Lanzarote is not only one of the smallest but also the lowest of the Canary Islands. Thus, much of the possible outdoor activities focus on the beaches (swimming, diving, surfing, kiting) or on the roads (biking). Hiking comes third and focuses on the exploration of the volcanoes in or around the Montañas del Fuego, the moonscape created by eruptions between 1730 and 1736. In the island's north, the roughly 20km long Risco de Famara attracts the attention of many visitors as well but few of them move far away from parking lots or miradores.
The highest point of Risco de Famara, also the highpoint of the whole island, is off limits, since a military radar installation is placed on its summit. Nearby, though, and only 30m lower, is the "solitary" summit of El Castillejo. "Solitary" might be the wrong word for a summit which is placed on a long cliff. However, in contrast to all other highpoints on Risco de Famara, El Castillejo is separated from the remainder of the cliff by a small saddle.
Risco de Famara starts to the north-west of the village Teguise and in a first branch runs up to its highpoint Peñas del Chache. This branch is still located about 5km from the sea. Before this branch reaches the highpoint, a second branch starts at the Urbanisation Famara and quickly rises vertically right above the sea. The first summit of this branch is El Castillejo, surrounded by drops on each side but the east, where the aforementioned saddle connects it with the rest of Risco de Famara.
A deep, canyon-like valley, Barranco de la Poceta separates the two branches from each other. Through this valley, a wonderful hiking route leads up to the cliff, ending right between Peñas del Chache and El Castillejo. As you can park you car at the beach Playa de Famara the route offers a real sea-to-summit experience and thus scales the highest elevation difference which is possible on Lanzarote. On top you'll have one of the famous views across the islands of Archipelago Chinijo, mainly La Graciosa, Montaña de Santa Clara and Allegranza. To the south-west the view is drawn across the ridge Rincon del Castillejo to the volcanoes in the south of the island. But most impressive are the close-up views down the west face of Risco de Famara.
Like the rest of Risco de Famara, El Castillejo is made up from very brittle volcanic rock. The summit alone is made up from basalt, which however is embedded in sand- or scree-like tuff. here, like on the other side of Barranco de la Poceta there are a multitude of caves, which before the colonalization by the Spanish offered housing to the inhabitants. Comparing the place with similar ones on La Gomera or Gran Canaria one can easily imagine it being used as a religious sanctary, even though no traces have been found
There are two possible trailheads for El Castillejo, one near Caleta de Famara, one at Ermita de las Nieves. While probably 95% of visitors to El Castillejo start at the Ermita or the nearby parking lot, the much more interesting route starts at Playa or Urbanisation de Famara
- Caleta de Famara
Caleta de Famara at the southern base of the cliff is the best trailhead for El Castillejo.
- From Arrecife take LZ1 to Tahiche
- Switch to LZ10 to Teguise
- Switch to LZ30 west to the Monumento al Campesino
- Take the next turn right (LZ402) to Caleta de Famara.
- Follow the signs for the Urbanisation Famara and drive around it.
- Follow the dirt road to an intersection where you can park
- Ermita de los Nieves
Goood lookout and starting point for a hike around Peñas del Chache, Lanzarote's highpoint
- From Arrecife take LZ1 / LZ10 to Tahiche and Teguise
- Drive through Los Valles until you reach the Mirador de Haría
- Turn sharply left onto a narrow side road which leads to Peñas del Chache and Ermita de los Nieves
There are two routes to the mountain, one from the coast below, one from Ermita de las Nieves, which starts at approximately the summit elevation.
La Caleta de Famara - El Castillejo
As mentioned in the overview section, this is Lanzarote's route with most elevation gain, especially if you start it at La Caleta de Famara or Playa de Famara. If you start at the village you will have to hike a road to Urbanisation Famara at the southernmost corner of which the trail into Barranco de la Poceta starts. If you start at Playa de Famara the first 500m lead along a dirt road, which eventually leads to the same southernmost corner Urbanisation Famara, only from the other side.
At first the route follows a dirt road which leads to two holliday fincas about 200m above sea level. Above the road gets more rugged and ends at a small water reservoir. Here a path heads on through lots of greenery (much greenery for a desert island like Lanzarote) towards the upper end of the barranco. It crosses one or two gullies and gets pretty ambiguos later on (between 350m and 450m). Here many paths lead into the same direction but they all combine before you reach the end of the barranco.
Here, switchbacks have been laid into the basalt of upper Risco de Famara, probably the most beautiful part of the route. You have basalt walls on one side, sheer drops on the other. Finally the path draws away from the edge into a small valley, which tops out onto the plateau of Risco de Famara. Turn left onto a path which descends into a saddle just before El Castillejo. In the saddle there is an intersection. The left hand path leads to the summit caves but ends there. The right hand path scales some rocks before heading out onto the summit.
Ermita de las Nieves - El Castillejo
From the Ermita follow the road until you reach a field framed by low walls, one corner of which points at the chapel. The road passes to the right of the field. Instead take a path to the left of the field. In one place you'll have to climb across the wall to hike across the field for about 100m. Cross the wall again and you end up on a trail, thich follows Barranco de la Poceta on its eastern side until it reaches the end. Here the route from La Caleta de Famara joins. Also head on to the left towards the saddle, where you take the right hand path to scramble to the summit.
Risco de Famara is part of the Parque Natural del Archipelago Chinijo, which also includes the five islands to the north of Lanzarote. The natural park was created to protect the many sea birds nesting in the steep cliff. Therefore any activities are restricted to the trails and roads on and through the Risco.
AccommodationThough there are ferries from the Spanish mainland to the Canary Islands, they take more than 24h for the trip. Therefore most visitors therefore go by plane. Every travel agency in Europe offers flights, hotel rooms, apartments, rental cars etc. so that reaching the Canaries is rather a matter of money than opportunity. During the summer season flight fares can be reasonable but during the Easter and Christmas holidays you have to be prepared for additional fees of 500€ per person.
Lanzarote has its own airport between the capital Arrecife and one of the main tourist centres, Puerto del Carmen. There are public bus lines but – like on all the islands – they don't run too regularly. If you plan to stay on your own, better take a rental car right at the airport.
As for holiday homes, hotels or apartments either consult your nearest travel office, or – search for lodgings on Google. There are several sites on the web, dedicated to rent privately owned houses or apartments. Prices are generally a bit less expensive than for tour operators but you don't have as much security.
Lanzarote is usually swept by fierce north-western trade winds. Though they deposit their humidity on almost all of the other Canary Islands, Lanzarote is simply too low to form a decent obstacle. Therefore the climate is very arid.
For some time of the year, eastern winds prevail, which almost always carry clouds of Sahara dust with them. Usually this means reduced visibility but in some occasions "Calima" occurs. Fierce storms take up the dust from the Sahara and sweep it across the islands. In these times visibility is nil and sometimes even the planes are grounded.
Maps & Books
Kompass Map WK241
Kompass is the only company known to me which offers GPS digital Maps. In addition for those of you with Garmin GPS receivers there is a map source map set of all Canary islands out there.
- Islas Canarias
OSM Topo Map of European Islands
My recommendation is a guidebook by Rother Verlag, available in German. The book is an excellent hiking guide covering all the interesting areas of the island. Since it comes with small maps for each excursion it might even be used without a map to support them.