Timanfaya National Park (Spanish: Parque nacional de Timanfaya) imposes strict regulations on visitors and does not allow them to wander around freely through the lava fields. This is done in order to reduce potential erosion from footfall to the vulnerable volcanic terrain. There is however, another protected area that surrounds Timanfaya National Park, which functions as a buffer zone of sorts, that is called Los Volcanes Natural Park (Spanish: Parque natural de Los Volcanes).The Natural Park encompasses large portions of the massive fields of Timanfaya lava as well as a trio of volcanoes that contrast dramatically with the vast black sea of lava that surrounds them. The trio consists of (from east to west) Montaña Caldereta (elevation : 324m), Caldera Blanca (elevation : 458m), and Risco Quebrado (elevation : 312m). The most prominent structure of the three is the massive Caldera Blanca, its actual name being 'Caldera de Montana Blanca' (English: Caldera of White Mountain). Despite the peak of this caldera being much lower than Lanzarote's highest peak, Peñas del Chache (elevation : 670m), Caldera Blanca is not only one of the best preserved craters on the island, but also the widest, measuring 1.15 kilometres across. To get there, however, you first have to walk through a field of lava.
The lava fields of Timanfaya are very dramatic and consist of a variety of formations that range from lava channels, tubes, and lava terraces, to accretionary lava balls and ejected pyroclasts. The area is so unusual that some planetary biologists have even drawn striking similarities between the lava fields and the volcanic planet of Mars. These planetary biologists use Timanfaya as a model to study the relationship between volcanism and water, as well as to observe the evolution of volcanic structures over time, to further their understanding of the red planet.The lava fields predominantly consist of a'a type lava, which is when the viscosity of the lava is high, either due to gas bubbles or relatively low temperatures. When a'a lava starts to cool, it breaks up and begins to fragment, which releases gases from the lava in the process. This creates fragments that are sharp, irregular in shape, and are covered with a large number of holes, that are referred to as 'scoria'. Terrain that is made up of scoria is rough and blocky and is very hard to walk on, and is known as 'malpaís' (English: Badlands) by residents of the Canary Islands.
"From one side to another extends 'el malpais', as the lava fields are known to the Canarians.. if you climb the rough slope of loose and unsafe fragments you can see that the surface at the top has a similar appearance.. Frequently, twisted fragments can be seen or marks on the lava. It is very difficult to make progress on these (lava) streams because in such a heap there is almost no safe place to firmly put your feet down.
We began the hike fairly late, around 17:30. The entire area is extremely exposed and we wanted to do whatever we could to escape the brunt of the searing afternoon sun. Leaving late also meant that we would not only be able to enjoy the magnificent Lanzarote sunset, but that it would be dark by the time we descended from the caldera, which meant that we would be able to squeeze in some stargazing before having to head back to town for dinner. The path was wide from the start, but the ubiquitous scoria, albeit already having being flattened to some degree by hundreds, if not thousands, of footsteps before us, still made the path quite unstable. Lichens of various colours were splashed around on the volcanic rocks, and the occasional shrub could sometimes be seen trying to squeeze its way through narrow gaps in the rocks.