The volcanic eruptions that Lanzarote suffered in the 18th century destroyed 21 settlements, with the passage of the lava forming a new landscape
“The volcano changed the history of Lanzarote” are the words of the historian and archaeologist José de León, after presenting his doctoral thesis on the villages that were buried by the volcanic eruptions of the 18th century. The end result was that nine large villages were buried under the lava: Tingafa, Montaña Blanca, Maretas, Santa Catalina, Jaretas, San Juan, Peña de Plomos, Testeina and Rodeos.
Their remains are still to be found under those dark, jagged rocks that dominate the terrain of the Timanfaya National Park and its surroundings. It’s thanks to the research carried out by archaeologists and historians that today we know where the island’s population centres were located at that time.
The ash, lava, or both, buried 21 settlements, from villages to hamlets or pagos consisting of just three or four houses. The largest was Tingafa, but El Chupadero and Santa Catalina are also under the Chimanfaya volcano, which was the first to appear, with some 1500 inhabitants losing their homes completely. To find the current location of the Montaña de Tingafa, leave Mancha Blanca in the direction of Timanfaya, which is 3.7 kilometres away.
And if you had made a 360-degree turn, you would have seen Pago de Candelaria, and the villages of Masintafe and Testeina, where a taro, or area enclosed in the lava, can still be seen, as well as the walls of a house in the place where Domingo Hernández Fajardo, Clavijo y Fajardo’s grandfather, had his home.
To find Montaña Ortiz today, head south from the Tinguatón crossroads and you will come across a fairly large parking area on the right. Opposite, on the left-hand side of the road, just in front of the car park, you can clearly see the entire route, framed by a dirt track in the middle of the majestic lava formations of this protected area.
What are now the Montañas del Fuego were once plains where cereals were grown. There were fertile meadows where “more cows than camels” grazed, areas where tabaibas and verodes grew, as well as shearwaters Egyptian vultures, ospreys, bustards and some 5,000 inhabitants, half of whom left despite the fact that in the early years the authorities forbade them to do so. Volcanic activity was not continuous, but it was insistent.
On the hiking routes organised by Senderismo Lanzarote, every detail of each point of the island is interpreted so hikers understand the landscape before the arrival of the eruptions that began in 1730 and ended six years later. Getting to know the geological past of the island and how the lava eruptions affected it is another attraction for the thousands of hikers who visit Lanzarote every year.