Lanzarote is considered the idiosyncratic beauty of the Canary Islands, because the island is blessed with a charm that some initially perceive as a bit bitter. But on closer inspection, it is the force of the elements that give Lanzarote a very unique flair. The volcanic origins put humility, but also creativity, in the cradle of the locals.
Anyone who has not seen Fire Mountains in Timanfaya National Park cannot imagine the power of the eruptions that devastated entire regions there. But this lunar landscape is also an important part of the island and a destination for tourists from all over the world.
In the following we present you the most exciting tours, most beautiful attractions and best sights in Lanzarote.
1. Timanfaya National Park
This is the largest contiguous lava field on earth, and it was the volcanic eruptions between 1730 and 1736 that completely changed the once fertile landscape. For those six years, Lanzarote has been a quarter under a thick layer of solidified lava. The eruptions created almost thirty volcanic cones, which are marked on the maps as “Montanas del Fuego”, the mountains of fire. The island’s authorities are very careful not to change the appearance of the Timanfaya National Park.
Visitors are driven by buses through this impressive desert of ash, and nobody is allowed to take one of the countless lava stones home with them. In this region the crew of the American Apollo flights were prepared for their moon landing, and the park also served as the backdrop for the legendary film “Planet of the Apes”. The Islote de Hilario visitor center demonstrates how thin the earth’s crust is. Temperatures are already very high at a depth of just a few meters. The Fire Mountains are one of the most important sights in Lanzarote.
2. Mirador del Rio
One of the most spectacular sights on the island is the grandiose landscape in the north of Lanzarote, where the Famara Mountains drop steeply to the sea and where the Mirador del Rio is like an eagle’s nest. This is one of the most interesting works by the genius artist César Manrique. Visitors to Lanzarote encounter its apparently inexhaustible power of ideas at many points. Even in the form of oversized wind turbines at the intersections.
The Mirador del Rio at the Bateria del Norte was built on the spot where cannons were stationed during the American-Spanish war, because this was a strategically important point in Lanzarote. From there, in the Middle Ages, pirates’ ships could also be made out when they approached the offshore island of La Graciosa. Today visitors will find a cafeteria and hang-glider launch site here.
3. Jameos del Agua
Lanzarote’s guests sometimes argue about which of the many interesting works by César Manrique leaves the greatest admirers. Undoubtedly, the Jameos del Agua volcanic cave is a sight and an exceptional destination on the island. It is a lava tunnel that Manrique transformed into a kind of total work of art with astonishing ideas.
The cave system was formed about three thousand years ago when the Monte Corona erupted. When Manrique saw the tunnel for the first time, it was a waste disposal site for rubbish, but the artist soon recognized the peculiarity of the Jameos del Agua. During their tour today, visitors pass a salt lake, huge subtropical plants and even a concert hall. Above ground, a swimming pool completes the complex.
4. Jardín de Cactus (cactus garden)
A former pit, which the surrounding farmers dismantled in order to sprinkle their fields with the picon obtained there, became another “playground” for César Manrique.
Picon was used to keep the fields moist at night and was therefore very popular.
But Manrique used the shape of the pit, which had been transformed into an amphitheater over the decades, to create a garden with succulents here at the exit of Guatiza. Some of the prickly plants have now reached astonishing proportions. A historic Gofio mill sits enthroned above everything – a great eye-catcher in a garden with over 1,400 different species of cactus.
5. Fundación César Manrique
César Manrique, the imaginative artist and architect, is undoubtedly Lanzarote’s greatest son. The Fundación César Manrique is located where he lived and worked after 1968 and his return from New York. This is an idiosyncratic yet fantastic house in a picturesque lava landscape.
Manrique decided to live above and below ground, with the five cavities of a former lava tunnel being particularly imaginative. Manrique knew how to shape nature and art into a harmonious unit. The Fundación is a very good example of this. Just a few meters from his home, Manrique was fatally injured in a traffic accident on September 25, 1992.
About 55,000 people live in the island’s capital, Arrecife. Most of them make a living from tourism. A number of hotels and guest houses were built near the beach boulevard. Arrecife means something like “reef”, which means the numerous rocks off the coast of the city.
They protect against the often unpredictable tidal waves of the Atlantic. Arrecife exudes a serene serenity. When visiting, you should visit the parish church and stroll down the shopping street with its restaurants and bars.
7. La Geria wine region
Even viticulture on Lanzarote could have sprung from the think tank of César Manrique, because in the La Geria region the vines grow out of a depression. You have the advantage that the moisture of the night collects there on this sun-kissed island. The plants are surrounded by small stone walls. So the wine is protected from the constantly blowing wind. La Geria can be found on the karst hills above Puerto del Carmen and has been designated as a nature reserve by the authorities.
After the volcanic activity in the 18th century, the winegrowers struggled to give their vines a new chance of survival. They were successful and today they present a wine made from the Malvasia grape that meets international standards. This region is undoubtedly one of the attractions of this island. It is worth enjoying a red or white drop of grape juice in the more than twenty bodegas.
8. Puerto del Carmen
The resorts and hotels stretch over seven kilometers along the coast near Puerto del Carmen. Less than half a century ago, the young town consisted only of mostly dilapidated fishing huts. “La Tinosa” is what the people of Lanzarote call the area around the small port. Which means something like “The Shabby”.
Hardly anyone could have imagined at the time that a complete change would take place there. Today Puerto del Carmen is a tourist highlight. Perhaps because Manrique also had an influence here and the houses could not grow higher than four floors. A building regulation that was and is conducive to the overall impression of the place.
9. El Golfo
If you want to enjoy authentic Lanzarote, you should go to the small fishing village of El Golfo on the rocky coast of the west. And when you have reached the white houses there, the bizarre volcanic landscape of the Timanfaya Mountains remains.
There are some rural accommodations here and, above all, exquisite gastronomy. The fish restaurants on the beach and on the edge of the sandy alleys are famous for the variety and quality of their products. The evenings there are particularly romantic when the sun sinks into the sea.
10. Valley of a Thousand Palms
It is by no means “a thousand palm trees” that thrive in the protected valley of Haria, but there are certainly a few hundred. The area is extremely rich in water and therefore offers a very good breeding ground for the “Phoenix Canariensis”, the Canarian palm.
A liqueur is made from the sugary dates in Haria, which is said to be helpful in treating bronchial diseases. César Manrique found his final resting place in the small village with its green ridges and the tranquil Plaza León y Castillo.