Timanfaya National Park was established in 1974 and is situated in the south west of the island of Lanzarote in Spain. It is also part of the Biosphere Reserve designated by UNESCO in 1993 which covers the whole of Lanzarote.
The park covers 51 km2 (~20 mi2) on the southern part of the island from the Montanas del Fuego to the sea, and is made up entirely of bizarre volcanic rock formations created when the volcanoes on the island erupted in the 1730s. While only one of the volcanoes, Timanfaya itself, is still active, the area looks much as it did at the time of the destruction due to the low rainfall – and therefore lack of erosion – in the area.
Volcanic activity still occurs today below the ground’s surface – temperature in the core still ranges from between 100°C and 600°C (212°F and 1,112°F), and park guides will demonstrate this for visitors by pouring water on the ground resulting in a geyser of steam. Another popular way to experience the area is to visit the El Diablo restaurant where typical Canarian food is cooked with geothermal heat. The restaurant also offers superb views over the apparently barren landscape known as the malpais (or badlands).
However, the ground is not as sterile as it looks – there are over 200 species of lichen and some of the oldest fig trees on the island within the park’s boundaries. Other plants and animals are also beginning to repopulate the area: it is home to nesting pairs of Barbary Falcons who feed on the small rabbits and other mammals living in the fractured lava flows.
The park is the island’s most popular tourist site, although access is strictly controlled to preserve the fragile flora and fauna. One or two footpaths are available, and it is possible to view the area by a short camel ride, but most people view the landscape by organized coach on a road otherwise closed to the public.