Lanzarote is a hugely popular resort for tourists in Europe and promises of year-round sunshine, minimal rainfall plus miles of pristine (often black) sandy beaches stretching for miles along the coastline. Look closer and you will find an island with a violently volcanic past and a history of pirates, plundering and slave traders. This history combines with the island’s climate and compact small size to create a destination where poolside tourism and opportunities for adventure can be mixed.
I know how tempting it can be to spend a week by the swimming pool, buried in a good novel (no shame intended, the Lanzarote weather is great for this) but I want to encourage you to explore other sides of the island.
Now that we’ve returned from my fourth visit to Lanzarote, I’m pulling together my top tips for seeing the island and making the most of your time during your visit.
1 – Getting there
Lanzarote, alongside the other Canary Islands, can be found a stone’s throw from the west coast of Morrocco (125km to be precise). Although closer to Africa, the islands have been part of Spain since the Castillian conquest in 1402.
Due to Lanzarote’s popularity with European tourists, the island is well connected to mainland Europe with regular flights from Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom. Budget airlines also connect the island to many European cities.
2 – When to visit
Although the island promises sun throughout the year, the island tends to be warmest between May and September. Tourist numbers massively increase during these months so look to the winter months for a quieter visit.
3 – Hire a Car
Travelling by Car is one of the best ways to discover Lanzarote and having a car will make it much easier for you to visit the island’s main attractions, some of which aren’t connected by public transport.
The island is also home to a number of scenic roadways with spectacular views available from the roadside. The LZ-702 takes you through a small area of volcanic peaks and descends into Playa Blanca with views stretching from the highlands down to the coast. The LZ-703 from El Golfo to La Hoya offers a coastal alternative with black sandy beaches that are much quieter than those found within the tourist resorts
4 – Use resorts as your base
Lanzarote has a number of coastal resorts and Costa Teguise, Peurto Del Carmen and Playa Blanca cater well to poolside tourism. If you’re looking for some time by the pool as well as opportunities for island adventures like we did, use the resorts as a base and explore the island from there. We choose to stay in Playa Blanca as it’s a little quieter than the others.
We stay on the outskirts of Playa Blanca, towards Faro Pechiguera. The area is quiet but still has shops and restaurants.
5 – Eat out….and often
We found some great restaurants on the island. I’m giving myself food envy just remembering them! Forget all inclusive if you can – the island has more to offer.
Gusto can be found close to Faro Pechiguera on the southern tip of the island. Expect a warm welcome, home cooked Italian food and chic Scandinavian interiors. We visited this restaurant a few times and not because it was so close to our accommodation. The pasta here was particularly good.
Restaurant El Diablo is inside the Timafaya National Park. The menu might be basic, and the vegetarian options are limited. Yet the novelty of volcano grilled chicken makes up for that and the restaurant provides a stunning panoramic view of the Montañas del Fuego.
In Arrecife, we visited Divina Italia where we ate stone baked Pizzas next to the Charco De San Ginés, bathed in sunlight and surrounded by locals.
Be sure to sample Patatas Arrugadas con Mojo, a traditional Canarian potato dish, during your visit. They are to die for.
6 – Timanfaya National Park
The Timanfaya National Park is best known among the volcanic attractions on Lanzarote and is the site of the most recent volcanic eruptions on the island in 1824. Part of the attraction to the national park is that volcanic activity continues to this day and is used to dramatic effect. There are regular demonstrations through which you can see the volcanic heat being used to create fire and explode water through a man-made geyser.
A complementary coach trip takes you around the park, along the Ruta De Los Volcanes. This trip will bring you up close and personal with volcanic craters and solidified lava flows. There is a short audio commentary (in three languages) which will give you a brief summary of the volcanic activity in the area.
Timanfaya is extremely popular with visitors to Lanzarote and it’s likely that you will queue to enter unless you arrive early. We visited in early February and queued for around 40 minutes. Make sure you have plenty of water. I created a Fire playlist for our visit which kept us occupied (think Ring of Fire by Johnny Cash mixed with Fuego by Eleni Foureira). Also – be sure to bring cash for your entry fee. It was around 10 euros to enter and I couldn’t spot a card machine when I entered.
7 – Explore volcanic caves
An alternative flavor of volcanic activity can be experienced in the north of the island in the Cueva De Los Verdes and Jameos Del Agua. These caves were created by a volcanic tube which extends for over 6km beneath the surface.
The caves also have a human history and were a hiding place for locals when the island was being pillaged by pirates and slave traders. A guided tour provides an overview this including more detail on the various rock formations.
The Cueva de Los Verdes ends in a dramatic climax which is a closely guarded secret and visitors to the caves are sworn to secrecy about what happens. Not being one to break the rules, you will need to visit the caves to find out what this is.
The Jameos Del Agua is home to huge subterranean concert hall alongside bars and restaurants, with concerts being hosted during the summer months
8 – City Life in Arrecife
For those who prefer human activities to volcanic landforms, head to Arrecife, the capital city of Lanzarote. The city is small by international standards yet has an undeniable Mediterranean and cosmopolitan vibe.
The Charco de San Ginés is a small saltwater lake occupied by hundreds of brightly colored and obscurely small fishing boats which are moored here. Although picturesque on its own, it’s the bustling area of bookstalls, bars and restaurants that surround the lake which makes it such a compelling place to visit.
The Iglesia de San Ginés dates from the 17th century and is located close by.
From here, we took a short walk to the Castillo de San Gabriel, a 16th Century fort built on a tiny island close to the coast. The fortification is a remnant of Lanzarote’s history of piracy and plunder. Today the castle is home to a small museum on the island’s history (all in Spanish) as well offering the opportunity for a stroll along a picturesque promenade.
9 – Stargazing
Low levels of light pollution in the Canary Islands make this one of the best places in the world for watching the stars. You can pay for trips to secluded spots to get the best views. I decided to save my spending money and to stargaze from our apartment. Shrouded in a blanket and doused in insect repellent, I spent hours watching the movement of the stars. I downloaded an app onto my iPhone that helped me to pick out the closest planets as well as finding the main constellations. An excellent way to relax and forget about the world.
10 – Soak up the sun by Puerto Calero Marina
One of the island’s smaller resorts is better known for its Marina which can host up to 450 boats at any time. Puerto Calero is home to a small strip of cafes and restaurants which are perfectly located for passing time in the sun and watching the world go by.
11 – Shopping
Arrecife provides decent opportunities for shoppers, most of which can be found along the Avenida Leon y Castillo. Many major chains are located here alongside smaller independent stores. El Mercadillo is worth a visit, less for the shops and more for the live music which is hosted by the restaurant inside the shopping mall.
The Marina Rubicon in Playa Blanca hosts a local market each Wednesday and Saturday morning and stalls offer a great variety of products from the island. The market is very popular, so I’d recommend arriving early to beat the crowds. Having visited the market, a coastal promenade and several eateries are located close to the marina, perfect after an afternoon browsing the stalls.
12 – Stock up on Aloe Vera
Whilst shopping in Lanzarote, we’re always sure to stock up on our Aloe Vera supplies. The island’s arid climate and rich, fertile soils are perfect growing conditions for aloe vera and you will notice many aloe vera themed shops during your visit. Our favourite is AloePlusLanzarote. They have a strong range of products and usually have offers available.
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