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Thursday, October 20, 2011
Reader Doug Mellon tweeted us about his recent trip to Lanzarote - and here’s his review of an unexpectedly beautiful island.
So, Lanzarote. Quite often when speaking to people, the first, or one of the first questions asked was always: “Are you going there for the nightlife?” or “Are you going there for the clubs?”
How sad that this is a preconception of such a beautiful place. My fianceé and I have just got back from spending a week in Lanzarote.
In terms of a holiday, it had everything that we could ask for. Great location, great weather, points of interest and great food and drink. It also offered us an unforgettable experience, which ultimately, is what it’s all about, right?
It all started off late on a Sunday night, arriving at Arrecife airport at around 10 at night, and being escorted to our own villa for the waeek in the north of the island (near Arrieta, Google it). We were led there by the villa’s owner, known to us as Lanzarote Jill.
The villa was fantastic. Set in the middle of farmland to the north of the island, it was bang in the middle of volcanic landscape, a feature of the island.
It was also only a five-minute walk from the town of Arrieta, which also had its own beach and string of restaurants, beach bars and cafés. We would become better acquainted with these later in the week.
One of the first things we noticed were geckos. These little lizards came out at night in various forms and sizes and were attracted to the white walls on the outside of the villa. Straight away something you would never find back in the UK. We get snails and the odd spider if we’re lucky.
We spotted many of these little creatures during the week.
We weren’t alone in the villa during the week however. And I’m not referring to more geckos, or unexpected house guests.
As odd as it sounds, the villa came part and package with two dogs, Jake and Elvie, and a 17-year-old horse called Sultan. As well as being a villa, the ‘ranch’ was also like a small sanctuary for these animals, which Jill came to feed and maintain every day. We also in turn got to feed them too, and to get to know them ourselves. This was an unexpected element of our holiday, but we loved it.
All in all, the villa was everything we could have asked for whilst we were there. Beautifully set out, beautiful views, strange house guests, great location, and a hot tub. What more could you want?
Enough about the villa. For me the most striking thing I discovered about Lanzarote was the landscapes. The island, along with the other Canary Islands, was altered and changed over the years by volcanic activity. For my fianceé who wrote her dissertation on volcanoes and lava flow patterns, this was brilliant. For me, the visual impact was enough to enjoy.
Most of the main attractions around the island were set out to celebrate this. There were many on offer, such as the Mirador del Rio, los Hervideros, Jameo del Agua (I recommend you Google these too).
These offered great lookouts, cave networks stretching 7km created by lava tubes, breathtaking cliff views.
Then there’s the Timanfaya National Park, or ‘Mountain of Fire’.
If I remember correctly, there was a major eruption on Lanzarote in the 1700s. This was relatively recent in the scale of things, and the eruption covered a great portion of the island in inhospitable, rough lava fields. It also changed much of the island’s landscape forever.
As well as creating some amazing, almost alien landscapes, as a bonus by product a wine industry was created from the ash that covered much of the island. The ash helped to make the soil very fertile; thus creating a wine industry. At least the residents of Lanzarote had some good wine to get over it!
Getting back to Timanfaya, we went on a 45-minute, air-conditioned coach ride (in 40 degree heat this was a point worth mentioning) around the park. It took us on a volcanic sightseeing tour, and I would recommend it to anyone. This was definitely one of the main highlights of our week.
Apart from the great landscapes, Lanzarote also has some amazing beaches. Clear blue waters, set amidst impressive cliffs. Depending on where you were on the island, you could rest on black or white sandy beaches. We went to a few different beaches, including Famara. But my favourite of the week had to be the beach at Papagayo.
Papagayo was towards the south of the island, and was the easily the most quintessentially tropic beach I have ever been on. When I was there, you could easily forget that this place was accessible by Easy Jet!
Apart from the beach itself, the water was amazingly clear. We took with us an underwater, disposable camera. My fianceé took a random picture under the water at Papagayo, only to find when we got the pictures that there were fish all around us in the water. We found this on a lot of the beaches around the island. If we go back someday, which I hope we do, we will definitely bring snorkels.
Lanzarote at nearly every turn was also shaped and defined by a famous local artist, Cesar Manrique. The island’s most famous son, if you like, he was inspired very much by modern art in the Picasso school of thinking and helped to create and make accessible most of the attractions I mentioned above.
He is well worth looking up on Wikipedia. He, from what I saw during the week, loved the landscape of the island, so much so his own house was built into a lava tube!
We also found in Lanzarote, that the locals definitely know how to eat and drink well. For me, this is always a good thing! The seafood on offer during the week was fabulous, and the locals, like us Brits, love their chicken. Rather oddly, for such a hot place, they absolutely love doughnuts and Churros (like long, stretched out Carnival doughnuts).
The local dish was Canary-style potatoes, or ‘papas arragadas’. These are basically new potatoes, cooked in sea water and boiled dry. This creates very salty, fluffy new potatoes. Along with the great sea food, and the views in the restaurants available, the meals we had during the week were pretty special.
Wrapping it up, I will say that there is an awful lot to do and see in Lanzarote. Anyone who goes there purely to go clubbing is missing out hugely.
At one stage we drove through Puerto del Carmen (Lanzarote’s equivalent of Great Yarmouth or Blackpool), and lost count of the number of Irish pubs we saw, and a bar called ‘Linekers’. We also saw our first McDonalds of the week.
Always a bad omen when you see this.
This depressed us a little to think how much a lot of tourists coming to the island are missing out on.
Lanzarote was a real gem. I say to anyone, throw away any stereotypes created by the 18-30 crowd. It’s very easy to avoid this part of the island and what it offers. For the price of a return ticket on Easy Jet, you won’t be disappointed.