If you think all cactus looks the same – think again.
Just along the coast from Sands Beach Resort in the little village of Guatiza in Teguise, a giant, metal cactus stands by the road side looking like something from a Spaghetti Western meets Lost World. It marks the entrance to the weird and spiky world of César Manrique’s last spatial project on Lanzarote – the Jardín de Cactus (Cactus Garden).
Although Manrique began working with the Lanzarote Cabildo on the project to rejuvenate the old quarry of Guatiza back in the 1970s, it wasn’t until 1990 that the cactus garden finally opened its volcanic stone gates set with metallic cactus.
Standing at the top of the staircase inside the entrance, the spiral paths are laid out below with stepped terraces that take visitors around the perimeter, discovering more fantastical shapes and surreal landscaping as they go. In the centre of the garden, amidst the thorny arms of cacti reaching for the sky, columns of earth rise like termite mounds, reminders of the previous quarry occupants of the space, and still pools of emerald that contrast with the arid garden.
Wandering through the maze of paths, cactus of such unusual and bewildering shapes emerge that you’re certain you can identify where Sci Fi creators have got their vision for creatures from space. 1,420 different species of cactus are to be found here, some with their trademark, lethal thorns that defy you to invade their personal space, others looking like they were knitted by Wendoline from Wallace and Gromit.
Blending imperceptibly with the volcanic and cactus filled landscape of Guatiza that surrounds the gardens, the 9,700 individual cacti crawl along volcanic rocks in long, slender fingers culminating in a bulbous tip, cluster in the gravel in short, fat sausages topped with dainty red flowers and stand in spiky, perfect balls looking like someone was half way through a game of oversized cactus pètanque.
Standing sentry at the top of the gardens is a beautifully restored windmill where you can climb the narrow, spiral staircase and look out through the blades at the surrounding landscape. Below the windmill, a stylish terrace offers grandstand view of the gardens, coffee and snacks and toilet doors whose gender you’d be hard pressed to get wrong – you have to see them to know what I mean
As with everything that the hand of César Manrique touched, the Jardín de Cactus is a delightful blend of nature, art, architecture and sustainable tourism and will have you giggling and grimacing at the brilliant guises Mother Nature has created in the cactus world.
Jardín de Cactus; Guatiza, Teguise; (0034) 928 52 93 97; open 10am to 5.45pm (7pm in July, August & September); entrance €5, children (7-12yrs) €2.50