Lanzarote is a great choice for a holiday, whether you’re travelling with family, your partner or alone. But look beyond the stunning beaches and crystal-clear waters (even if you do have to drag yourself away) and discover some of the island’s unique and precious treasures.
The Cactus Garden is set in the traditional village of Guatiza. The village was the centre of cochineal production for centuries, during the time that its dye was an extremely valuable commodity.
The site where the garden now stands was a disused rofe quarry (for extracting volcanic gravel). Lanzarote artist, César Manrique – the man behind the island’s sustainable tourism movement as far back as the 1960s – transformed the abandoned site into a beautiful haven of peace and tranquillity, regenerating the area and bringing it back to life.
Wander around it’s winding pathways among cactus of all shapes, sizes and colours, many of are taller than you. Enjoy the sensation of calm that embraces this unique and fascinating garden that blends local lava stone, green vegetation, water features and beautiful architecture.
And if that’s not enough to convince you, here are eight more reasons why you should include the Cactus Garden in your list of things to do in Lanzarote holiday.
1. See over 4,500 cacti in one place
Have you ever seen over 4,500 cacti with 696 species from 17 different families? Well neither had I before visiting the Cactus Garden. And we’re not just talking about the spiky variety, how about furry and bristly textures and bouquets of rose-like blooms? Imagine cactus that look like trees, floor creepers, staggering columns, vibrant flowers and succulent fruits. You’ll see cacti with a whole new perspective!
2. It won the Carlos Scarpa Prize for Gardens
The garden is a landscape gardening masterpiece that perfectly integrates local traditions and the environment. The Benetton Foundation chose the Cactus Garden as winner of their 2017 award as a “‘model of equilibrium between culture and fertile nature.’
3. César Manrique´s natural architecture
Manrique was an artist with architectural training and left magical brushstrokes wherever he turned. He used the original format of the Cactus Garden (a quarry) and transformed it into an amphitheatre for plants. Everything that is manmade has been built with the blacks, red and ochres of Lanzarote’s volcanic rock and is perfectly integrated into its surroundings.
Stroll around the lava stone terraces that adorn the garden walls, a feature you’ll see along many Lanzarote hillsides. Manrique left some of the huge original obelisks, remnants of quarry activity that have been transformed from ugly features into natural works of art amid beautiful vegetation.
4. Spines are awesome
Cacti are amazing plants. Their spines reduce airflow, evaporation and trap moisture from dew to conserve as much water as possible in hot desert climates. They keep predators away, and as incredible as it may seem, their tiny spines even create shade from the hot sun.
We are urged not to touch the cacti, and believe me, you wouldn’t want to!
5. The kids will love “the monster.”
Every garden needs a water feature and it’s even more fun when it looks like a monster! Manrique revealed his sense of humour in his creation of a lava monster with a water cascade pouring from its mouth. The water runs into a lily pond covered by several footbridges leading to the souvenir shop. The sound of the trickling water is so soothing you could sit there for hours!
6. Hungry? Try a cactus burger.
I always like to try local food whenever I can and here it doesn’t get much more local than a cactus burger. Take a break on the bar terrace overlooking the garden and brunch on this delicious yet light burger.
This vegetarian burger is made from the pads of the prickly pear cactus (50%) and potato (50%), along with onion and corn. Put that in a soft tomato sesame bun with rocket, yoghurt sauce and smoked goat’s cheese and you have a delicious, healthy snack.
7. Explore a 240-year-old windmill
This beautiful windmill stands over the garden and was lovingly restored to its original condition and working order. Peek inside and see how it works, the grains that it used to produce and the panoramic views over the garden and ocean.
8. See Manrique’s creativity is wherever you turn
The Cactus Garden is full of tiny (and some huge) details that transmit César Manrique’s incredible imagination. Take the enormous metallic cactus sculpture that greets you at the entrance; the interesting metal male and female figures at the bathrooms; one of his trademark wind sculptures acting as a spire over the souvenir shop; the empty glass water jars that have been turned into lights in the bar/restaurant or the spindly hanging sculptures that adorn its spiral staircase.
This was Manrique’s last intervention before his death in 1992 and he really outdid himself. You now have more than enough reasons to go and check it out!