72 hours to…

96 hours in the volcanic landscapes of the Canaries, between Lanzarote and Tenerife

For many, the Canaries are synonymous with mass tourism in giant resorts. But should you be a snob and ignore them? The answer is clearly no. We offer you 96 hours of discovery in the sometimes unreal volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote and Tenerife.

Day 1 - Arrival in Lanzarote

What to do in Lanzarote We plan to land in Lanzarote (Arrecife, ACE) in the early afternoon and pick up our rental car at the airport, heading straight for the southern tip of the island, where the Papagayo coast boasts several beautiful beaches.

Leave the LZ-2 main road before Uga and turn left onto the LZ-702, which passes through Las Casitas and Femès. You'll pass through Maciot, named after Maciot de Béthencourt, nephew of Jean de Béthencourt, who conquered the island from Cau in 1402, and whose houses date back to this period, including a guest house, Casa Rural Los Ajaches, where tradition has it that Maciot himself stayed.

To the left are the Los Ajaches National Park mountains. To reach the coast, at the last roundabout at the end of Route 702, take the dirt road on the left (straight ahead you'll enter Playa Blanca, home to a large number of resorts). On your left, you'll see the Hacha Grande massif.

The last part of the dirt road, which provides access to the beaches, is inside the park, and you'll have to pay €3 per person at the toll booth to continue. But you'll be rewarded with some beautiful beaches, of which Papagayo, which forms an arc surrounded by two rocks, is the most famous. Playa Mujeres, a little further north, is the longest (400m).

To continue our tour of the island, we'll pick up the LZ-2 at Playa Blanca and head north towards the Salines de Janubio. These are not open to visitors, but offer an astonishing view from the road (parking is available), with their rectangular shapes and subtle pastel hues. Turn left to bypass the saltworks and join the coastal road (LZ-703).

This picturesque road offers two further attractions: the site of Los Hervideros (Spanish for "raging waves"), where waves break along the lava rocks. Then, just before entering the fishing village of El Golfo, the green lagoon of El Charcho de los Clicos. This lagoon, connected to the sea via underground fissures, owes its color to the high concentration of a particular species of algae. The green forms a striking contrast with the grey of the volcanic sand and the ochre of the rocks above.

El Golfo is home to a succession of fish restaurants. Probably not truly gourmet addresses, but quality fish. If you're a fan of sunsets, the west-facing position makes it a great place to watch the sun's disc disappear below the horizon. Beware, however, that the pace isn't very Spanish: by 10pm the place is relatively deserted and some establishments have already closed their doors.

La Geria

Perhaps you'd prefer to enjoy the evening light inland, with tapas in one of La Geria's bodegas. To do so, we joined the LZ2 - still the same - via the LZ-104, which passes through a lava field. A foretaste of the landscapes of Timanfaya Park on the left. Evening light would actually be ideal for visiting it, but the last tours take place at 5 p.m. (6 p.m. during the summer months), so you'll have to wait until the following day.

After passing through Yaiza and Uga, we reach the same roundabout where we took the 702, but this time we turn left (north) towards La Geria (LZ-30). The landscape of La Geria is unique to Lanzarote and is the result of the perseverance of farmers in the face of a merciless natural environment.

Between 1730 and 1736, a series of eruptions profoundly changed the face of the island, causing several volcanoes to emerge and covering more than a quarter of its surface with lava. Entire villages, including Timanfaya, which gave its name to the park, were buried. Today, the black soil of La Geria is studded with hundreds of semi-cicular cavities dug by peasants in search of arable land. Low walls(zocos) protect the fragile vines from the wind.

Stop off at the El Chupadero bodega, for example, which boasts a fine view over the countryside and live music in the evenings. There's also the El Grifo bodega, the oldest on the island.

Where to stay in Lanzarote? The best hotels, B&Bs and villas

For this short stay in Lanzarote, we tend to prefer addresses that reflect the rural character of this volcanic island.

And for those who still prefer luxury accommodation in a classic hotel environment, there's the Melia Las Salinas, a large resort that also includes 9 Garden Villas, each with its own 20m2 private pool, outdoor shower and Balinese bed, occupying a total surface area - inside and out - of 500m² (approx. 500€ per night). Also of note: the resort's swimming pools, designed by César Manrique.

Paradisus by Meliá Salinas Lanzarote
Av. de las Islas Canarias, s/n, 35508 Costa Teguise, Las Palmas, Espagne

From 1730 to 1736, a series of eruptions profoundly changed the face of the island, bringing several volcanoes to the surface.

Day 2 - The mountains of fire and the creations of César Manrique

We start the day with a visit to Timanfaya Park, which opens at 10am. The entire Montañas del Fuego area was created by the aforementioned 18th-century eruptions, making it one of the youngest landscapes in the world.

The morning is ideal, as crowds are still limited (alternatively, you can do this program in reverse, and arrive at 5pm for the departure of the last tours). A visit to the park is only possible via a 50-minute bus tour. This is a little frustrating, because while we understand the need to preserve this fragile environment, we'd still have loved to be able to stop and admire this breathtaking scenery without constantly standing behind the glass of a bus.

Fortunately, we also enjoy a remarkable view from the building, designed by César Manrique (see below), which houses the El Diablo restaurant and boutique. One of the curiosities of the place is the natural oven where chicken and other meats are grilled before being served in the restaurant. If you lunch here, you won't find any gourmet meals in sight, but moderate prices and an unbeatable panoramic view from the circular dining room.

At the entrance to Timanfaya Park, we recommend you buy a ticket valid for 3 or 4 centros turisticos, aswe intend to continue the day by visiting the other creations of César Manrique. This Lanzarote-born artist (1919-1992) worked all his life for the preservation of the island, limiting the expansion of hotels and resorts to a few areas of the island, as well as the height of buildings.

Close to the surrealist movement, he returned to Lanzarote after a stay in the United States (1964-1966) at the invitation of Nelson Rockefeller. From the 1970s onwards, his creativity was expressed in a series of astonishing architectural projects that blend into the landscape or incorporate natural elements.

First stop: the Jardín de Cactus. Take the LZ-2 towards Areciffe, then the LZ1 to the north. This little gem is Manrique's latest creation (1990), established on the site of a disused quarry. A staircase takes you down into a large grey cavity, reminiscent of a crater but also a giant version of the cavities where the Geria vines grow. Once inside, you're plunged into a strange universe populated by over 7,000 cacti. More than 1,000 different species, the existence of which we didn't even know existed, are represented!

Back on the LZ-1. A few kilometers further north, past Punta Mujeres, are the even more astonishing Jameos del Agua. The site is designed around a volcanic tunnel whose openings - resulting from a partial collapse of the vault - provide natural access. Manrique set up a bar-restaurant here, which is open not only during the day, but also in the evening from Thursday to Saturday, with live music.

A small underground lake is home to several endemic species, including the amazing transparent blind crabs that have become the symbol of the place. Climbing up the other side of the lake, we leave the slightly eerie atmosphere of this subterranean world to discover a superb, immaculate white basin whose bluish water is much more welcoming - at least for humans! On discovering the site, Rita Hayworth, who had met Manrique during her stay in America, is said to have declared it the 8th wonder of the world.

In fact, the Jameos des Algua occupy only a small portion of this kilometer-long volcanic tunnel! Just 1 km to the west (on the LZ-204) is the entrance to La Cueva de los Verdes, where you can visit a section of the tunnel comprising over a kilometer of superimposed galleries. The walls of the cave are adorned with multiple shades of color, giving it a particularly spectacular appearance.

Continuing along the road, you reach the last stop of the day, the Mirador del Río. Located on a rocky promontory (475m) overlooking the Chinijo archipelago, the viewpoint was built by Manrique inside the cliff. A panoramic bar and outdoor platform provide a magnificent view of the neighboring island of La Graciosa.

If you arrive after the site has closed, or if you still have time, you can walk around the access to the Mirador (to the east) to the large radio antenna. From here, too, you'll enjoy a dazzling panorama. The remains of military installations date back mostly to the Second World War, but some date back to the Spanish-American War of 1898.

Where to dine?

One of the island's best places to dine is La Tegala from chef German Blanco. Or the panoramic Altamarde restaurant at the Arrecife Gran Hotel, the island's only high-rise.

On discovering the Jameos del Fuego, Rita Hayworth is said to have declared it the 8th wonder of the world.

Day 3 - Flight to Tenerife and discovery of Teide Park

Unless you're a particularly early riser, we'll probably make do with breakfast in the sun before heading to the airport and flying to Tenerife - Binter Canarias has a flight at around 11am. We land at Los Rodeos (Tenerife Nord, TFN) and head for Teide Park via the TF-24 road, the Carretera Dorsal.

We soon find ourselves in the forest, and it's hard to imagine that all these trees will soon give way to an almost entirely mineral landscape. But the altitude is still only around 900m at La Esperanza, while it reaches almost 2,400m at the Caldera de Las Cañadas.

At Las Raíces, just after the junction (about 5 km after La Esperanza), a bar/grill offers the possibility of a lunch break among the trees. The distances covered are modest, but the pace is obviously moderate on this winding road.

And, of course, there are a few stops to admire the view from the various viewpoints lining the road. The most famous are those at Chipeque and Chimague, accessible from the same road and positioned on either side of the ridge so you can see both sides of Tenerife. From Chimague, you can see the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria, while from Chipeque you can contemplate the valley of La Orotava.

As you enter the Teide park, you'll notice several strange white buildings on an eminence. These are the Teide Astronomical Observatory, which houses telescopes from astrophysical institutes in several countries. The observatory is open to visitors, but must be booked in advance (3 visits per week, at noon).

A few kilometers further on, in El Portillo, you'll find the visitors' center (closes at 4pm) and the starting point for several hikes. In fact, the extent of the Teide Natural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, essentially coincides with that of the gigantic Las Cañadas caldera. A caldera is a circular depression caused by the collapse of a volcanic edifice.

The Las Cañadas caldera (cañada means "pass" in Spanish, or "transhumance path" in this case) was formed around 160,000 years ago. Even today, there are competing theories as to its origin: a vertical collapse or a massive lateral landslide, similar to those that formed the neighbouring La Orotava and Güímar valleys earlier. Whatever the case, you don't need to be a geologist to be impressed by these landscapes worthy of a fantasy film. They were also the backdrop for the 1966 film One Million Years B.C., which starred the sexy Raquel Welsh, and more recently for Clash of the Titans (2010).

After El Portillo, stop off at Minas de San José, the site of an ancient pumice quarry blasted by the Montaña Blanca volcano. This expanse of gravel in shades of yellow and pale green is unlike anything else, and you'll marvel at the plants that grow here and there, especially when they bloom in spring.

It will probably be too late to take the cable car up to the Teide peak (last ascent at 4pm), so we suggest you spend the night at the Parador in the park and climb Teide the next morning. This will allow you to enjoy the park in the evening light. Directly opposite the hotel are the Roques de García, rock formations offering breathtaking views of the Ucanca plain below. One rock forms a natural platform inviting selfies.

You can continue along the TF-38 road to the park boundary or a little further into the Corona Forestal before turning back: the trees reappear as you descend, forming a forest whose green stands out spectacularly against the anthracite ground. The start of the TF-21 road down to Vilaflor also offers interesting views.

If you spend the night at the Parador, opt for the superior rooms or a Junior Suite, with balcony and view of the Teide. On Friday evenings, at 10.30pm, the hotel organizes astronomical observation sessions. There's also a small indoor pool (open from 8am to 10pm) and a sauna.

Parador de Cañadas del Teide
Las, Cañadas del Teide, 38300, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Espagne

You don't have to be a geologist to be impressed by the fantasy-film landscapes of the Las Cañadas caldera.

Understanding the geography of Tenerife.

Day 4 - Teide cable car and Masca road

This morning, take the cable car up to 3,550 meters in 8 minutes (beware of high winds, it may be closed - check the day before). The view from the station is already spectacular.

To reach the summit of Teide (3,718m), the highest in Spain, you have to continue on foot from the upper station, but this is only possible with a permit reserved in advance. Alternatively, take the easier, unrestricted route to the Mirador de Fortaleza (approx. 25 min).

pparu after the formation of the Caldera, the Teide volcano is now dormant. The last major eruption took place on the nearby Pico Viejo volcano in 1798. The temperature is obviously lower than below, and Teide is covered with snow in winter. If you're feeling brave, you may decide to walk back down, but be aware that it takes around 4 hours. In this case, bring appropriate footwear and clothing.

In the late morning or early afternoon, we leave the park and head for the western tip of Tenerife, where the Teno massif is located. Take the TF-38 to Chio, then the TF-375 to Santiago del Teide. The TF-436 road, which passes through the village of Masca and winds through the Teno massif, is particularly picturesque.

Shortly after Masca, the cafeteria of theMirador de la Cruz de Hilda is an ideal place to take a break. After theMirador de Baracán, located on the ridge line, the road descends towards the El Palmar valley. Once in the valley, it's less spectacular: if it's late and you've chosen to spend the night near Guía de Isora or Costa Adeje, you can take the opportunity to turn back.

Until 1706, Garachico (seen from above in this picture) was an important port, exporting Malvasia wine. But an eruption of Montaña Negra, some 8km to the south, destroyed much of the town. Among the buildings that survived the eruption, the oldest is the former San Francisco convent (1524). On the seafront, the Castillo San Miguel (1575), which watched over the port and protected it from pirates, was also spared by the lava flows. The lava flows completely destroyed the port, putting an end to the town's period of prosperity. At the same time, they created natural pools (photo), a very popular attraction today. A natural version of the infinity pool.

At 3,718m, the Teide summit is snow-covered in winter, despite being at the latitude of the Sahara.

Flights to Lanzarote

With Vueling, from Paris Orly (ORY)

- direct flight on Saturdays (3h50)- via Barcelona, weekdays (5h25)

With Jetairfly, from Paris CDG, Mondays and Saturdays (4h)

With Ryanair, from Beauvais (BVA), Thursdays until end of October 2015

Flights to Tenerife

With Easyjet, from Paris CDG, Tuesdays and Saturdays

With Iberia, from Paris Orly (ORY), Saturdays

With Ryanair, from Beauvais (BVA), Wednesdays and Sundays

Useful links (Lanzarote)

  • For all tourist information:centrosturisticos.com
  • arrecife airport (ACE)

Useful links (Tenerife)

  • Teide cable car website
  • Book a permit to go to the summit via the National Parks website
  • Book a visit to the observatory via volcanolife.com

Where to spend the night

Near Guía de Isora, south of Playa San Juan, lies the Ritz-Carlton Abama. A vast resort with its own golf course, it boasts several restaurants, including two Michelin-starred ones: Kabuki (1*), which we tested, and M.B. (2*), the restaurant of famous Basque chef Martín Berasategui. The hotel consists of a main building, a Moorish-style "citadel" housing several of the restaurants, as well as some of the rooms and suites, and a series of villas set on the slope leading down to the sea. We recommend renting a room - or a suite - in one of the Tagor villas: this allows you to enjoy the many possibilities offered by leresort while benefiting from a more intimate setting. Each group of villas has its own swimming pool reserved for adults, bordered by pleasant gardens. From 150€/night (Citadelle rooms) and 260€/night (Villa Tagor rooms).

Not far from there, next to Alcalá, the RedLevel at GranMelia Palacio de Isora, a true resort within a resort, also offers very luxurious rooms, some of which even have a terrace with a Jacuzzi. What's more, the Red Level has its own swimming pool, in addition to the huge one at the main resort. The highlight: the Garden Villas (800€/night) offer 600m² of living space, including a private pool. Red Level rooms start at 200€/night.

If you're heading back down to Costa Adeje, there are two other possibilities. The luxurious Royal Garden Villas, also located next to a golf course. The 11 villas, ranging in size from 140 to 360m², all have their own pool, in addition to a main pool and sumptuous spa. From 300€ per night. 

And the colonial-style Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque, which also offers an upmarket range of exclusive villas and a beautiful spa with thermal circuit. From €250 for a room. Villas from 900€.

Gran Hotel Bahia del Duque
Av. de Bruselas, s/n, 38660 Costa Adeje, Santa Cruz de Tenerife, Espagne

The Ritz-Carlton Abama, in addition to its Moorish citadel, offers rooms and suites in individual villas.

Day 5 - Relax in the comfort of your own home before boarding the plane

Last day in the Canaries, with an afternoon flight home. After the previous busy days, we're looking forward to enjoying the resort in the morning.

From the vicinity of Guía de Isora, it takes half an hour to get to Tenerife South's Reina Sofia airport (TFS) and 1h15 to Tenerife North's (TFN). Most flights to Paris depart from the latter.


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