In this inaugural of guest posts on Everthenomad.com, Nick Ball of Lanzarote Guidebook shares his tips on how to get off track in Lanzarote. Enjoy the read and happy trails!
Lanzarote has long been a hot favorite with tourists. This small Canary Island boasts over ninety great beaches, year-round sunshine and a unique volcanic terrain often likened to the surface of the moon. Yet despite the fact this Spanish-owned isle attracts large numbers of visitors every year – usually around 1.5 million – Lanzarote remains largely unspoiled. In fact, it offers plenty of scope to escape the main tourist destinations and explore the many treasures that lie off the beaten track.
Tourism first took off in Lanzarote in the 1970s, when General Franco sought to open the country up to holiday makers in order to bring foreign currency into the coffers. Today, the bulk of tourists are ferried straight from the airport to their accommodation in either Puerto del Carmen or Playa Blanca, two seaside resorts located along the island’s more sheltered southeast coastline. But away from the beaches and buckets and spades lies an island of enormous natural beauty. Lanzarote has been shaped by a series of violent volcanic eruptions which rocked the island during the 18th and 19th centuries, creating 300 volcanic peaks and carpeting around a quarter of the island in lava. These cataclysmic events forced many Lanzaroteños to abandon their birthplace. Many started new lives abroad in locations across Latin America and the Caribbean. Those who stayed adapted, learning to live with the new terrain.
The island’s little-known Emigration Museum is located within the walls of Castillo Santa Barbara, an imposing fortress constructed atop Mount Guanapay in 1568 to protect islanders from frequent pirate attacks. The story goes that it is still reputedly connected by a secret tunnel to the former island capital of Teguise below. Visitors can gain a fascinating insight into the impact of the eruptions on people’s lives. Numerous exhibits document patterns of migration and feature original maps, paintings and artefacts. Open daily 10am to 4pm. Admission €3 adults, €1.50 children.
Arrieta is one of the few seaside villages on Lanzarote´s southeast coast that has been left largely untouched by tourism. Here, locals and more intrepid visitors are left to enjoy the huge stretch of sand in peace. The scenic village is also home to a clutch of excellent seafood restaurants, such as Casa en la Playa where diners enjoy their meal right next to the beach.
Lanzarote is known for its volcanic areas but the island’s north part is as green and verdant as the south is dry and arid. This area abounds in thousands of palm trees and a secret little forest that is not even marked on many island maps. This forest, El Bosque, is located right on the edge of the Famara massif of cliffs which dominate the northern end of Lanzarote. Comprising around seven acres of acacia trees and dwarf pines, El Bosque offers some of the most breathtaking views across to the neighboring island of La Graciosa.
The picture-perfect village of Haria lies close by, nestled on the floor of the Valley of 1000 Palms, where for centuries politically incorrect locals have planted one palm for every newly born girl and two for a boy. Today, the valley creates a massive gently-swaying oasis, the perfect backdrop for the white-washed village houses. A small but atmospheric craft market is held in the main village square every Saturday, where visitors can buy locally produced artisan goods such as lacework and wood carvings along with fresh organic produce and goat cheese.
Many of Lanzarote´s leading tourist attractions were designed by a local artist called Cesar Manrique during the 1970s. He created unique sites such as the Jameos del Agua, where he transformed a 6km-long lava tube into a stunning underground grotto and nightclub. Brilliant as these constructions are, they are also hugely popular, making the Manrique trail a crowded and well-worn path. Luckily, the artist also designed a number of lesser-known creations, such as the former home of the film star Omar Sharif. Built into the side of a disused quarry, this structure features the artist’s trademark touches such as sumptuous tropical planting, water features and secretive nooks and crannies. Today it houses a quality restaurant and late-night bar called LagOmar (or Omars Lake). On Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights, visitors can enjoy a drink and wander the atmospheric grounds and gardens for free, whilst some of the island’s best DJs lay down a great backing track of chilled house and ambient grooves.