Jameos del Agua on the Canary Islands – Lanzarote

Lanzarote, Spain

Lanzarote, Spain

By Keith Kellett

Over 3000 years have passed since the eruption of the Monte de Corona volcano on Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands. That eruption bored out a lava tunnel to the sea, and, indeed, continued under the sea bed for some distance. The tunnel is about 6 kms long, and is claimed as one of the longest lava tunnels in the world. They won’t stick their necks out and say it’s the longest, but a considerable amount still remains to be explored.

A ‘jameo’, a word that comes from the language the islanders spoke before the Spanish arrived, is formed when part of the roof of a tunnel so formed collapses, and that, simplified, is how the Jameos del Agua came about. ‘Agua’ means water, and it got its name from the underground lake between two of the ‘jameos’.

Inside the ‘jameos’ live blind albino crabs which are found nowhere else. However, they’re difficult, if not impossible, to see as they’re only a centimeter long. They have been adopted as the icon of the site, so there are plenty of models of them around the place.

You enter by way of the ‘Jameo Chico’ (‘Baby jameo’) and descend into it, down to the lake. A notice sternly forbids throwing coins into the water … (why do tourists feel that, when passing any water feature, be it fountain or horse-trough, they must toss coins into it?) … as this will adversely affect the crabs.

A walkway takes you through the tunnel, along the side of the lake, until you come to the ‘Jameo Grande’, where you ascend once more to exit the system. It might be thought that it’s not very interesting apart from the crabs, for there are no stalactites or other formations found in limestone caves; it’s just a hole in the ground, really.

Jameos del Aqua

Jameos del Agua

But then, in the middle of the 1960s, along came local architect César Manrique. The work of Manrique can be seen all over Lanzarote, the most conspicuous of which are the ‘mobiles’ on the grass reserve on some roundabouts on the road. When he started, the ‘jameos’ were becoming rather dilapidated and overgrown.

What Manrique did in association with artist Jesús Soto was to create a sort of underground garden; one of the few examples of Man coordinating with Nature, and improving on it, but still retaining the feel of the volcanic tunnel. The idea was to use the acoustics of the ‘Jameo Grande’ for a concert hall in addition to it a restaurant, a pool – for admiring, not for swimming in –  and a dance floor were installed. These blend in naturally, adding great interest to what is actually a rather anonymous hole in the ground.

Most Northern Europeans tend to regard Lanzarote as one of the inexpensive resorts for sun, sand, sea, sangria and … (what’s the other S? I forget!) but that’s not true of the whole island. Most of the tourists head for the beaches on the eastern coast, to the south of the capital, Arrecife. Some will head west, to the volcanic park at Timanfaya, for Lanzarote itself and indeed all of the Canary Islands were formed by volcanic action. Those volcanoes are by no means extinct as any tourist guide will often demonstrate, by tossing a bucket of water down a fumarole to produce a waterspout.

Luckily, Monte de Corona isn’t going to erupt any time soon. At least, I hope not!


Info on opening times and how to get to the Jameos here: http://www.turismolanzarote.com/

Keith Kellett writes athttp://travelrat.wordpress.com/

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/paul_stephenson/

5 Responses

  1. Lanzarote is technically still erupting. It could go off at any moment, or not for 10,000 years. No need for visitors to pack their heat-proof flip-flops though! Canarian eruptions give plenty of warning!

    Nice article about a fascinating island. So much to do in such a small area. Also makes seriously good, award-winning wine!

  2. nancy todd says:

    That is reassuring that one gets volcano warnings. It is an amazing place.

  3. Aston says:

    Me, my sister, and my grandpa are planning to stay in a condo in the Canary Islands (not sure which island) from 12/20 to 12/27. To be honest, we are trying to escape the cold of the San Francisco Bay Area. What is the temperature like in December, and what is the average temperature of the ocean?

  4. admin says:

    Not sure what the water temp would be, you could ask Island Momma, who has a blog by the same name and lives year-round on the islands. http://islandmomma.wordpress.com/

    Thanks, Regina

  5. Robin Fuga says:

    I’ve spent 7 winters on Lanzarote, and worked 7 summers for my old company in England to pay for them. I now live here, and try to to get off the beaten tourists routes. The roads even in ‘the sticks’ are vastly superior to Brit. roads…no frost/ice to break up the tarmac y’see ?

    It’s SO easy to drive through those country villages…they ARE like ghost towns ! Where the people are I cannot figure ? And it’s absolutely fascinating ! And the tranquility just washes over you…like…like…well…VALIUM ! ( not that I’ve taken it..honest ! )

    Plus, because the roads are a ‘touch’ narrowish for tour coaches, you get a view of strangely beautiful ‘must sees’ from the OTHER side. Give it a go..GET OFF the main roads…and EXPLORE ! You’re Brits aren’t you ? That’s what WE have always done haven’t we ?

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