With the likes of Tenerife and Gran Canaria being the most developed and touristic of the Canary Islands strongly backed by travel agents for years, Lanzarote used to get pushed to one side when it came to top holiday destinations – but all that is changing. Thanks to its picture-perfect golden beaches more beautiful than anything the other islands have to offer, unique natural attractions you won’t see anywhere else and unparalleled water sport opportunities, Lanzarote is slowly but surely rising up through the popularity ranks and becoming one of Europe’s biggest and best holiday hotspots.
Lanzarote is the northernmost and – along with Fuerteventura – the easternmost island of the Canaries. It has a largely contrasting landscape which covers everything from arid volcanic lunar landscapes dotted with small craters and soft, sandy beaches lapped by turquoise waters to cosmopolitan cities complete with huge shopping malls and white-washed fishing villages unchanged for decades.
Despite being the least mountainous of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote has a long history of eruptions which led to most of the island being covered with lava fields. These eruptions also resulted in several remarkable lava tubes hidden underground, some of which are open to the public. Because of the dry climate and the strong, eroding winds the island’s lava fields are devoid of almost all vegetation – with the exception of several vineyards where hardy grape vines are used to produce amazing sweet white wine.
Due to its close proximity to Africa (it’s the easternmost island of the Canaries) Lanzarote is generally drier and warmer than the rest of the Canary Islands. This makes it your best call if you want clear blue skies and sunshine guaranteed for your next break. In the summer – which spans a lengthy five months in Lanzarote, from May until September – the average temperature is a balmy 24°C, with temperatures often peeking into the early 30s during August and September. With temperatures this high, it’s very important that you regularly slap on the suntan lotion, especially when the sun shines for an average of ten hours a day during summer!
Even though Lanzarote enjoys a sub-tropical climate, it only gets a tiny percentage of the rain you usually associate with such climates. Summer is the driest season of the year, so dry in fact that between June and August, the island is subject to an average of 0mm of precipitation. That’s right – not a single drop of rain falls at this time of year! As well as being the driest season, summer is also the time of year when the sea is warmest. Between June and October, the average sea temperature is 21.5°C – the perfect temperature for taking a dip.
All this weather information is in regards to Lanzarote as a whole but, like most of the Canary Islands, Lanzarote can be divided into several smaller microclimates. As is usually the case in the Canaries, the northern half of the island is cloudier and windier than the south, with an increase in rainfall which results in a greener landscape with more plants, flowers and grass. Because of the windier conditions, the north – La Santa and Famara in particular – is perfect for wind-based water-sports, such as windsurfing and kitesurfing, as well as ordinary surfing.
Southern Lanzarote is generally drier and hotter than the north, with a more reliable and stable climate. This drier, hotter climate results in a more arid and barren landscape, with significantly less greenery. Playa Blanca is the southernmost resort on the island, which – at an average of 10.5 hours each day in summer, enjoys more sunshine than anywhere else on the island. Although the winds are at their strongest in the north of Lanzarote, the consistent trade winds across the whole island mean that you can also enjoy wind-based water-sports and surfing in the south and central parts of the island, such as in Costa Teguise and Tías.
What to Do
Lanzarote is the ideal holiday destination for families because there is so much to see and do for visitors of all ages! Rancho Texas in Puerto Del Carmen provides hours upon hours of fun, with countless animal enclosures home to all kinds of exotic creatures and amazing animal shows you won’t want to miss, plus a splash zone with a mini waterpark for the kids and swimming pool for cooling off if it gets too hot. But that’s not all – there’s also a huge section of the park dedicated to the Wild West, with lively cowboy shows, themed restaurants and even pony rides for the little ones.
A few hours at the beach is always a great way to spend the day as a family and with so many stunning beaches island-wide, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Lanzarote. Playa de Papagayo is widely believed to be the best and most beautiful beach on the island and we certainly aren’t going to argue! Located just outside Playa Blanca, this small beach is made up of a crescent-shaped cove of soft golden sand naturally protected by two large rocky cliffs which flank either side. It’s thanks to these cliffs that the sea is always really calm, so you can happily let the kids play and splash about in the sea, knowing they’re totally safe.
When it comes to a family-friendly excursion with a difference, it’s tough to beat Submarine Safaris. This excursion company organises underwater trips from the marina at Puerto Calero on a high-tech submarine, with one large viewing window for every two guests. Each trip takes around one hour, during which you’ll explore the underwater volcanic landscape of Lanzarote for the chance to spy sunken shipwrecks, watch string rays being handfed just outside the submarine and admire the tropical colourful fish which live amongst the unusual geological formations.
For Thrill Seekers
If you’re not visiting Lanzarote as a family and you’re looking for some action-packed thrills, you’ll be glad to know that this island is one of the best in the Canaries for adrenaline-pumping water-sports. El Quemao on the north western coast of the island across from La Santa offers incredible surfing opportunities, with perfect tube breaks and powerful waves on days with groundswell. At this surfing hotspot, there is a series of deep fast tubes, making it perfect for expert surfers up for a tough challenge. Here the vertical descent gives way to a deep take off and, even though the beach is best known for its left wave, El Quemao also breaks to the right, creating fast hollow waves, too.
Playa de Famara on the northern coast is the best place in Lanzarote for windsurfing – so much so that the Spanish national kitesurfing championships are held there every year! You’ll find several kitesurfing schools based in small huts at this blustery beach where you can sign up for lessons, regardless of whether you’re a total beginner or if you know your way around a board. The consistent windy conditions at this beach are very reliable, so no matter when you visit, you’re guaranteed to be able to ride the waves.
For Nature Lovers
Timanfaya National Park is the most popular attraction in Lanzarote – and for good reason, too! This UNESCO World Heritage Site covers the southwestern part of the island and is made up of huge volcanoes and expanses of lava fields which blanket the land. Free demonstrations are held throughout the day during which experienced locals show you just how hot the ground is by burying hay just a metre or so underground and waiting for it to catch fire. There are several vineyards located within the national park which offer tasting sessions for visitors or, for something a bit more hands on, you can climb on the back of a camel and explore the volcanic landscape in a more relaxed way.
If small spaces don’t bother you and you’re up for an adventure, check out Cueva de Los Verdes. Located within Haria, this natural attraction is one of the most extensive and interesting lava tunnels on the planet, formed by the Corona Volcano. The complete tunnel is more than 6km long and features over 16 openings with access to various caves, two of which house the most important art, culture and tourism centres on the island – Cueva de Los Verdes and Jameos de Agua. The 1km part of the tunnel open to visitors is a truly spectacular thing to see, with a kaleidoscopic colour range adorning the walls created by natural oxidisation reactions and light reflections.
Developed by César Manrique – one of the most famous artists of Lanzarote – Jardín de Cactus is a wonderful place to enjoy a leisurely stroll. This huge cactus park covers 5,000m2 of land in Guatiza and is home to over 7,200 examples of more than 1,100 species of cactus collected from the Canary Islands, Morocco, Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, the US, Chile, Mexico and Peru. All the cacti are beautifully laid out, with stone paths winding throughout all the open-air exhibitions.
Where to Go
To see the more cosmopolitan side of Lanzarote, head for Arrecife – the island’s capital. Found in the central eastern part of the island, this city began life as a small fishing village in the 15th century, but today is has taken on a much more modern and vibrant atmosphere. Arrecife is by far the best place in Lanzarote for shopping, with the pedestrian street called Calle Léon y Castillo being full to the brim with high street stores. But that’s not all the capital has to offer. There’s also the Centro Insular de Cultura El Almacén – an art gallery, Playa del Reducto – a golden sandy beach and Castillo de San Gabriel – an ancient castle.
Puerto Del Carmen
Puerto Del Carmen, in the southern central part of Lanzarote, is the most popular holiday resort on the island, packed full of everything you could ever need for an amazing holiday. From fantastic hotels – the four-star Los Jameos Playa rates very highly on TripAdvisor – and an incredible nightlife scene – make sure you stop for cocktails at La Delicatezza Cocktail Bar – to golden sandy beaches offering all kinds of water sports and shopping centre selling it all, Puerto del Carmen is the place to go if you want to have everything within arm’s reach.
Charco Del Palo
You can take nude sunbathing to a whole new level by spending some time at Charco Del Palo, a naturist resort located in the north eastern side of the island. With the exception of inside restaurants, naturism is permitted throughout the whole of the resort, so it’s not uncommon to see naked visitors sunbathing, rambling or even shopping in the local supermarket! Although there is no sandy beach in this resort, the rocks around the coast provide the ideal conditions for tropical fish and other captivating marine life to thrive, making it a popular spot for snorkelling and scuba diving.
So what is the deal with Lanzarote? It’s one of the few holiday destinations that really does have it all! With warm and sunny spring-like weather all-year-round, an eclectic offering of attractions and activities to suit all ages, small local villages just begging to be explored and stylish resorts bursting with modern amenities – this island leaves no stone unturned and provides something for everyone, all year-round!