Beaches, cacti, astonishing volcanoes and vineyards, Canary island Lanzarote is the perfect getaway for a relaxing summer break or some winter sun.
Our 10 Must Dos:
Catch a wave in Famara - a boho surf town with board hire, beach yoga and dramatic wind carved cliffs. We spent a couple of days here, it has a really relaxed atmosphere.
Mirador del Rio -a Thunderbirds-esque viewpoint created by local artist César Manrique. Unbelievable views (though very windy, hold onto your hats!) and a nice cafe.
Visit a bodega - Local vineyards are dotted across the island, where green vines grow low in the wind behind curved walls and dig their roots deep into the volcanic gravelly soil. Lanzarote wines are largely sweet and very summery.
Step back in time in Teguise - visiting the oldest Spanish settlement on the island feels like wandering through a film set. Whitewashed churches and houses surround palm tree framed squares, and apart from a lively market on Sundays, the former capital is usually a peaceful escape from touristy beaches.
Castillo Santa Barbara - While you're in Teguise, Be sure to visit this 15th century fortress perched precariously on the edge of an extinct volcanic crater. Once a watchtower to look out for marauding pirates, it now houses a museum all about the history of piracy in the Canaries.
Jardin de Cactus - another Manrique creation, over 10,000 cacti of all shapes and sizes are beautifully arranged in a former quarry, along with water features and sculptures. We had no idea there were so many different varieties! There is even a massive metal cactus in the carpark, which makes the site easy to find, as the quarry is hidden from the road as you approach.
Catch the boat from Órzola to La Graciosa - Just 2km north of Lanzarote, the small island of La Graciosa has glorious white sand beaches (you overlook it at Mirador del Rio). Our favourite was Playa de la Francesca, a 40 minute walk from the harbour. La Graciosa is a really lovely place to escape to, the beaches were much much quieter than back on Lanzarote. There is also a nice cafe/bar by the harbour where you can enjoy a drink while you wait for the boat home.
Playa Papagayo - speaking of beaches, Papagayo is another must on our list. Nestled at the bottom of a natural horseshoe of cliff, the turquoise waters are sheltered, clear and good for snorkelling and swimming. It's a bumpy 6km drive down an unpaved road, but well worth the effort getting there.
Timanfaya National Park - this UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve was our absolute trip highlight. Join a guided coach trip (included in the entry price, they leave from the visitor centre carpark) through what feels like a Martian landscape of mind blowing volcanic cones, created by 6 years (!) of eruptions in the 18th century. Amazingly, no one died as the volcanoes are the Hawaiian slow moving lava kind, rather than the pyroclastic flow/ ash cloud Italian type, but it is hard to imagine what it was like for the island residents to live through 6 years of continuous eruption. Many left the island - it must have seemed like the world was ending! There is a restaurant called El Diablo (designed by Manrique, as was the national park's devil logo) where they still use the geothermal heat under the ground to grill food. Even if you don't eat there, be sure to see the grill! Top tip, arrive early at the park, it's very popular and gets EXTREMELY busy as the day goes on.
Costa Teguise water park - you'll have a really fun day at this water park, which has a good range of thrill rides like near vertical Kamikaze and the disorientating Spiral, whirling flumes and rapids that you ride a donut through, as well as pools and sun loungers.
Hike Caldera Blanca - we finish our list with a real showstopper: an epic hike through black lava fields and up to the crater rim of an extinct volcano. The endless views from the top take in numerous other cones, and the crater itself is jaw dropping - perfectly circular and about 1.5km across. You'll park in the carpark just outside the small village of Mancha Blanca, and the paler gravel path is easy to follow across the black lava fields. Start early in the day as there is no shade, wear a hat and pack plenty of water and sunscreen. Before you leave Mancha Blanca, don't miss the small whitewashed church of Nuestra Senora de los Dolores. It is said that in 1736 during the eruptions, lava was heading towards the village. The residents walked to it carrying a statue of the Nuestra Señora de los Dolores and promised to build a church in honour of the virgin if she stopped the lava flow and saved the village. They place a cross into the ground in front of the approaching lava and miraculously it stopped! You can still see the cross by the blackened lava nearby, and the white church is the one built after the village was saved.
Where to eat:
Be Papagayo - Chiringuito Situated on the cliff top right by the access down to Papagayo beach, this bar/restaurant has amazing ocean views and delicious seafood (we had grilled octopus).
El Risco, Famara This restaurant in Famara is one of our favourites that we've ever been to. Ever. ANYWHERE. When you book, ask for a table by the window to watch the sun go down, or they have seating out on the terrace. All ingredients are local, which means that the menu can change from day to day, depending on what the catch is that morning! We ordered tuna tartare followed by fresh shellfish in a traditional Canarian mojo verde sauce, served with an delicious bottle of local white wine, which was brought to our table in a silver ice bucket. Very special!
El Charcon, Arrieta Right on the water, this little restaurant specialises in local fare such as papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes - El Charcon's recipe is here) with mojo sauce and excellent seafood- we'd definitely recommend the squid! They also have an extensive Canarian wine list.
How to get there:
Flights come into César Manrique-Lanzarote Airport, also known as Arrecife airport. From here you can hire a car, which you will need in order to explore the island.
Ryanair and Easyjet both fly to Lanzarote, and direct flights from London take around 4 hours. Popular resorts Puerto del Carmen and Playa Blanca are a 10 minute or 30 minute drive from the airport, and we stayed in the small village of Arrieta 25 minutes north. This charming spot has its own beach, restaurants and a shop, and isn't as "touristy" as the resorts on the south coast.