Lanzarote’s reliably glorious weather, abundance of beaches, and all inclusive purpose-built resorts like Playa Blanca and Puerto del Carmen make it one of the UK’s favourite holiday destinations. However, if you’re looking for a little more adventure in between your beach days and cocktail hours, then this Canary Island has a number of a visual treasures that you won’t want to miss.
When you imagine going on a vineyard tour, you usually picture neat rows of lush foliage that stretch across rolling, verdant hills. The landscape in Lanzarote would once have resembled something quite similar, however after the island’s 18th-century volcanic eruptions, the terrain was completely overrun with plains of sandy black ash. The people of Lanzarote didn’t give up on their crops though, they dug deeper into the earth and surrounded the craters with low stone walls to protect the plants from the unforgiving winds, making the La Geria vineyards look like a scene from an alien planet. You can visit the various bodegas in the area for tours and tastings: we recommend El Grifo, which also houses a museum built in typical Canarian style, featuring white walls and wooden ceilings.
Salinas de Janubio
At one time, sea salt was a crucial harvest in the Canary Islands, especially for the fishermen who used it to preserve their hauls. Today, the ease of refrigeration and other factors mean that many of the working salt factories in the archipelago have closed. Luckily, Salinas de Janubio in Lanzarote is still up-and-running, and you can take a guided tour of the flats, which includes a ‘Flavors of Janubio’ tasting. One of the most spectacular ways to see the saltworks though, is from the nearby restaurant Mirador de las Salinas, or from the main road between Yaiza and Playa Blanca. The pastel pink geometric pattern of the pans and the snowy white cones make for a fascinating view. The salt is dyed and used to make vibrant patterned carpets during the Feast of Corpus Christi, which takes place in the capital of Arrecife every year.
Timanfaya National Park
It’s rumoured that the scorched, dusty, and rust-coloured vista of Timanfaya National Park was shown to Apollo 17 pilots to prepare them for what they might find on the moon. While it might not look like it, there’s plenty to see and do within the 20 square mile UNESCO world biosphere reserve, including geyser demonstrations – created by pouring water into the ground where temperatures reach phenomenal levels just below the surface. There are also rare plants, the Montanas del Fuego (fire mountains), and of course, the dormant Timanfaya volcano, which caused a lot of trouble between 1730 and 1736. Don’t miss the tourist centre designed by Lanzarote native Cesar Manrique, which features a natural oven in the visitor’s cafe.
Jardin de Cactus
Long before hipsters were to thank for a spike in cacti sales, Cesar Manrique cultivated the wild and wacky Jardin de Cactus in a disused quarry in his beloved Lanzarote. The artist, architect and activist worked on the project for 20 years before its completion in 1990, just two years before his tragic death. You’ll find the garden in a quiet part of the island, in the northeastern village of Guatiza. Wander beneath lanky saguaros straight out of a wild west movie, and watch your step for globular golden barrels. After you’ve admired the prickly exhibits (look but don’t touch!), you can refresh in the onsite restaurant and then visit the gift shop, where you’ll find an assortment of species, plus natural products made with the previously misunderstood flora.
Charco de los Clicos
In the west of the island, near the petite town of El Golfo, is an emerald green lake. Nicknamed Charco de los Clicos (green lagoon), this body of water formed in the crater of an extinct volcano where algae at the bottom makes the liquid glow viridescent. The pool is now classed as a nature reserve, which means that you can’t swim or paddle, but you can take photos. It’s recommended that you visit in the late afternoon, so that you can witness the sun sinking below the sea and the way the hues of the sunset transform the scenery. After you’ve snapped and ‘Grammed, you can head into the quaint fishing town of El Golfo, where you’ll find a golden selection of seafront restaurants that specialise in the freshest melt-in-the-mouth seafood.
Cueva de los Verdes
Our next wonder is down under. The Cueva de los Verdes, or green caves, came about around 3000 years ago when the volcano, Monte Corona, erupted – the lava at the surface of the earth cooled and solidified while molten lava continued to flow beneath, forming an epic tunnel that contains at least 16 smaller caves. Cesar Manrique contributed to the conservation of the tunnel, he worked with artist Jesus Soto – who was an expert in lighting – to make them fit for the public to explore. The formations glow fascinating shades of yellow, green and black, and there’s even a concert hall, where the acoustics are out-of-this-world. Rock on!
If you’ve always wanted to try scuba diving, but never been quite brave enough, then Jason deCaires Taylor’s underwater installation, Museo Atlantico, might tempt you below the surface. Opened in 2017, this 2500 square metre dive site is peppered with sculptures that provoke thoughts on the modern world – the Raft of Lampedusa is indicative of the migrant crisis, while figures (modelled on Lanzarote residents) walk towards a wall, transfixed by their mobile phones and tablets in The Rubicon. The statues are pH neutral, which means that over time they will help a new artificial reef to blossom. Eerie and arresting, Museo Atlantico is a dive to remember – a free-diving couple recently got engaged within the complex!