Lanzarote is a small volcanic island in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco. The island, part of the Canary Islands archipelago, is a popular holiday destination for Europeans who come here to bask in the sun and explore the extraordinary volcanic landscapes. From the air, Lanzarote looks like a chain of volcanic cones, an inhospitable island composed of endless fields of lava rocks but look closer and you’ll find charming white-washed villages, verdant valleys, towering cliffs, beautiful beaches and deserted coves. To help you discover the wonders of Lanzarote, I’ve created a list of ten things to see and do, which I can recommend to anyone visiting the island.
Things to see and do in Lanzarote
1. Jameos del Agua – the Jameos del Agua, is for me, one of the island’s most fascinating attractions. The Jameos is a striking combination of geology, architecture and design. The island’s most famous architect, Cesar Manrique, built a visitor centre complete with a restaurant, bar, one of the most amazing auditoriums I’ve ever seen and a museum inside what used to be a gigantic lava tube. Plan a visit in the morning to avoid the crowds. Look for the little white crabs in the cave.
2. Timanfaya – the Timanfaya National Park is another of the island’s prime attractions. The national park consists of a series of volcanoes and massive lava fields. It’s a surreal experience driving through the park. You’ll pass volcanic cones in a multitude of red-orange-yellow-blue tints and intriguing rock formations; the scenery is simply mind-blowing! Head up to the visitor centre and watch the guide ‘create’ a geyser and other cool stunts. You can also opt to go on a 4-hour guided hike through the park.
3. El Golfo – this is a little lagoon on the island’s west coast. The lagoon is a short walk past the rocky lava coast and you’ll be greeted by the striking jade colour of the lagoon against a backdrop of red cliffs.
4. El Mirador – located in the far northwestern corner of Lanzarote, El Mirador is a visitor centre built atop towering cliffs. The observation deck, 479m above sea level, features breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean, the nearby island of La Graciosa and the ancient salt plains of Las Salinas del Rio.
5. Eat – Lanzarote is famous for its fresh seafood and peculiar potatoes. The volcanic earth churns out humongous potatoes and these are included in almost every type of Lanzarote specialties. Don’t miss the wonderfully fresh tuna, swordfish or monk fish. Restaurants I can highly recommend include La Puntilla (on the edge of Arrecife’s lovely inner harbour) and the restaurant at the Stratus winery.
6. Discover Lanzarote wines – Lanzarote has a vine-growing tradition that began in the 15th century. Despite the very little rainfall, vine cultivation flourished and the island today produces excellent wines. Visit the surreal La Geria wine-producing region, at the foot of several volcanoes and learn about the unique methods used to cultivate and protect the vines at the El Grifo Wine Museum. Then try the local favourite, Malvasia, or the Moscatel at any of the nearby wineries.
7. Beaches – like its neighbours, Lanzarote has a good number of beaches. Puerto del Carmen, Teguise and Playa Blanca are the island’s main beach towns. However, there are plenty of other beaches to explore around the island such as the golden sands of the Punta del Papagayo beaches and the black sand Playa Quemada. The beaches on the south side of the island tend to be better areas for swimming due to the currents.
8. Explore the towns – Lanzarote has numerous towns that are absolutely worth exploring. Remnants of Lanzarote’s colourful maritime history comes to life in the capital, Arrecife, which boasts a 16th century castle, Castillo de San Gabriel, on an islet at the mouth of the harbour. Another town that’s worth exploring is Haria. Located in the north of the island, away from the tourist hubs, Haria is a gorgeous white-washed town with a lively market every Saturday morning. Approach the town from the west for amazing views of the white houses in the valley of a thousand palms – oh yes, make sure to find out why there are so many palms in this town!
9. Get into the water – your visit shouldn’t be limited to land-based attractions. There is a great variety of things to do in the ocean, from water-sports to scuba diving, game fishing, whale watching and other marine excursions. Lanzarote is widely recognised as one of the best surfing spots in Europe – Caleta de Famara (at the foot of the spectacular cliffs of Famara) and Caleto Caballo are popular surfing spots. If you’re into windsurfing, head for the Los Cucharas beach in Costa Teguise. Game fishing enthusiasts should check with the harbour at Puerto del Carmen or Playa Blanca for excursion possibilities. For something more subdued, go on a sailing trip or book a cruise from Orzola to the islands of La Graciosa or Alegranza, or join a submarine excursion from Puerto Calero for a chance to view Lanzarote’s beautiful underwater world.
10. Visit the Cactus garden (Jardin de Cactus) – built in an old quarry in the north of the island, the Jardin de Cactus is another Cesar Manrique creation. The garden, designed in the shape of an amphitheatre, houses more than 10,000 cacti from around the world as well as a multitude of beautiful volcanic stone sculptures. Go in the morning to avoid the busloads of tourists.
I recommend hiring a car to explore the island at your leisure. Alternatively, you can join a full-day tour which covers most of the sights described above.
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