We have been to Lanzarote many times, being a 4 hour flight, and with flights available from most airports in the UK, making it very accessible. It is a year round destination, but especially popular for those seeking winter sun, as they have “good weather more or less guaranteed.” It does get windy sometimes, and with only an average 18 days per year of rain, therefore most of the time it is sunny with an average temperature of around 22C. Even in July and August, when the island is at its hottest, the temperature is usually only in the mid-twenties centigrade. Whenever you go, it is nearly always warm enough to sunbathe.
The island lies just 78 miles off Africa’s Saharan Coast and is the most easterly of the Canary Islands. The island is 38 miles long and 12 miles wide, making it the fourth largest island in the Archipelago. One of the first things that visitors notice is that nearly all of the buildings are white – this is largely thanks to the work of local artist César Manrique, who worked tirelessly to protect the island’s traditional architectural style and avoid over-development, and he managed to persuaded the local government. They banned the building of high-rise hotels and advertising billboards which have blighted the neighbouring island of Tenerife. One of its only high-rise structures is the Arrecife Grand Hotel, which was built before the ban was in place.
The island has some spectacular volcanic landscapes, so otherworldly that the Timanfaya National Park, whose moon-like terrain is one of the key reasons the island was declared a Unesco Biosphere Reserve in 1993, was used as a training base for NASA’s Apollo 17 crew. Around 360 volcano cones rise up from the granular black sand of the national park. The focal point of the vast black landscape is the Islote de Hilario volcano. Due to the fragile nature of the rocks, you can’t walk around unaccompanied. Buses take you around the park to see the extraordinary striated rock formations. As even today, temperatures just below the surface reach over 400°C. Unusually for a volcanic island, and unlike Tenerife, Lanzarote’s beaches are of golden sand. As you might expect, much of the outdoor activities are based around the sea, with great surfing at Famara, windsurfing at Costa Teguise and several great scuba diving locations around the island.
If you want to catch a more modern and metropolitan side of Lanzarote then visit Arrecife, the island’s capital. Here you will find a lively port city, which is home to around one third of the island’s inhabitants, with a population of some 45,000 and boasts shopping galore, beaches, parks, promenades, cafes, restaurants, nightlife and all of the urban hustle and bustle.
Teguise was the capital of the island for hundreds of years, until it lost this title to Arrecife. Now largely ignored by tourists, that’s why we like it — other than for the Sunday Market — it remains a great place to visit during the week, as it boasts some excellent architecture and remains relatively tranquil, with boutique shops selling local crafts as well as some great local restaurants.
There are 3 main resorts on Lanzarote, However we prefer to stay in the quieter Old Town of Puerto del Carmen, Puerto Calero or Teguise.
Puerto del Carmen is the oldest and largest resort on Lanzarote and the spot where modern tourism first took off. Originally built around the old town harbour it has now extended along 4 miles of golden, sandy beaches. It offers a wide range of holiday styles from studio apartments overlooking the lively beach road to luxury private villas in the exclusive Los Mojones area perched on a clifftop overlooking the harbour and out to sea.
One of the island’s longest established resorts, Costa Teguise was first developed in the 1970’s under the aegis of César Manrique and was purpose built as a tourist resort from the start. As a result the one criticism that some visitors have is that Costa Teguise lacks an organic heart – with nothing to match the atmosphere of the Old Town harbour in Puerto del Carmen or indeed the small centre of Playa Blanca, which was once a tiny fishing village. That being said there are plenty of great beaches in Costa Teguise and the resort is ideally located for exploring Lanzarote’s many attractions.
The resort of Playa Blanca has seen rapid development over the last few years, although thankfully due to the islands strict planning laws, none of this has involved high-rise developments. Although it continues to grow, it has retained its more relaxed atmosphere. Playa del Papagayo beach being one of its highlights.
Puerto Calero is much smaller than Costa Teguise, Playa Blanca or Puerto del Carmen — and definitely more upmarket. There’s no beach here, but a selection of designer shops cafes restaurant and bars around the marina. It represents one man’s dream and is definitely a place to visit if you appreciate the finer things in life or have a love of boats.
There are too many restaurants to list that we have dined in, and the island has such a choice from McDonald’s to fine dining, but try the villages of El Golfo, or Playa Quemada as their restaurants specialise in fresh Seafood. Teguise is great for local cuisine.
The island gastronomy as you could imagine has been influenced by Spanish and South American cuisines. The dishes stand out for their simplicity, as the ingredients are more important than the processes, but the results are very tasty. Excellent meat, fresh fish, vegetables and virgin olive oil all have their place on Lanzarote’s tables. An important role is played by local wines and cheeses. And we must not forget to mention the most popular dish: papas arrugadas (potatoes boiled in their skins). Accompanied by mojo (a local chili and garlic sauce), they are must have during any visit to Lanzarote. In the area around La Geria, you will find several bodegas (wineries) where you can taste local wines and enjoy the unique volcanic landscape of the vineyards. You can find The El Faro shop on the road between San Bartolome and Teguise for wonderful local cheese.
So our overall assessment of Lanzarote is we keep returning year after year in our quest for accessible winter sun. There really is something for everyone, if you are looking for peace and quiet or raucous nightlife, Sandy beaches, cheap and cheerful “British Bars” to authentic local tapas bars it’s all there if you look.