Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, is popular in Ireland as a package 'sun holiday' destination. We're not the type of people who like to lay around on the beach reading romance novels and sipping fruity cocktails. Reflecting back on our long weekend trip, I've decided that our experience was surprisingly unconventional. Here are ten ways that we experienced Lanzarote in 4-days that didn't involve sitting on a lounge chair on the beach.
1. El Golfo - Lanzarote's Volcanic Lake
We hired a car for our road trip and used it to visit El Golfo, a neon green volcanic lake surrounded by textured hills in shifting colors. The landscape was simply outstanding and we carefully picked our way down from the top of the cliff to admire the lake while waves crashed in on the beach behind us. Lanzarote is truly stunning.
2. Taking Time to Stop and Smell the Flowers at Lanzarote's Playa Blanca
Playa Blanca is a popular tourist beach in Lanzarote. Instead of donning our swimsuits and laying out our beach towel, we took the opportunity to take a walk stopping to smell the flowers along the way.
3. Volcanic Hike on Lanzarote at Montana Roja
Montana Roja, a short distance from the popular beach at Playa Blanca is a great place for a moderately strenuous hike in Lanzarote. We parked the car at the edge of the residential area at the base of this dormant volcano and made our to the top for sweeping (albeit windy) views of Playa Blanca and the surrounding coast below. Once we were at the peak, it took about half an hour to complete a circuit of the rocky ridge. It would have also been possible to cut across the caldera below but we decided to skip it as the sky was about to open up and unleash a rainy fury.
4. Lanzarote's Timanfaya National Park
As I'm sure you can gather by now, Lazarote has a volcanic origin and this was a major focus of our 4-day weekend road trip. A series of fiery eruptions in the 1730s led to the formation of Timanfaya National Park. Today, the landscape is too unstable for walking but it's possible to drive into the park (beware: get there early or risk getting stuck in a queue of cars waiting for parking) and take a bus tour through the lava fields. We normally don't like bus trips over walking but since this was our only option to see this unique corner of Lanzarote, we signed on. We were regaled with the history of Lanzarote and the park in three languages (English, Spanish, and German) via a pre-recorded track piped into the bus. We could see visitors riding camels below. It looked like fun until we realized the amount of effort and expense required to prepare for a journey that was less than a football field's length.
Back at the Timanfaya National Park visitor's center, we checked out the various displays of the sheer heat present just below the surface. Chicken was barbecuing over a steamy vent in the ground. Carefully trained employees poured buckets of water down pipes pushed through the surface. It was quickly returned as a forceful geyser! Other employees took bales of hay and held them with a pitchfork over a seemingly innocuous hole in the ground. The dry tinder soon caught fire and was gone in seconds. Never underestimate the power of nature, especially in Lanzarote.
5. Lanzarote's Scenic Vistas at Mirador del Rio
Mirador del Rio is a popular scenic vista on Lanzarote. We chose to eschew the visitors center (and the steep entry fee) since there was quite a bit of fog in the area when we arrived. Instead, we took a walk down the small road that runs just alongside the visitors center and admired La Graciosa, a neighboring Canary Island. We then tiptoed through the short grass and wildflowers just beyond the parking lot for more views and birdwatching. Once again, we really enjoyed the stunning experiences on our long weekend in Lanzarote!
6. Caves of Lanzarote - Jameos de Agua
Jameos de Agua is a dramatic complex designed around a cave open on both ends by local artist and architect César Manrique. The cave is used today as a concert venue and nightclub. We were curious about what all the fuss was about so paid the admission fee to visit. To be honest, we were way more impressed with the hike we took among the black volcanic rocks just outside. We spotted all sorts of seabirds including a Eurasian spoonbill along the beach. This was definitely one of the highlights of our 4-day trip!
7. Lanzarote's Jardin de Cactus
Jardin de Cactus is another Manrique designed creation on Lanzarote. More than 1000 varieties of cactus are arranged along stepped terraces interspersed with sculpture. The garden is a lovely spot to walk quietly and reflect on the natural beauty of Lanzarote.
8. Lanzarote's Fine Wine
We may not favor sipping a cocktail on the beach, but we love a good glass of wine. Lanzarote features dozens of wineries dotted along the volcanic landscape. The methods used in Lanzarote to cultivate the vines are unique. Small depressions are made in the volcanic soil and small rock walls are built in a semi-circle around each one to protect the fledgling vines from the wind. Harvesting the wine is quite labor intensive and done by hand. You won't typically find Lanzarotan wines beyond the island so definitely seek them out while you're there. We certainly drank our fill during the four days we were visiting Lanzarote. We particularly enjoyed the intensive mineral flavors of Lanzarote's white wines.
9. Fort and Museum at Arecife, Lanzarote's Capital
Arecife is the capital of Lanzarote and most people give it a miss unless they are arriving by cruise ship. It's worth spending a few hours looking around. We particularly enjoyed touring the old fort (which now houses a small museum). I kept imagining how intimidating this structure must have been back in the day with copious canons (now turning to rust) trained on would-be visitors to Lanzarote.
10. Lanzarote's Larger than Life Sculptures
Lanzarote is clearly known for sculpture based on the influences from Manrique. A variety of artistic works can be found all over the island. It's a good excuse to take a walk, get the blood pumping, and explore parts of this beguiling Canary Island that we wouldn't see if we spent our entire 4-day weekend in Lanzarote parked on the beach.
Reflections Enroute #wkendtravelinspiration (link)