In many ways, Lanzarote wrote the book when it comes to the classic beach holiday. Even with four decades as one of Europe’s premier tourist destinations behind it, Lanzarote is still able to surprise and delight. The third-most populated and fourth-largest Canary Island offers miles of pristine beaches, a starkly beautiful volcanic interior, as well as a vibrant island culture.
Image by simonturkas, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)
With such a well-established tourist industry and pleasant year-long climate it can be tempting to while away the days lounging by the pool. And while you should always make time for relaxation on holiday, venturing beyond the resorts and waterparks will reveal a richly cultured and uniquely beautiful island.
Visit craters, towering massifs, sand dunes, otherworldly volcanic plains, and sky high viewpoints that will take your breath away. These natural wonders inspired the work of famed local son, Cesar Manrique, who helped to meld the look and style of Lanzarote’s major tourist attractions with the island’s landscape. Lanzarote may be the home of the package holiday, but that doesn’t mean that any two holidays to this beguiling island need to be the same.
Image by wiseguy71, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)
Less than 150,000 people live on Lanzarote, and over fifty thousand of them live in the island’s capital Arrecife. Literally “reef” in Spanish, Arrecife takes its name from the reef that surrounds the city’s coast. Very much a working city, Arrecife is less tourist focused than the resort towns of Costa Teguise and Playa del Carmen, but it is still packed with plenty to do.
Visit the Castillo de San José and enjoy the collection of modern art housed in an 18th century fortress. Alternatively, take a walk to the 16th century Castillo de San Gabriel fort. Found on a small man-made island at the end of a causeway connected to the harbour, the fort houses a museum which chronicles the history of Lanzarote.
The island’s former capital remains a popular tourist hub. Located around the scenic central beach, Teguise was designed and built with tourism in mind. That means the town is well-served and amenity rich, making it the perfect place for a holiday. While typifying a Canarian resort town, it lays claim to a long and storied history dating back 500 years. The town also boasts a very large Sunday market, ideal for bargain hunters and those looking to take a piece of Lanzarote home with them. Teguise is well stocked with first-rate restaurants and has a popular aquarium, too.
Another site you should see is the Cesar Manrique Foundation. Here you can explore Manrique’s house, located in several volcanic bubbles and designed by Manrique himself. You can learn all about the man and his legacy of preserving Lanzarote’s culture in the adjoining museum.
Puerto del Carmen
Lanzarote’s main tourist town is the first port of call for new tourists to the island. Over a million people a year make their holiday plans in Puerto del Carmen, and when you see the beautiful seafront and range of things do it is easy to see why. While it certainly has a package-holiday vibe, you can enjoy a taste of the real Lanzarote by taking a stroll from the Old Town to the El Varadero harbour.
A more tranquil corner of Lanzarote, Playa Blanca is where people come to get away from it all. Located on the southern tip of the island and within sight of Fuerteventura, the town is a marked contrast from the noisier tourist towns of Puerto del Carmen and Costa Teguise.
It also has the highest temperatures on Lanzarote and due to its local geography, it is more sheltered from the wind than anywhere else. However, it is the beautiful Papagayo beach that is the biggest draw to Playa Blanca. The warm emerald green water of the beach its perfect for a dip, and provides a safe place for children to enjoy a little snorkelling.
La Graciosa is a small island found off the north coast of Lanzarote. With only a few hundred inhabitants this is as quiet a slice of Canarian life as you’ll find. The island’s serene beaches are also some of the finest anywhere in the Canaries. The ever popular La Francesca Beach is the most scenic of all with crisp white sands, blue seas and breath-taking views of Lanzarote across the water.
Image by alfaltendorf, used under Creative Commons license (CC BY SA 2.0)
While always worth a visit, most tourists know La Graciosa from the incredible views of it from the famous Mirador del Rio. The Mirador del Rio viewpoint was designed by Cesar Manrique and affords incredible views over La Graciosa and the Atlantic Ocean. It also has a café bar where you can enjoy a drink while you take in the unbeatable vista.
Things to do with the kids
Lanzarote is an island bursting with kid-friendly activities. As a well-developed tourist destination, it should come as no shock that there is no end to the family-friendly fun on offer.
The biodiversity in the waters surrounding the Canary Islands are among the archipelago’s finest jewels, and thanks to Submarine Safari you can see them up close. Kids are sure to marvel at the adventure of boarding a submarine, and the chance to see the marine ecosystem beneath the waves will entertain and educate them, and you!
Timanfaya National Park
Away from the beaches, Lanzarote’s landscape presents a different kind of beauty. Thanks to the island’s volcanic history, there is a magically otherworldly interior to explore. The best place to do this is Timanfaya National Park which is replete with incredible geological formations like craters, volcanic tunnels, sand dunes, and ash covered plains. For an even more unique experience that the kids will love, tour the park on a Camel Safari!
Aqua Park Costa Teguise
There’s nothing kids enjoy more than making a splash, and Aqua Park Costa Teguise is the perfect place to do it. With sections designed for toddlers, and plenty of slides and flumes for older children, the whole family can have fun at this popular water park. There are even sun beds for the adults to relax on while the kids go wild. Just make sure you don’t forget your sunscreen as the time will fly!
It might not be the most authentic Canarian experience on the island, but Rancho Texas is certainly among the most fun. With both a water park and a zoo on offer, there is plenty to entertain kids of all ages. Located in Puerto del Carmen, Rancho Texas remains one of the most popular tourist attractions on Lanzarote and lets you enjoy a flavour of the Wild West. Be sure to visit on Country Night and try your hand at lassoing and country dancing while you tuck into the buffet BBQ!
By Isabella Perkins, a freelance travel writer best known for writing about self-catering holidays. Her writing tends to have a family-focus, and she is in the midst of writing a new travel guide due to be published next year.