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On The Look Out – Exploring The Mirador del Rio

As you´d expect from an island that is home to hundreds of volcanoes and a handful of small mountain ranges Lanzarote offers some fantastic views and vantage points for those who head for the higher ground.  In Spain these lookouts are known as miradors, a word taken from the verb mirar – to look – and the best known of these lofty spots on Lanzarote is undoubtedly the Mirador del Rio, which is located right on the northern tip of the island, overlooking the near neighbour of La Graciosa.

 

View to La Graciosa, Mirador del Rio, Lanzarote

View to La Graciosa from the Mirador del Rio

 

Gunning For The USA

The Mirador del Rio started life as a naval gun emplacement back in the late 19th century and is located some 470 metres above ground level atop the Famara massif range of cliffs.  It was built to guard the Rio straits – a narrow waterway that separates Lanzarote from La Graciosa – during Spain´s conflict with the USA that started in 1898 and which was initially sparked by the sinking of the battleship HMSS Maine in Havana harbour (Cuba was a Spanish territory at this time). A war that ended ignominiously for the Iberian empire, resulting in the loss of former key colonies such as the Philippines and which set America on the pathway to becoming a fully fledged global power.

Bateria del Rio

This location – which is also known locally as the Bateria del Rio – had long been a popular spot for sightseers.  Not least as the drop from the edge of the massif is almost sheer and vertical whilst the vantage point enables visitors to view not just La Graciosa but also the other islets that comprise the Chinijo archipelago of Alegranza, Montaña Clara, Roque del Oeste and Roque del Este in their entirety. 

A Victorian View

The spot was even visited by the well known Victorian adventurer Olivia M Stone, who described it thus in her book Tenerife And Its Six Satellites: “Having now arrived in an area of basalt rock, we dismounted and walked up to a high point, which was only a dozen yards away and, on arriving, we were amazed to find that we were on the edge of a precipice, with one of the most splendid marine landscapes at our feet.”

City of Seagulls

Throughout the first half of the 20th century the battery remained unused and even before Manrique embarked on hi project there had already been a number o other suggestions as to how this spot could be best utilised, including a proposal from the architect Fernando Higueras (a close friend of Manrique) to develop a Cuidad de las Gaviotas, or City of Seagulls.

Instead however it was left to Manrique to develop the site as part of his wider project to create a distinct Lanzarote brand by building a variety of unusual and imaginative tourist attractions.  And working in conjunction with the architect Eduardo Cáceres and the artist Jesús Soto the Mirador was completed in 1973 and opened to the public for the first time, initially as a restaurant.

Hide And Reveal

 

Entrance Way, Mirador del Rio, Lanzarote

Entrance to the Mirador del Rio

 

Manrique was always keen to excite the senses and this playfulness is evidenced in the non descript entrance way to the Mirador, which does nothing to give away the amazing panoramas that unfold as you pass through the entrance passage way and into the main interior of the building.  Here visitors are greeted by two enormous floor to ceiling glass widows (which look like eyes when seen from the outside) and that give the site the feel of James Bond baddie´s hilltop hideout.

The views down to La Graciosa and the other islands are simply breathtaking – and can be enjoyed in even greater close up through one of the telescopes sited outside on the balcony area.

Other Manrique Miradors

The industrious artist Manrique also found time to create similar Miradors on other Canary Islands, such as the Mirador del Palmajero, on La Gomera.

Visitor Information

The Mirador del Rio is open daily from 10.00 to 17.45 and admission costs just €4.50 per adult and €2.25 for children.

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