A family holiday was the reason for visiting Lanzarote, the fourth largest of the Canary Islands and about 60 km from end to end, for a few days in November 2018. At this time, there was the likelihood of warm temperatures and plenty of sunshine. In the event, the weather was rather more unsettled than might have been expected. We chose Playa Blanca as our base, an agreeable resort on the south coast of Lanzarote and apparently in its driest part and only 30 minutes drive away from the airport at Arrecife. Playa Blanca suffers from over development and sprawls for miles along the coast with hotels being built right up to the promenade that runs all the way along the sea front. Fortunately the influence of local artist César Manrique has ensured that buildings are low rise; they are also universally painted white. I do hope that further development is restricted, but there is not much sign of that. Over development at Playa Blanca is apparently causing UNESCO to reconsider its granting of biosphere reserve status to Lanzarote.
At the west end of Playa Blanca is the lighthouse at Punta Pechiguera, which I visited several times for photography around sunset or sunrise. Also close by is the volcano Montaña Roja, only 197m high but a worthy objective for a couple of pre breakfast runs during our stay. Running round the crater rim was quite an exhilarating experience. East of Playa Blanca are several beautiful beaches, particularly Playa de Papagayo, close to the Punta del Papagayo. There is a pleasant cafe just above the beach, where we enjoyed lunch with a beautiful view from the terrace.
Much of Lanzarote is covered by volcanic lava, most recently from eruptions in the 18th century covering nearly a quarter of the island. Part of this is the Timafaya national park, which can only be toured by bus from the car park and visitor centre. Unfortunately, there is no opportunity to get off the bus to walk around, but a walk we did do was to the Caldera Blanca volcano, 461m high. This entailed following a footpath through the starkly beautiful lava field, past the lower Montaña Caldereta and then up onto the crater rim that has a diameter of about a kilometre. We were continually dodging showers that day, which made for some atmospheric conditions on occasions!
The finest coastal scenery is to be found on the west side of the island and about 8 km north of Playa Blanca a road closely follows the coast to the village of El Golfo. The main attraction here is the Charco de los Clicos, a striking lagoon of green coloured water, sea water that has filled a volcanic crater. El Golfo is also notable for its fine restaurants and we enjoyed a marvellous paella at one of them for lunch. Just south of El Golfo is the impressive cliff scenery at Los Hervideros where the the sea surges through a natural rock arch. Manrique created viewing platforms and walkways here.
In the centre of the island is the wine growing area La Geria. The volcanic ash provides fertile conditions for growing vines, which are protected by semi circular drystone walls, which also capture rainwater. There are several bodegas that can be visited for wine tasting and they generally have restaurants too. This makes for a pleasant excursion, at least for those not driving.
The north of the island is quite different from the south and is well away from the major resorts clustered along the south coast. We visited the pleasant hilltop town of Teguise after visiting the former home of artist César Manrique (now a foundation) and then drove to the very pleasant town of Haría, where Manrique lived for his final years. Close by are the highest cliffs on the island at Famara, at some points dropping 600m to the sea. There are several viewpoints that can be visited; the most popular being that at Mirador del Rio, designed by Manrique, and offering fabulous views across to the small Isla Graciosa.
In the space of six days, we succeeded in covering much of the island, but there still remains much that we didn’t see. I hope to make a return visit in the next year or two; or maybe we’ll be tempted to visit Fuerteventura, Lanzarote’s near neighbour.