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