Winter on the beach: Lanzarote
It’s still T-shirt weather on this sunny Canary Island. Simone Kane offers a guide to its attractions
Sunday 13 December 2009
Wild blue seas crash onto black sands at
El Golfo – a sight to behold – though white or golden beaches are more usual on this Canary island. One particularly attractive sweep of sand is
Playa Grande, with its rows of striped umbrellas and palm-lined promenade, which keeps the package tourists happy in the island's oldest and largest resort, Puerto del Carmen. But the locals prefer
Playa de la Garita, in Arrieta, a gentle curve of sand with shallow water that's perfect for children. Strong tides and currents around the island are a permanent danger, so beware of swimming too far off shore. The east coast is a surfer's playground – learn to windsurf at
Playa de las Cucharas on Costa Teguise or ride the waves at
Playa de Famara.
The urban scene
Once a sleepy fishing port, the capital, Arrecife, still has a low-key vibe, despite the island's airport being on its outskirts. The town beach – Playa de Reducto – is encircled by a pleasant promenade and the town centre has a selection of small boutiques to browse. Check out the gallery Castillo de San Jose and Museo Internacional del Arte Contemporaneo, housed in an 18th-century castle. Its restoration was instigated by late artist Cesar Manrique, Lanzarote's most famous son. Inland, Teguise is the island's oldest town and was the capital until 1852. Admire the colonial-style architecture as you stroll along the stone-paved streets, which are generally quiet – apart from on Sundays, when the huge weekly market pitches up and brings in tourists en masse. Approached from the south, the palm-studded village of Haria suddenly appears like an oasis in the mountains. On Saturday mornings you can shop at the best crafts market on the island, then enjoy tapas with the locals in a bar.
In a prime position perched above the beach, the laid back Amanacer bar, on the outskirts of Arrieta, serves up a menu that changes daily of fish and tapas dishes such as fiery chorizo and fried squid – all cooked fresh to order and at locals' prices. Finish with a mean mojito at sunset (medium tapas, £3 to £4). Inland, the recently renovated Restaurante Las Cadenas (00 34 928 840 443) in Mancha Blanca has a menu featuring classic Canarian cuisine and specialises in roasted and barbecued meats (£21 for three courses excluding wine). Designed by Manrique in his signature organic style, LagOmar (lag-o-mar.com) is fashioned out of a cliff-face and was once a villa owned by Omar Sharif. Well-loved by locals, but rarely graced by tourists, it offers haute cuisine in a groovy environment (£23 to £27, as above).
On the edge of Arrieta, The Aloe Vera House (aloepluslanzarote.com) is a new museum devoted to the benefits of this restorative plant and the history of its cultivation. Aloe Plus Lanzarote grows its own and sells the products of its labour in the on-site shop – so you can pick up a truly useful souvenir. The distinctive work of late Lanzarote native Cesar Manrique is in evidence everywhere – from the wind sculptures on roundabouts to bar-restaurant interiors. Enjoy his vision close up at Fundacion Cesar Manrique (fcmanrique.org), or at the Jameos del Agua (00 34 928 848 020) – a bar, restaurant and concert venue created out of two volcanic craters. Touristy as it is, the bus tour of the Montanas del Fuego de Timanfaya, vast lava fields created by a series of early 18th-century eruptions is worth queueing for (00 34 928 840 839).
The new collection of luxury eco yurts at the family-run Finca de Arrieta (lanzaroteretreats.com) offers sleeping options for two to six people, or more when combined. Part of an environmentally run green estate set right on the coast, the accommodation is surrounded by beautiful gardens characterised by volcanic stone, exotic fruit trees and succulents. Spanish hotels-with-charm group Rusticae can always be relied upon to turn up a tasteful place to stay and its latest offering on the island is Finca de las Salinas, inland near Yaiza (rusticae.es). A converted 18th-century mansion that once belonged to a salt magnate, its stables now provide a retreat for guests, who pay from £94 per night for a double. Further upmarket, the Princesa Yaiza Suite Hotel Resort (princesayaiza.com) offers five-star accommodation on the beach at Playa Blanca on the more touristy south-east coast, from £170 per night for a double with breakfast.
Kayak del Mar (kayakdelmar.com) in Puerto Calero, which launched this year, offers sea kayaking instruction from beginner to advanced level, as well as expeditions that offer a different view of the island's coast and marine life (from £35 per person for a half-day excursion). This month saw the inauguration of a brand new Mountain Bike Route on Lanzarote (http://tinyurl.com/yzm3lan – Spanish only). The first route of its kind, it covers 200-plus kilometres of the island's interior. And the new Archipiélago Chinijo Dive Centre (lineas-romero.com/eng/buceo), based on the island of La Graciosa in the Marine Reserve off the north coast of Lanzarote, runs dive courses, as well as snorkel safaris suitable for most ages (prices vary, available on request).
How to get there
Simone Kane travelled to Lanzarote with Monarch (08719 40 50 40; monarch.co.uk), which offers return fares from Gatwick and regional airports from £139. Simone stayed in the Eco Yurt at Finca de Arrieta, which costs from £490 for seven nights. One week's car hire with Economy Car Hire (0845 450 0877; economycarhire.com) costs from £84.
Canary Islands Tourism (turismodecanarias.com); Spanish Tourist Board (spain.info).
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