“Lanzarote keeps the crowds coming back year after year, thanks to some of the best beaches in the Canaries and a landscape that’s unlike anything you’ll see in Britain.”
Lanzarote has been in the business of sun, sea and sand breaks since the Seventies. In fact, as one of Europe’s first mainstream holiday destinations, it helped to invent the classic beach break.
Take one look at the place and you’ll see what made it the perfect prototype. The three main resorts of Puerto Del Carmen, Costa Teguise and Playa Blanca are hemmed by long ribbons of sand and their shores are top spots for watersports.
Away from the coast, Lanzarote’s landscape is unique. In fact, UNESCO has given the island World Biosphere Reserve status, in order to protect it. Stand among the silver mountain peaks and black rock formations in the island’s interior and you’d be forgiven for thinking you were on the surface of the moon. The landscape in Timanfaya National Park deserves a special mention. It’s pockmarked by the craters of more than a hundred volcanoes, known as the Fire Mountains.
Finally, you can’t visit Lanzarote without seeing at least one art installation by the famous artist, Cesar Manrique. The island is covered with his off-the-wall creations. Head to the Jameos del Agua on the north coast to explore the underground caves he converted into a chic bar and a concert hall.
If you haven't heard of Cesar Manrique before your visit to Lanzarote, you'll certainly remember him afterwards. Wherever you go on this sun-kissed isle you'll come across his name and influence time and time again. A contemporary of Picasso and Dali, Manrique was a skilled artist and designer. With the advent of mass tourism, he was eager to preserve Lanzarote's unique beauty and campaigned to protect the island's stunning scenery and local traditions. His legacy is still evident today as Lanzarote's hotels and apartments are low-rise while towns and villages are whitewashed and adorned with jaunty green and blue window shutters. Manrique also constructed a number of monuments and objets d'art which are can be seen across the island. Some of the most interesting pieces are colourful moving sculptures that are powered by the wind and underpin his philosophy of the subtle fusion of art with nature.
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If you’re under the impression that Lanzarote’s beaches are all about coarse black sand, think again. The coastline is in fact gilded with soft, pale sand. Take Playa Blanca, for example. The name says it all. Translated it means White Beach, for obvious reasons.
It’s a similar story down in Puerto del Carmen. Here, a ribbon of fine golden sand stretches virtually unbroken for about 6 kilometres along the coast, making this Lanzarote’s biggest beach resort. In the summer months it’s packed with sun-seekers and you’ll find sunbeds, parasols and pedaloes for hire here.
When it comes to watersports, Costa Teguise’s beach, Playa de las Cucharas, wins hands down. This sun-drenched slice is a real hit with the scuba diving and windsurfing fraternities while Famara beach, up on the north-west coast of the island, is a surf dude’s dream.
But we’ve saved the best ‘til last. In the seclusion stakes, the hideaway bays of the Papagayo Peninsula give the Greek Islands a run for their money. No wonder so many people make the trek to seek them out. Just don’t be surprised to see folks making the most of the privacy in pursuit of an all-over tan!
Every Sunday, sleepy little Teguise undergoes a metamorphosis. Like something from Stars In Your Eyes, this normally sedate town is transformed into a buzzing marketplace as hundreds of people flock from across the island to snap up bargains at this, Lanzarote’s biggest street market.
Stalls groan under the weight of handmade pottery. Trestle tables are piled high with lace and embroidery. And crates overflow with bananas and pineapples. Add the haggling and hollering of stall holders and it all makes for a rather colourful scene.
The goods and trinkets spill out onto the floor, as well, with North African traders laying out tribal masks, bongo drums and wooden sculptures to catch the eye of anyone passing by. Get down on your hands and knees and rummage out a bargain or two.
Down in the town square, meanwhile, there’s often a folk band playing and local dancers, dressed in traditional Canarian costume, put their best foot forward. Grab yourself a chocolate-drizzled waffle from one of the food carts and find a spot to watch the spectacle unfold. Markets aside, Lanzarote has its fair share of shopping malls, too. There’s a big one in Playa Honda, where you’ll find everything from clothes to perfume, and Puerto del Carmen is home to a swanky shopping centre called the Biosfera that stretches over several floors.
Of course, the Canaries are duty free islands and so electrical goods, spirits and tobacco are all great value for money. Just remember not to go over your allowances.