Lanzarote, April 2015
As a travel writer who has visited over 100 countries I often get asked about my favourite places. Many people are surprised when I say that the Canary Islands are high on my list. I've long been huge fan of this part of the world (Macaronesia), which offers more than just a sunshine getaway. Lanzarote's year round warmth is, of course, a big plus, but there are also eerie volcanic landscapes, offshore islands, the remarkable architecture of Cesar Manrique and world class wine to discover. So join me now as I head back to this sunshine isle to reveal my Top 9 Reasons You Have to Visit Lanzarote...
- To Flop on a Beach – An obvious highlight, of course, but it is these black and white sand beaches that kickstarted Lanzarote's tourist industry in the first place. The largest resort of Puerto del Carmen has a wide stretch of sand, but I prefer the beaches in and around Costa Teguise and the southern resort of Playa Blanca. It's worth taking a boat trip or drive on the track out of Playa Blanca to castaway-style Papagayo.
- To Visit the Moon – The Timanfaya National Park is an otherworldly escape of weird volcanic hills, lava flows and gnarled rock formations. You can take a tour that includes a stop at the visitor centre. I'd also recommend eating at El Diablo in the national park, a restaurant where your meal is cooked using natural volcanic heat.
- To Enjoy Manrique's Magic – Visionary Lanzarote architect Cesar Manrique led a one man fight to bring quality to local architecture and design. He also campaigned hard against any high-rise hotels blighting the island, and indeed against any high-rise buildings. His organic, creative style is unique and can be found all over the island. The essential Manrique pilgrimage is to his old studio-home, which now houses the César Manrique Foundation.
- To Savour The Food – Forget all the Canarian clichés about British fried breakfasts. Lanzarote boasts a sophisticated foodie scene. Specialities include boat fresh seafood such as limpets and parrotfish and 'wrinkly potatoes' with mojo sauce. A sweep of restaurants dot the coastal resorts and inland settlements. Even the buffet at my hotel was pretty special. The Seaside Los Jameos Playa offered prime steaks and seafood grilled in front of you, as well myriad buffet treats and themed nights.
- To Enjoy World Class Wine – Malvasia from the Canary Islands has been renowned since Shakespeare alluded to 'Malmsey' in his plays. The varietal grown here is both delicious and unique, grown as each vine is planted in a single volcanic crater. This allows it make the most of what precious water there is and it also protects the grapes from the wind. My favourite winery is Bermejo, their signature dry Malvasia a real mineral laden treat that is ideal with seafood. You can pop into most of the wineries and pick up a bottle too.
- To Go Hiking – Lanzarote for me is one of Europe's unsung hiking stars. You can explore deeply unusual volcanic landscapes, rugged coastline and sandy beaches that all come blessed with great weather. I spent a week on Lanzarote hiking a few years back and I'd recommend it to anyone so don't forget your walking shoes! Cicerone's superb new Walking on Lanzarote and Fuerteventura guide has plenty more info.
- To Be A City Slicker in Arrecife – Lanzarote's capital is more a relaxed provincial town than a bustling capital. It's a trim well laid out place that rewards ambling around. Arrecife sits right on the water too with its own beaches. There are superb restaurants, plus a wave of cafes and bars. El Charco de San Ginés, an old fishing quarter built around a lagoon that has been tastefully revamped, is also worth checking out. The island's only skyscraper, the Arrecife Gran Hotel, offers sweeping views, as well as a bar and restaurant.
- To Hop over to Corralejo - The neighbouring Canary Island of Fuerteventura makes for a superb day trip. The ferry ride between Playa Blanca and Corralejo on Fuerteventura takes just over ten minutes. Corralejo is my favourite resort in the Canaries, a laidback wee place that is half resort and half proper Spanish town. There are plenty of waterfront restaurants and excellent beaches too. If you have time delve slightly further south to the Parque Natural de Corralejo, where you'll find what for me are the most impressive sand dunes in Europe.
- To Escape to La Graciosa – If you thought Lanzarote was relaxed wait until you bounce across the Atlantic surf to the sleepy offshore isle of La Graciosa. I had a brilliant day out there on this trip, first walking 20km around its rugged coastline without seeing a single soul. I then hiked up Mount Bermeja, a striking volcano, where I finally bumped into some people who were cycling around the island. I ended my day with a sparkling seafood lunch with local limpets and octopus at Girasol, before relaxing on the beach in the only real village of Caleta del Sebo. A day trip here is reason enough to visit Lanzarote in its own right!
Robin McKelvie has been a travel writer, broadcaster and photographer since 1997. He has written thousands of travel articles for magazines and newspapers across five continents. In recent years he has also moved heavily into online writing, social media and blogging.