Lanzarote is a small volcanic island located in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of southern Morocco (map), about a 2.5 hour flight from the mainland of Spain to which it belongs. Covering 846 square kilometers, and measuring 60 kilometers from north to south and 25 kilometers from west to east, the island is the fourth-largest of the Canary Islands archipelago. Lanzarote is a popular holiday destination for Europeans who come here to bask in the sun, especially in the winter, 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. I’ve visited the island twice and based on these trips, here are my recommendations for things to do in Lanzarote.
Things to do in Lanzarote, Spain
1. Visit Jameos del Agua
The Jameos del Agua, is for me, one of the island’s most fascinating attractions and a must see in Lanzarote. 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. See the volcanic landscapes of Timanfaya
The Timanfaya National Park is another of Lanzarote’s must see attractions. The national park consists of a series of volcanoes and massive lava fields. It’s a surreal experience driving through the park, making it one of the most popular things to do in Lanzarote. 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. Stroll around El Golfo
This is a little lagoon on the island’s west coast. The El Golfo 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. Enjoy the panoramic views from Mirador del Rio
Located in the far northwestern corner of Lanzarote, Mirador del Rio is a visitor centre built atop towering cliffs. Another stunning Cesar Manrique creation, 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.
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. This is, you guessed it, one of my favourite things to do in Lanzarote!
7. Enjoy the beaches
Like its neighbours, Lanzarote has a good number of beaches. Puerto del Carmen, Costa 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! Haria is arguably one of the loveliest towns in Lanzarote to visit.
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.
Looking for an active way to explore Lanzarote? Check out this 8-day cycling tour of Lanzarote.
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.
Check out my guide for self-drive day trips in Lanzarote. Or read about another Canary Islands gem, Gran Canaria.
Car hire and tours in Lanzarote
Alternatively, you can join a full-day tour which covers most of the sights described above.
Looks like I have a reason to return to Lanzarote!
Velvet great article. But I think yu need to go back to explorer all the hidden caves! Did this recently and can share a lot with you.
[…] The Jameos del Agua, is for me, one of the island’s most fascinating attractions and a must see in Lanzarote. The Jameos is a striking combination of geology, architecture and design. The island’s most famous artist/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. Visiting the Jameos del Agua is definitely one of the best things to do in Lanzarote! […]
A great list of recommendations! For scuba diving head to Playa Chica in Puerto Del Carmen. Home to the best diving on the island. There’s also Lanzarote’s newest dive site the Museo Atlantico, an underwater museum in Playa Blanca.
[…] Things to do in Lanzarote […]
[…] Read about things to do in Lanzarote. […]
We just returned from Lanzarote and had an amazing time, especially for families. There is so much to in Lanzarote for kids. Ours took surfing and scuba lessons, and then there’s a volcano, lava tubes and a Pirate Museum. We’re already considering a return visit. Nice to be the warmest place in Europe during winter!
[…] Read about things to do in Lanzarote. […]
Thank you! 🙂
Great post on Lanzarote Keith, we’ll be sharing it on our Google+ page
Have a fabulous trip! 🙂
Thanks Keith your the best we can’t wait to get out there !!
Hi Dean & Tracy,
Glad you enjoyed the post. The best way to explore the island is indeed to hire a car. For prices, check out this site which compares prices from various companies: http://bit.ly/1ppkVxS
Hope this helps.
Hi keith taking your recommendation on top ten things in lanz coaches sere a big no no for we like to get a car and hit the road for an adventure any idea price of car hire ??? Would like a range rover but will slum it in an x5 if we ave to many thanx D&T
[…] Lanzarote, on the other hand is great for art lovers and has a variety of volcanoes scattered across its landscape. The volcanic activity on the island has helped to form some unbelievable landscapes that have to be seen to be believed. If you’re looking for incredible sites and great places to eat, then you can’t really go wrong. Check out this article for some of the best things to see and do in Lanzarote. […]
Golfo looks amazing! Jameos de Agua looks almost surreal…like an oasis, with stairs lol..
From the looks of it I bet the food was yums!
Yes, you can take your rental car into the Timanfaya National Park and you can walk around in the vicinity of the park HQ, where there’s also a restaurant. You can then drive around the park but I’m not sure if you can stop and walk around, perhaps at specified points. It’s a very volcanic area so be careful. I suggest you ask for more accurate info at the Park HQ and inquire there about a guide.
Have a good trip.
Nice article. Can I take a rental car to the volcano park and walking about myself or is a guide necessary?
Haha, I know the feeling. I had a similar impression of Lanzarote before I finally made it there. Like you, I was very surprised! 🙂
Damn that tuna looks sexy. Also, I had no idea there was so much to do in Lanzarote?! As a Brit, my general idea was that it’s just a package holiday destination – really surprised there’s a national park there?! Time to lay aside my snobbery about the place (hey, it’s nothing compared to my mum’s) after reading this.
[…] Read the accompanying post: ‘Ten Things To Do in Lanzarote‘. […]
Thanks John! 🙂
Great post on Lanzarote Keith, we’ll be sharing it on our Google+ page 🙂
[…] cannot miss the Jameos del Agua. It’s, well, simply… enchanting! Check out my post on things to do in Lanzarote for more […]
Thanks Dean. The whole island is pretty surreal for that matter though the vineyards are absolutely unique. Driving through the Timanfaya NP and down to the coast is like driving on the moon! Lots to see and do for such a small island.
That is the most surreal winery I’ve seen, quite lovely though with the volcano behind it. Looks like an interesting island.