Lanzarote is renowned for its incredible beaches, unique volcanic landscape and amazing year-round warm, sunny climate. For the majority of people, especially tourists who come and stay for a week in the main resorts of the island, this is the image they are most familiar with. For those looking for an antidote to the stresses of "normal life", then a week spent relaxing by the pool, or lounging on the beach in Puerto Del Carmen, Playa Blanca or Costa Teguise is a perfect option. If you have a longer holiday in Lanzarote booked, or would love to explore more of the island though, a great way to do this is by renting a car and going for an adventure!
In comparison to some of the other Canary Islands such as Tenerife, Lanzarote is relatively small, and you can drive from the most southern, to the northernmost point in under two hours. Due to the low population, you can enjoy safe, quiet driving conditions along modern, well-maintained roads. Driving in Lanzarote is a far cry from the busy streets of most other tourist locations across Europe and on many of the roads you will rarely see another car. Driving bliss!
For such a small island though, you will be amazed by the contrasts you can find here. The majority of the resorts are in the south of the island where the more tourist friendly beaches are located, with convenient and regular public transport links. By car though, you can easily explore the more secluded north of the island, and you will no longer need to rely on waiting for buses or paying for expensive taxis to get around. Instead you can take things at your own pace, decide where and when to stop for a look around and see areas of the island that many tourists don’t manage to experience. When driving around Lanzarote, there are so many amazing photo opportunities you can discover along almost any stretch of road, such as lava fields, volcanoes, beautiful beaches and stunning cliff views out to the ocean.
While rainfall in Lanzarote is generally very infrequent due to it’s low altitude and geographical location, on occasions there can be large downpours. These generally don’t last long but provide a lot of much needed water for the island’s plant life. Around this time last year, I decided to rent a car with some friends to take a drive to the north from Costa Teguise where they were staying. Due to heavy rainfall a month prior to our trip, much of the island had changed dramatically from a barren landscape to a verdant green. As we drove north from Costa Teguise, the transformation of the island was incredible! Although the unique volcanic landscape of the island is amazing, it does look even more beautiful when it bursts into life.
We stopped the car in the village of Haria to take some photos, and marvel at the change. We were amazed to see actual green grass covering many of the fields and hills which is a side to Lanzarote that many people never get to see. We literally had to lie down in the grass just to be sure we weren't imagining it! The fields reminded me of a savanna on an African plain, and interspersed bushes and trees made it look even more amazing. Even when the grass isn’t so green, Haria already has one of the most visually stunning surroundings of the island, as it lies in what is known as the “Valley of 1,000 Palms” named because of the number of palm trees there.
It has been said that back in the 17th and 18th centuries, to celebrate the birth of a child, villagers planted palm trees, either two for a boy or one for a girl. The backdrop to this valley is the Risco de Famara, the island’s tallest mountain range which at it’s highest point stands at 671 metres tall. Despite the grassy fields, made green and verdant by the recent rain, the striking white buildings of the village, the stunning volcanic cliff backdrop and the abundant palm trees all help to remind you that this is definitely not an ordinary place. In fact Haria, is unlike almost anywhere else in the world!
We had decided that it was a good idea to check out the Mirador del Río viewing gallery, designed by the brilliant Lanzarote-born artist and architect César Manrique. This is located in the far north-west of the island and offers incredible views across to the small neighbouring island of La Graciosa, making it well worth the small entrance fee. Inside there is a restaurant/cafe where you can sit and enjoy the stunning vista through the huge specially designed viewing window. Despite the breeze and slight chill in the air, we decided to step outside onto the massive balcony which looks straight down the cliff. Be warned though, this can induce a feeling of vertigo and is not for the faint hearted!
The vista is breathtaking and one of the best views on the whole of Lanzarote and indeed the Canary Islands in general. We had also arrived at the perfect time as it was about half an hour from sunset, and wow, what a sunset! Without a doubt this was one of the best sunsets I have ever seen which was enhanced by the amazing location. Rays of light shone through the clouds giving the impression of light shining down from heaven. There was a large group of people there, and like us they were all mesmerised. Of course everyone was taking photos and videos as well, to show friends and family back home. It was moments like that, that really made me feel blessed to be living in Lanzarote!
After this incredible light show ended we drove back via the outstanding old capital city of Teguise to catch the end of the Saborea Lanzarote food tasting festival. This is a massive weekend long festival that happens every year on the island. Restaurants, cafes and independent food stores and market stall owners each have a stall and sell tapas and drinks for 1 euro each (or 2 euro for the more elaborate items). This is a perfect way to sample the delicious food that exists here on the island and it is hugely popular with residents and tourists alike. Thousands of people attend this event every year which is excellently organised and much loved.
We sampled some of the tapas including sweet potato fries, mexican wraps, and gofio desert. We decided these would be a good starter before heading to La Cantina restaurant, also in Teguise. This is one of the most popular restaurants on the island with delicious food and a great atmosphere. Almost all the tables were full but we were lucky enough to get a table just as we arrived. The aubergine bake was excellent!
While you will undoubtedly enjoy any holiday in Lanzarote, as you can tell it is well worth renting a car and exploring more of the island, as you can find some truly incredible sights. You should definitely not miss out on a drive around the North of the island to stunning locations such as Haria, and Mirador del Rio for a incredible sunset that will truly take your breath away.