The most northeasterly of the Canary Islands,
Lanzarote has embraced the tourism boom with a more laidback feel
than its popular sister islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria.
Nature is still the biggest attraction on this small volcanic
island, which measures only 38 miles (60km) in length and 13 miles
(21km) across at its widest point.
Lanzarote's beaches are varied and dramatic,
including long stretches of golden sand, some good surf spots, and
some rugged, hidden coves. Camels are often used to transport goods
and sometimes tourists on this desert-like island, across the dry
volcanic ash that covers most of the landscape. UNESCO declared the
whole island a Biosphere Reserve in 1993, and visitors exploring
the dozens of enchanting and unique spots on the island will soon
Lanzarote's capital, Arrecife, is a small town on
the eastern coast, its harbour packed with fishing boats. Although
the town itself has little to offer in the way of sights or
nightlife, it does have a magnificent beach, El Reducto, which has
been granted Blue Flag status by the European Union.
A promenade runs along the beachfront around the
San Gines lagoon with its fine golden sand and placid waters. Like
the rest of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote offers visitors duty-free
shopping, and there is a fun nightlife at the Puerto del Carmen
Fernando Botero © Roel Wijnants
Arrecife Museum of Contemporary ArtA collection of modern artworks sit on permanent display in the Castle of San Jose, a fortress in built in 1779 to defend against pirate attacks in Arrecife. The castle was in military use till 1890 and then stood vacant till 1974 when it was converted into a modern art gallery and restaurant by architect and artist Cesar Manrique. The Museo International de Arte Contemporaneo is small but fascinating. The main attraction is actually the building itself and the contrast between the old fortress and modern art. Some of the artists featured are Bacon, Picasso, Miro, Botero, Damaso, and Luis Feito. The restaurant, which serves superb food and has a funky decor, is a big drawcard and has fantastic views over the docks and ocean. It is worth visiting for drinks at the bar at least. Sunset is the best time to enjoy the views and a meal, as the view changes dramatically between day and night. Although there are usually tables available, it is recommended that you book in advance to get the best views.
Telephone: +34 928 807 929; Opening time: Art galleries: Monday to Sunday from 11am to 9pm; Admission: Free
La Cueva de los Verdes © tete_ct
La Cueva de los VerdesIn the northern part of Lanzarote, close to the Monte de la Corona volcano, is a spectacular system of underground grottos known as La Cueva de los Verdes. This is one of the largest volcanic galleries in the world, at just over four miles (6km) long, formed approximately five thousand years ago in a prehistoric eruption when a massive stream of lava boiled down to the sea, hardening around the spaces inflated by gases. Where the tunnel enters the sea there is an underwater section called the Tunnel of Atlantis. More than a mile (2km) of these grottos is accessible to visitors, and lighting effects have been added to accentuate the contours and colours of the weird shapes resulting from the lava flows. Feeling like a journey into the mysterious bowels of the earth, exploring the tunnels is a thrilling experience. Tours take just under an hour and are conducted in Spanish and English. Those with mobility issues may struggle negotiating the uneven surfaces, but tour guides are generally accommodating and adjust their pace to suit the group as a whole. Evening concerts are sometimes held in the caverns, and it is incredible to hear the music reverberating off the ancient walls.
Telephone: +34 928 848 484; Opening time: Daily from 10am to 6pm. Last tour at 5pm.; Admission: €9.50 (adults), €4.75 (children aged 7 to 12)
The Cactus Garden © DanTheBeastMan
The Cactus GardenSituated between Guatiza and Mala is an unusual sightseeing attraction that combines art with nature. Artist Cesar Manrique created a work of art in the form of a cactus plantation in an old quarry. The Cactus Garden was Manrique's final piece of work in Lanzarote. More than 7,000 cactuses from well over 1,000 different species from all over the world are represented in the garden, with many coming from Madagascar, Mexico, Chile, Morocco, the US, and the Canary Islands. The plants come in all shapes and sizes and have been arranged beautifully in a landscaped garden with many water features. The site also features a restored windmill, which visitors can climb. It is a weird and wonderful collection which makes you feel like you're on another planet, and most people need at least two to three hours to explore. The old quarry is a sun trap and gets really hot, so it is best not to visit on a sweltering day, or at least to avoid the hottest time of day. There is a cafe at the site which sells light meals and provides welcome shade.
Telephone: +34 928 529 397; Opening time: Daily from 10am to 6pm.; Admission: €5.80 (adults); €2.90 (children aged 7 - 12).
Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote © Spanish National Tourist Board
Timanfaya National Park
Timanfaya National Park, in the southwestern part of the island of Lanzarote, is unique because it is the only national park in the world to have been developed by local residents. Also unique is what the park offers, including a volcanic field filled with a variety of geological and geothermic phenomena. In fact, the reserve is almost entirely made up of volcanic soil, and volcanic activity continues beneath the surface, although there is only one active volcano. Attractions include some geysers by the restaurant. Although the landscape is strange and stark, 180 different plant species do survive in the park. The whole of Lanzarote is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and Timanfaya is one of the core protected areas. Access to the park is strictly regulated to protect the delicate ecosystem and visitors must stick to designated routes. A journey through this landscape is hugely enriched by having a guide so don't shy away from organised tours. Some tours offer camel rides as part of the package. In the restaurant, which has spectacular views, visitors can end their guided tour of these wonders by enjoying a meal cooked on geothermal heat emanating from natural steam vents and geysers.
Telephone: +34 928 840 057; Opening time: Daily from 9am to 5.45pm.