There are many options for sunny holiday breaks in Europe but there are few places you can go that still have the local and seemingly undeveloped feel of Lanzarote in the Canary Island. What was once considered a booming surf and sun vacation spot 80km off the coast of western Africa has staved off many developers thanks to a famous local artist named César Manrique. The island currently holds UNESCO preservation status, which has the fortunate consequence of maintaining an island full of stunning landscapes.
Explore The Many Beaches
Lanzarote is home to over 100 pristine beaches, which are considered some of the best in Spain. There are also many beautiful man-made resort beaches to enjoy near your hotel or villa. For some of the best sweeping views be sure to head to the 8km long surfer and boho beach of Famara, or the snorkeling and relaxation haven of the six bays at Papagayo, which are a ten-minute walk from Playa Blanca.
Timanfaya National Park
Nearly three hundred years ago the island of Lanzarote was covered by fizzing volcanic ash and lava, and much of these deposits now make-up Timanfaya National Park, which hosts over a million visitors every year. You can choose the option to take a guided tour through amber lava flows, or for the more adventurous you can make for La Caldera Blanca in Mancha Blanca and climb the now dormant volcano to explore its crater and take in stunning panoramic views.
This is Lanzarote´s undisputed heavyweight attraction. The landscape is simply jaw-dropping at Timanfaya National Park, scene of one of the modern world´s longest ever volcanic eruptions. Which raged for six, arduous years during the 1730´s and which submerged about one-quarter of the island beneath a carpet of thick lava, punctuated with the spent peaks of burnt-out volcanoes.
In geological terms a few hundred years is little more than a blink of the eye – so Lanzarote now boasts the most pristine volcanic scenery on the planet. With surreal landscapes that are often likened to the surface of the Moon or indeed how our own planet must have looked when first formed millions of years ago. NASA astronauts were exposed to this environment prior to making their very own moon landing on the Apollo 13 mission and it´s no surprise to find that these dramatic backdrops have also been sought out by filmmakers from around the world. With the Fire Mountains, (as they are known locally) starring in numerous Sci Fi classics, such as One Million Years BC – along with more recent big-screen features such as Pedro Almodovar´s Broken Embraces, starring the delectable Penelope Cruz. You and the lads can enjoy your very own Lawrence of Arabia moment and take a camel ride around the outskirts of the National Park. And for laughs you might want to advise one lucky member of your group to 'musk-up' – as he will then become the target for the amorous advances of the camels, who find perfumes and aftershaves a natural aphrodisiac.
Enjoy The Local Eateries and Bars
Similar to mainland Spain many of the bars and restaurants in Lanzarote pride themselves on their quality tapas, and the many eateries dotting this island are filled with amazing deals on fresh seafood and drinks. Fortunately, competition is fierce and the prices for even a fancy night out are more than reasonable. If you’re looking for a real deal, head for one of the social clubs, or the restaurants located in the main resort areas.
Surfing, Windsurfing, and Kiteboarding
Whether you’re skilled and experienced or a beginner, there are plenty of options for both traditional surfers and windsurfers to catch some waves in Lanzarote. The main beach is Famara on the northwest coast of the island, which features a curving bay and spectacular pink cliffs. If you’re looking to take a class or rent a board there are plenty of schools and surf shops conveniently located in town.
César Marnique’s Art
He may be best remembered as the savior of the island for stopping over-development, but Marnique was primarily an artist and there are six of his beautiful exhibitions to visit across the island. These include a collapsed lava tube transformed into an underground auditorium and a gun battery with scenic views of the neighboring island. All of the attractions are state-owned and can be visited for a small fee.
Header image by Dario Garavini used under Creative Commons license.