The quirky - you might even say arty touristic choice among Spain's Canary Islands, Lanzarote offers volcanic minimalism - black, bleak and blasted landscapes dotted with flashes of colour from iridescent birds, jade palms, azure skies and seas and colonial-style white buildings.
Lanzarote is not a soft option but still offers unseasonal sunshine, lunar landscapes, awesome volcano-oriented experiences, fine architecture old and new, sandy beaches and sensational windsurfing.
Like the other Canary Islands Lanzarote's climate is good year-round, drier if anything due to it being the closest island to Africa (70 miles), but regularly breezy April-October, especially in July. The north of the island tends to have more wind than the south.
Average minimum temperature in January 17C, average maximum in August 25C.
A Costa Teguise beach.
- Arrecife, the island's capital is near the airport and home to half Lanzarote's population. It has a couple of ruined castles and a well protected beach, El Reducto, with full range of facilities.
- Teguise is one of the best preserved towns in the entire Canary Islands with fine historic buildings - many constructed from volcanic stone and enclosing cute courtyards - a la Morocco.
- Costa Teguise, not to be confused with nearby Teguise, is one of the three main beach resorts that believe in hard partying (other two below).
Puerto del Carmen on Lanzarote's east side is the primary down-market tourist destination, good for chip butties, noisy beaches and Sky TV but distinctly lacking in style and probably the cause of the original Lanzagrotti tag.
- Playa Blanca is a rapidly expanding port in the south of Lanzarote that offers all the services a sun and sangria seeker needs; it's beginning to overtake Puerto del Carmen in size, if not in yuk factor. Yet.
- Las Cucharas is constantly windy so much loved by windsurfers but few normal mortals.
Bizarre vineyards in the volcanic La Geria winefields.
Things to do:
Light entertainment, shows, clubs: almost exclusively in Puerto del Carmen.
Nightlife is confined mainly to the big three towns, but particularly Puerto del Carmen. For a look at Spanish nightlife head for Arrecife. n.b. a 'nightclub' often means a brothel. If you wish to dance, try a 'discoteca'!
- Rancho Texas Wild West Park, near Puerto del Carmen, is the family fun park on the island.
- Guinate Tropical Park, north Lanzarote near Maguez, offers well over 1,000 exotic animals and birds set among tropical gardens and lakes.
- Go Karts, between Arrecife and Tias.
- Aquapark, a rather modest, unheated water park near Costa Teguise.
- Horse Riding.
- Whale Watching from Puerto Colon, Los Gigantes or Los Cristianos with different tour operators and different styles - swim off the back of the boat, sail on a catamaran, have a generous picnic aboard.
Bottlenose Dolphins and Pilot Whales are most-spotted but sometimes Sperm or White Whales pop their flukes up.
- Kite surfing from April to October is sensational and best at 4km long Famara Beach. The town of Caleta de Famara hosts many kite-surf schools.
- Submarine safaris, based in Puerto Calero, diving to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean four times a day.
- also Sport fishing (permit from Arrecife).
Sailing, yachts and catamarans for hire.
currently two courses, near Costa Teguise or Puerto del Carmen.
- Scuba diving, both shore and boat dives, through many dive centres in the big towns.
Water visibility is generally good (10-30m), water temperature between 18-23C, and plenty of action with varied fish, volcanic caves, reefs and wrecks. There's even a purpose-built Marine Park off Puerto del Carmen.
Timanfaya Volcano Parking.
Timanfaya Volcano National Park:
- containing a cluster of live volcanoes such as la Montaña de Fuego (Fire Mountain), la Caldera del Corazoncillo (Little Heart Cauldron) in a hellish, barren but colourfully mineralised moonscape, this is Lanzarote's biggest tourist draw.
The park opens in summer 9 am - 7 pm and in winter 9 am - 5 pm and includes a restaurant called El Diablo (the Devil) where they cook traditional dishes over volcanic vents!
- Jameos Del Agua, a bizarre, collapsed lava tube with green lagoons and albino crabs, in the north of the island near Punta Mujeres. This is Lanzarote's second biggest attraction.
- The former home of Cesar Manrique, Lanzarote's champion artist and architect who is mainly responsible for the island's low-commerce style and high artistic development, is another popular tourist-trip. Not far from Puerto del Carmen, it's embedded in five volcanic vacuums surrounded by lava.
- More volcanic stuff in the shape of the Green Caves, aka Cuevas de los Verdes, a 2km tunnel of caves beautifully illuminated and near to Jameos del Agua (above) - which is actually the same lava tube system.
- The Cactus Garden (Jardin de Cactus) is one of the world's best laid out and effective cactus collections, on a terraced amphitheatre with cactus motifs everywhere including an 8m high metal jobbie in the centre. This was all designed by the ubiquitous Cesar Manrique and is in the north of Lanzarote, Guatiza.
- Castles and museums. Four little anti-pirate castles protect the Lanzarote capital, Arrecife, Teguise and Playa Blanca. Some of these have been redeveloped as museums, The Castillo de San Jose in Arrecife by no other than Sr. Cesar M.
Lanzarote's Haria and the Valley of 1,000 palms.
Hikes here are best in the winter months when skies are clear and heat is down. February and March see a profusion of wild flowers on the hillsides.
Some of the popular trekking areas are:
- Along the north-west coast for dramatic landscapes and seascapes.
- The Winefields, a strange volcanic area in Lanzarote's centre that has proven perfect for growing the sweet Malvasia grape also provides superb walks on calm, rural paths. And hey! It's not difficult to find a drink en route!
- The Valley of 1,000 palms is in the north of the island, a green and picturesque area.
- Around La Graciosa, Famara beach and Caleta de Famara for stunning cliff, beach and sea views.
One of Papagayo's beach collection, Canary Islands, Spain.
Lanzarote's Best Beaches:
The island doesn't have a huge number of good, non-windy beaches so pay-sun loungers and parasols can often jam sand space on better protected beaches.
The three main resorts areas - Puerto del Carmen, Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca - have a variety of very clean Blue Flag beaches providing all the usual facilities, such as loungers, parasols and toilets.More remote beaches are frequently accessible by local buses (guagua).
- Puerto del Carmen, Lanzarote's most popular resort (and that means neither tranquil nor romantic!) is encompassed by around 6 km of 'golden' (i.e. light brown) sand.
Playa Blanca, known as Playa Grande by the locals in order to distinguish it from the Playa Blanca in the south, is the biggest, a busy, full-service beach of fine brown sand over a kilometre long, washed by calm waters. It has lifeguards, showers, changing areas, washrooms, parasols, and varied water sports equipment.
El Reducto, Arrecife's beach, is a good protected beach with full range of facilities but busy.
- Costa Teguise is another tourist-specific resort town but classier and costlier than Puerto del Carmen and hugged by a fine beach. It's just 15 minutes drive from delightful old Teguise.
Nearby are similar large beaches with fine sand, calm waters and good facilities, such as Los Pocillos, Matagorda and Lima, followed by smaller versions - Peña Grande, Pila de la Barilla and Fariones.
Playa Blanca, a white beach as the name suggests, is also the name of the new and adjacent resort town. The beach isn't massive but very comfortable and loaded with all the facilities known to man. Nearby other good beaches are Flamingo, Dorada and...
- Papagayo beach (photo above), near Playa Blanca, is actually a cluster of bays, not easy to get to and offering zero shade but uncrowded, natural and secluded.
An easy access solution is to catch a taxi boat from Playa Blanca, or take a short drive to the hill-top car park and walk down the steep incline.
- Famara beach is huge and unspoilt with firm brown sand but usually windy so excellent for wind or kiteboarding, board surfing (hire a board in the town), walking or cheap dermabrasion, but not really a place for tranquil sunbathing.
Good isolated beaches:
Caleta del Mero in north Lanzarote is 500m long, in a rural setting with coarse white sand and on a frequent bus route. It's used by naturists as well as bathing suitists.
Cantería Beach, Orzola, is the last beach in the north of Lanzarote and popular with surfers when the wind comes from the south, or regular folk when the wind is elsewhere.
Cantería has a lovely location below the dramatic Famara cliff and is near volcanic caves that are ripe for exploration.
Caletón Blanco is a big, windy dune-backed beach with calm waters, half a kilometre long and covered in medium grain white sand that contrasts with the black lava rocks of the Malpaís badlands. Although in a rural area it is easy to reach by bus and supplies parking and refreshment stands.
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