Every October my Mum and I have a long-weekend away together. Our criteria are always the same: some sun, a spot of culture, good food and a place to just chill out and chat. These last few years we seem to have become quite set on Lanzarote and, do you know what? I can’t recommend it highly enough. Yes, some of the island still sings true to it’s nickname of ‘Lanzagrotty’ but, if you know where to look, you will find vast, empty, white sand beaches, sweet little white washed villages with rustic tavernas, vineyards, art galleries and spectacular volcanic views. Step outside of the tourist traps and discover a wild and wonderful lesser-known side to Lanzarote…
Our favourite place to stay is Casa de Hilario – a lovingly converted 18th-century finca in the small and sleepy village of Yaiza. The hotel offers a peaceful inland retreat and is well placed to explore the whole of the island. Perhaps my favourite feature of the hotel, the views were spectacular; while on the one side you have the glittering coast, on the other the National Park stands dramatic and proud.
I would highly recommend hiring a car – the roads are great and it allows you the freedom to escape the tourist traps and really explore the island including, of course, the beaches. My favourite beaches on the island are in the very south and very north. Papagayo, in the south, offers a pretty sheltered cove with calm and crystal clear waters. Whilst it’s no great secret, the couple of miles of bumpy dirt track to get to the beach have kept it mercifully safe from becoming too big a hit. Worth noting that there is a steep walk down to the beach, so it’s not suitable for those less stable on their feet but there is a lovely beach bar up top that offers dreamy Café del Mar style tunes, cold beers and a sunset view to die for.
Up north, the beaches along the coast from Orzola are truly magical and seemingly not widely known. The sand is white, the sea is turquoise and, should you wind up there on a slightly breezier day, there are low walls built from volcanic rock dotted about the beach offering you a very lovely looking windbreak. My favourite bay is Bajo de Los Sables but there are plenty to choose from and, if you’re lucky, you may well have the beach to yourself.
If you’re staying a little longer, I would recommend venturing over to La Graciosa. It’s a short boat ride from Orzola and if you thought the pace was slow on Lanzarote, just wait until you’ve crossed the water – this is island living on a whole new level. We were very happy wandering through the white washed village and collapsing on one of the beaches near the harbour but if you fancy forking out for a jeep, Las Conchas looks pretty special.
The weekend market in Teguise is worth a visit if you’re looking for some hustle and bustle. Sadly it’s a fair bit more touristy now than it used to be, but it does still offer some great local artisanal produce and the town is so pretty, I shouldn’t think it will fail to charm you.
The otherworldly, volcanic landscape of Timanfaya National Park is truly a sight to behold and unsurprisingly a popular attraction because of it. To avoid the crowds, we headed in at sunset and were completely blown away – the dark rock glowed almost red in the light of the dropping sun.
The wine of Lanzarote was a real discovery for Mum and I. You can almost taste the rock as you drink it and driving through the valley of La Geria you can’t fail to be amazed by the carefully tended vineyards, each vine protected by their own little wall of volcanic rock. There are a number of vineyards offering wine tasting, we only made it to one (Bodegas el Griffo) but heard that some take on the whole lot.
Perhaps most surprising of all is the wonderful art and architecture that can be found on the island produced by Lanzarote’s most famous resident, César Manrique. His love of his birthplace and sensitivity to its protection resulted in many beautiful sites and pieces dotted across the island – from the incredible house that he designed for himself, built into the volcanic rock (now home to Fundación César Manrique), to the numerous and eclectic sculptures that can be seen at many of the roundabouts, elegantly turning in the wind. If you can drag yourself away from the beach, or perhaps on the drive home from Orzola, Jameos del Agua is worth a look in, if only to see one of the most beautiful pools in the world (sadly only the King of Spain is permitted to swim in it).
With a flight time of just 4 hours from London and many a cheap airline option to boot – the Canaries are very viable for a long weekend. Add to that the fact that it stays actually, properly hot well into November and starts to heat up again come March – this interesting, beautiful and surprising little island is well worth a visit. Not so grotty after all…
A charming B&B run by the lovely José in the pretty town of Yaiza – this sweet and simple spot is one of our favourite places to base yourself for a stay in Lanzarote.