If you had to describe the Canaries’ most easterly isle in one word, it’d have to be dramatic. You can’t go far without clocking a soaring cliff or volcanic peak. That said, it’s the beaches that draw people in, and there are about 30 kilometres’ worth of them – not to mention off-the-beaten-track spots that never made the official list.
Party-hard Puerto del Carmen
Puerto del Carmen is home to a 6-kilometre stretch of sand that melts into ultra-calm seas. The resort itself is pretty lively, thanks to a 2-mile party strip lined with shops, bars and clubs. On the flip side, you can skip the neon altogether and head for the old town’s tapas bars.
Laid-back Costa Teguise
For something more low-key, Costa Teguise is a good bet. It’s really popular with windsurfers, but is also home to the island’s only waterpark, an 18-hole golf course and a clutch of shops. Three beaches are thrown in, including the white-sand stretch at Los Charcos.
Traditional Playa Blanca
To get a taste of traditional Lanzarote, try Playa Blanca, which means ‘white beach’. Waterside restaurants line the prom here, and the harbour is all quaint, old-world buildings. On the subject of buildings, you’ll be hearing a lot about a certain Cesar Manrique. The architect lobbied for strict planning rules to protect his home turf, and did a sterling job.
Things to See and Do in Lanzarote
Beach-lovers will be in their element in Lanzarote. This little island has miles and miles’ worth of beaches, from Puerto del Carmen’s sweep of dark sand, to golden coves in towns like Playa Blanca and Costa Teguise. And, thanks to Lanzarote’s just-off-the-coast-of-Africa location, you can enjoy them pretty much year-round.
The big beach
The most popular stretch by a mile is Playa Grande, a 6-kilometre strip of sand in Puerto del Carmen. It’s a Blue Flag spot, with calm waters that are perfect for kids. There are plenty of loungers and parasols, and if you’re into watersports you can pick from things like jet-skiing, parasailing and diving. There are also plenty of places to grab a snack if you’re feeling peckish.
The secret beach
If you’re looking to escape the crowds, though, head to Playa las Conchas. It’s not easy to get to, which is why you’ll never find more than a handful of people there. It’s on the island of La Graciosa, a 20-minute ferry ride from Orzola on Lanzarote’s north coast. Once you’re on the island, you can take a 4x4 taxi to the beach, or hire a mountain bike – it’ll take about 40 minutes to pedal over. It’s a travel mag-beautiful spot. The beach is white and made up of sand and tiny bits of shell, the water is a Photoshop shade of turquoise, and at one end stands a huge, red volcano.
Playa Blanca is as chic as they come. Take a wander down El Paseo promenade and you’ll find loads of little high-end boutiques. And at the nearby Marina Rubicón, you’ll find Lacoste, Italian fashion places, and a bunch of perfume and art shops, too. In Puerto del Carmen, the likes of Diesel have stores tucked in among the souvenir shops on Avenida de las Playas.
Markets in Lanzarote don’t get better than the one in Teguise, 15 minutes by car from Costa Teguise. It bursts into life every Sunday when Lanzarote’s biggest street market opens. Stalls are packed with everything from intricate handmade lace to African tribal masks. In Arrecife, there’s a Saturday market near the Church of San Gines – the stalls brim with ceramics and fabrics in every colour you can think of.
The shops along Avenida de las Playas in Puerto del Carmen are as cheap as chips. Rummage around them and you’ll find stuff like bargain beachwear and imitation designer handbags. There are a load of souvenir shops dotted around, too. For something more traditional, drive 20 minutes north to Lanzarote’s capital, Arrecife, where you’ll find handmade pottery and textiles on Calle Leon Y Castillo.
You can make a night of it at the Marina Rubicón, near the harbour in Playa Blanca. There’s a little art gallery that stays open into the evening, and a clutch of restaurants tucked away among the alleys and plazas. Plus, you can walk off your dinner in the pond-dotted gardens here. For something a bit different, take in a concert in a cave at Los Jameos del Agua, a 25-minute drive from Costa Teguise.
For a high-octane night out, Puerto del Carmen beats the competition hands down. You’ll find the main hub of activity on Avenida de las Playas, where Centro Atlantico flexes the biggest muscles. This entertainment complex has floors full of bars, restaurants and clubs. In Costa Teguise, Avenida Islas Canarias has the highest concentration of bars.
No trip to Lanzarote is complete without tucking in to ‘wrinkled potatoes’. In the island’s signature dish, tiny spuds are boiled in their skins, then dried in the pan with salt until they’ve got a really tasty crust on them. They’re best served with a peppery sauce called mojo.
This strong, garlicky sauce is a Lanzarote staple. Pronounced ‘moho’, it comes in two varieties. Mojo rojo is the spiciest, and gets its distinctive red colour from paprika – some chefs also throw in a bit of chilli. If you prefer things milder, go for mojo verde, which is made with coriander or parsley.
Locals gather together in big groups to eat this mix of salted fish and potatoes topped off with salsa and mojo sauce – it’s often served up at fiestas and also on Good Friday. The cook plonks a big pan of it in the middle of the table, and everyone digs in.
In the local lingo, this sweet treat means ‘tastes good to me’, and the creamy concoction of ground almonds, lemon juice and eggs definitely has a following. Locals love to eat it with a generous dollop of ice-cream. Interestingly enough, the recipe came to the Canary Islands from the Middle East.
Instead of growing vines on a trellis, the wine producers in Lanzarote dig a circular hollow in the volcanic earth and let the plants grow along the ground. The best known result of this process is the rich, sweet Malmsey, which tastes a bit like Madeira and tastes great with dessert.