I’ve always had the travelling bug. In my youth it became the ‘norm’ to take time out to see the world and go travelling to far flung destinations. More recently I decided to embark on a journey to rediscover our nearest and dearest neighbour, whom I had so willingly neglected for years – Europe. I want to take you on a similar journey to reignite your wanderlust for a destination that’s not just a little, but completely out of this world; I’m talking about Lanzarote.
Studied by Apollo 13’s crew before their luna landing and providing a backdrop for countless movies, Lanzarote is well-known for its dramatic topography. So much so in fact, this volcanic island – 79 miles off the north coast of Africa – is a protected UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The island was totally transformed during the 1700s. Seismic activity raged for six years, creating 32 new volcanoes and forging the landscape you see today. The terrain – angry, sharp and twisted – boasts mountain ranges, lava fields, deserts and beaches, which create a magnificent contrast to the brilliant blue sky, pretty white-washed houses, vineyards crawling the mountains and, of course, the shimmering Atlantic. No doubt you can see why this is a unique and remarkable place to spend your well-earned holiday.
Visiting an active volcano is on numerous people’s destination bucket lists. Timanfaya National Park in Lanzarote – created by eruptions between 1730 and 1736, and in 1824 – is home to not only many dormant volcanoes, but also active Timanfaya itself. Covering 20 square miles, the landscape is a snapshot of 100 years ago and is truly amazing, with copper sand and black lava merging into one. In fact the film ‘One Million Years B.C.’ starring Raquel Welch was filmed here.
Being an active volcano and a national park you can’t just wander around. However, included in the entry price is a bus tour of the park. If you’re looking for something a little closer to nature, the national park service offer about six free guided walks, with the opportunity to learn all about the geology and landscape formation – you will need to book these three months in advance. We walked from El Golfo into Timanfaya, which was an incredible journey across contrasting lava fields. The last three kilometres took us up over a fisherman’s path along the cliff edge, with epic views out to sea – a truly stunning walk and completely wild.
If you can’t get enough of all the volcanic based activities that Lanzarote has to offer there are many more walks all around the island. The best hike – good for children too – is Montana Cuervo. It’s a fantastic walk into the centre of an exploded volcanic cone – a truly spectacular example of a caldera. Aside from the awe of walking into the volcano, is the gem hunting you can do here. Olivine – a bright green mineral found in the popular gemstone Peridot – can be found scattered around the area, both as small crystals and in rock formation. Whether you’re a budding volcanologist or not, this hike will impress!
Lanzarote is also renowned for its famous artist, sculptor and architect, Cesar Manrique. He combined the essence of the island’s volcanic landscape with art, which has captured
the hearts and minds of locals and tourists alike. His works are dotted all over the island, from one-off sculptures to the remarkable Taro de Tahiche – a building constructed inside five volcanic bubbles.
If you are going to see one of Manrique’s attractions, my recommendation is Cueva De Los Verdes, or ‘the green caves’ – not named because of their colour, but after a family that lived in them. You start your journey walking down into the bowels of the earth, then along one of the cave systems. There is a surprise at the end to which visitors are sworn to secrecy, so you’ll have to visit to find out for yourself!
Manrique also constructed Mirador del Rio, 475m high in the north, it’s a stunning view point that looks out over Lanzarote’s smaller sister island, La Graciosa, which was the highlight of my last two trips. It’s only a 35 minute ferry journey, departing from Orzola, yet leaving one world you arrive into another that’s very different. With a population of only 700 people, there are no roads and the island’s circumference is covered by remarkable, secluded beaches. On arrival you’ll find a gift shop, tapas bar, bike hire and a pretty harbour – a dramatic contrast to the mainland. There are no cars, so pack a picnic lunch, hire bikes and set off for the day down the unpaved sandy tracks to find your own piece of tranquillity – a perfect day out.
Back over on Lanzarote, you’ll find the sleepy little town of Teguise – the oldest Spanish settlement in the Canaries, dating back to the 1400s. You can meander down the cobbled streets at your leisure, sampling traditional tapas in a multitude of bars and restaurants, or perhaps visit the 15th century fortress of Santa Barbara. Looming over the town, Santa Barbara has an amazing vantage point over the whole island. Even better, the fortress houses the ‘Mueso de la Pirateria’, where you can learn all about the pirates of Lanzarote’s past. It’s a great way to spend a few hours – with or without children! Set back at the base of the winding road that leads down from Santa Barbara, lies an amazing bakery run by two English people – Johnny Bakes. Be sure to stop in, they serve some of the best coffee and cakes on the island.
While thinking about food and drink, wine production is probably not the first thing that would spring to mind about Lanzarote, however vineyards scatter the slopes within the central part of the island. The wine valley ‘La Geria’ consists of over five hectares of luna-looking cultivation, where vines grow close to the ground in neat little craters. The geothermal properties of the nutrient-rich soil creates great growing conditions. Each wine cellar, or ‘Bodega’, has a tasting room; the largest on the island – El Griffo – has a wine museum, which is
well worth a visit. On my last trip I went on an organised tour of three Bodegas led by the most knowledgeable guide. It was such a great day out and with transport to and from our villa there was no need to worry about how many samples we had!
I’ve not even mentioned the magnificent beaches yet. The Punta del Papagayo beaches are six of the island’s best, located on the southern coast about five minutes from Playa Blanca. The drive to the beaches is worth the visit alone. The most photographed and busiest of beaches is Playa Mujeres. My advice is to go early as they all get busy, especially during peak season, however a trip to Lanzarote would not be complete without a visit to Papagayo beach.
Lanzarote has something for everyone. Staying in a villa you have the complete freedom to come and go as you please, so you can take in as much or as little as you want from this amazing island. That said, I do urge you to do at least one thing I have mentioned. It’s such a unique, extraordinary place – one of my favourites. It’s because of this rich diversity across Europe, I remain enthralled and enchanted.
James Villas has more than 150 villas in Lanzarote This modern villa boasts a fantastic central position in Puerto del Carmen, only a couple of minutes’ walk to shops, restaurant, bars and the sandy beach.
penned by our very own