Walking Among Volcanoes
21 April, 2016
When you picture yourself on holiday in Lanzarote, it’s easy to make the mistake of conjuring up images of black, sandy beaches streaked with rows of sunshades and deck chairs, sun-reddened tourists wielding selfie sticks while perched on a camel’s hump – they are actually dromedaries – and hotels offering a free buffet three times a day. While clichés might be hard to banish, the truth is that “the island of volcanoes” is much more than just that.
The route we feature today bears this out – Vulcan Walk Lanzarote is a walking trail which stretches from Playa Blanca in the south to Órzola in the far north and takes you through the island’s most virgin and solitary areas. Lanzarote in four easy, varied stages which, if you prefer, can be extended to five. Further, to round it off, at the end of the hike you can opt to ferry across the sea to the small, idyllic island of La Graciosa, there to spend a couple of days delighting in its coloured mountains, enticing white sandy beaches and, above all, the reigning peace and tranquillity.
Stage 1. Crossing Los Ajaches
From Playa Blanca to Uga - 17 km / 900 m+ / 6 hours
The route starts in Playa Blanca, on the Atlantic seaboard – specifically the beach of Las Coloradas, from where you can see the mysterious outline of the neighbouring Fuerteventura island. As soon as you leave the built-up area behind, you enter the desolate massif of Los Ajaches. This vast, eroded landscape emerged some 20 million years ago and it is there that you start climbing up towards the summit of Hacha Grande (561 m).
After this first ascent, the best thing is to refuel on a delicious meal of ropavieja (meat, chickpeas, potatoes, red peppers, onion and garlic, bay leaf, thyme and cloves). This tasty dish is served up at the small Restaurante Femés, located at the village roundabout. Be warned that Femés is the only inhabited spot on today’s route.
The stage continues towards Atalaya de Femés (609 m), the second highest point on Lanzarote, after which you embark on the long, panoramic descent to Uga. The vast lava field you’ll be crossing tomorrow can be distinguished from the heights.
Stage 2. From the Heart of La Geria to the Malpaís of Timanfaya
From Uga to Tinajo - 21 km / 350 m+ / 7 hours
After spending the night in a cosy country house in Uga and breakfasting in their leafy garden – the ideal time to taste their traditional, energy-packed gofio– the second stage leads us to the heart of La Geria, a unique winemaking area in that the vines grow on picón,the volcanic gravel produced by eruptions from the early 18th century which changed the landscape of much of the island.
At the 5-kilometre mark you cross the main road and walk past two wine cellars. Bear in mind that this is your last food station before you get to Tinajo at the 18-kilometre mark.
The route continues through the malpaís of Timanfaya, a dream-like inferno of rocks, calderas and lava fields which is reached via a winding trail reserved for hikers. You wander along this route for hours through the chaos of Lanzarote’s youngest magma.
Stage 3. Coasting the Ocean
From Tinajo to Caleta de Famara - 21 km / 150 m+ / 6 hours
On the third day, the route leads from Tinajo to Caleta de Famara along the rugged seaboard, where the ocean roars between wave-eroded cliffs and volcanoes. After crowning Mt Bermeja, you come to the surfing capital of the island via an unforgettable coastal strip of white sand punctuated by large black rocks encrusted with olivine. At the end of the day, the formidable Risco de Famara cliff-face becomes tinged with the warm colours of the sunset.
For food, at the 8-kilometre mark you go through the small fishing village of La Santa (not to be confused with the nearby sports vacation centre). At the bar called El Quemao, in the street of the same name, which is frequented by local fishermen, you can eat well and cheaply. The seafood soup comes highly recommended, particularly when the fresh north wind is blowing.
Stage 4. The Abyss of the Heights
From Caleta de Famara to Órzola - 27 km / 1.500 m+ / 9 hours
The fourth stage, from Famara to Órzola, is the longest and toughest on the whole route. It runs entirely along the stunning cliffs of Risco de Famara. Access is via an amazing oasis which grows in the Barranco de la Paja, a valley flanked by sharp slopes rising over 600 metres above the Atlantic.
To have a rest and find something to eat, it is advisable to take the detour which goes through Haría (11-kilometre mark), as it has all kinds of bars and restaurants.
After your noon stopover, the route starts climbing towards the Gayo peaks, which feature some spectacular vantage points. From here it is only a few kilometres to the popular Mirador del Río. The panoramic view from this lookout is on a grand scale – the island of La Graciosa looks like a 3D map, with its colourful volcanoes, shining beach sand and white houses.
The final descent along the trail leads to the port of Órzola. Your baggage and tickets will be waiting for you at the lockers in El Graciosero. Half an hour later you land at the neighbouring island of La Graciosa, where time seems to stand still.
Relax on La Graciosa
The small island of La Graciosa, with an area of just 29 km2 and still free of tarred roads, is the ideal hideout for relaxing for a couple of days at the end of the hike. Or, if you are still rearing to go, for exploring its fantastic landscape.
Book your Vueling to Lanzarote and gear up for a heady shot of trekking across the island.
Text by Sergio Fernández Tolosa & Amelia Herrero Becker of Con un Par de Ruedas
21 April, 2016