Mirador del Rio is a cliff-top viewpoint, offering superb panoramic views over the archipelago of small islands that lie off Lanzarote’s North coast. The current tourist centre opened its doors in 1973 and was conceived by the local artist, Cesar Manrique (with Jesús Soto, and the Architect, Eduardo Cáceres). It was built on part of a site that previously housed an artillery battery (Bateria del Rio), and you can still see the remains of several small bunkers and an observation post in the immediate vicinity. The interior of the modern Mirador is in the usual white-washed Manrique style, while the exterior is nearly perfectly camouflaged through the use of local stone.
At around 478 metres above sea level, the site’s commanding strategic position was obvious to the Spanish Military who feared a US invasion during the Spanish–American War. The Spanish thought that the US could anchor a fleet in the strait between the islands, and constructed the defensive position in 1898. The site was further enhanced during the Second World War, when it was feared that there would be a British Invasion of the Canary Islands in retaliation for Franco assisting the Germans. Despite the continued upgrades to the site, the installed weapons were nearly always obsolete, reflecting Spain’s dire economic circumstances during the period when it was operational. The installation was dismantled after the second world war, and two of its canons can now be seen decorating the exterior of the Castillo de San Gabriel in Arrecife.
El Rio and Chinijo Archipelago
The string of small Islands to the north are known as the Chinijo Archipelago, or, archaically, as the Minor Canaries. The nearest, and only inhabited island, La Graciosa, is separated from Lanzarote by a strait known as El Rio (the river). Beyond La Graciosa, are Montaña Clara and Alegranza (an important Seabird breeding site), and the two small rocks; Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste.
The magnificent cliffs, that Mirador del Rio sits on top of, are part of a 22km-long escarpment that stretches from Punta Fariones, the most northerly point of Lanzarote, to just outside Teguise village. Below the cliffs to the North, and overlooked by the Mirador, are the Salinas del Río, the oldest salt pans in the Canary Islands.
This part of the island is often shrouded in mist, especially when the prevailing northerly trade winds are blowing. This can detract somewhat from a place that is primarily about its views, though even when the visibility is poor, there are normally short gaps in the cloud that facilitate a glimpse of the islands. At €4.75, the entrance fee may seem a little steep for what is essentially a cafe (unless you are a Cesar Manrique aficionado). However, you can enjoy the same views for free by walking a short way down the narrow road to the west of the car park.
Since there are no public buses to Mirador del Rio, you will have to either visit by coach tour or by hiring a car yourself. We recommend visiting Mirador del Rio by car, so that you can see the other sights of Northern Lanzarote, stopping off to enjoy a nice lunch in Famara, Arrieta or Orzola. Alternatively, the The Best of César Manrique Coach Tour stops at Mirador del Rio as part of its itinerary and includes the entrance fee.