César Manrique and the volcanic island of Lanzarote

My guest post today from Nick Hall, of Lanzaroteguidebook.com  will give you a unique perspective on the volcanic island of Lanzarote, through the influence of artist César Manrique who made it more than just your average package holiday destination.

The volcanic landscape of Lanzarote

The volcanic landscape of Lanzarote

Lanzarote has long been saddled with a slightly downmarket reputation in the UK, ever since the 1970´s, when the Monty Python team termed it Lanzagrotty. But nothing could in fact be further from the truth. As this small speck of Spain has been far less touched by tourism than larger Canarian cousins such as Tenerife and Gran Canaria. Lanzarote retains its raw, if unconventional, volcanic beauty largely intact – despite welcoming over 1.5 million visitors every year.

This delicate juggling act has been largely orchestrated by a local artist called César Manrique, who battled against the worst excesses of over development during the 1970´s, securing an island wide ban on high rise buildings and advertising hoardings. He simultaneously created ecologically friendly tourist attractions that work with Lanzarote´s volcanic terrain, rather than against it, illustrating that there are viable alternatives to the water parks and golf courses so popular elsewhere in Spain.

Timnafaya national park on Lanzarote

Timnafaya national park on Lanzarote

Timnafaya National Park
Lanzarote was subjected to a massive series of seismic shocks during the 18th and 19th centuries. Violent eruptions rocked the island, remodelling around one third of Lanzarote´s land mass and replacing farms and villages with lava fields and volcanoes.

Fortunately these peaks are now dormant, but the Timanfaya National Park, the scene of these eruptions, is always alive with tourists – attracting around 900,000 visitors a year. The surreal scenery here really is out of this world, so much so that Apollo 13 astronauts studied photos of this terrain to prepare themselves for their moon landing mission.

Manrique sympathetically harnessed this raw terrain for visitors. Discerning the optimum touring route through the Park and creating the magnificent Devils Diner. This incredible restaurant with 360 panoramic windows, sits on the top of one of the volcanoes, where visitors can watch their food being cooked by the heat emanating from below on massive grills.

Jameos del Agua on Lanzarote

Jameos del Agua on Lanzarote

Jameos Del Agua
The Jameos del Agua was a huge collapsed lava tube, before Manrique, with the help of local architect Jesus Soto, transformed it into a breathtaking subterranean concert venue and auditorium. It is replete with tropical gardens and a superb swimming pool that is apparently reserved for the sole use of the King of Spain.

This is the creation that helped to put Lanzarote on the map as a viable tourist destination in the 1970´s. It attracted VIP visitors and celebrities such as Peter Sellers and Omar Sharif, all keen to explore this unique new holiday hot spot.

Hail César
Manrique went on to create a further six similarly unique and imaginative tourist attractions, such as the Jardin de Cactus, a homage to the plant worlds spiniest species. And the Mirador del Rio, an incredible volcanic look out point which grants visitors a bird’s eye view of the neighbouring island of La Graciosa, helping to earn Lanzarote the status of a UNESCO protected biosphere in the process.

Nick Ball is the editor of Lanzaroteguidebook.com – the in-depth Lanzarote tourist information guide. Visit the site to download a FREE copy of their 96 page guidebook to the island. You can also book holidays and villas in Lanzarote online.

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