The six treasures by César Manrique that awaken all the senses
If you want to experience a distinctive sensory journey through the network of Lanzarote’s Centres of Art, Culture and Tourism (CACT), just let the philosophy of its creator, César Manrique inspire you. The artist said that “being born in this scorched geography in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean would influence any moderately sensitive being“. With this in mind, we propose six routes through these unique spaces focused on the senses.
1- SIGHT. The beauty of the island takes you to another level of perception.
It’s impossible to get blasé about the endless lava fields that can be seen from the Montañas del Fuego. (Fire Mountains). Red craters, lava flows and lunar landscapes… It is difficult not to be overwhelmed by their presence.
Hollywood knows this and has been using these natural sets for decades. NASA itself, driven by scientific interest, uses these extreme landscapes to train its astronauts. But if there’s one place in the CACT network where the art-nature binomial is recreated, it is in Jameos del Agua.
The unique combination of landscape and cultural values go beyond the aesthetics achieved in this volcanic tube – they are transformed into emotion. Let’s not forget the blind jameitos, the albino crabs that inhabit the lake and star in tales and legends because, ironically, although they are the masters of Jameos, they are unable to contemplate its extraordinary beauty.
2- HEARING. Performing arts in a lava tube.
The disconcerting nature in which the Centres for Art, Culture and Tourism are framed facilitates artistic symbiosis. In Lanzarote we love to attend shows in the auditoriums created inside volcanic tubes, such as those of Jameos del Agua and the Cueva de Los Verdes. The porous stone of their walls provides exceptional acoustic properties, absorbing sound waves and preventing unwanted resonance.
The sound is impeccable in the concerts and the view of the volcanic scenery is impressive in the performances staged, so a great way to get to know these two venues is to attend one of the select events that are programmed here throughout the year. If you happen to be on the island between November and January, you are in luck because the island is hosting the Escena Lanzarote Festival, a practical demonstration of the Manriquean merging of landscape and culture.
3- TASTE. Cooking in the volcano’s fire.
The time has come to get your strength back, but not just any old way. Atlantic flavours are best appreciated in their surroundings and accompanied by the volcanic wines of the Vinos de Lanzarote Designation of Origin.
The restaurants of the Casa Museo del Campesino and the MIAC – Castillo de San José seduce the palate with bowls of millet broth, sea bass croquettes, wreckfish, grilled octopus, goat’s meat, braised short ribs… Authentic cuisine, but with a hint of reinterpretation by chefs, often inspired by other international cuisines. Take time to enjoy the exuberant decoration of the spaces, with original pop aesthetic details, such as the lamps made from salad bowls.
And that’s not all: the tasting becomes telluric in the restaurant El Diablo de Montañas del Fuego, where flames from the very bowels of the earth form the barbecue offered under the suggestive name of Carnes al Calor del Volcán(meat cooked in the heat of the volcano). It’s not a slogan. Give it a try.
4- TOUCH. Burning ashes, thorny cactus.
We challenge you to place the palm of your hand under a handful of volcanic ash during the thermodynamic demonstrations offered during the visit to the Montañas del Fuego. Remember that Timanfaya still shows volcanic activity and is one of the places with the highest geological temperature in the world: 300 degrees Celsius at only ten metres from the surface.
It seems incredible that this hot land can have such a rich biodiversity of indigenous flora, but it is precisely its adaptation to the environment that makes the flora so interesting. Probably the first plant that comes to mind in desert contexts is the cactus, from the Greek kaktos (“spiny leaf”). This type of plant, now widespread all over the world, is characterised by having replaced its leaves with thorns or hairs that cover its stems.
However, not all cacti are the same and there are thousands of species with a wide variety of shapes: spheres two metres in diameter, tiny cylinders barely a centimetre across, giant candelabra-shaped cacti… We’re sure that reading that, your eyes have opened in amazement, longing to see these specimens. Don’t worry. They’re all in the Cactus Garden. Nobody leaves disappointed after visiting what was César Manrique’s last great work in Lanzarote, which houses around 4,500 cactus specimens of some 500 species from the five continents.
5- SMELL. Sea breeze, saltpetre and countryside.
Being on a small Atlantic island where the sea is visible from almost any point is no small matter. The marine environment shows in every breath of air and its smell refreshes body and mind. The Centre of Art, Culture and Tourism that best allows the visitor to physically integrate into the environment is the Mirador del Río, erected 474 metres above sea level in the Risco de Famara.
From its panoramic windows or on its outdoor terrace you can appreciate the immensity of the Chinijo Archipelago Natural Park, with its islets, including La Graciosa, the eighth Canary Island. It receives the ever-present breeze in this spectacular landscape, which also includes the Salinas del Río salt flats. But this route of scent also takes us to the Casa Museo del Campesino.
Depending on the time of year, the vines planted outside exhale the aromas that will give rise to the volcanic wines and, inside, the aromas of the artisanal products made in the workshops of cochineal dye, leather… Or even gofioand mojo picón. Learn these Canarian gastronomic techniques and take the recipe home with you.
6- THE SIXTH SENSE.
If you let yourself be led by your five senses on the routes proposed, you’ll be travelling along a path that fuses art with the natural environment. This is the greatest achievement of Manrique’s work in Lanzarote’s Centres of Art, Culture and Tourism – his ability to reconcile us with the environment and with ourselves.
In addition to artistic and aesthetic reflection, the experience offered to visitors at the CACT spaces carries an ideological charge of environmental conservation. It’s true that these public spaces are a world benchmark for sustainable tourism, but, in our individual experience, they are much more – they are the perfect way to absorb Lanzarote’s connection to the environment.
A connection that is light, that is life itself.