Lanzarote is the easternmost and northernmost island of the Canaries, just 71.5 miles west of the coasts of Africa. From its appearance, Lanzarote is considered to be the most volcanic of the Canary Islands and its 'moonlike' landscape, covered with craters, ravines and valleys of solidified lava, is one of its main attractions. Lanzarote, which is one of the oldest Canary islands, is the result of volcanic activity which began there some 22 million years ago. Endowed with spectacular nature, Lanzarote was declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1993.Lanzarote is a lot more diverse than one might think. This island took us by surprise with its eerie arid beauty. The capital of the island is Arrecife, where over 50 per cent of the locals live due to employment and where you will find the island's airport. Arrecife looks like a fair-sized town, where the only difference with any other capital is the lack of high-rise buildings. The law on the island restricts constructions to four floors. One of the few exceptions to the rule in the capital is the landmark Arrecife Gran Hotel (see our review); the building dates back to the 70s, before the construction rules came into play. In Arrecife you will find English pubs and a range of restaurants. Most visitors spend half a day here, which is enough to get a glimpse of the city. Most visitors tend to stay along the coast in tourist spots such as Puerto del Carmen, Puerto Calero or Playa Blanca which are all situated along the southern coast stretching out to the west. These spots are lively but there is nothing to see in the way of sightseeing or typical Canary Island culture.
Puerto del Carmen is situated a 20 minute drive from the airport (west of Arrecife) and is set along a promenade that lines one of the largest beaches on the island, Playa de los Pocillos. This is where you will find the bulk of hotels and bars, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs. After a 10 minute drive further west is the smaller spot of Puerto Calero, which although has no beach like that of Pocillos, is extremely quiet and relaxing. The hotels here tend to be of better quality too. You will find the beautiful Hesperia Lanzarote (not to be confused with the Hesperia Playa Dorada); for more information, have a look at our journalist's reviews of the hotels.
Further still to the west, 15 minutes away, you will find yourself in Playa Blanca, which is another developed tourist town much in the same vein as Puerto del Carmen. Further on is Papagayo, where development hasn't quite taken its toll yet and where the beaches are stunning.
For a more authentic taste of the island, we recommend staying in Yaiza, a small quaint inland village of white houses with green window and door frames. You could also stay at San Bartolomé, another small inland village, where local life, although quiet, is very present. For hotels in these areas, see our hotel reviews.
Our all-time favourite spots however are north of the island, far away from the tourist hubbub, in Famara, which you can read about further on in this feature.
The island's tourist spots make up very little of the overall surface, which means that as soon as you venture away from the southern coast of the island, you are in 'authentic' Lanzarote among its impressive harsh dark grey landscape culminating at high peaks all over the island. As the population is not evenly distributed, there are many places where you will find that you are completely alone, which makes up part of Lanzarote's charms.
Maximim temperature between 22°C and 24°C, the perceived temperature is <30°.
Little or no rain (less than 1.5mm per day).
Cloudy with sunny intervals (40% to 60% cloud cover).
Sea temperature between 20 °C and 22°C. Wind speed between 4 mph and 7 mph.
Moderate to strong winds (between 12mph and 18mph).
Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote, is a beautiful and peaceful port city located on the eastern coast of the island. The cultural life is very lively here, there are plenty of museums and historical buildings, including notably the Cesar Manrique Foundation, which used to be his residence, and the castles of San Gabriel and San Jose. As for the seaside, the beaches of Arrecife are beautiful with quality sailing facilities.
Teguise is the ancient capital of the island of Lanzarote and is surrounded by a fascinating landscape of former volcanic craters and solidified lava; while also being home to beautiful beaches like Famara and Costa Teguise.
Tías, a municipality located in south-central Lanzarote, is another major tourist centre on the island and as you go further inland there are a few picturesque villages scattered around the striking volcanic scenery. The coast, which extends over 3.7 miles, is dotted with spacious beaches such as the Playa Grande, Matagorda and Los Pocillos. Puerto del Carmen is the largest seaside resort of Tías.
In the north, Haria "the valley of ten thousand palm trees" and its region, the Mirador del Rio, a creation by Cesar Manrique, blend seamlessly into the landscape. Once you have paid 4 euros, you can admire the breathtaking panorama over the island of La Graciosa, which truly lives up to its name of 'Graceful Island.' You can admire the Cueva de los Verdes, a cave which has been converted by the designer Cesar Manrique into a concert hall full of mysteries, as well as the natural underwater tunnel which goes 4 miles into the sea.
The cave of Jameos del Agua, located half a mile from Cueva de los Verdes, has been converted by Cesar Manrique and belongs to the same volcanic underground network. It is home to two concert halls, a restaurant, a prehistoric-style bar worthy of the Flintstone Family, two dance floors and a stunning seawater pool.
Don' t miss out on visiting La Geria, in the centre of the island. You wouldn't think that grapes, or anything else for that matter, would grow here, out of this rocky land, but surprisingly the clever locals have found a way of growing a range of fruit and vegetables. Today La Geria is known worldwide for its exceptional wines. The two most sought-after Bodegas (wine show rooms) are Stratus and El Grifo; Stratus is supposedly of the best quality (especially reflected in the price), whereas El Grifo is meant to be the most traditional of wines produced on the island.
We strongly recommend that you explore the island by car for several days to get a real feel for the peace and tranquility that reigns away from the tacky tourist towns that Playa blanca and Puerto del Carmen have now become. If you're looking for a real break, stay at one of the smaller independent hotels, like the beautiful Casa de Hilario or the quaint Casa Tomaren.
If you don't like crowds and tourist traps aren't your thing, then avoid Playa Blanca, Puerto del Carmen and Playa Dorada with a vengeance and head inland to explore the quiet local villages like San Bartolomé or head northwards to Famara Bay, a sleepy but charming local surfer and fishermen's village.
When my editor told me that my next destination would be Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, it was like someone had just thrown me in a cage full of greedy immobile sunbathing hyenas that would move only to gorge on fried foods. The images haunted me for days until we arrived on the island, where we were ...
H10 Rubicón Palace© Easyvoyage
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