Lanzarote is one of those places where you know you will have a good relaxing vacation thanks to its chilled vibe and balmy climate, with average temperatures around 22ºC. Unlike other, bigger Canary islands, such as Gran Canaria and Tenerife, Lanzarote is much quieter and friendlier for couples, families and retirees, and makes a perfect European getaway. Also, in my husband’s family, Lanzarote holds a special place as they have been spending summer vacations there for many years in a row and it feels more like a second home.
As we landed in Arrecife, Lanzarote’s small capital, we picked up our hired car and hit the road. The first impression of the island was it felt like we just landed on the Moon!
You see, millions of years of volcanic activity resulted in a mixed landscape of mountains, lava fields and rock formations with little vegetation or wild life.
With a population around 140,000 people, local roads hardly get any traffic and after about 30-40 mins of scenic drive, we were at the Playa Blanca (‘White Beach’), a popular destination among vacationers at the southern tip of the island. It makes a great base for a holiday as it has everything you may need – great restaurants, public beaches, shops and pharmacies, nice and long promenade and even a pier to take a ferry to Tenerife.
I suggest you spend the rest of Day 1 exploring Playa Blanca. You can start off from one end of the promenade and work through various attractions on your way.
For example, you can walk from the light house (Pechiguera or Punta Pechiguera lighthouse) all the way to Castillo de las Coloradas at the Marina Rubicon. The lighthouse is a functioning lighthouse and one of the tallest ones on the island. You definitely see it in action once it gets dark, as its beams can be seen throughout Playa Blanca.
Marina Rubicon is a more upscale area with a dock for sail boats, nice restaurants and boutique shops. It also hosts morning market on Wednesdays and Saturdays, offering local crafts, produce and wines.
Not far from Marina Rubicon, there is an old watch tower, Castillo de las Coloradas, dating to 18th century. This small but robust structure features a bell that used to warn inhabitants of any unwelcomed guests approaching the island.
Also, not to be missed are the beaches. While Playa Blanca is a white sand beach in the center of the promenade, Playa Flamingo and Playa Dorada are calmer and quieter beaches, a bit further away but worth checking out. For few euros you can rent a sun lounge and umbrella and relax under the sun.
When you are in Lanzarote, you can’t help but notice the artistic influence of the Spanish artist and sculptor, César Manrique, who loved this island and has done a lot to save it from turning into a commercialised hotel jungle. If you are into arts, I suggest you spend second day exploring your inner culture vulture and checking out artistic legacy Manrique left. Two places to visit are the César Manrique Foundation and the Casa Museo César Manrique.
César Manrique Foundation is a museum which used to be his home for over 20 years and now is an art gallery and headquarters to his foundation. It’s one of the most unusual houses I have ever seen and is an architectural masterpiece. Built on a plot of lava fields of 30,000 square meters and incorporating five volcanic bubbles, most of the house is actually underground.
The rooms are connected via various passages leading to enchanting courtyards and gardens, peaceful fountains and colorful murals.
Upstairs is a modern art gallery displaying not only César Manrique’s works, but a number of masterpieces by contemporary Spanish and international artists and sculptors. It’s a truly beautiful and peaceful space that showcases Manrique’s passion for eco-friendly development and harmonious relationship between art and nature.
If you have time, drive to the north of the island to visit Manrique’s second home, a farm house he renovated and lived in until his tragic death in 1992. Casa Museo César Manrique museum is based in the palm grove in the village of Haría, where traditional lifestyle still prevails. This cosy house still looks like as the artist has left it, with personal belongings on display as you walk through the rooms.
Source: Fundación César Manrique
Source: Fundación César Manrique
In the studio, things are left untouched with Manrique’s paints and brushes spread out and paintings left unfinished.
Source: Fundación César Manrique
Now that you discovered Lanzarote’s artistic beauty, it’s time to explore its nature and unusual landscape. Our journey started with Cuevas de los Verdes (the Green Caves), one of the longest volcanic galleries (think of a 6 km lava tube, but only one third of it is open to public). Apparently, the caves made a good place for local people to hide during pirate invasions.
The Jameos del Agua is another part of the lava tube. The staircase leads to a mysterious looking cave ‘Jameo Chico’ with a small lake. Here we found a small café for drinks by the lake.
The pathway around the lake leads to ‘Jameo Grande’, an open air cave with a stunning swimming pool.
Both jameos have been designed by César Manrique and his style can be seen in every detail – from the layout inside the caves to his sculptures and logos he developed for this attraction.
There is also a concert auditorium inside a big cave (imagine the acoustics here!) and La Casa de los Volcanes, a research, educational and tourist facility dedicated solely to volcanic activity.
To continue with the volcanic theme, I suggest stopping by the Timanfaya National Park. The scenic route created by César Manrique takes you through park’s endless lava fields and sea of black volcanic sand and pebbles. It also let’s you get close to Lanzarote’s Montanas del Fuego (Mountains of Fire).
Here you will find Islote de Hilario, where thermal activity reaches 250ºC and you can see the breath of fire! On the top of the Islote de Hilario you will find El Diablo restaurant, designed by Manrique, which offers great panoramic views of the park. Check out this amazing video by the Lanzarote’s Centers of Art, Culture and Tourism.
Three days went by very quickly but I enjoyed every minute of it. Lanzarote is a perfect spot for a relaxing holiday, offering plenty to see and do for arts, nature and beach lovers. I hope you get to visit and enjoy it as much as I did!
Places to eat:
- Restaurante Casa Pedro for amazing seafood paella and home-like autmosphere, thanks to its owner Pedro
- Sebastyan’s Greek Restaurant for upscale Greek food and great drinks
- El Mano Casa de Comidas for great views of Marina Rubicon and tasty sandwiches (try one with anchovies)
Happy travels! xx