Near and Timanfaya: Grand Tour Lanzarote Review
The busiest day of my week in the Canary Islands was easily the one featuring a tour! Knowing that the Canaries are well spread out, you do end up needing a set of wheels to get the most out of the place. Without that option I turned towards the few tour options that were available. I went with the Grand Tour of Lanzarote from Low Cost Tours and it made for a reasonably good experience. A bit of a rollercoaster, and I’m not just talking about that volcano drive! Here’s how the day went.
Sam on tour
There are some bus routes all around the island of Lanzarote, but aligning times can be a bit of a hassle. One of the main draw-cards of this particular island is the Timanfaya National Park, and you end up needing a car or tour to do this. This time I booked via Viator, Tripadvisor’s sister site which wasn’t the greatest idea. It costs a tiny bit more due to using their exchange rate (low cost guarantee nope!) and you don’t know who it is. So there’s no real perk of doing it indirectly, unless you’re just lazy.
After booking it’s then revealed who the provider is, and in my case it was a company called Low Cost Tours. Not the greatest name, eh?
It should have been easy to Google, there aren’t too many groups doing these here in Lanzarote. The staff were very accomodating so this set a good tone for the day. I had actually booked the Southern Lanzarote Tour, but when I saw there was a more comprehensive tour I was desperate to change! For the most part, the tours cover similar spots with a slightly different price tag. Anyway, the guide was more than happy for me to switch over to the Grand Tour once I paid the difference. Success.
The pain points with Low Cost Tours come to light early on in the day. First is the pickups – so many, so long. There’s a couple buses (double-decker too) as there is a lot of people going on these tours and they all get shuffled around. So count your first hour and a half out whilst this bus swapping happens in a little town called Yaiza. The cafe was ridiculously expensive, but that’s not a real surprise.
The second niggling thing is that the tour is delivered in three languages – Spanish, English and German. Great for everyone but only a third of the commentary is useful. I ended up wanting to focus on my music, but then I’d miss out instructions and fun facts.
All the tours from Yaiza (maybe four in total?) started the same. A drive through salt flats (Salinas de Janubio and Los Hervideros) and ending up at El Golfo to take some snaps of the Green Lagoon. It reminded me of our old school pool lol.
At Timanfaya (none of the drives are particularly long) the tour makes a brief stop so everyone can get in camel rides for an extra €6. It wasn’t an activity I would jump out of my seat for, but not doing it meant staying in my seat for a boring thirty or so minutes.
I quickly Googled how ethical these rides are, I’m told the camels are well looked after and do short half day shifts. The rides also support the locals, who are reliant on the tourism. So that made it ‘passable’ for me and the camel ride is a little fun. Not much in the way of scenery (you walk around in a bit of a sad loop) but the experience is interesting enough.
And then it’s the main event: Timanfaya National Park. This was even better than I was anticipated. I didn’t look at the itinerary too closely, so was anticipating a hike, but it ended being even more cruisy than that. Literally. The bus does the drive (takes about thirty minutes around the park) and you’re treated to some spectacular, alien-seeming scenery.
Before that everyone has a stop at the centre, where the staff shows a few tricks of the land. It’s all very exciting stuff, but something about their faces tells me they’ve gotten sick of it after the first hundred or so times. One of the major pros of this tour is that there is a limit on visitation, so there’s a bit of a queue forming (hour long, I’d imagine) for anyone doing it privately.
We had another stop after this, and just before lunch. La Geria had a museum (read: souvenir shop) where we got a sample of the local wine. Which was nice. Not a lot to see, but I was happy for the break as was feeling a little dazed. I walked into a bell mid-selfie and these other guests laughed at me. I can’t blame anyone but myself I suppose. The site mentions a winery, but this is definitely no winery. Or is it?
The lunch spot at Mancha Blanca was a bit of a letdown, and it’s very late at past 2pm. I’m glad I packed enough snacks for survival. For €8 it’s a buffet style which should raise alarm bells in itself, but there wasn’t an alternative other than eating your own food (which I didn’t have).
Some of the general issue buffet is okay, like the fries and the chicken. But the options are unlabelled so you don’t entirely know what you’re eating and it’s all a mishmash of student-like cuisine. The church (Nuestra Señora de los Dolores) next door (there’s really nothing else in this town) was worth a quick look in. You get plenty of time for the lunch.
A scenic stop at the Valley of a Thousand Palms overlooking the village of Haria was the next stop, again after only a short drive. Surprisingly long amount of time here, I wish I didn’t leave my wallet in the locked bus as the flans and ice-cream could have gone down a treat.
The life agua-tic
The final attraction for our very long day (9-10ish hours) is the Jameos del Agua. This lava cave was styled by Cesar Manrique and it’s a right showstopper. There’s an ethereal feeling as you enter the cave and admire the use of light reflecting on the water’s edge. This is also the only home of these white albino crabs, which are plentiful in the water. They don’t move much, but are cute if not only for the fact that they’re tiny. There’s not too much to this attraction but it was a hour well spent.
And that was it! The tour bus then progressed to doing hotel stops and we bid our farewells. With such a big group you don’t really get to know the other passengers but our guide and driver were very nice. Most fellow passengers are nice. Low Cost Tour’s Grand Tour of Lanzarote makes for a a good little option for getting the most out of a visit to this island.
- Price at €45 for 9-10 hours – great value!
- Accuracy – everything on the itinerary was done, some of the descriptions of the spots were a little generous.
- Staff – friendly, accomodating and informative
- Pros – skipping an hour long queue at Timanfaya
- Cons – lots of languages, and those morning pickups
- Tourist trap level – could have skipped camel ride, museum/ shop stop and that terrible lunch
- Tips – bring your own food, lots of drink. The right side of the bus seemed to provide more views since you drive around Timanfaya in a clockwise direction. Expect wind.