There are a rising number of visitors who want to explore Lanzarote but have a limited time in which to do so, these visitors are either on a cruise or island hopping around the Canary Islands. I was asked the question recently - what should I see in Lanzarote? This is a difficult question to answer, what indeed should people see to give them a taste of Lanzarote and show them why it is different to the other Canary Islands. I talked to Miguel about this and we couldn’t agree on the which areas would characterise Lanzarote, so here are our suggestions for you, depending upon the amount of time you have, you will need to hire a car!
Option 1. South Volcanic
Drive through Yaiza towards Playa Blanca but turn off at the salt pans ‘Salinas de Janubio’ pause to admire the national heritage site one of only three remaining salinas in Lanzarote – there used to be 26 of them!
Follow the coast road cut through the lava fields and stop at Los Hervideros to walk around the paths where the waves pound into the coast and up the blow holes – best enjoyed at full tide.
Continue along the coast road to El Golfo, stop and walk either along the beach or the sea volcano to see the green lagoon, this is a dramatic landscape and scenes from the film Broken Embraces, with Penelope Cruz were shot here. Stop at El Golfo for lunch, there are a selection of restaurants, right on the black beach offering fresh fish and tapas menus.
Head out of El Golfo back towards Yaiza and take the road into the Montañas del Fuego – Fire Mountains, the scenery is stunning, you can take a camel trek into the national park or continue a bit further on and take the guided tour around the volcano. In our opinion this is the best tourist attraction on the island, there is the biggest BBQ, geyser and fire demonstrations and the history of the Lanzarote volcanic eruptions.
Finally explore the La Geria region which is on the outskirts of the Timanfaya National Park, here you can see the rows of zocos with vines growing that look like craters on the moon, there are plenty of bodegas to stop at and sample the Lanzarote wines on the road that runs from Uga to San Bartolomé.
Option 2. Mid Manrique
César Manrique was Lanzarote’s famous painter, sculptor and architect and he thought that Lanzarote was the most beautiful place in the world, his legacy is still with us today, through the Fundación César Manrique which is where this tour starts. The Fundación at Tahiche is an amazing place, this was Manrique’s house, it was built on top of 5 volcanic bubbles that he created into rooms, he had this amazing talent for taking natural elements and incorporating them with modern materials for his designs. When you head up the hill from Arrecife towards Teguise you want to take the third exit off the roundabout with his intricate wind sculpture on, towards San Bartolomé and the Fundación is on your right.
You can see signs of Manrique’s influence all over the island of Lanzarote, there are numerous roundabouts with his wind sculptures on (Arrecife Airport, Tahiche, Arrieta & Montaña Blanca), he campaigned to keep low white painted buildings with doors and windows of blue and green paint which dates back to using the old left over paint from the fishing boats, and he worked to develop the major tourist attractions of the island such as the Jardín de Cactus, Mirador del Río, Jameso del Agua and Cueva de los Verdes.
After visiting the Fundación, to understand César Manrique’s love of Lanzarote you really have to go and see Famara, his father built a house next to the sea at Caleta de Famara and he had very fond childhood memories:
" My greatest happiness is to recall a happy childhood,five month summer vacations in the Caleta and the Famara beach with its eight kilometers of clean and fine sand framed by cliffs of more than four hundred meters high that reflected on the beach like in a mirror. That image has been engraved in my soul as something of extraordinary beauty that I will never forget in all of my life."
The beach is stunning, you can walk for miles and watch the surfers, its so big it could never be crowded! Once you’ve enjoyed the beach you should head into the village and choose a tapas bar / restaurant to chill out and relax in, its like stepping back in time, with a very laid back atmosphere. After exploring Famara head to the old capital of Teguise, here you can wander the cobbled streets with old buildings and see the individual shops, there are lots of art and crafts on offer including a César Manrique gift shop, if you are going on a Sunday, be prepared for the huge market which transforms the town for one day a week. If you have time on your way back, you really should stop at the Casa de Omar Sharif located on the hillside in Nazaret just outside Teguise. Look for the sign LagOmar on your left as you head down the hill, park outside taking in the panoramic view then head through the restaurant entrance to explore this intriguing property, designed by César Manrique in the 1970’s, it was built into an old quarry, incorporating the tunnels and caves into the architecture. You can enjoy a drink on the terrace or a meal in the renown restaurant, whilst reflecting on the wonder of Manrique and his effect on the island of Lanzarote.
Option 3. Green North
Head for signs to Teguise but continue past the old capital, heading North, the road will pass through the village of Los Valles, which is a typical rural Canarian village untouched by tourism. Continue climbing up the hill, on your right you will see the huge wind turbines at Parque Eólico, if you would like to know more about alternative energy in Lanzarote, click here. Just a bit further on, on your left you can see the tiny church of Ermita de las Nieves perched on the top of the Risco de Famara – you can pull off and enjoy the view down to Famara and Timanfaya or continue. As you reach the top of the climb on your left you have the radar station and on your right are fabulous views down to the coast, there is a lay by where you can pull in and the white villages on the coast are Arrieta and Punta Mujeres. If you’re afraid of heights then close your eyes for the next part – not the driver though! There is a fantastic twisty road that winds its way down into the Valley of Haría offering spectacular views at each bend.
As you enter into Haría park and have a walk around this pretty town, its known as the “valley of a thousand palms", the tradition is to plant palms when a child is born, two for a boy and one for a girl! If you are visiting on a Saturday morning there is a market in the plaza. If you fancy stretching your legs for a walk, then find the plaza de constitution and face the Ayuntamiento building, follow that road to the right and keep going, it will become a dirt track and at the top there is a beautiful mirador down to Famara, you can see the sea on both sides of the island from here – its not a strenuous walk and about a 20 minute stroll to the view. There are a choice of restaurants and bars if you need a food or drink break, our favourites are – Meson La Frontera this has a children’s play area and stunning views to Maguez with a wood fired grill and Puerta Verde which is only open Thu – Sat but offers fresh local food with a fusion twist. On the following part of route there are 4 of the 7 official attractions, you won’t have time or want to visit them all so I’m leaving it up to you to choose! Exiting Haría head towards signs for Guinate and the Mirador del Río (1 of 4, then drop down into Órzola and take the coast road signposted Arrecife, there are small white sand beaches dotted along this road with parking areas if you want to stop. The Jameos del Agua (2 of 4) and Cueva de los Verdes (3 of 4 Green Caves) are situated off the same junction, you turn left for the first and right for the second. Take the turning for Punta Mujeres and follow the coast road along the front to Arrieta where you can go to Playa la Garita, a locals beach with two tapas bars or continue along the main road again. If you’re running short of time stay on the main road back to Tahiche, otherwise turn off at Mala and drive through to Guatiza where you can see a restored windmill and huge plastic cactus at the Jardin de Cactus (4 of 4). You can rejoin the main road again on the far side of Guatiza.
There is so much to explore in Lanzarote, ideally you need at least two days to see the island, so you can explore the North and South not forgetting the middle!
We have a range of articles with suggested driving tours, the resorts and things to do in Lanzarote:
Have fun exploring and please leave your comments as to what you thought of Lanzarote and any recommendations for others!