Though there were no recorded deaths attributed to the eruptions, it is estimated that more than 44% of the islands population emigrated during those years, and there are many accounts of livestock being killed by poisonous gases. Yaiza’s parish priest left a written account describing the destruction of villages, terrifying earthquakes, mountains rising up overnight, explosions and raining hot ash. When the eruption finally ended, much of Lanzarote’s most arable land was lost forever under a thick crust of basalt, though in La Geria, the locals soon invented a new form of agriculture, by digging pits in the volcanic ash, allowing vine roots to reach the fertile soil buried underneath.
Islote de Hilario
The main Montañas del Fuego (Fire Mountains) Centre at Islote de Hilario offers visitors the chance to experience first-hand the geothermal anomalies present in the area (thought to be caused by a Magma intrusion under the island). Although volcanically dormant, temperatures of up to 610°C have been recorded at a depth of 13 metres, and up to 277°C at just 10cm! Visitors get to witness demonstrations of this intense heat as straw auto-ignites after being dropped into a shallow pit, steam gushes out of the ground moments after being pored into a hole as cold water, and the gravel under your feet is hot enough to burn your hand!
The cleverly-designed El Diablo restaurant utilises this geothermal heat for cooking by placing a large grill over a deep pit. This pit serves a dual-purpose since it was originally created to ventilate conducted heat from the restaurant’s foundations.
While visitors are not allowed to roam freely around, they do get to view the park from one of the coaches that carefully threads its way around the ‘Ruta de los Volcanes’ – a narrow road, closed to normal traffic, that snakes through the most spectacular areas of the National Park. This short coach trip around the park is included in the entry fee, and, notwithstanding the somewhat dated audio commentary and music, shouldn’t be missed.