Lanzarote: Island of Hidden Beauty
The real magic of travel is when you discover something you knew absolutely nothing about . . . that’s what the experience visiting Lanzarote in the Spanish Canary Islands was like for me.
I never heard of the architect César Manrique, who was from this island and returned to make it his life’s work to celebrate and memorialize its unique beauty. His installations are throughout the island, and we had the privilege of visiting two of them. In both cases, their real meaning was totally hidden from view and not obvious until you enter, and then, Wow. The first was the Mirador del Rio, a stunning view of the volcanic terrain all the way to the Atlantic shore. My pictures will give an idea, but just do not capture the magnificence of the view or the experience.
Jameos del Agua took us into a huge lava tube, into a seemingly mystical world, hidden from the ground level. It was breathtaking. The seawater rises and falls naturally and is home to thousands of tiny albino crabs that to the naked eye resemble white splotches on the rocks. Music was playing in the background which just enhanced the experience.
Interesting graphic symbols designed by Manrique give a clue to each site’s entrance, which to the uninitiated, might otherwise be overlooked.
Our ship, Regent Seven Seas Explorer, docked in Arrecife, the capital and largest city on the island and home to about half the approximately 150,000 residents. This island is so different from the others we have visited, it’s arid and has 1000 volcanoes, truly resembling a moonscape. It would be a perfect location for a sci-fi movie. BTW, don’t worry, most the volcanoes are not active. Most houses are white, which stand in stark contrast to the barren land and feature green doors. As with all things on this island, Manrique had a say in the palette for establishing building codes and declared the colors would be brown (for the earth), blue for the sea, and green – all colors from nature.
A 15-story hotel built in the ’70s, then abandoned, then renovated, served as a catalyst for Manrique and other like-minded citizens to rebel against such building and pass restrictions, limiting all other construction to just two stories.
We lunched at the Monument of Peasant, which featured small shops showcasing various local crafts and a Manrique-designed monument to the workers. During our drive throughout the island, we got to see Teguise, the first capital.
At Timanfaya National Park we learned a lot more about this basaltic volcanic region and drove the “Lunar Route” while listening to a CD featuring a narration with a few facts along with some very inspirational music (think 2001 Space Odyssey).
We ended the day with a wine tasting at the Bodega la Geria, where we saw some of the unique stone circular designs that protect the grape crop from the fierce winds.
Then back to the ship to try and process the interesting and varied sights of the day.