Lanzarote is the most unusual of the Canary Islands and with over 300 extinct volcanoes and a few smouldering ones, its landscape is famously lunar-like in appearance. The signs of the volcanic activity of past times are never far away, and they just add to the amazing experience of a holiday on this amazing island.
When you have recovered from the unique sight-seeing experience of the lava fields, the beaches will always beckon, whether you choose the large expanses of sand on the east coast to the tiny sheltered coves on the south-western tip of the island. The main beach resorts on the island are at Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise where all the big hotels are clustered. However they are worth a visit for the first class facilities for many water-sports ranging from water-skiing to ocean-fishing, as well as trips on and under the water. Some of the most beautiful natural beaches on Lanzarote are the famous Playas de Papagayo, near to Playa Blanca in the south where you will find peace and tranquility around the calm, turquoise waters. Another protected beach Playa de Famara in the north of the island is a vast expanse of golden sand with cliffs offering a stunning backdrop. No swimming here; due to the strong undertow and the crashing waves, the only people entering the water are experienced surfers. It's a good place for a walk though!
While the beaches are one of the main attractions there are plenty of opportunities for walking and sightseeing on Lanzarote which has some beautiful scenery, interesting towns and villages and amazing places to explore. Although there has been an increase in tourism to the Canary Islands, strict guidelines on development have meant that Lanzarote has managed to preserve its natural beauty by insisting on the design of low-rise buildings which complement the landscape. Cesar Manrique, Lanzarote's famous artist and designer, was involved in the preservation of much of Lanzarote's heritage and landscape and many examples of his works can be seen all over the island. One example is the Mirador del Río situated in the northern part of Lanzarote. Built in the early 1970's it is sculpted into the mountain at around 500 metres above sea level, providing a observation terrace and café with spectacular views to the small inhabited island of La Graciosa and two tiny islets of Montaña Clara and Alegranza. You can also walk down to the beach below; if you have a head for heights!
Arrecife is a natural harbour protected by a barrier of islets and reefs. It became the capital of Lanzarote in 1852 taking over from its predecessor Teguise. Half the inhabitants of the island live and work in Arrecife and although not a particularly tourist city it does have several places of interest to visit such as "La Casa de Los Arroyos", an old patriarchal residence which has been declared Historical Monument. The original heart of the city is El Charco de San Ginés where the parish church of San Ginés is a focal point of festivities in the city. Historically the most interesting building of Arrecife is the Castillo de San Gabriele. Built in the 16th century on a small off-shore island, it was used as a defence against the constant attack of pirates and is now an observatory. Also worth visiting is the Castillo de San José built in the 18th Century now housing the Museum of Contemporary Art where several works of Cesar Manrique can be seen.
The former capital Teguise is an ancient hill top town full of attractive old houses and narrow cobbled streets. With over 500 years of history, which the town has proudly preserved, it has become one of the most important cultural and tourist centres on the island. Situated in the main square are several buildings of interest. "El Palacio de Spínola" was built in the 18th century and carefully restored under the supervision of Cesar Manrique and across the square the 16th Century "El Convento de San Francisco" one of the most important religious buildings on the island now the town art gallery. On Sundays the church square becomes the venue of a large market offering local crafts as well more exotic goods. "Timples", traditional Canarian instruments similar to small guitars are manufactured and sold in the town and are very popular as souvenirs. Dominating the town is the 16th century Castillo de Santa Barbara, which now houses the Museo del Emigrante (Museum of Canarian Emigration). It is built on top of the extinct volcano of Guanapay and from here you can enjoy spectacular views of the Teguise valley, the coast and to the island of Fuerteventura.
Of all the Canary Islands, Lanzarote has the least annual rainfall with hardly a day without sunshine all year round. Despite its low rainfall the islanders are still able to grow fruit and vegetables thanks to the volcanic ash which absorbs water from the air at night. These methods can be observed in the wine-growing region of La Geria in the south of the island where each vine is planted in its own circular depression in the ash and sheltered from the extremes of sun and wind by little dry-stone walls called zocos. It is here that the Canary Islands' most famous wine, Malvasia is produced. Haria in the north is the most fertile region of Lanzarote also known as the valley of the thousand palm trees. In this region is the large volcano Monte Corona which erupted about 3000 years ago forming a system of tunnels and caves some 6000 m length which are the longest in the world. "Cueva de los Verdes" (The Green Caves) were once used as a refuge from the invading pirates and can be visited on a guided tour. "Los Jameos del Agua" is a section of these tunnels where Cesar Manrique created a unique volcanic grotto paradise with a concert hall, restaurant, bars and subterranean lagoon. Next door is "Casa de los Volcanos" (House of the Volcanoes) a information centre about volcanoes throughout the world and on the Canary Islands in particular.
Most visitors to Lanzarote visit the National Park of Timanfaya with its famous Fire Mountain, numerous volcanoes, and lava fields. Las Montañas del Fuego, was the centre of the volcanic catastrophe which occurred between 1730 and 1736 that destroyed whole villages and largely created the geography that we see today. You can drive up to the park and then take a camel ride or bus among the moonlike craters and also visit the restaurant which cooks by the natural heat of the volcano. Another interesting place to visit is El Golfo (the Gulf) a half submerged volcano filled by the emerald green sea, forming a unique lagoon. The black sand beach contrasts starkly with the green water, creating a spectacular view.
With its many excellent beaches, reliable climate and interesting places to explore, Lanzarote makes the perfect destination for a holiday at any time of the year.