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Driving up the west coast of Lanzarote from Playa Blanca on the LZ-2 you will pass the salt flats at Salinas de Janubio Hervideros before seeing signs for El Golfo near the village of Yaiza. Nestled on the coast at the edge of the Timanfaya National Park, El Golfo is a tiny traditional fishing village surrounded by lava following the volcanic eruptions that occurred between 1730 and 1736.
Pounded by the Atlantic surf and a constant wind the village of El Golfo and its black sand beach has become a magnet for tourists who come to see Charco de Los Clicos or Charco Verde (green lagoon). The Los Clicos name refers to an edible shellfish that used to live in the waters of the Charco Verde that is now extinct.
The green lagoon of El Golfo is a natural volcanic crater that is located 100 metres from the ocean, yet connected by underground volcanic cracks in the lava that feed seawater into the sulphuric water of the lagoon. The vivid green hue is the result of a species of freshwater salt tolerant algae called Ruppia maritime which, when set against the black sand beach and the towering red cliffs make for spectacular photos as the sun goes down.
A beautiful backdrop, not for swimming
This amazing backdrop was the setting for Raquel Welch to appear wearing her animal skin bikini in the Hammer Films remake of the 1940 classic movie One Million Years B.C. More recently famed Spanish film director Pedro Almodóvar used the Green Lagoon as the inspiration for the Penelope Cruz, Lluís Homar film Broken Embraces.
Ten years before making Broken Embraces, Almodóvar took a photograph of the Green Lagoon and didn’t notice until developing the photo, a couple on the beach in the background. Intrigued by the tiny couple swallowed up in such an epic landscape, he had the photo enlarged to reveal that they were locked together in a tight embrace.
Over the preceding decade, the image of the couple wrapped together on the blustery beach would not go away, forcing Almodóvar to make the highly acclaimed romantic thriller. Often called a film within a film, or like a book you keep going back to, there is no doubting that the inspiration for Broken Embraces was that photo and that Lanzarote was the star, despite large portions of the movie being filmed in Madrid.
In spite of being on the beach, swimming in El Golfo is not recommended as the waters around the town are subject to very strong currents that can easily carry you out to sea. What you can do however is take handfuls of the black sand from the beach, carefully sifting through it in search of semi-precious green coloured magnesium iron silicate rocks called olivine.
As you stroll through the village on the Avenida Marítima, waiters in the doorways of the towns many restaurants will try to lure you in with a friendly “Hola”, but if it’s a nice seafood paella and a bottle of chilled white wine you fancy head for Restaurante Bogavante where you can enjoy a quiet lunch to the sound of waves crashing on the rocks.