Port of Lanzarote
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Lanzarote is volcanic in origin. Due to eruptions during the 18th and 19th centuries, many parts of the island appear to be from another world, often described as "lunar" or "Martian," so much so that parts of the 1970's science fiction series Planet of the Apes was shot on the island. The dry climate and lack of erosion means that the volcanic landscape appears much as it did just after the eruptions; the local tourist industry capitalizes on this fact.
Amongst the many volcanic features of Lanzarote is the longest volcanic tunnel in the world called the Atlantida Tunnel, which is over 7 km long and includes the La Cueva de los Verdes and Jameos del Agua. Today, the volcano park at Timanfaya is the islands number one tourist attraction. But 270 years ago it was the scene of the world's longest ever volcanic eruption. Father Lorenzo Curbelo, the priest of the nearby village of Yaiza, witnessed how the events started to unfold: "On the first day of September, 1730 between nine and ten o'clock at night, the earth suddenly opened near Timanfaya, two miles from Yaiza. An enormous mountain emerged from the ground with flames coming from its summit. It continued burning for 19 days. Some days later, a new abyss developed and an avalanche of lava rushed down over Timanfaya, Rodeo and part of Mancha Blanca.
"The lava extended over to the northern areas to begin with, running as fast as water, though it soon slowed down and ran like honey. On September 7th a great rock burst upwards with a thunderous sound and the pressure of the explosion forced the lava going northwards to change direction, flowing then to the north west and west north west. The lava torrent arrived, instantly destroying Maretas and Santa Catalina in the valley. On September 11th the eruption became stronger." The situation had obviously aggravated in the first week since it started, but the ordeal of the islanders had only begun and it would take six years before the eruptions finally came to an end.
Despite the history rocked by eruptions, there have been plenty of earlier visitors on the island. These include a Genoese sailor by the name of Lancelotto Malocello, who arrived here in 1312 as the first European. Some people say the island got its name from him, but other legends co-exist by its side. Another one suggests that after conquering the native inhabitants, Jean de Bethencourt, a Norman knight who arrived in 1402, celebrated his victory over the natives by throwing his broken lance into the air and shouting "lanza rota," which means broken spear.
The islanders finally surrendered on February 27, 1404, and on that day, their king Guardafia was baptized and christened Luis. Bethencourt was granted the title of king of the Canary Islands by Pope Innocent VII.
Bethencourt died in Normandy in 1422 and was succeeded by his nephew Maciot, who later turned out to be a tyrant. He established Teguise as the capital and seat of governor, but he was suspected of trying to sell the Canaries to the Portuguese, who had also laid claim to the islands, but at arbitration the pope decided in favour of the Castille. The constitution of Cadiz of 1812 abolished feudal system, and the Canaries became a province of Spain with Santa Cruz, Tenerife as the capital. In 1852, the law of free ports granted the islands immunity from customs and excise duties. They hold this status even today.
Cruise ships dock at Arrecife, which is capital of the island with 50,000 inhabitants. The island has several resorts, such as Puerto del Carmen, which is located some 20 km to the south from Arrecife, or Costa Teguise 7 km to the north.
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Where You're Docked
Your ship will dock at Puerto de Naos, which also handles cargo vessels. However, there is usually a shuttle bus service to Charco de San Gines, close to the town center. The journey takes about 12 minutes depending on traffic. It is hardly a scenic ride and includes some busy roads and roundabouts, so walking to town is not very pleasant.
If you feel less than energetic, take a shuttle bus from your ship to the town. You can drop the anchor at the cafes and restaurants overlooking the Charco, an inlet of water with houses painted in white and blue around it. Should you feel a bit more active, walk over the bridge along the waterfront to Calle de Leon y Castilia; this is where all the main shops of Arrecife are located. There are plenty of cafes too and it has palm trees to shelter you against the sun. Nice and cool -- literally.
The drop-off point of shuttle buses, Charco de San Gines, is not exactly attractive, but only a few hundred yards to the west lies Charco, an inlet of water with bars, restaurants and clean, tidy white buildings overlooking it. Cross the bridge and walk some three quarters of a mile and you come to Calle Leon y Castilia, the main shopping street of the town. A bit more than a mile further and you will reach a beach at Reducto. From the town center, a bus runs every 20 minutes to Puerto del Carmen. Timetables of this and other services are available at a tourist information office on the Avenida de Coll street on the seafront. The town of Arrecife itself follows the shoreline and there is little of interest to see after you come a few blocks from the waterfront. The shops, cafes and restaurants congregate near the water and so do people.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The currency in use is the euro. There are ATM's in the town center, i.e. on Calle Leon y Castilia, which is also where you will find most of the ships.
The language of the islands is Spanish, but as the islands receive visitors from many parts of Europe, you will get on with English quite well.
Food and Drink
Since Arrecife is not the center of tourism on the island, the widest choice of restaurants is not in the town itself either. Puerto del Carmen again steals the show, with El Tomate (Calle los Jameos), open daily, 7.00 p.m. - 10.30 p.m. Next door, Tomatissimo with international cuisine is now well into its third decade (open daily from 6:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.). El Cangrejo Rojo (Calle Roque Nublo; open daily at noon until 11.30 p.m) specializes in both local and international dishes, as does Casa Roja (Avenida Varadero).
If the idea of a drink or meal just before heading back to the ship sounds like a good idea, get back across the bridge over Charco and check the offerings of restaurants and bars on the eastern side of the inlet. You are likely to bump into fellow passengers from your ship here. As there are no shelters against the sun at the stop where the shuttle bus goes from, recharging the batteries before what can be a wait in searing heat may indeed be a good idea.
Mountain of Fire takes you through a barren landscape of lava. Guides will throw grass into the holes in the ground and it soon catches fire from the heat. The volcano that once destroyed life and property on the island is merely dormant today. Vineyards, surrounded by stone walls, dot the landscape. Approximately 4 hours.
Camel Ride and Fire Mountain combines the previous with half an hour's journey over volcanic dunes near the Timanfaya National Park. You'll be seated in a chair, one on each side of each beast; no previous experience is required here. Approximately 4.5 hours.
Jameos del Agua will take you to a volcanic cavern and subterranean water garden on the northern side of the island. A "concert cave" with seats for 600 and a cactus garden with 1,400 varieties on the spiky theme are featured here, all thanks to the artist Cesar Manrique that created the spectacle. Requires walking, duration about 4 hours.
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