La Cueva de Los Verdes
La Cueva de los Verdes lays in the north of the island of Lanzarote, in the municipality of Haría, and forms part of the vast volcanic landscape of the Monumento Natural del Malpaís de La Corona.
Its formation is the result of the eruptive activity of La Corona Volcano (dating back, according to geologists, some 3000 to 5000 years), which gave rise to an extensive underground volcanic tunnel over six kilometres long, running from the cone of the volcano down to the sea. Two of the most relevant Centres of Art, Culture and Tourism - "Cueva de los Verdes" and "Jameos del Agua" - are located inside the tunnel.
A volcanic tunnel is formed by the cooling and solidification of the superficial part of a lava flow in contact with the air, while the liquid magma underneath continues to flow. The partial collapse of the roof of a given section of the tunnel forms the structure known in Lanzarote as a "Jameo" - this is an opening in the earth which provides access to the other grottoes.
The tunnel formed by La Corona Volcano is one of the longest and most interesting on the planet. There are 21 jameos dotted along its length. Over six kilometres of the tunnel have been explored; these run from the crater of La Corona before entering the sea in an underwater stretch of 1.5 kilometres known as the "Túnel de la Atlántida" (Tunnel of Atlantis)
The first testimonies found on the existence of the Cueva de los Verdes come from the writings of an Italian military engineer, Leonardo Torriani, in 1590. In those writings, apart from noting the striking beauty of this geological feature, Torriani describes the significant defensive and protective interest of the Cueva for the island's population.
"... and inside there are marvellous antrums, which seem to be made by a master's hand, and with steep, difficult passages that cannot be crossed without light. Some connoisseurs say that there is a secret river in there, that flows fast and is known by very few people. There is also another exit on to the sea, whence the men and then women sheltering there can come out and embark."
Description of the Canary Islands. Leonardo Torriani, 1590.
Principally during the 16th and 17th centuries, Lanzarote suffered cyclical episodes of enormous instability owing to continuous invasions, raids and kidnappings by pirates from the northern coast of Africa. Historical evidence has been found which shows that the intricate galleries in the Cueva de los Verdes served as a hiding place and refuge for the island's decimated population.
- There are some large-scale invasions - such as those of Tabán Arraez and Solimán in 1618 - which reached truly catastrophic proportions. The historian Viera y Clavijo (Noticias de la Historia General de las Islas Canarias, 1772-1773) thus recounts the disastrous consequences of that incursion "...the greater portion of the population took refuge in the caves' hiding places, especially in the main grotto of the Cueva de los Verdes in Haría, which runs underground for a length of nearly three miles. (...) This terrible blow, which left the entire land of Lanzarote silent and drowning in tears, also served to impoverish the country, draining it of the purest sustenance of all ..."
Subsequently, in the 19th century, the cave was transformed into the place to visit for European travellers, scholars and scientists travelling through the Canary Islands. All describe this unique volcanic formation with the same fascination and wonder. We can quote the geologist Georg Hartung (1855); the geologist and botanist Karl Von Fritsch (1863); and, more recently, another geologist, Eduardo Hernández-Pacheco (1907).
The internal intervention
Conscious of the aesthetic, geological and historical value of the Cueva, in the 1960s the Cabildo de Lanzarote began its renovation for tourist use.
- The creation of the "Cueva de los Verdes" Centre for Art, Culture and Tourism forms part of a collection of innovative activities in strategic locations promoted by the Cabildo de Lanzarote and intended to enhance the island's appeal for tourists. Its opening in February 1964 constitutes one of the initial commitments to making the island a quality tourist destination.
The Lanzaroteño artist, Jesús Soto, was involved in this ambitious project - the lighting and tour of the interior are all thanks to him. The internal space has barely been touched: the external access area and the internal path are the two places where the most significant works were carried out. Despite the spectacular results, the artistic intervention (which is very respectful of its surroundings) is limited to introducing light - which blends in perfectly - as well as the ambient sound.
Jesús Soto, an attentive and inquiring observer, displayed all of his knowledge of light and shade, meticulously investigating the best way of lighting and enhancing the relief and textures that carpet the spectacular multi-coloured vaults in the interior of the Cueva. Soto created a chromatic atmosphere of artistic-natural spaces and surroundings of a rare and poetic beauty.
The Cueva de los Verdes was opened in February 1964. Since then, many visitors have been able to enjoy this stunning natural phenomenon that has been transformed into one of the most attractive locations in Lanzarote.
- Another name that is intimately linked to the birth of this Centre of Art, Culture and Tourism is that of the Lanzaroteño historian, Agustín de la Hoz, who published his literary work "Cueva de los Verdes" in 1964. He conscienciously describes the grotto, after exhaustive historical research and in the most poetic of tones. He interprets each of the various segments of the grotto in turn, introducing the reader to names from the island's history and folklore.
Few experiences are as interesting for a traveller, both in terms of adventure and discovery, as entering a cave. Without doubt, a visit to La Cueva de los Verdes is truly a journey into the bowels of the earth - a spectacular, unique experience!
The section of the Cueva de los Verdes that can be visited is made up of a kilometre of superimposed galleries with vertical interconnections between them. At some points there are three levels, which allow visitors to discover new spaces from different perspectives.
The interior of the tunnel reaches a height of some fifty metres, with widths that reach some fifteen metres. There are peculiar rock formations and structures: lava channels, solid blocks dragged along by the current, large drops of lava, salt deposits, successive strata of solidified lava, etc.
The spectrum of colours adorning the vaults and walls of the grotto is quite spectacular. The reddish tones are due to the oxidisation of the iron content in the basalt rock. The various shades of ochre are caused by the reflected light shining on salt efflorescences produced by water filtration from the surface.
Note the pleasant climate of the interior of the Cueva. The air currents allow naturally gentle and pleasant ventilation and the constant temperature stays at around nineteen degrees Celsius.