Lanzarote’s unruffled northern breadth and the Chinijo Archipelago are an extraordinary vision. With the towering El Risco de Famara as a belvedere, it is as if nature intended for them to be marveled at. And, through Cesar Manrique’s iconic Mirador del Río, the world was given the eyes to do just that.
The History of a Vantage Point
As the oldest part of the island, the north of Lanzarote has witnessed Mother Earth’s artistry and wrath. From its emergence 16 million years ago, it’s gone through a cycle of growth and reshaping to be what it is today. The intimidating yet stunning testament of that period is El Risco de Famara. With 550-meter-high peak, it rises above most landforms in the island.
Although the colossal cliff extends up to the west of the island, its northern end had a more vibrant history. In former years, it was a lookout for ships coming ashore in secret. Then, during the Spanish-American War in 1889, it became a military artillery station. Thereupon, the area became known as “Batería del Río.”
Nearly a century after, the legendary César Manrique set foot on the soaring terrain. Just as impressive today are the natural splendors he saw that blew him away. With brilliant vistas, as far as the eye can see, it was indeed a spot fit to be a viewpoint. In essence, it was already one.
Together with the architect Eduardo Cáceres and the artist Jesús Soto who oversaw the technical side, the creation was completed in 1973. Named “Mirador del Río,” it showcases Manrique’s trademark art in nature and nature in art. It also became one of his most iconic masterpieces.
Why Visit Mirador del Río
Most constructions are obviously made or adorned to amaze. The Manrique brainchild, in contrast, desires to blend in and astound for being unseen. It is cloaked by layers of lava rock that mimics its setting and visitors find it refreshing. The entrance is also not the conventional type as it is an actual hole in the wall.
Unlike the hard and rough exterior, its interior is made of smooth and flawless alabaster. Walking around, the words artistic, simple, and stylish often come to mind. From the entrance to the vaults, everything is of architecture and design perfection.
Along the passageway, niches on the wall hold ceramics created by Lanzarote’s very own Juan Brito Martin, a famed self-taught craftsman-cum-artist. The lighting also gives the nook and the pieces a more dramatic feel.
The hall then gives way to a chamber divided into two chic cave-like rooms. Labeled as “The Eyes” because of two large glass windows, it not only allows for natural lighting during the day but also a magnificent view of the surrounding sceneries. Impossible to miss, too, are the ceiling arts and the carved-out-of-the-wall café bar.
Nearby is a spiral staircase leading to the gift shop and the roof terrace. Its spotless white framework makes it very much part of the building. Whereas, its wooden steps add a lot of character and supplement the place with a bit of hue.
The Viewing Decks
There are two outdoor spaces in Mirador del Río, the roof deck, and the balcony. Unless one has acrophobia, “The Eyes” cannot compare to these open-air viewing areas. Simply put, being outdoors is the best way to enjoy the 475-meter-high clifftop lookout. How else can wanderers feel the cool breeze while standing in awe before the natural wonders?
Besides soaking in the panoramic view, getting a closer look from afar is possible with the provided telescopes on the balcony. For pictures without any rail guards, the roof deck is the perfect place. It has two ponds that are quite an original addition to the area as well.
On days when no clouds thwart the views, the whole Chinijo Archipelago Nature Reserve is visible. Across the narrow strait of El Rio is the island of La Graciosa. Among the minor isles and islands of the Canaries, it is arguably the most captivating. Housing the only settlement in the assembly of sanctuaries, its flourishing coastal town has a lovely harbor too. Its volcanic landscape, born of fire and lava much like the rest of the archipelago, is even more striking. Beyond La Graciosa are the islands of Montaña Clara and the Seabird breeding site Alegranza, and the rock islets Roque del Este and Roque del Oeste.
At the foot of El Risco de Famara, the sights are just as heart-stopping. There are two arresting attractions after the expanse of emerald grassland. Playa del Risco is a spread of marvelous golden sand. Far from the many seaside beauties in the archipelago, this one has not been enhanced in any way.
Adjacent to the calm beach is Salinas del Río, the oldest salt mines in the whole Canary Islands. In a stretch of natural beauties, the man-made salt ponds stand out. They go white, beige, and the perennial crowd favorite pink.
The Café Bar
If guests are to imagine or live out a movie fantasy while in the cafe bar, the 60s James Bond films would occupy the top spots easily. From the cocktail lounge to the extensive windows, it’s primed to be a spy or villain’s lair.
Aside from having reel daydreams, visitors can also relish light meals and drinks. The viewpoint’s heavenly cakes and ice creams, especially when paired with coffee or soda, can satisfy the sweet tooth. On the other hand, there is also the tasty bruschettas to go along with alcoholic beverages. Either way, food and drinks are so much more pleasurable with the splendid views.
Entrance Fee and Opening Hours
The regular opening hours of Mirador del Río is from 10:00 to 17:45. During summer (1 July to 30 September), though, it’s open up to 18:45 as there are more visitors then.
Since May of 2017, the entrance fees are as follows:
- €4.75 for adults
- €2.40 for children ages 7 to 12
- €3.80 for Adult Canarian residents
- €1.90 for Child Canarian residents
- €1.00 for Lanzarote residents
The only furry friends allowed are guide dogs. No matter how adorable pets are, please don’t try to bring them in.
Don’t forget to visit the gift shop. They not only have souvenirs and local products, but visitors can also get their hands on some good books.
Have fun and take a lot of pictures, but be cautious. There is, of course, a risk of falling so please be extra careful when leaning over the edge of the viewing areas.
As there are more guests during summer, the best way to avoid the crowd is visiting in the afternoon.
How to Get to Mirador del Río
Unfortunately, going by bus to Mirador del Río is not possible at the moment. Tourists, however, may do so by first going to nearby towns and municipalities. From there, visitors can hire a car or pedal their way to the viewpoint. Many accommodations also offer excursions. Please do note, though, that tours often include other attractions.
The roads leading to Mirador del Río offer breathtaking panoramas. Especially praised for having the most stunning sights is the cliff-side LZ-202. That makes the travel to the viewpoint, itself, an enjoyable activity.
Best of Nature and Man
The edge where Mirador del Río proudly stands on has been a lookout or vantage point for many centuries. It was already a viewpoint even before Cesar Manrique saw its potential.
A natural watchtower, a wartime artillery post, and now, a one-of-a-kind structure that showcases the best of nature and man. Its exterior is one with Earth, while the interior is a fusion of art. An architecture that is simple, unique and classy all at the same time. From the outside, inside, up in the ceiling and on the roof, there’s always something astonishing to marvel at. Even the bar is a visual treat. Why is it a must-visit when in Lanzarote? It’s utterly hard to find one like it anywhere else.