Few activities combine Lanzarote´s unique and amazing features better than Noches de Jameo (Jameos Nights). Tuesday nights at the renowned Jameos del Agua offer an alternative way to visit the island´s most iconic natural wonder. With an exclusive and peaceful early evening visit, followed by dinner, music and dance, this is a night out to remember.
A spectacularly natural setting
The lava tunnel that shelters both Jameos del Agua and Cueva de los Verdes, was created by lava flows that emerged from the La Corona volcano in Haria some 21,000 years ago. It is 6km in length, 1.5km of which runs under the sea. The word Jameo is an aboriginal name given a hole created when a cave’s roof collapses.
In the 1960´s, Lanzarote-born artist, Cesar Manrique began his quest for preserving Lanzarote´s natural and cultural assets, transforming some of them into visitor centres. Jameos del Agua was the first of many of the island´s tourist centres which aim to show visitors awe-inspiring natural attractions with minimal possible human intervention.
Into the caves
At Noches de Jameos, you are free to visit the caves at this specially reserved time from 19:00h onwards. On passing through small and understated entrance, you are led down an ingenious staircase crafted out of volcanic rock. A tunnel of vegetation, cacti, hibiscus, green foliage, accompanies you down into Jameo Chico (on a lower level, cleverly transformed into a restaurant).
Your eyes meet with the wonderful sight of a natural lagoon set in an underground cave. Alternating changes in the lighting effects play tricks on you, as the transparency that exposing its extremely shallow bottom quickly turns to an illusion of infinite depth. The changing light captures shades of rust, green and black that emanate from the mineral deposits in the cave roof.
The lagoon owes its salt water to filtration through the rock, situated below sea level, and is home to twelve endemic species, including the infamous “blind crabs,” which cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Their white colour is due pigmentation caused by the darkness of their habitat, which also makes them quite easy to spot.
A safe path leads you alongside the lagoon towards the other side. Beams of light burst through sporadic holes in the cave´s roof, throwing a dramatic spotlight on different backdrops. Once across, you are then guided through the dance floor and music area, up a winding path which offers random seating areas and a bar terrace, where the bar snugly built into a natural hollow in the cave wall: the perfect stop for a pre-dinner drink.
An exuberant oasis
Natural light invites you out into Jameo Grande, through a lush green volcanic pathway. No sight is comparable to the one that greets you as you emerge into the open air: Cesar Manrique´s most iconic contribution to Jameos, the turquoise-blue swimming pool contrasts against the glossy white surrounding surface and the black lava walls of the cave. The public are not allowed to swim unfortunately, and the King of Spain is reputedly the only person afforded this privilege.
Manrique´s signature design is evident: a blend of clean and modern white against natural lava, wood and vegetation. Even though Jameos was idealised over forty years ago, this visionary artist managed to combine the futuristic with the rustic, the modern with the ancient, whilst leaving nature as the dominant force. Manrique made use of the all of the cave´s hollows and caverns, and my favourite has to the 70’s style Bond-like bar which is just off Jameo Grande.
Naturally perfect acoustics
The auditorium at the other side of Jameo Grande is a natural wonder, a cave transformed into a perfect natural theatre. You are welcome to go in, sit and contemplate this fantastic structure, with the background music adding to an eerie, almost cathedral-like atmosphere. The periodical musical performances at the auditorium are well worth the effort, the acoustics are second to none. You can even hear the distant sound of the occasional water droplet falling from the roof with precision, no amplifier needed!
A deliciously romantic setting
After feasting your eyes on such spectacular natural wonders, one could almost forget about dinner. However, the menu prepared for you at Noches de Jameos is prepared using local ingredients where possible, and is a true work of art, one not to be missed.
Back at Jameo Chico at the softly-lit restaurant, our appetites are teased with a first course of filo pastry stuffed with wild mushrooms, foie gras and prawns, beautifully presented and with a crisp white Lanzarote Malvasia wine to accompany it.
Choosing the main course proves difficult: soya-marinated salmon with sautéed raisins and nuts with avocado and lime cream, or veal cheeks with vanilla mashed sweet potatoes. I am swayed by the salmon dish and I´m far from disappointed as the fish fell apart as I prodded it with my fork.
My conscience tells me to stop there, when the waiter approaches with dessert already in hand. There´s no going back at this point, as my eyes meet with a double-chocolate ingot, a slither of custard and a dollop of cranberry compote. Heavenly is an understatement, and I finish it off out of pure greed, not wanting to waste a morsel.
The impeccable service never ceases, as we deliberate between the customary liqueur at the end of every true Canarian meal, or a herbal tea.
We are invited to take the short stroll alongside the lagoon back to the music area to take a seat and enjoy a quartet led by Alex Lemes, a well-known local timple player, who was accompanied by a clarinet, percussion and acoustic guitar.
The quartet serenade us with an impressive range of music from soft jazz, classical, bossa nova and traditional Canarian sounds, with acoustics worthy of a concert hall. Dinners guests can choose one of the cosy tables around the “stage,” or perhaps one of the other seating areas that are nestled into the cave walls and dotted along the snake-like path that rises up to Jameo Grande. Either way the view is amazing, always with the lagoon as awesome backdrop.
An hour flew by whilst we enjoyed a truly unique experience in a surreal and beautiful setting, as the band wrapped up their performance.
The DJ takes the floor
For those who still don´t want the evening to end, the DJ will entertain the dinner guests with a selection of smooth lounge, chill-out and dance music. Requests are welcome and you are welcome to stay on and soak up the atmosphere until 00:30.
Noches de Jameos run every Tuesday, and not only provides excellent value for money, but combines the best of Lanzarote´s food, wine, nature, music and beauty in one unique and incomparable evening.