Lanzarote away from the tourists

A trip to the Canary Islands means delightful beaches, long bright sunny days, white volcanic wine and chilling out in the middle of the ocean. But it also means hordes of tourists from all of Europe and Asia, beach bars and pubs. The islands offer something for everyone’s taste, even for those who, like Ana and myself, are looking for interesting places where we can enjoy ourselves and don’t need to elbow our way through. This was our experience in Lanzarote.

Is it really possible to find a peaceful spot in Lanzarote?

Of course! We managed to find an apartment in a quiet area in Costa Teguise, a 10 minute drive away from Arrecife. Costa Teguise is a good alternative to the crowded tourist places – and therefore less authentic – like Arrecife or Playa Blanca. Just bear in mind that the beaches in Costa Teguise are smaller and windier than those in the south or the lesser known – yet sublime – Charcas in the north. But the peace of mind of going out knowing you’ll find a parking space and be able to have dinner at your own rhythm… well, that’s just priceless!

Lanzarote is also one of the less visited of the great islands in the archipelago (just imagining the crowds in Gran Canaria or Tenerife makes us shiver), and it has definitely preserved that natural and special soul that we look for on our trips. Don’t forget to visit our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to find out why Lanzarote brought back so many memories from the Atacama Dessert in Chile!

If you are looking for an extraordinary place to stay, have a look at Airbnb, some of the places there will make you dream!

Playa Quemada (in the South) isn’t a real beach, but it deserves a photo stop.

How long should I stay? How can I move around?

Well, it depends on the rhythm you want to take, but a stay of 4 to 10 days is ideal for Lanzarote. Even if pure tourist attractions are not excessive in number, many other spots deserve a visit and you’ll find many small villages where to roam and stroll for a while.

If your budget allows it, we highly recommend hiring a car (we’ve always found nice offers with Autoescape). Lots of nice little villages lost in the middle of nowhere and spectacular lookout viewpoints are only reachable by car, and all the roads on the island are in a perfect state. Crossing the island from north to south won’t take more than one our, and the price of petrol is even lower than in continental Spain, so don’t hesitate to go all over it. If you’d rather not drive, public transport isn’t that bad, but you’ll lose some freedom and lots of time. The choice is only yours.

The roads in Lanzarote are just great, and they’ll take you through magnificent landscapes.

Ideally, spending the morning in cultural visits and the afternoon under the sun should suit everyone. Don’t forget to buy combo tickets to visit different attractions for fewer euros – which you may want to invest later in a delicious white volcanic malvasia wine in front of the sea. The combo tickets available are for 3, 4 or 5 sites. You can find all the details and prices in the official tourism web.

What’s there to visit?

Loads of things! Lanzarote has many natural spots that will leave you breathless. But crowds of tourists are frequent during high season, so if you are an early bird you’ll skip the lines and the waiting – don’t worry, you can make up for it with a nice siesta on the beach.

Timanfaya National Park – or Fire Mountains

Located in the center of Lanzarote, Timanfaya is one of the inevitable places to visit. After going through access control, continue driving for a couple of miles until you get to the visitor center. There you’ll be asked to park your car on an esplanade and get on a official bus. This is the only possible way to visit the area – an absolute shame as the windows of the bus reflect enormously and half of your pictures will be just rubbish. But look on the bright side,and try to enjoy the visit for it’s short and the place is plainly amazing. After the bus tour, the visitor center offers two or three attractions, like geysers, fire that light up all by itself due to the high temperatures underground, potates cooked just with geothermal energy, and so on. A nice experience!

One of the craters in Timanfaya – notice the reflections from the bus windows.
A great volcanic valley in Timanfaya.
Showing the power of geysers.

La Geria (the Wine Route)

It is undoubtedly one of the Lanzarote’s most special and odd spots, and also one of our favourites. The road linking Uga and Mogaza goes through the valley of La Geria, the wine area of Lanzarote. It is a volcanic valley where vine growers from three or four wineries obtain an exquisite white wine from volcanice malvasia grapes. The strong contrast between the black volcanic stone and the islands of green vines make of this spot a unique place in the world, both surprising and delightful, really different from the usual wine landscapes of France or California. We couldn’t resist to the beauty of the place and we stopped three or four times along the way to take some pictures. But be careful: the wind in this valley is particularly strong, so pay attention to your camera and phone, the doors of the car, and girls, bring a hair band and mind your summer skirts!

Black and green contrast in the Valley of La Geria.
Another panoramic view of this impressive landscape.

Yaiza, Tias, Guinate, Ye and Teguise

Since we decided to hire a car, we were free to roam around the island and to visit (almost) every village that usually go unnoticed among crowd tourists. It is frequent to find small flea markets, artisans and regional products – mojo sauce, aloe cera, cactus, etc. The most salient market is that in Teguise, every Sunday morning from 9 am to 2 pm, filled with local products, souvernirs and other more common articles. It’s a good way to visit the village, just consider arriving early enough – we had breakfast directly there.

On the other side, remember that the villages are usually quite small and there’s not a lot to visit, so you will be able to visit more than one or two in just one morning. We just stopped on the way to the major attractions.

Haria deserves a good walk.
Haria’s main square is small but lovely. There’s even an underground gallery.
Go along the route after Guinate to find an impressive secret viewpoint from the cliffs and over La Graciosa.

Charco de los Clicos (or the Green Lagoon)

It’s a magical place, no doubt, that is worth visiting for several reasons: it is free; it offers wonderful photographic options with its contrast of green, black, blue and red; and the nearby village hosts many restaurants and cafés with lovely views by the sea. Notice that it’s a rocky area and the beaches are not adapted, but the detour is worth it, believe us!

Beautiful contrast of colors in the Green Lagoon.
The little cove before the lagoon is somewhat charming.

Orzola and the north coast (with its charcones)

The charcones are one of the island’s best kept secrets, where most tourists won’t even stop. Too bad for them! They are among our favourite places on the island – we even went there three or four times! They are natural pools in the sea, protected by the rocks from waves and cold currents. Some are more spectacular than others, to each his own, but our choice was the Charca de la Novia (literally, the Puddle of the Bride), a few miles away from Orzola. Just notice some charcones are clothing-optional.

A bit of paradise away from tourists.
With its white sand beach and crystal-clear shallow water, the Charca de la Novia is a haven of peace and quiet.

Caleta de Famara

It’s the surfers’ paradise, thanks to its strong winds and great waves. You will find people practising water sports all day long. The village nearby is quite small but it’s worth a walk on the beach, and maybe a go in one of the numerous surf and kitesurf schools.

The windy Caleta de Famara is not the best place for a calm bath.
The village has beatiful sights to offer as well.

Beaches and other places to bathe

There are lots of beaches of different sizes and shapes all along the coast, east or west, north or south, but beware! for they”” all different. As we said before, we stayed in Costa Teguise, a more or less quite area but without nice beaches – the strong wind spoils everything. Don’t hesitate to move around because some beaches are just unique. Caleta de Famara, in the west, is best for surfing and other sports, with several schools and strong constant wind – which makes it quite uncomfortable for those who look for a place to relax. Taking pictures in the village and the beach is almost inevitable, but it’s definitely not a place to stay.

If you’re looking forward to a nice bath and hot sun, the best choice are the south beaches, usually windless and much comfortable for cold-natured girls (Anaïs was just delighted). Playa Papagayo is probably the most famous one, and if you choose your timing and way appropriately, you won’t find too many people. The beach is really beautiful and you’ll get several hours of calm and sunbathing. There are two options to get there: you can either pay the entrance fee and access on your car through a 2-mile road, or you can park on the edge of town and walk for some 20 minutes under the sun.

Papagayo Beach is a safe bet if you’re looking for sun.

On the other side of the island, we found the Charca de la Novia in the north, a delightful place composed of dreamy white sand and warm clear waters, ideal for a picnic and a quiet afternoon.

Jameos del Agua

It’s one of the main attractions of Lanzarote, and it’s worth its price. A jameo is basically a tunnel formed by lava after a volcanic eruption, and you’ll find several of these on the island. In Jameos del Agua there’s also a restaurant and a concert hall where concerts and DJ sessions are held twice a week. You’ll also find a small museum – a little old-fashioned – about volcanology and seismology. The museum is not particularly interesting, but the place is well worth a visit.

The very tourist Jameos del Agua deserves its fame
The artificial pool – not suitable for bathing – becomes a nice oasis in the middle of volcanic ground
View of the sea from the Jameos

Cave of the Verdes

It’s one of the other tourist places you’ll “have to visit”, according to every guide. It’s a great cave, whose 40-min visit is obligatorily guided and in big groups. It’s not bad, there are nice little places and secrets, but it’s far from spectacular. Really crowded.

The well-kept secret of the cave, no wonder it’s the pivotal point of the visit.
Funny rock formations inside the cave.

Mirador del Rio and Caleta del Mojon Blanco

We highly recommend visiting the Mirador del Rio (literally, Lookout viewpoint of the River) at sunset, as the views of the sun setting over La Graciosa island will get impressed on your memory for  a long, long time. It’s simply magical. Just a little tip: the official Lookout is open only until 5:30pm, but the view is exactly the same and totally free if you just walk down the road. Otherwise, the price is 4,5€.

The views from the side road next to the official Mirador and over La Graciosa island. Clear days are rare, and the sea mist adds to the mysticism of the image.
Official entrance to the Mirador.

Cactus garden

It was unthinkable to end our adventure on the island withouth visiting the Cactus Garden (Jardin de Cactus). It’s a little away from the other tourist attractions, but it is extremely well looked after and impressive to your eyes – and maybe to other parts of your body if you don’t watch your step! There are thousands of different species, from the tiniest and cutest to the greatest and majestic. We had a 60-minute walk, pampering ourselves with the magnificent sights and taking great pictures. There’s also a bar – although we didn’t dare ask if they served cactus cocktails -, and the price is just €4,50.

With over 7200 cactus, the Garden is a surprising delight.
The beautiful 1100 species from all over the world create a great ensemble.
And, since it’s located in an old mine, there’s no wind – something to be thankful for!

Salinas del Janubio

Here you’ll find some beautiful sights over a salt lake with the sea in the background, a fantastic opportunity to take nice pictures. There’s also a small improvised shop where you’ll be able to buy some salt and some other things, but unfortunately the salt factory in itself is not open to the public. There’s a good restaurant with a nice viewpoint over the salinas where you’ll find tasty fish and papas arrugas.

The sights are spectacular, but we missed the possibilty of visiting the factory.
There’s a little shop in a hangar after the main entrance.

And what about the Aloe Vera?

Et voilà! It’s impossible to talk about Lanzarote and not mention the Aloe Vera. You’ll find it everywhere on the island – nice job in the tourist department – and in all shapes: plants, gel, products for every part of your body, even in drinks. There are several museums of the Aloe and they are all free, small and interesting to discover the countless qualities and benefits of this plant come from heaven. Frankly, do not hesitate to roam the shops and buy some of their products, as their quality is excellent and the prices very reasonable. Our favourite is their pure Aloe Vera gel (97% pure) which cures and regenerates everything concerning your skin – and we mean everything. You can also buy a small plant – but you may prefer to do that in the shop after you go through security control at the airport, for the same price, which will save you transporting the plant all over the island and through baggage control. We learnt there that only three or four types of Aloe Vera do have healing properties (among thousands of varieties), so be careful and choose only products made with Aloe Barbadensis.

The museum entrance.
An Aloe plantation at sunset.
The contrast of rocks and aloe against the sun creates beautiful images.

Helpful Hints

There are some tricks that will save you a couple of euros while visiting Lanzarote. For example, it isn’t worthy paying the entrance to Mirador del Rio, as you will enjoy the same view if you walk down the side road for a couple of yards. Bear this in mind when you buy your combo ticket for tourist attractions.

Specially if you like driving , don’t hesitate to hire a car and take every single route, even the crookedest and narrowest ones, like the one that continues after the Tropical Park in Guinate, and get your camera ready to take some spectacular pictures. The views from the cliffs in the west is just breathtaking.

Favour the beaches of the south for a warm windless bath, and those in the nort for picture-taking and tourist-less spots.

The wind is constant all through the island. Windless days are rare and too hot, so always carry a jacket or a windbreak with you.

When you go visit the towns and villages, remember that they are small and don’t expect to spend several hours there. They are usually short visits or a 30-minute walk.

couverts_couleurYummy

And what about food? Well, our favourite dish is the famous papas arrugas (literally, wrinkled potatoes), an island delicacy, steamed and compulsorily served with mojo verde and mojo picon (the two traditional sauces). Both are quite gentle and suitable for most palates, so don’t be afraid to taste. The gofio (grilled flour) can be found in a number of dishes. And since we are in the middle of the ocean, fish and seafood are logically excellent, so you’ll find good and varied gastronomic options.

Delicious papas arrugas with mojo verde and mojo picon.

And you what food did you like in Lanzarote?

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