Timanfaya National Park, Canary Islands

Photo: Gernot Keller, London (www.gernot-keller.com) (Canon 5D) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Gernot Keller, London (www.gernot-keller.com) (Canon 5D) [CC BY-SA 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Dinner is almost ready. Chicken and sausages, fish and potatoes have been grilling on a cast iron for hours. Bursts of heat and hot vapor spread the smokey smell of barbecue through the air. The food sits atop layers of basalt rocks. The temperature below it easily reaches 450 degrees Celsius. While you’re surrounded by cinder cones, craters, and lava formations. You’re eating atop a volcano tonight.

You’re at El Diablo (The Devil), a restaurant where a volcano—an actual volcano—is used to cook much of the food. You’re on top of Islote de Hilario, a volcano that last erupted in 1824. But that doesn’t mean it’s dormant. Geothermal activity continues to bubble underground. Heat slowly roasts the Canarian food above it. Add glasses of sangria, a dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a view of the Fire Mountains for what promises to be an unforgettable meal.

This unique restaurant is on the Canary Islands, an autonomous Spanish archipelago off the southern coast of Morocco. Lanzarote, the easternmost island, is full of red peaks, rocky coastlines, and sandy beaches. It was probably the first of the Canary Islands to be settled, around 1100 BC by the Phoenicians, though its early history is now covered with lava. The Romans, the Arabs, and the French all claimed the island after that. But it’s the Spanish who ultimately controlled the island.

Photo: KaHe (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: KaHe (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
A UNESCO Biosphere Reserve now covers all of Lanzarote, while Timanfaya National Park fills a quarter of the island along the southwest coast. More than 100 volcanoes were created by eruptions here in the 18th century. Steam still spurts from the ground through geysers. Little grows in the bright red soil. Canary Island pines, succulents, and wild olive trees are some of the few things that can survive the dry climate. Animals are just as scarce. Gallotia lizards, falcons, and threatened Egyptian vultures have learned to deal with little rain, especially during the hot summer months.

Access to the park is strictly limited due to its delicate flora and fauna. There’s a few footpaths, a short camel route, and a nine-mile circuit, the Ruta de los Volcanoes. You’re largely limited to outlook points, but boy, their views are incredible. Black rocks, gray soil, maroon sand, and crimson peaks extend as far as the eye can see. The colors only become more vibrant as the sun starts to lower toward the horizon. This will surely be a barbecue you’ll never forget.

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