There are plenty of things to see & do in Lanzarote - we've chosen our top 10 Lanzarote tips
Timanfaya National Park
Set in the southern part of the island, the extraordinary lunar landscape of the Timanfaya National Park covers an area of more than 50 sq kilometres.
Volcanic eruptions took place here between 1730 and 1736 and at the Islote de Hilario - a high vantage point at the centre of the park - the view over the Montañas del Fuego - literally the Fire Mountains - is breathtaking. The jagged flows of lava running down to the sea look as if they have cooled only hours before, and the ground close to the El Diablo Restaurant - designed by César Manrique, is hot to the touch. To demonstrate the fierce heat of the volcano, the restaurant’s oven is actually heated by air rising at 400 degrees from an open vent.
Specially adapted coaches take visitors on a hairpin narrow road known as the Ruta de los Volcanes through some of the most dramatic scenery of the park, overlooking the vast craters which spewed out lava and fine pumice to cover nearly a third of the island in a thick layer of black volcanic gravel. At the visitor centre, at the entrance to the park and also designed by Manrique set into the black landscape of jagged lava known as the Malpais - literally the badlands - interactive displays and videos graphically describe the volcanic processes and their effect on the island’s recent history.
The wine route
The volcanic eruptions, which caused many islanders to flee for safety to neighbouring islands, covered good fertile land with up to three or four metres of fine black pumice known as picón.
But on their return the resourceful farmers soon realised that this volcanic gravel retained condensation and rainwater, keeping the roots of plants cool and moist even during the harshest of droughts.
Today, in La Geria, an area of 3000 hectares on the central part of the island above the town of Tias, some of the best Malvasia wines in the world are produced. Set in small funnels dug into the fine black picón and sheltered by small curved walls from the fierce trade winds the vines establish deep root systems which seek nutrition in the mineral rich soil below.
There are many bodegas or wineries lining the road which runs from Yaiza to San Bartolomé, and visitors are encouraged to taste the produce and buy direct from the winemakers. At STRATVS, a state of the art winery has just been completed, built deep into the black picón covered hill and guided tours and wine tastings take visitors through the process of modern wine production. Close to San Bartolomé at El Grifo, a wine museum and bodega give a glimpse of the older more traditional ways of wine production on Lanzarote when grapes were carried on camel back to be crushed by foot in huge barrels.
The Chinijo Archipelago
To the north of the main island of Lanzarote the Chinijo archipelago consists of 5 small islands (Montaña Clara, Alegranza, Graciosa, Roque del Este, Roque del Oeste).
Today, the entire area around the archipelago is a Marine Reserve, making it one of the largest in Spanish waters. Only La Graciosa is inhabited, with population of about 600 people in Caleta del Sebo, the principal village and port where the ferry from Orzola in northern Lanzarote lands.
There are practically no surfaced roads on the island and life here seems to run at a slower pace. With many secluded coves, empty beaches and some excellent surf, La Graciosa is popular with visitors, who can take a four wheel drive tour around the island or hire mountain bikes. Boat trips from Orzola can be arranged to visit the waters of the off lying islands to see the rich wildlife in the Reserve, from dolphins and whales to migrating shearwaters which nest on the steep cliffs of Alegranza. This high mysterious rocky island which is often shrouded in mist can only be visited with special permission from the owner and from the authorities of the Marine Reserve.
Caleta de Famara
Chill out village. This lovely small village set on the beach below the highest cliffs on the island’s north west coast is one of the most laid back places on Lanzarote. Sandy streets, small bars and the wonderful beach of Playa Famara with some of the best surfing and kitesurfing waves on the island draw surfers from all over the world. The population of about 600 is an interesting mix of local fishermen and outsiders who have fallen in love with the tranquil ambiance of the village and its open community.
Surf shops offer courses in kite, wind and general surfing and for those who like to take to the air the local hills are the perfect place for paragliding and parapenting along the spectacular high Famara cliffs.
The rugged landscape, strong winds, good waves and lovely beaches make Lanzarote a paradise for those who prefer their sports extreme. Top international cyclists come here regularly to train on the excellent roads with plenty of climbs and steep descents and off roaders will find more than enough wild terrain over the hills and valleys to test their mountain biking skills to the limit.
Many parts of the island are crisscrossed with tracks which are as old as human habitation which lead to remote valleys and ancient volcanic craters visited only by shepherds and their flocks of sheep and goats.
For experienced surfers the beaches of the northern windward side of the island have wonderful world class breaks on waves which have travelled unimpeded for thousands of kilometres.
For beginners there are always more sheltered coves and beaches on the southern side of the island with smaller waves on which they can hone their skills. Kitesurfers have enough choice of locations to catch the best wind and wave for their experience levels and for windsurfers too there is a wide selection of both calm water and open sea for wave jumping and free style with wind guaranteed most days of the year.
Jameos Del Agua
This extraordinary volcanic formation, caused when a vast tube formed by molten lava streaming down to the sea, cooled and then partially collapsed, has been transformed by César Manrique into one of the most novel restaurants and auditoriums in the world.
Two large chambers which open to the sky are divided by the intact vaulted lava tube which contains a small lake of clear water inhabited by the unique white and tiny blind crab which is only found on Lanzarote. Resembling miniature albino lobsters only 2 cms long the crabs can clearly be seen foraging on the dark black rocks of the cave close to the surface. Manrique brilliantly adapted the natural rock formations formed by the molten lava.
He created walkways which wind through the tunnel, passing into the next open chamber, where an exuberant garden of palms and tropical flowering bushes surrounds another pool of brilliant azure water. There is yet one more surprise to come. Leading on down the lava tube suddenly opens out into a high auditorium which can seat 600 and which has excellent acoustics. This natural performance space is used for both concerts and plays throughout the year.
The Fundacion César Manrique
The Fundacion César Manrique was created by the internationally renowned artist, designer and architect César Manrique, in 1992. A non-profit making organisation, it aims to promote artistic, environmental and cultural activities on the island of Lanzarote and the Canaries in general. The Foundation concentrates on all kinds of visual arts, from glass making to sculpture and painting, and on the creation of architectural spaces which utilise and blend with the natural landscape.
These ideas can be best seen in the Centres of Art Culture and Tourism which Manrique and his friends have set up in the island and which always use elements of the volcanic landscape (the high cliffs of Famara in the Mirador del Rio, or the collapsed volcanic lava tube of the Jameos del Agua) to create harmonious spaces. The Foundation today is based in the extraordinary house of César Manrique just outside Arrecife, where the artist used a series of volcanic chambers to create a living space which is both under and above ground. Exhibitions are regularly held there today of his work, and the Foundation also has an educational section which works with schools and universities to continue Manrique’s work in the preservation of island architecture and way of life.
Ruta de los Volcanes/ Ruta de Tremesana
In the heart of the Timanfaya National Park the Ruta de los Volcanes is a heart stopping journey into the recent history of the massive volcanic eruptions which devastated the island nearly three centuries ago.
In special coaches which wind through the heart of the volcanic areas a commentary in three languages tells the story of the extraordinary formations visible through the windows.
Fractured lava tubes, twisted ropes of lava and huge boulders blasted from the explosive eruptions can all be seen in the eerie black landscape as the bus winds high amongst the craters of the Park with magnificent views over the tortured formations of the Malpais to the distant sea below. For those determined to walk the volcanoes there is a special 3.5 km guided trek called the Ruta de Tremesana (which has to be booked well in advance). The 2 hour walk begins inside the park and passes close to some of the most extraordinary lava formations including wide Jameos – openings into collapsed lava tunnels –and the jagged malpais – the lava flows which run down to the sea. The walk , which takes place 4 times a week and has a maximum of seven people is accompanied by a park ranger who will describe the varied flora and fauna of this deserted lunar space.
The Museo Agricola el Patio
Set in a lovely old farmhouse surrounded by barns and outbuildings the Museo Agricola el Patio was once the hub of a busy finca or estate which employed more than 40 people.
From an old windmill to the restored living quarters with simple straw mattresses and barely furnished rooms, the museum gives a unique insight into the rustic simplicity of the lives of so many islanders at the end of the 19th century (Lanzarote was a feudal society until 1812). Exhibitions of photographs vividly depict the annual cycle of island agricultural life, from tilling the land with camels and donkeys, to womenfolk wearing the distinctive low brimmed straw hats of Lanzarote winnowing corn on the vast flat roof of the barns below the main house. The finca in its day would have produced its own wine, and today visitors can taste the white local Malvasia in the cool panelled old dining room of the estate’s last owners.
Monumento Natural de los Ajaches – Punta de Papagayo
This rugged Natural Park and protected area at the southern most part of the island has sheltered secluded beaches beneath the large mass of the Ajaches mountain – one of the oldest volcanic formations of the entire Canary Island archipelago. Walking tracks stretch from the secluded beaches and coves, which are some of the best on the island, around the headland to the summit of Ajache Grande, the 560 metre high ancient volcano which looms over the 3000 hectare park.
The hillsides are lined with long abandoned terraces, vivid witness to the large number of peasant farmers who used to wrest a living from these dry hills many years ago. From the summit there are wonderful views across the narrow straits to Fuerteventura and the golden sand dunes close to Corralejos. The dry scrubland of the reserve is a treasure trove of wildlife, from salamanders and butterflies, to the Houbara Bustard, a rare large bird which nests in the sandy hummocks of this coastal terrain.
Many of the coves around the Punta de Papagayo are unofficial nudist beaches and even in the height of the season determined walkers can find secluded private spots.
The calm waters here are clear and deep, and are excellent for snorkelling over off lying reefs close to the shore. The cliffs and beaches too are popular with fishermen, casting out for mackerel, sea bass and bream.
Above the Puerto Muelas beach the official campsite, one of only two on the entire island, has water and power points for visiting campervans or tents. Cars entering the park have to pay three Euros per vehicle – cyclists and walkers can enter free.