At a time when the world is in lockdown, we’re busy reminiscing about recent travels and daydreaming about future trips. Here’s a postcard from Lanzarote to help share some sunshine and inspiration.
We love winter. We love the snow and winter sports and cosying up inside a British pub (or French chalet). But sometimes you just can’t beat some warmth and sunshine in the depths of the darkest days. Make a break for the little Spanish island of Lanzarote for the perfect antidote to a European winter.
Located 125km off the Saharan coast of Africa, Lanzarote is the fourth largest of the Spanish Canary Islands. Average winter temperatures hover around 20 degrees centigrade, with the sea a similar story (which makes taking a dip here far more appealing than in Cornwall!).
Tourism to the island took off in the 1970s but despite the over-development of much of the Spanish coastline, Lanzarote has managed to retain its pristine natural appeal. Surfers love it thanks to the quality and variety – Lanzarote has been dubbed the Hawaii of Europe – but there’s far more to this surprising island.
Where to stay
We recommend staying in a couple of spots to sample different sides to the island, ideally splitting time between the sleepy fishing village of Arrieta and busier, bustling Costa Teguise.
Set towards the north eastern tip of Lanzarote, Arrieta is where the locals hang out. There’s a pretty beach with two chiringuitos or beach cafes, and a truck serving mean mojitos of an evening. Spend your days lingering over the freshest seafood lunches, swimming and body boarding in the waves.
Costa Teguise is further south, to the east of the capital, Arrecife. The main sandy beach of Las Cucharas is fronted by a promenade with lively restaurants and bars. Step a few hundred yards back to Las Maretas, a cute square away from the main drag and Avenida de las Islas Canarias. Follow the locals and try out the bars packed with friends gathered over drinks and snacks late into the night.
What to eat
Fish and seafood are plentiful. Tuck into dishes of garlicky grilled lobster and calamari, mopped up with fresh bread dipped in the local mojo sauce. Most dishes come with papas arrugadas, Canarian potatoes boiled in their skins in plenty of salt.
A trip to Spain wouldn’t be complete without eating tapas. As well as the unfailingly delicious tortilla and Padron peppers, the churros de pescado, white fish coated in saffron flavoured batter and deep-fried, are not to be missed.
Lanzarote’s volcanic landscape is also ripe for vineyards (the island is home to nearly 5,000 acres) and there are a handful of micro-breweries too. Don’t leave without sampling the wares.
Another pleasant surprise is the availability of dairy-free and vegan options across the island. Ask for café con leche de soja (soya milk latte) and stock up on a variety of alternative milk when out shopping.
What to do
There is plenty to explore away from the beach, much of it based around the quirky, eye-catching work of artist and architect, Cesar Manrique. It’s thanks to his intervention that Lanzarote avoided the same fate as other Spanish tourist destinations. The island’s iconic, attractive white buildings are at one with the landscape, unlike the high-rise blocks you can expect to see elsewhere.
The Municipal Council of Lanzarote’s Centre for Art, Culture and Tourism (CACT) produce a map and app highlighting the main attractions. We loved the Jardín de Cactus, home to hundreds of spiky species of all shapes and sizes, some towering high as trees with textured, chunky trunks. And the Mirador del Río, a clifftop lair looking out over El Río, the narrow stretch of sea separating Lanzarote from the tiny island of La Graciosa.
Las Montañas del Fuego at Timanfaya National Park is also worth a visit, offering a fascinating insight into the violent volcanic eruption that swept across the south of the island in the 18th century. It’s worth getting there early to avoid the coachloads of tourists that accumulate here from across the island. Then make a detour to the little fishing village of El Golfo for lunch.
As with so many trips, sometimes the highlights are those unexpected, stumbled upon moments…stepping inside the unassuming-looking Centro Sociocultural La Tegala in Haría during a downpour to enjoy the best tapas, yoga in a yurt at an eco-village in Arrieta and meeting other travellers over a paella supper. All topped off by simply bobbing in the sea on a sunny December day.
You can find the Canary Islands Small Step here.