. The Caldera Blanca is a beautiful, and reasonably easy, route to do. Once you find the path from the parking area it's hard to wander off it, at least whilst you are walking through a sea of jagged lava. Despite the path it's still a good idea to wear boots or strong shoes. The Caldera Blanca is the one at the back in the photo below.

There is some climbing involved to get up to the crater, and if you want to make the route a bit more difficult, as we did, then you can descend down into the crater itself. I wanted to check out the stone rings in the centre. I suspect they are not very ancient.

We did a full circuit of the crater with fantastic views along the coast and into the interior of the island. It's a route that can be done comfortably in 2-3 hours and was a great introduction to the volcanic landscape of Lanzarote.

On the second day we moved to another island. La Graciosa isn't very big, has only two villages and a few hundred inhabitants, and is just a short boat trip away from the the northern part of Lanzarote. This is the capital!

We set off into the interior of the island without worrying too much about following a path or even having a fixed objective. Others hire bikes or even Land Rovers to take them around the island, but we just went over the low hills in the centre. Once again, the views were spectacular and the weather was perfect.

On the other side there is a wild Atlantic beach, with waves to match. Although conditions were calm this is not a very safe place to go in too deep, there is a strong undertow. But the day, and the walk to get there, made it hot enough to go into the water. 

We walked back using the road that cuts across the centre of the island, much quicker but with poorer views. La Graciosa has a low key charm, and is a place where I could happily spend 2-3 days. 

On our third day we went to a part of Lanzarote known as Los Ajaches. Nowhere on the island goes much higher than 600 metres, but in this area we did a relatively tough circular walk taking us from the hills higher up down to the coast and then back up again.

The reward for the effort was another day of fantastic weather and excellent views of the island. The landscape, as with much of the island, is fairly barren. Nobody comes to Lanzarote for the Atlantic cloud forest. But we could see the coast on two sides, including views of neighbouring Fuerteventura.

We were based for the trip in the beach resort of Playa Blanca. It's always entertaining to stay in a place like this on walking holidays, people preparing for a day by the beach stare in wonder at the Martians who eat their breakfast wearing full trekking gear. It was a good place to stay, a beer by the sea after a day's walking always gives things a different perspective. La Palma I expect to be a bit different. 

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