The small volcanic island of Lanzarote is part of the Canarian archipelago, located in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of West Africa and on a similar line of latitude to parts of Florida and Mexico.
Once thought to be the remnants of the lost continent of Atlantis, the Canaries are the second most visited region in the whole of Spain, after Catalonia. It attracts millions of tourists from sun-starved northern Europe all year round, as well as plenty of Spanish guests – many of whom seek to swap the searing heat of the mainland for the relatively cooler climates of the Canaries during the summer months.
Despite the popularity of the seven Canary Islands, each retains its own unique identity and some, such as Lanzarote, even remain surprisingly unspoiled despite the weight of visitor numbers.
On Lanzarote, for example, there are no high rise buildings!
Lanzarote´s three main tourist resorts — Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise — are all well contained, leaving the bulk of the island largely intact and untouched. This is fortunate, as Lanzarote is blessed with a haunting, unconventional beauty that many visitors find magnetic. The legacy of a series of massive volcanic eruptions in the 18th century totally remodelled the south of the island, leaving it covered in lava and peppered with the cones of spent volcanoes.
At the time, this event was obviously cataclysmic. Many Lanzarotes were forced to start a new life abroad, heading for pastures new in areas such as south and central America. Some also established a foothold in Texas, where they founded the town of San Antonio.
Today the volcanoes are all thankfully dormant. This region of the island is a national treasure, protected as a world biosphere by UNESCO and one of the most popular national parks in Spain that welcomes over 900,000 visitors every year. They are drawn by the surreal scenery and twisted lava shapes, which give the Timanfaya National Park an other worldly appearance. Apollo 13 astronauts were shown pictures of the area to prepare them for their own lunar landing, while Timanfaya has served as the location for numerous science fiction films such as One MillionYears BC.
Elsewhere on the island the ubiquitous Manrique used this volcanic terrain as a backdrop for his own artistic creations. He wanted to prove to his fellow Lanzarots that it was possible to attract visitors without having to build golf courses and water parks – the staple fare elsewhere in Spain.
His first major project was the creation of the Jameos del Agua – a massive lava tube which he transformed into a underground lagoon, concert venue and nightclub. It was replete with a dazzling swimming pool reserved for the sole use of the King of Spain and beautifully planted tropical gardens.
Locals were amazed as the Jameos gained column inches in international newspapers and magazines and earned architectural plaudits worldwide, encouraging the leading VIPs of their day – such as Omar Sharif, Peter Sellers and Rita Heyworth — to visit this hot new holiday destination.
Manrique went on to create a further six similar sites around the island, such as the breathtaking lookout point of the Mirador del Rio. His own house and studio in Tahiche is built over five bubbles in the lava flow and is now home to the César Manrique Foundation. And El Jardin de Cactus – a celebration of the plant world’s spiniest species in Guatiza. All reflect his philosophy of fusing art with nature – and all are still the most visited attractions on the island today.
Lanzarote is a very popular destination amongst British, German and Irish tourists, with flights from all of these countries taking around four hours.
Direct flights to the Canary island of Tenerife are now available from Miami; it is possible to take a regular connecting flight on to Lanzarote.
Lanzarote is best explored by car, as the public bus service is infrequent outside of the main resorts and doesn’t service the island’s key attractions.
Car hire in Lanzarote is affordable, with rental rates starting from as little as €13 per day and the island only measures 58km by 38km – making it easy to explore.
Best Time To Visit
Lanzarote is a year-round holiday destination, but many locals would agree that the best time to visit the island is during October and November. The temperatures then are still well into the 20s Celsius but the summer crowds have subsided.
Don’t miss touring the north of the island. It’s as green and verdant as the south is arid and volcanic, boasting valleys packed with Canarian palms and picturesque little villages such as Haria and Guatiza.