Lanzarote is a constant Stendhal moment…
It’s surprising that we had never thought of visiting Lanzarote until this year. And not for any particular reason, but because we always mulled over places outside Spain, unaware that this marvellous paradise awaited us.
Lanzarote is one of the Canary Islands and is part of the Las Palmas province. Its capital is Arrecife and its well known for its warm climate all year round, its beaches and most of all, for its volcanic landscape that makes you feel like you are on Mars. Since 1993, Lanzarote is considered a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
The island’s name comes from the Genoese merchant Lanceloto Malocello, who visited it in the 14th century. It has an area of 845.94 km² and is the fourth biggest island in the archipelago.
Although the island is not very big, we recommend that you visit for a week if you can so you can enjoy everything it has to offer with plenty of time. This island invites you to enjoy slow life in full, to slow down, to connect like never before with nature and to enjoy life’s simple pleasures.
Where to stay:
We were clear on this: the best place to experience this island is Buenavista Lanzarote Country Suites. A magical place made up of five designer apartments, that are part of the La Geria landscape, surrounded by volcanic rock, vines with their semi-circular walls, where peace and wellbeing are the main added values. Gonzalo and Mayca, its owners, champion sustainable and ecological tourism, linked to their passion for art.
The César Manrique route:
César Manrique was born in Arrecife, the capital of Lanzarote in 1919. But it was in the Sixties, after living for some time in New York, when he decided to return to his hometown to begin taking part in landscape projects, on which he soon left his mark, with which he defended the inevitable communion between art and nature.
“For me, this is the most beautiful place on Earth. And I realized that, if they managed to see it through my eyes, they would think the same.” César Manrique
Around that time, the large-scale property development boom took place in the tourist sector in Spain, something that quickly drew Manrique’s attention. Which is why he immediately decided to initiate the battle to avoid an ecological crime that would endanger the ecosystems and the great natural riches of the island. In order to try and preserve the land that he adored, he became a great activist leading numerous protests against the indiscriminate construction of huge tourist resorts. In this same period, he also devoted his efforts, with the blessing of those in power at the time, to creating a large number of wonders that we fortunately continue to enjoy today.
As you will be able to observe, César Manrique’s artistic work is vast and internationally acknowledged, but it his interventions on the ground that stand out the most. In all of them, Manrique seeks to establish a dialogue of extreme respect and integration with the natural environment:
The Cactus Garden: This cactarium is completely integrated in the island’s landscape and holds more than 1400 species of cacti from all over the world. From the windmill, there is a panoramic view of the garden shaped like an amphitheatre. A must.
Jameos del Agua: This was the first Art, Cultural and Tourist centre created by César Manrique and one of the clearest examples of harmony between art and nature. The artist used part of the inside of a volcanic tunnel to create a natural auditorium of extraordinary beauty. Next to it, there is a palm tree garden with a lovely artificial lake and the “Volcano House” museum, that is considered one of the most important research centres in the world.
Verdes’ Cave: Just across the road from the Jameos del Agua, we find this cave with its mythological aura, full of legends and extraordinarily beautiful, unique landscape features. Originally formed following eruptive activity of the Volcán de La Corona, this is one of the most surprising wonders hidden deep within Lanzarote. In fact it was used as a hiding place by its inhabitants when faced with pirate attacks and invasions from North Africa throughout the 6th and 7th centuries, and in the 19th century when it became a must for European travellers, scholars and scientists fascinated by this unique volcanic formation that is, paradoxically, named after a family that kept its livestock in the surrounding area. But it was during the 60s, that Lanzarote’s Cabildo (town council) asked Jesús Soto, an artist from Fuerteventura, a collaborator of César Manrique, to undertake the adaptation of this natural sanctuary of volcanic origins.
Mirador del Río: At a height of 400m on the Famara cliff, the Mirador del Río is one of the César Manrique’s most representative architectural creations. A work of art that blends in perfectly with the volcanic rock that surrounds it and that sits at the top of an awe-inspiring cliff from which you can see La Graciosa island, a micro paradise we will describe shortly. The windows of the viewpoint were designed by the artist to allow panoramic views.
Lagomar museum: Lanzarote’s Lagomar Museum-House is a unique place. It was conceived by César Manrique, although it was designed by Jesús Soto, and it is located in a crag on the Nazaret volcano, built in a striking spot amongst rocks, caves and tunnels, and was at one point the home of the popular Egyptian actor Omar Sharif (the lead actor in films such as Dr. Zhivago or Lawrence of Arabia). At present, Lagomar is home to a museum, a restaurant and a bar.
“To create with absolute freedom, without fear or instructions, comforts the soul and leads a path to the joy of life.” César Manrique
The Taro de Tahíche- César Manrique Foundation: In this case, he converted a group of volcanic bubbles into his own home, in which he lived for years and where he welcomed many celebrities of that time. Today, it is home to the Foundation named after César Manrique. An idyllic place decorated with the artist’s works of art and his private collection.
The Gulf and the Green Lagoon: The Gulf is an amphitheatre facing the ocean that was formed following the eruptions in 1730. The lagoon, at the far end of the semicircle, was formed when the crater was inundated and is called the “Green Lagoon” or “El Charco de los Clicos”. Its green colour is due to the algae that live on its surface. The sea passes through the crater forming a beautiful black beach that contrasts with the lagoon’s green waters, the sea and the lagoon are connected via an underground channel. This lagoon has been declared a Natural reserve so bathing is forbidden. However, it is possible to bathe in the black sandy beach next to it, our favourite beach. El Golfo (the Gulf) can be found just a few metres away, a village with several restaurants on the seafront, such as Casa Rafa.
The Salt flats at Janubio: The representation of what was once the ancient economic activity on the island: the collection of salt. The beautiful black pebbled Janubio beach is next to the salt flats.
Los Hervideros (boiling pots): These are one of Lanzarote’s natural and most impressive attractions, thanks to the natural sculpting of the rocks by the erosion of the sea and wind.
Montaña Bermeja (the Red Mountain): Opposite Montaña Bermeja is its black sandy beach, that looks like something from another planet with its volcanic soul, from where you can see spectacular sunsets. Bathing is not usually recommended as the sea there tends to be rough.
Arrecife: Lanzarote’s capital. What we most liked was the “Charco de San Ginés”. The sea comes in through this area, creating a beautiful image of entrancing fishing boats and whitewashed houses in the background. It´s impossible not to take a beautiful photograph of this place. And the sunset will leave you speechless… In this lagoon of sorts, there are a few restaurants where you can eat very well such as the Tasca La raspa or the Naia, and there are lots of locals chatting or taking a walk in the area.
Haría: This municipality is home to most of the local flora and is known as the Valley of the thousand palm trees, and it is also where César Manrique had his last residence. The artist found peace and connection with nature at Haría.
Telamón: The Temple Hall, known as Telamón in its final period, was a Scottish cargo ship that was 139 metres in length, 18 metres wide and weighed 8,003 tonnes. It was shipwrecked off the coast of Lanzarote in 1981 and, still today, remains stranded in the bay between Punta Grande and Punta Chica, next to the seawall at Arrecife harbour. An admirable sight, that continues to be a tourist attraction for people that are interested in these kinds of treasures.
Some people swim up to the ship but this is not at all recommended. In fact, it is forbidden.
Punta mujeres: This charming coastal town has lovely natural pools and, depending on the day and the time of year, they are not very crowded. It’s a lovely place to stroll, enjoy the local atmosphere or eat in one of its restaurants such as Bar Palenke or the Sol y Luna.
Teguise: Teguise was the capital of the island of Lanzarote from the first half of the 15th century until 1852. It is one of the 94 most beautiful towns in Spain. And heart. This town of white walls and cobbled streets stole our heart. It has a special charm and for us is actually the most beautiful town on the island. Among its many qualities, it has a very interesting range of gastronomical options of which we would highlight Hespérides 2.0, that can be found in an old Lanzarote house, where italian cuisine is prepared with local produce, and the Cantina, that is more informal but where you can eat splendidly while enjoying the pleasant atmosphere.
Los charcones: The group of natural pools “Los Charcones” is one of the secret treasures of the island. They are not at all easy to get to, as the directions are not clear and can be quite confusing. Google Maps sends you to a place where there is a sign on a railing that tells you that you need to take the next exit on the left. Once you find it, you have to drive extremely carefully along incredibly rocky ground and after a good while, you come to some parked cars. That’s where you need to stop and walk to this dream setting. They are hard to find but very much worth the effort.
Beaches you cannot miss:
Lanzarote beaches are incredible and very different. If you are looking for white sandy beaches, we recommend: Papagayo beach and all the white beaches, as well as Famara or Caleta de Famara (Famara Cove) or those on La Graciosa island.
One of our favourites is the Janubio beach, the Cantería beach, the white Caletón and Bermeja beach, although, as you will find out for yourselves, there are many more that you will fall in love with.
The volcano route:
Timanfaya National Park: It has an area of 51km² with over 300 volcanoes. A unique and spectacular landscape comparable to the surface of the moon, and that has been used as a set for great movie productions such as the Clash of the Titans in 2010. The absence of vegetation, the ruggedness and the variety of red, brown, ochre, black and orange tones are also reminiscent of Mars.
It can only be visited by bus but we recommend you do so because it is a safe and very interesting way to find out everything there is to know about the mountains of fire. Following this trip, there are two free open-air exhibitions. After visiting the El Diablo restaurant designed by César Manrique, we recommend you walk the route of the volcanoes. Of course, only if it is a day with mild temperatures and if you have comfortable shoes and water with you.
Volcán del cuervo, Caldera Blanca and Volcán de la Corona
We highly recommend these excursions. Specially because you will literally move amidst volcanoes which is fascinating and extremely beautiful.
Let’s get lost in La Geria:
La Geria is also the largest area of vineyards in Lanzarote and it is located on the southwest side of the island, in the Yaiza area. It is a natural protected area of 5,255.5 hectares and borders the Timanfaya National Park.
Its landscape is unique due to the semi-circular shape of the Malvasia vines with small stone walls built to protect the vines from the wind and also due to the volcanic terrain originated by the Timanfaya eruption between 1730- 1736 which enshrouds this setting.
There are many wineries, both large and small, and you will find them along the way. The most significant ones are Bodegas La Geria, El Grifo and Rubicón, although we visited a more modest one which had great wines called the Bodeguita del Tablero.
La Graciosa island:
La Graciosa is an island that belongs to Las Palmas province and forms part of the Chinijo archipelago. The streets here are unpaved and there lies part of its charm.
To access the island, you must take a ferry at Puerto de Orzola. In just 30 minutes you are at Caleta de Sebo. If you are prone to sea sickness, it would be best if you took something, and if you are not too keen on the rocking of the waves, try not to look out of the windows because at times it feels like you are on a rollercoaster. You have been warned!
Once you arrive, and if you are only there for the day, we recommend you hire a 4×4 for only 20€ with a driver who will take you to the farthest and most beautiful cove, Montaña Amarilla. From there, you can walk the rest of the island and arrange to be picked up at another point by the driver. You can also hire a mountain bike, but as the terrain is all sand, it can be a bit tedious if you are not used to it.
The other two beaches we loved were La Francesa and La Cocina. The truth is they are all white sandy beaches like something out of a movie. Las Conchas beach is also beautiful but it is to the north of the island and we only visited the south this time.
Where to eat in Lanzarote:
In El Golfo: Casa Rafa.
In Uga: Bodega Uga.
In Playa Blanca: Coentro.
Janubio Salt Flats: Restaurante Mirador Las Salinas de Janubio.
El Roque: El Barquillo (el sótano).
Arrecife: Tasca La Raspa and Naia.
Playa Honda: Nakai.
Caleta de Famara: El Risco.
Haría: La casita de la playa.
Punta Mujeres: Bar Palenke.
In Teguise: La Cantina y Hespérides 2.0.
La Ahumadería de Uga: They produce the best smoked salmon you could ever taste because this place is considered the cradle of one of the best smoked salmons in the world. This family buys top quality Scottish and Norwegian salmons, that are delivered clean and frozen, to comply with health protocols and anisakis requirements, and once thawed and clean, they are covered with salt from the Janubio beaches nearby, in Yaiza for 24 hours and after another 36 hours, at only 10ºC, the salmon is ready. A delicacy! They do not sell online and serve with prior booking.
Eguzkine Ceramics: The most beautiful tableware in the world is also in Lanzarote. The author is Eguzkine Zerain. This lady from Alava, who has been in Lanzarote for two decades, creates traditional but very artistic ceramics which the world has fallen in love with. We will tell you about her in detail very soon. She has her workshop in Teseguite and you can find her there and obtain one of her unique pieces.
Lanzarote and NASA:
On several occasions, Lanzarote has become the test ground for space missions. Astronauts, scientists, engineers and experts in all fields have chosen the island’s barren landscape to understand Mars or the Moon a little better. The island’s geography is a good replica of both, a perfect place to study the interaction between volcanic processes and water. Its enormous extension of unspoilt isolated terrain is ideal for putting the protocols for exploration in future missions to the Moon into practice.
(*) Cover photo: Ely Sánchez. Other photographs: Ely Sánchez and Cecilia Camacho.