“My velvet escape travel tip” is a guest series about what the name ‘Velvet Escape’ evokes and what that would be in the hometown of the guest writer. With this series, I hope to uncover travel tips from places around the world to help visitors have a truly local experience.
There are lots of fascinating attractions on the popular holiday island of Lanzarote. As whilst this small speck of Spain located just off the coast of Africa is widely regarded as a bucket and spade beach destination, it is also home to a host of natural wonders. Such as the majestic Timanfaya Volcano Park – the scene of a series of enormous eruptions which transformed much of the interior into a lunar like wasteland. Or the Green Lagoon – a sea water fed lake that has been turned a bright emerald colour by a chemical reaction involving volcanic minerals and sea salt. The bizarre landscapes and vivid colours often remind me of the magical surrealism genre, in which the ‘real’ and the ‘fantastic’ are seamlessly intertwined.
But my favourite spot, the Valley of 1000 Palms – lies well off the tourist trail – in the north of the island. An area widely regarded by locals to be the real heart and soul of Lanzarote. It is far removed from the hustle and bustle of the resorts and retains a strong rural identity whilst also providing a verdant antidote to the barren aridity of the south.
This is where I come to get away from the (relatively) modern face of Lanzarote – and to connect with the more traditional and relaxed lifestyle that lured me to this small island off the coast of Morocco in the first place. The picture postcard village of Haria nestled in the folds of this valley always does the job. Its tranquil, peaceful presence never ceases to wash over me like a wave.
Market days on Saturday mornings in Haria are my idea of a Velvet Escape. The promise of a weekend just starting, beautiful fresh produce piled high on trestle tables and makeshift stalls and the smell of traditional bread fresh out of the oven. I drink it all in whilst sipping a small strong cortado at my favourite outdoor table at the Dos Hermanos cafe as the sounds of a more civilised form of commerce – a million miles removed from supermarkets and shopping centres – echo around me.
The village is all white washed traditional houses punctuated with splashes of bougainvillea. Over the centuries the inhabitants here have followed the charming tradition of planting one Canarian palm tree for every new born girl in the village and two for a boy. A politically incorrect policy I would say but one that has created an enormous oasis, with the crowns of countless palms swaying gently in the breeze.
Island historians trace all this back to the 16th century – when Lanzarote was subjected to regular pirate raids as buccaneers such as Drake and Raleigh attempted to get their hands on the Inca silver that was being transported between the New World and the Old via Lanzarote. Marauding raiders are said to have burnt many trees in and around Haria to the ground. Over the centuries, the appetite to restore the valley to its former verdant glory fluorished. Either way it’s a captivating sight – especially on an island that is otherwise so devoid of greenery.
Read about things to do in Lanzarote.
About this week’s guest writer
Nick Ball has lived on Lanzarote in the north of the island for over eight years with his wife and dog and is the editor of Lanzarote Guidebook – the in-depth tourist guide to Lanzarote. Visit the Lanzarote Guidebook for a free in-depth guide to Lanzarote.
Read more ‘My velvet escape travel tips‘:
- Whitsunday islands, Australia
- Normandy, France
- Lake District, Cumbria, England
- Miami, Florida, USA
- Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA
- Bali, Indonesia