In the north of Lanzarote, at the closest point to La Graciosa, lies the old salt works of Salinas del Rio. Getting there is quite challenging and not for the faint hearted.There is a parking area off the back road to Mirador del Rio, close to the village of Yé. A path takes you towards the edge of the imposing cliffs of El Risco from where you have stunning views across to La Graciosa. This is also where you can look down over the seemingly sheer cliffs and see the little path zig-zagging down the face of them.
At this point you have to decide if you want to go down because it is also the only way back! The surface of the vertiginous path is fairly loose in places and good walking shoes are a must.
At the base of the cliffs, the descent, which took us around forty minutes, levels out and the going becomes much easier. As you get closer to the coast, the path takes you into golden sand dunes which lead on to the beautiful, long white sand beach of Playa del Risco (on the Tour & Trail map it’s marked as Playa del Rojo).
The water looks very tempting but you need to be aware that there are dangerous currents here as the Atlantic Ocean funnels into the El Rio channel between Lanzarote and La Graciosa. However, it felt good to take our shoes off and walk through the shallow surf. We stopped here for a long lunch and to take in the beauty of the deserted beach.
Beyond the beach the sand changes to stones as you approach the salt pans which are the oldest in the Canary Islands and date back to the 15th Century. There are the ruins of buildings which are presumably the homes of the workers and where the salt was stored.
The water of the salt pans is divided by old walls and seems to change colour as the light changes. High above, at the top of the cliffs, the sun can be seen reflecting off the windows of the Mirador del Rio.
The map shows the path crossing the pans on one of the walls and the more intrepid of our party took this route but, as the wall looked like it was crumbling in places, the rest of us were more cautious and went the long way round. I’m glad to say we were all safe and dry when we met on the other side.
We picked up the path which winds back up towards the base of the cliffs where we began the very steep climb back to the top. We were of varying fitness levels and some of us had to make more rest stops than others. I have rarely breathed so hard.
To give the climb some perspective, it is around 400m which is the equivalent of climbing to the top of the Empire State Building!
It is not advisable to undertake this walk alone.